This week started with a trip to Amsterdam for a work conference. As always with this type of thing there wasn’t too much time for sightseeing, although I did manage to spend an hour or so wandering around the Christmas markets on Sunday when I arrived. And on the Monday evening we were treated to a boat trip by our Dutch hosts, which took in a number of the impressive displays forming part of the Amsterdam light festival. There was a bit of a panic on the boat when the beer pump was found to be not working, but after some frantic tinkering by the crew there was a huge sign of relief as the drink began to flow.

After the boat trip we went for dinner at a nice restaurant somewhere in the city centre (Restaurant Anna I think it was called). We had a four course taster menu, each course accompanied by its own wine, which was very tasty. The service was maybe just a little too slow, although we were a party of 50 plus, and it allowed plenty of time for chatting.

Whilst I was away it was the UAE’s 43rd National Day, the anniversary of the creation of the country. All the stops are pulled out for the day, with UAE flags everywhere one looks, and many buildings lit up in the colors of the flag. There are also fireworks and various other celebratory activities.

Everyone gets the day itself – Tuesday this year – as holiday, with public sector workers getting the rest of the working week (Wednesday and Thursday) as well. The kids had most of the week off for half term so when I returned from Amsterdam I took Wednesday off in lieu of the National Day holiday, and Thursday as holiday.

We took the opportunity on one of the days to head to Al Ain Zoo, the subject of my last blog post. Whilst we were in Al Ain we drove to the top of Jebel Hafeet, a 1250m high rocky “mountain” just outside Al Ain, on the border with Oman. There is a winding road up to the top which is renowned as being one of the best mountain ascents in the region. It certainly was a stomach churning trip up, particularly as we had to do an emergency stop half way up for Flossie to be sick!

Following a quick clean up we continued to the top, where there is a large car park and a cafe, which rather grandly calls itself a “restaurant” which is perhaps a little ambitious given the plastic chairs and tables. The summit area is surrounded by a tall fence which lessens the impact of the undoubtedly spectacular views. The most disappointing thing though, is the graffiti, which is horrible and pretty widespread. It’s a shame that people don’t take more pride in their surroundings, mind you, I think this is the only graffiti we have seen here so far (although unsurprisingly the UAE holds a graffiti world record).

Other than our trip to Al Ain our few days off included a couple of trips to the cinema to see “Big Hero 6” (pretty good, although I don’t remember seeing the first five) and “The Penguins of Madagascar”. We went to the cinema at the newly opened Yas Mall. With hindsight I suspect Jo took us there under false pretenses as after “Big Hero 6” she sent the rest of us home in a taxi so she could explore the shops, and she didn’t even bother coming into “Penguins”. Mind you, the kids and I were secretly quite pleased about this as it meant we could sneak in some extra popcorn without getting into trouble!

That’s all for this week, thanks for reading and I’ll see you again soon.





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