24 October 2010

A Long Journey to Abu Dhabi

Thirteen hours just to get out of Texas. Can you believe it? Saturday, 7 a.m. by car from Goldsmith to Midland; puddle-jumper from Midland to Houston; Taxi from Hobby Airport to George Bush International; 747 London bound by 8 p.m.! With no sleep to follow, we were bleary-eyed and exhausted upon our next day arrival. Hell, not even the ubiquitous Starbucks could revive us, so by the time we reached Amsterdam’s Centraal Station at 11:30, Sunday night, we were all but dead.
Taxiing up in front of Hotel Pax, I gritted my teeth. I had a pretty good idea of what we were in for, since ‘I’ made the booking. HEY! It was the cheapest place that I could find centrally, and I’m a real cheapy when it comes to rooms. My favorite travel motto? Sleep cheap, eat well. And this is exactly where my mate and I part ways. So I mentally prepared myself for the loud parting, as we stepped into our US$117 per night shithole. “WTF?” my husband growled, throwing his carryon bag with a dull thud onto one of the three single, rock hard beds. “Isn’t this just lovely.” It was a statement, not a question. And I was just too tired to care.
“Sorry. It’s the best I could do. At least it’s quiet. At least it’s not one of the ‘party’ hotels.”
“I don’t know what I expected,” he mumbled, “but certainly not this.” And he proceeded to inspect, my sweet little bedbug detective, the pristine white sheets and fuzzy blue blankets, as I watched, unamused. He shrugged. “At least it seems clean.” Oh, yay! A reluctant seal of approval from my nitpicky mate. “Now if we can just get some sleep.” Eleven hours later we awoke to bright and crisp, Dutch October day.
Tulips and gabled buildings. Raw herring and Pommes Frites. Cannabis coffee shops and girls behind glass. Cheese broodjes and bicycles everywhere. Amster-be-damned. It is what it is. Love it or leave it. We thought it might be nice to have a little decadence before buckling down to the austerity of the Middle East, so we indulged…by having a little alcohol. Daring and adventurous, aren’t we? No wacky weed for us. I mean, wouldn’t that be lovely? My husband shows up for his first day on the job in the UAE, and they ask for a piss test? I don’t think so. So we kept our partying to a dull roar, and indulged only in dessert, drink, and food.

After two days of running about and with jet lag soaking in, we were haggard. Our flight to Abu Dhabi was tomorrow morning, Wednesday, 7:20 am, which meant that we had to be up at 3 am. Good God! What was I thinking when I planned this shindig? Apparently, I wasn’t thinking. Luckily, for me, everything went well. From the taxi pickup and flight back to London, to the flight to Abu Dhabi itself. Other than being totally exhausted, my mate had no logical reason to kill me. The only real stress remaining? How to make it through customs with a giant tool box and no work Visa in hand. It was still being processed, so we were entering as tourists. Hah! And boy, were we sweating bullets. As we stood there in line, we discussed what we would say, and watched, as the lines on both side of us shrunk, while ours stayed put. Of course we’d picked the line with the gruffest official, or so it seemed, as he took his time with each individual, perusing their documents with the sternest of demeanors. By the time our turn came, I think both my mate and I were ready to throw up. But it was all for naught, because the man went over our passports quickly, stamped them…thump thump…and simply waved us away. How easy and what a relief that was.
A nice Kerala man was waiting to pick us up, along with my husband’s new boss...with the required work visa in hand! Whoo hoo! We were duly whisked away to the Abu Dhabi ‘Holiday Inn’ for a sumptuous meal and the best night's sleep that we'd had in days in an amazing luxury room, just the kind of room I’m unaccustomed to.
Yep. I definitely think I could get used to 4 stars!
What we saw from the car window on the road the next morning to Al Ain...
The Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi! Gorgeous!

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