Friday, January 30, 2009

Dubai... the adventure draws to a close....

Day Six

Today was a fun day again. We slept in a bit – we are on vacation and sleep has been a bit challenging so we take it when we can get it! But down to breakfast for our final breakfast buffet.

After breakfast we dressed for our day at Ski Dubai ( ). A quick cab ride through the city and we were at the Mall of the Emerites, home of Ski Dubai, the world’s largest indoor ski slope!

Neither of us were “expert” enough to ski the slopes, but we did rent ski pants, jackets and boots to go inside the snowpark. It lived up to my expectations – quite amazing the amount of snow that they have and that the can make it feel like the actual ski slopes I have been to!

We did buy lift tickets and we rode the chairs to the cafĂ©, stopped for a hot chocolate, got back on the chairs for a ride all the way to the top… and then back down again. And then we repeated it one more time :). It was a ton of fun to watch all the skiers and snowboarders. We did sled down the hills and had a blast laughing like kids! Playing in the snow in the middle of the desert! Who would have thought it possible!!??!

After we were done playing in the snow, we met Eliza for lunch Eliza and her family live in Dubai so it was fun to pick her brain and ask her a ton of questions! Lunch was enjoyable but then Jenny and I were game to squeeze in a bit more touring.

Another quick cab ride and we were in the middle of downtown Dubai. We briefly peeked in the Dubai Museum and we weren’t impressed so we walked around and wandered through the Textile Souq and an area that appeared to be Little India. But the BEST find find of the day was the Abra (boat) loading and unloading stations. The Abras are used as mass transit and the only way I can think to describe the chaos that goes into docking and loading/unloading is to say…bumper boats! The boats plowed into each other, honking horns and slamming into the docks. It was the craziest thing! Jenny and I just stood there and I am sure our mouths were hanging open!

After that little adventure, it was back to the hotel to get ready for our early flights in the morning. We took a break and went for a drink at the hotel bar to relax a bit. We met two nice gentlemen from Dubai and they were quite fun to quiz about their country. That makes only three people that we have met this entire trip who are actually from Dubai. My guide book says that only 10% of the population is actually from here… so guess we were lucky to meet the three locals that we did!

So this will be my last post :). My flight leaves in 6 hours and so I am wrapping things up. I enjoyed the trip, but all good things must come to an end. I really miss the pets so I am very much ready to go home. However, I am not looking forward to the 29 hours that it is going to take me to get there! I’ll land at LAX Saturday night at 10pm…

Thank you very much for keeping up with me – I hope you enjoyed reading my travel log and looking through the pictures!

Love, Kathleen

Dubai...still an adventure!

Day Five

Another day in Dubai, but it was very foggy when we first got up. Neither of us slept really well again, I think that we are still fighting a bit of jet lag. A 12-hour time difference is quite a change for my body clock! Jenny read somewhere that it takes a day for every hour of time change…so 12 days later… I’ll be back home.

So we got out of bed and head down to yet another breakfast buffet. Then back up to the room for a little catnap before we met our car for our trip to the Jumeirah Mosque, which was one of the highlights of our trip so far!

The Jumeirah Mosque is the only Mosque in the city which is open to non-Muslims. We made it for the 10am tour and the next 1.5 hours were really enlightening. I had been to a Mosque in Malaysia, but it wasn’t a formal tour or educational experience. This tour was incredible.

We started by observing the pre-prayer cleansing ritual, as well as the religious meaning behind it. Then we were shown into the Mosque (we had to remove our shoes and as women, we had to be all covered except our feet.) We were given “lectures” on Islam – history, tradition and beliefs. We tried to learn as much as we could in the 1.5 hours, but still has many more questions. We were also shown the prayer ritual and the meaning behind the steps. Our teacher was a Kuwaiti gentleman, who lived in the US for 20 years, and a British woman, who had lived in Dubai for over 15 years. I wish I could explain what we learned but it was just so much! And I wonder if so many of the world’s problems could be solved just by learning more about each other and discovering that we aren’t as different as we think!

Then after our Mosque tour, we headed back to the hotel and grabbed lunch – Chinese food :). We enjoyed a relaxing meal. Then, for me, it was off to do my helicopter tour. One of the pricier ones that I have been on, but it was enjoyable. The best part was that the pilot was a friend of mine from college so it was fun to reminisce and catch-up. We then took off to meet another friend of mine who was also in town, and Jenny met up with friends of hers. So all-in-all, it was a night of great fun!


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dubai...The adventure continues!

Day Three

Jenny and I both had trouble sleeping in – we were both out of bed by 6:30! On vacation! We finally gave up and got up, but not without a few complaints!
The rest of the morning was rough… we ate breakfast and lounged by the pool! Then it was off to the spa for massages :). Life was good!

