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At the end of the rainbow you’ll probably find Dubai

In under 7 hours from Heathrow you can find yourself landing in the money rich Emirate of Dubai.

From the moment you arrive it is very apparent how much money has been thrown into Dubai for the tourist trade.  There is still quite a lot of building work going on and every month the skyline is changing slightly – I would imagine that just 10 years ago this place looked very different but the current building work does not detract from the overall cleanliness and splendour of this place.

The first taste of Dubai you are likely to experience (apart from the heat which hits you like a brick wall) is your hotel and there are certainly no shortages of hotels in Dubai and most of these are at least 5 star.

I was lucky enough to stay a week in the Ritz Carlton on Jumeirah Beach and this 5 star hotel certainly did not disappoint.  It is perfectly situated at the base of the Palm and near the Dubai Marina and The Walk (an area of restaurants and hotels). 

The Beach at the Ritz Carlton

I was expecting a high level of service from my first experience of a 5 star hotel but I was surprised when this level of service was also found in almost every restaurant and shop in Dubai – I found the whole experience to be extremely friendly and courteous.

From the beach you can see the Iconic Atlantis hotel in the distance and almost every hour you can see sky divers descend from the clear blue sky.

Think them, build them, twist them.

Although the skyline is not as Iconic as say New York, Dubai does have some interesting buildings (the one above certainly caught my eye).  You can definitely see the influences from other countries when looking at the buildings.

The Top of the World

Of course one building you will certainly come across in Dubai is the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the World).  You can see this monster from anywhere in Dubai and it’s definitely worth a visit although I was disappointed that the observation deck is only on the 124th floor yet it stands at over 200 floors.  At the base of this goliath you will find the Dubai Mall.  Now the Dubai Mall is a monster as well, with over 1200 stores, you will also find a huge indoor aquarium, an Olympic size ice rink, a Sega park, fountains, water falls and The Village with Dubai’s only retractable roof.

Take a dip in shark infested waters whilst shopping

Have a little skate whilst its 42 degrees outside

Chill with a coffee by the waterfall

Once you are shopped out and the feet are blistered one of the most popular activities to undertake is a 4×4 desert safari.  You’ll be picked up from your hotel and taken by 4×4 into the desert where you will be driven amongst the sand dunes (included in the safari is a visit to a camel farm, belly dancing, a desert BBQ under the stars etc).

Getting ready to burn rubber or should I say sand

Kicking up sand in the Hummer

Once back in the population most people will try to catch a glimpse of the worlds only 7 star hotel – The Burj Al Arab down on Jumeirah Beach.  The only way to actually enter this extravagant creation if you’re not a guest is to book a table for food (I believe the cheapest option is breakfast at about £45.00).  I found the best view is to enter the Madinat complex with its Souk and waterway system – this is a fantastic hotel complex with over 40 restaurants and if you pay for a water tour (not very expensive) then you will see the Burj Al Arab on your way round.

For those who want to slum it lol

If your lucky when your down by the beach you may even see a few camels amongst the white sand.

Overall I was impressed with the level of service that Dubai offers and the cleanliness.  There is still a lot of building work going on but it’s not drastic enough to ruin any photo ops.  They have strict laws in the Emirates but these are not as strict as you are led to believe and you can get away with most things in the more Westernised areas and hotels.  Alcohol is illegal in all public areas except for hotels and restaurants where it is widely available.  The weather is hot with it being 20 degrees on its coldest winter day and rising to 53 degrees in the middle of summer but there are great deals to be had if you can handle the heat as this is their off-season.

Plenty to see and do but now I have experienced Dubai I am not sure if I would return any when soon … there are just too many places I would love to visit before returning.

Its our time down here – Latino 777

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Dubrovnik – The Pearl of the Adriatic

For years I’ve wanted to visit Croatia as I’ve heard it’s a great place for a holiday and the Dalmatian Coast has always been highly recommended so last month I finally got the chance and took a short break to Dubrovnik … and I’m so glad i did.

First impressions of Dubrovnik were good – we were staying in a villa which was half way up the hillside so the view was fantastic.  Dubrovnik is pretty much built on a hillside with the old town and harbour at the foot and the Adriatic coastline sprawling out from the harbour.