Then for me, it was back to the arduous task of laying by the pool while Jenny went horseback riding on an Arabian horse! She went riding on the beach while the sunset and had an amazing time.

Dinner was similar to the night before – Arabian meal with Arabian entertainment, but a bit more upscale. We took a buggy to a restaurant on the property and enjoyed pictures with Camels, Falcons and Arabian horses. We also shopped a little at the booths, sponsored by locals. Dinner was excellent, but all these all-you-can-eat buffets are going to be the death of me! After dinner, there was a show with some local entertainment and dancing, plus a camel and horse show (hard to explain what it was…but there were camels and there were horses…:))

Because we were still wide awake, we went to the rooftop bar and enjoyed the view and the guitarist, who tried to entertain us with American songs :)

Day Four

Today we left Bab Al Shams and headed to the city. The drive was about an hour and we were able to see a little more of the desert before we hit the big city. The amount of construction here is amazing. Jenny and I made a game out of who could get the picture with the most cranes in it – Jenny won with 6! Although, we did notice that a lot of the cranes weren’t moving – a sign of the economic crisis.

Pulling up to the Al Qasr ( was very impressive The hotel and the grounds are massive! There are the most majestic statues of Arabian horses as you pull up the driveway and the entryway is amazingly intricate. Words and pictures probably won’t due it justice so I won’t even try. Dubai is extravagant!

We checked in to our suite – we were upgraded so life was good. We had rooms to spread out in and a balcony with a great view of the skyline. We didn’t waste much time exploring the room because we were eager to get started exploring Dubai!
We headed to the concierge with our list of “must-do” and “wanna-do” things and started planning. Once we fit in everything that we wanted to do over the next few days, we hopped on the Gondolas and just rode around the property – it goes on forever with a lot of restaurants, gazebos, pools, rooms, beaches, cabanas and shops. In theory, you wouldn’t ever have to leave the property at all!

After the Gondola ride, we ran back to our rooms to get ready for tea at the Burj Al Arab, the world-renown, self-proclaimed 7-star hotel in the shape of the a Dhow Sail. We had a tea reservation for 4pm and we were bound and determined to make tea last until the sunset. Tea was at the skyview bar, on the 27th floor, facing the ocean, and the view was fantastic.

We were easily able to stall long enough to watch the sunset because “tea” was a five course meal of a glass of Moet Chandon, finger sandwiches, scones, petit fours, fruit, and…tea. We thoroughly enjoyed it and it was really amazing to watch the sun go down.

Then it was back to the room to change and then we hired a car to the Gold Souq, which is shop after shop of gold and diamond jewelry. We wandered for hours admiring everything. We had a blast bargaining and exercised amazing restraint when we couldn’t get the price that we wanted. Sometimes I was just bargaining just to practice! However, we both did buy…jewelry. But I think that we were both happy with our purchases and that we got good deals.

So after a few hours of being girls and admiring shiny things, we hopped back in the car and back to the hotel!


Monday, January 26, 2009

Dubai...The adventure has begun!

Day Two

We slept in – or at least tried to. Housekeeping knocked on our door at 7am? Who does that? But we managed to fall back asleep for a few hours before we crawled out of our beds.

Since we arrived in the dark last night we explored the hotel and the grounds. The sun was out and the grounds are really beautiful – a lot of pools and a surprising amount of green for being out in the desert. We are staying at the Bab Al Shams Resort and Spa ( )

Breakfast was a little bit of an adventure, plus it was an all-you-can-eat buffett which are evil :). Besides the traditional breakfast fare, we had camel milk, veal bacon, chicken sausage, A LOT of prunes (do they know something that I don’t) and a smoothie bar!

After breakfast and more strolling, we headed back to the room, changed into our conservative, one-piece bathing suits and lounged by the pool. Jenny got a massage poolside while I read a cheesy romance novel (hush - I am on vacation!!). We enjoyed attentive service by our own cabana boy who was bringing us $6 diet cokes (yikes!!)

After a few hours of fun in the sun, then it was time to get ready for our Arabian Adventure tour. We left that hotel around 4 and after a 30-minute drive with our Pakistani driver and 4 other tourists, we ended up at the Sand Dunes and the fun began.

First step of dunbe-bashing is to let air out of all four tires on the SUV (Chevy Tahoe) so that you can properly slide on the sand. We spent the next 30 minutes off-roading in an off-road vehicle, exploring sand dunes. There were 15 cars in our caravan and we followed the car in front of while our “professional” driver took us through various stunts, like sliding down hill sideways, nose diving off the top of a dune, kicking up sand higher than the vehicle, roaring up a hill – all in a Chevy Tahoe! Thank goodness for seat belts and roll bars!

After the dune-bashing, we stopped for pictures and to watch the sunset. It was quite beautiful to see the sun set below the tunes – we got some great pictures and took a few minutes to calm out stomachs!

Then it was back in the car for a short-ride to base camp where we spent the rest of the evening riding camels, eating dinner, watching a belly dancer and Jenny smoked honey-flavored shisha.

The camels were bigger than I expected. But we were up for the adventure and Jenny and I climbed on one for our short ride together. Riding the camel was understandably bumpy, but the most adventurous part of the ride was being on the camel while he/she/it stood up! I thought we were going to fall off! But we lived to tell the tale and will ride another day.

Next on the agenda was dinner, which was okay. Nothing gourmet, but yummy nonetheless. I *think* it was chicken…. The Belly Dancer was entertaining and worked the crowd a bit. Jenny also bought some local artwork and then we were back in the SUV for the ride to our hotel.

Kathleen, under the influence of Dramamine (in preparation for dune-bashing), crashed and went to sleep. Jenny, being the more adventurous of the two and not in a Dramamine-induced coma, went to the rooftop bar and listened to Arabic guitar player and enjoyed the local scenary.

So now we are ready for day three!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dubai...28 hours later....

Day One

I spent the whole day traveling - 28 hours from when I left my house in Orange County, I landed in Dubai!

I flew out of LAX and landed in JFK a few hours later. After a short layover, then it was back on a plane to Heathrow. Another short layover, and back on another plane, this time to Dubai.

My seat partner from LAX to JFK didn’t do well in the air and required the use of a barf bag…not so much fun. Thankfully, I always bring a change of clothes for transatlantic flights – they were needed!! As was the shower in the Admiral’s club at JFK – I spend so much time traveling, that membership is worth every penny! “Always prepared” isn’t just for Boy Scouts – it should also include 28-hour flight itineraries!

JFK to Heathrow was much better. I used FF miles to upgrade and the plane wasn’t full so I got two BIG business class seats to myself – it was pure heaven! I had space to spread out and the leg room was amazing… I really am a spoiled brat!

There is a 12-hour time difference between Orange County and Dubai so I tried to make myself adjust to Dubai time and slept a few hours during their “night” on the JFK/Heathrow leg. But that was only about 3 hours and I am exhausted and really want to sleep… I hope when I find Jenny and we get to the hotel that I’ll still be exhausted and have no problem falling asleep!

So right now, I am safe and sound in Dubai. I’ve collected my bags and am waiting at the baggage claim for Jenny. Her flight just landed so I am off to look for her and then make the trek to our hotel!

For those of you not following me on Facebook, here are today’s travel tips, which I hope are as much fun for you as they are for me :)

Travel tip #1 – Choosing not to wear makeup on the plane was unwise… I am sitting behind The Office’s Jim… do you think he likes the natural look?
Travel tip #2 – Business Class. Leg Room. Food. Worth every penny. And the rude, snotty guy next to me – free of charge.
Travel tip #3 – Avoid the seat near the bathroom, it can be kinda’ stinky
Travel tip #4 – Always check for a barf bag… u may not need it but rude, snotty guy next to u might… Also, pack a change of clothes for just such occasions.
Travel tip #5 – Be nice to the gate staff, it isn’t their fault that airlines are inherently evil…
Travel tip #6 – Auntie Annie’s pretzels are a must – they make everything all okay 
Travel tip #7 – it is rude to sit in my BizClass seat and take pity on people passing by on their way to their small, cramped coach seats….pray for my black soul 
Travel tip #8 – Pay due homage to the travel gods when u get 2 BizClass seats to yourself for a JFK/London flight  Aaaahhh – Appreciate the good things in life.
Travel tip #9 – Pilots now carry guns, remember that when they ask you to turn off your electronic devices.
Travel tip #10 – When running the Heathrow Marathon (the 26.2 miles it takes to get from gate to gate) drink plenty of water.
Travel tip #11 – Be prepared to pay $5,000 for a bottle of water after currency exchange
Travel tip #12 (From Dubai!!!) – Whenever possible, take the time to make new friends!

Overall the trip was long, but uneventful. Now the adventure begins!
p.s. The internet engine is in Arabic – took me forever to figure out how to post this! :)

Friday, January 23, 2009

29 and holding....

I am a year older than when I last wrote... 36. Yup, 36 years OLD :) Thanks to everyone for the great birthday wishes. I was able to celebrate with a great group of friends while we were in Vegas for a mini-conference. A great day!

Also, thanks to everyone for the kind thoughts and prayers for my dog, Misty. She has done 2 radiation treatments and is doing well! Although I know it will get a little more painful for her as we finish up the treatments, I am cautiously optomistic she'll be fine after the recommended six treatments. The best news came Thursday night - her lymph nodes show no sign of cancer so THAT is great news and the best birthday present!

I just arrived home, but I leave for Dubai in the morning. I stopped in long enough to repack and play with Misty! I'll be driving up to LAX bright and early in the morning and then traveling for 25 hours! I fly from LAX to JFK to Heathrow to Dubai! Thankfully, I was able to use FF miles to upgrade to business class which will make the 25 hour travel-itinerary tolerable, but barely....