The view from our villa

This city was made for walking so you do not need to get taxi’s and buses etc but be warned there are an awful lot of steps in Dubrovnik so you do need to be fairly fit.  The beach, the old town, the cable car, the old walls – all within easy walking distance of each other and everywhere you look you will find a photo opportunity.  This place is very scenic, very clean and very historic.

The beach was our first place of call (as I was travelling with a group of lasses!) – the water is clear, there is fish swimming around your feet and there are plenty of sun loungers.  There is a club house on the beach called East West (I think) and this will provide you with drinks, cocktails and food as well as a small nightclub – be warned this is table service only and you will be required to purchase a bottle of Vodka or Champagne at a princely sum.

The only downside of this beach is the lack of sand and the amount of stones!  I would strongly recommend a pair of rubber shoes/flip-flops/sandals etc.

Beginning our Kayak adventure

 After the beach we decided to take on the challenge of one of the Kayaking tours – we did the 7km kayak around Lokrum island which took us to a small cove where we could jump out and do a bit of snorkelling (there was plenty of fish here to view).  It was my first time in a Kayak but I loved it, I have to say it was harder than I imagined and with the sun blazing down this made it harder still but nonetheless still a fantastic experience.

Once in Dubrovnik you cannot miss the cable car that elevates up to the top of the hillside.  You can see the cable car from almost anywhere in Dubrovnik and it is definitely a worthwhile trip to take.  It costs around £7 return but the views are the best you can get of this extremely scenic city.  Once at the top there is a great little restaurant overlooking the hillside and a museum in the old battlement reliving the war of 1991 (I would recommend walking around the old city first and then goto the museum as you really get to understand the horror this city faced when viewing the old BBC news clips from 1991).

Dubrovnik has the beach, has the views but it’s not until you enter the old town that you really become enchanted with this little pearl.  Firstly the old town is surrounded by the old wall … there are a couple of entrances but none more impressive than the drawbridge entrance by the beach.  This will lead you to the harbour with its many boat trips (you can take a glass bottom boat, a galleon, a ferry across to the island or a yacht).

We took the ferry across to Lokrum Island on one of the days.  It only cost around £5 return and this included the entrance fee for the island.  Once on the island you will find an old monastery that has been converted into a restaurant and an old church as well as an old fort although you will have a bit of a walk to reach this but the views are spectacular once the top has been reached.  One thing that may stand out when your on the island is the amount of Peacocks that are roaming free – these birds are everywhere and fairly used to the human interaction.  There are plenty of places to go swimming on the island and overall it is a good way of using up a few hours in a more peaceful environment and at the very least you get an extremely cheap boat ride.

The view from the Lokrum Island Fort

Once back in the harbour you can walk back into the old town and onto the Strada (the main street) where you will come across little boutique type shops and an inordinate amount of restaurants (this is not the largest of cities but it surely has the most amount of restaurants than any city I’ve ever been to).

The main street at night

Whether by day or by night the old town captures the imagination as you are transported to another time yet still feeling modern.  I’m sure they buffer the floor as it always looks wet and reflects the night lights brilliantly.  Do not just stay on the main street, take a side alley and get lost in the maze of streets as this is where you will find many more small shops and galleries.  Remember you can’t ever really get lost as the town is surrounded by the wall.

Side alley with galleries and boutiques

Once you’ve walked around the old town there is really only one place left to go and that’s onto the walls of the old town.  For around £8 you can walk the entire length of the old walls which provide a fantastic view of the old town and harbour from every angle (it takes about an hour an a half but there are places to stop and get a drink on the way round).

Views from atop the old wall

 Overall I was very impressed with Dubrovnik, I have been to many cities all over the world and this is certainly one of the most scenic I’ve seen.  The food and drink are not cheap but then again it’s not as expensive as other European cities but the food is of good quality and the local beer is not that bad (and that can be cheap).

One thing I did enjoy about Dubrovnik is the fact that they have kept commercialism away from the city – you will not find a McDonald’s or a Burger King here, you will not find any shopping malls or big brand names.  This is a city with a romantic hold on the past and this is what makes it stand out from the rest.

Can I recommend Dubrovnik? absolutely and we are already looking to go back next year.

Its our time down here – Latino 777