Assuming we have internet access, keep checking back for regular updates and pictures. Although, I feel 99% confident that if I had crackberry reception at the top of Machu Picchu, Dubai will be no problem!

I am sure Jenny and I will find a few fun adventures so more to follow!

Love, Kathleen

Monday, January 19, 2009

Misty was just diagnosed with cancer, but I feel blessed!

So the news is as good as it could be considering the circumstances. A routine dental cleaning leads to the discovery of a mass on Misty’s tongue. After a torturous FOUR days waiting for results, I got the bad news.

And so the journey begins, again... Could life really be this brutal? The odd thing is that Samantha was diagnosed in January 2007, she passed away January 2008 and now Misty was diagnosed January 2009… I think I am just going to skip January next year…

But what I found out today was as good as it could be under the circumstances. The mass was smaller than was originally thought and so we are going to skip surgery and instead radiate the heck out of it. Even though all her blood work looks good, we still want to avoid putting this 13-year old dog under anesthesia more than we have to! Misty’s lungs also looked good and we did an ultrasound to make sure the rest of her organs looked good. (By saying "we", I mean the vet did the ultrasound and I took out a second mortgage to pay for it... j/k. I would have paid twice as much - can you really put a price tag on your pet's life? Treatment is far more reasonable than most people think!) The vet also aspirated (?) her lymph nodes in the area to check to see if the cancer has spread. I’ll know more on that later and even if it has, we won’t alter the treatment plan. For now, she is other-wise healthy and the only worry I have is the %^@ malignant melanoma.

I am a big fan of finding the silver lining in every situation and I think that the (only?) silver lining in losing Samantha to cancer last year was that this time I knew what to do, who to talk to and what questions to ask to increase Misty’s chances. I immediately asked for Dr. Rosenberg, the world’s best Veterinary Oncologist (!!!). Although, it wasn’t anything personal, but I really didn’t want to have to find myself in her clinic ever again… but here I am. HOWEVER, there is NO other place I’d want to be in treating a pet with cancer. Her reputation is well earned and she really is the best of the best (cue Top Gun music). She is forthcoming, honest, caring and the best chance any pet has of beating this disease.

There is also a fabulous article about her in the Orange County Register After you read it you’ll understand why, before Misty’s regular vet even finished saying “malignant melanoma,” I was interrupting him to tell him I was going to switch Misty’s care to Dr Rosenberg. VCG worked me in on Monday, less than 48 hours after Misty’s biopsy results came back. Time matters in these situations, another lesson learned from Samantha’s treatment. I am considering a second career in veterinary oncology, as a veteran, a self-appointed expert and with Google as my database, I know lots of big words now….

Anyway, so Misty will go in for her first radiation treatment tomorrow. She’ll need a total of 6. She is also getting a vaccine which is supposed to prevent/treat Melanoma (depending on what studies you read and what it is “approved” for) so she’ll be getting that every two weeks for a total of 4 shots. After that she’ll go in for six-month booster vaccines and two-month check-ups. Dr Rosenberg told me it was all good news and I have every reason to be relieved and cautiously optimistic! Plus, she hasn’t lied to me yet, even when the truth was hard to hear.

The radiation shouldn’t be too taxing on Misty. We are only doing six treatments and only hitting the tongue and lymph nodes so it is a small, concentrated area. However, that is not to say it will be pain free. I know February will be rough and Misty will feel some significant discomfort. Dr Rosenberg explained that the radiation burns will make it uncomfortable for her to eat for a few days/weeks and that we’ll manage the pain with pain pills. It’ll be hard to see her hurt, but I think discomfort for a few days will be worth the tradeoff of adding months (or possibly years!!) to her life. I hope I am making the right choices for her.

Beyond the radiation and the vaccines, I’ll just have to be vigilant. Like skin cancer in people, I think I understand that it can come back in the same place or other places. Unfortunately, it tends to be quite aggressive in dogs, but I think we found it early enough and so for that I am blessed!

So THANK YOU for all the kind thoughts, prayers and patience with my tears. For 13 years Misty has been my constant companion, friend, life force and given me unconditional love, of which I was rarely deserving! Go hugs your pets!


Friday, January 16, 2009


Jenny and I started talking about this trip a few months back so it is hard to believe that it is almost here! I leave on Wednesday for a quick trip to Vegas and then on to the United Arab Emirates - Dubai!

Hotel 1: The Al Qasr on the beach (3 nights)
Hotel 2: Bab Al Shams in the desert. (2 nights)

So check back for pictures and time permitting, I'll be blogging about our adventures! I am quite sure we will find ways to make this a memorable trip!

Hope that this year has already been full of adventures for you and yours!
Love, Kathleen