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Day #9: Dubai

We started the day by not starting the day until rather late (for us). This seemed reasonable since we didn’t go to bed until midnight (or later) and because we had a fairly light day planned: retail therapy at some of Dubai’s larges malls.

Dubai has an interesting culture and history to be sure. But, realistically speaking, its primary stock in trade for foreign visitors are its chic malls, gleaming skyscrapers, and hedonistic pleasures (admittedly seemingly something of an contradiction for this conservative Muslim region). So, why fight it? Go to the mall.

We started with the Dubai Mall, which sits next to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

The mall–which Libby and I had visited previously–really is immense (indeed it’s the world’s largest mall in terms of gross area) and boasts over 1,200 shops.

These represent brands from all of the globe. What’s particularly unusual is that brands that haven’t migrated to more “obvious” markets (like the UK from the USA) have planted their flag here. One such example hasn’t even made it from Louisiana to central Florida yet, but I was happy to see it anyway, as I haven’t eaten at one regularly since my days at VisonShare in Minneapolis:

Speaking of eating, it’s the holy month of Ramadan in the Muslim world. During this period, able-bodied adults fast (including no drinks) each day between sunrise and sunset. As a result, in the UAE, it’s illegal even for non-Muslims to eat or drink in public during this month. When combined with the extreme heat of summer, we were a bit concerned about how we’d fair. But, we’ve learned there are exceptions to these rules.

For instance, our hotel served daytime meals (such as breakfast and lunch) in a specially designated and hidden from public view restaurant. At the mall, the big food courts and certain restaurants are barricaded off from public view:

Restaurants are also often open for take-out or delivery orders, which you can then consume at home (or otherwise surreptitiously, I suppose). In any case, it wasn’t a problem for us throughout the day, and we actually were grateful to experience this firsthand.

In the afternoon, we moved on to the Mall of the Emirates, which boasted a largely similar array of international brands and boutiques. Its big claim to fame: an indoor ski slope and winter amusement park.

My favorite shop here: an independent outpost of the defunct Borders bookstore chain. Sure, it’s not Borders as we once knew it (though they did have 3 for 2 promotions). But, it’s still keeping the Borders brand alive somewhere, which pleases me almost as much as getting to eat Cane’s fingers and special sauce halfway around the world.

Here are a few more photos of the Emirates mall:

No major purchases for us… just a couple of shirts for Emerson, some Ben’s cookies for Libby, a book or two (or three), and these irresistible outfits for Emerson’s buddies at the Build-A-Bear workshop:

We ate dinner–later than usual for us–at an outpost of Nando’s down on the marina waterfront.

Day #8: Paris & Dubai

Today, we flew from Paris to Dubai on an Emirates A380 (undoubtedly my favorite airplane to date, having flown it three times):

It’s like the Rolls-Royce of planes.

And Emirates is no slouch of an airline either — everyone was impressed by the quality of their cabin, inflight entertainment, food/beverage offerings, and level of service.

We departed from our hotel at 7:30am for our 11:30am flight. We arrived in Dubai on time around 8:30pm local time.

Immigration was a little bit of a zoo due to disorganized queues, but we still managed to get through before our baggage arrived. We also successfully picked up our car at Hertz and drove to our hotel, the Marriott Dubai Harbor Hotel and Suites, where we have a 3 bedroom / 3.5 bath suite with balconies overlooking the Palm Jumeirah and the Persian Gulf (all for an insanely cheap rate of <$250 per night):

As seems to be our custom here upon arrival in Dubai, we usually find ourselves eating out rather late at some fairly typical American chain. This trip’s winner: P.F. Chang’s (which I have to admit tasted “so good” to all of us). 😂

Day #7: Paris

We began our day by walking to the Louvre and arrived about 30 minutes before opening (since we hadn’t been able to secure tickets in advance online). The time wasn’t really wasted, however, as we had breakfast in the line and also enjoyed a nice chat with a couple from New Zealand, who were professional beekeepers and had sailed around the South Pacific on a small boat with their kids when they were young. (Although I’ve never done it and likely will never do it… I’m mildly obsessed with the idea of long-term, long-distance cruising — so it was interesting to meet people who’d lived that life.)

What can I say about the Louvre?

The popular stuff seems to be more popular than always:

You always discover something “new” (that you’d overlooked on a prior visit) — like thi Cy Twombly ceiling:

I took a number of “sculpture portraits” — a subject I tend to return to regularly on trips. Here are a few of my favorites:

After grabbing lunch and an espresso in the gardens (I was dragging due to fatigue and/or cold medication), we moved on to the Musee de l’Orangerie, which we’d never visited before and houses an impressive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, most notably Monet’s large format waterlily paintings:

These works influenced a number of American artists, including my all-time favorite, Ellsworth Kelly (this is his response to Monet’s water lilies):

Here are a few other works that I enjoyed especially:

After the museums, we wandered back to our hotel stopping at some churches and shops along the way.

For dinner, we went to another local brasserie in our neighborhood and ordered some tasty flatbreads:

All in all, it was a good final day in Paris. I feel that Emerson got a good sense of the city (having finally visited here), and we really enjoyed ourselves after getting into the Parisian swing of things.

Day #6: Paris

We began our day with a stroll from the hotel down to the Champs-Elysee having stopped en route for breakfast in the form of croissant and pain au chocolat. We then walked along the boulevard until we reached the Arc de Triomphe.

From there we turned left and made our way over to the Eiffel Tower.

The base of the tower was shrouded in temporary security barricades and construction equipment. By this time, it had started raining lightly off and on, but we were not deterred in our walking tour.

We next visited the Rue Cler, which wasn’t wildly vibrant on this drizzly late morning. That said, I simply love this sort of thing rain or shine–much like the Borough Market in London or Chelsea Market in New York (meanwhile I’m still waiting for a high-end grocery to open at home in Wesley Chapel). Here’s a sampling:

Our plan was then to visit the Musee d’Orsay, which was one of the few major museums open on a Tuesday in Paris. However, it seemed that most of the visitors to Paris had the same idea on a rainy day — the museum queue was horrendous. Rather than wait in the rain, we crossed the Seine, grabbed some lunch, and then visited the Opera Garnier.

The interior is as–or more–spectacular than the exterior.

Emerson was especially excited about the Phantom of the Opera aspects, which included not only Box #5 but also a sign indicating that it was reserved for the Phantom himself.

After the Opera, we did a little (mostly) window shopping at Galleries Lafayette, which is a spectacular temple to retail therapy.

Dinner was fun. The weather being much improved, we ate outdoors on the sidewalk tables at a little bistro, which seemed to be popular primarily with locals catching trains from the nearby station. The food was reasonably priced and good–though not “spectacular.” Yet, the experience of it all was certainly fantastic. A leisurely dinner, watching people pass by, and enjoying a nice rose from Provence — very bien.

Day #5: Reims & Paris

Having arrived in Reims late yesterday, we decided to spend a little more time here this morning to visit Reims Cathedral (Norte Dame de Reims), which opened early at 7:00. The 800+ year old Gothic cathedral is notable for having been the site of most of the French kings’ coronations.

After we visiting the Cathedral, we returned to our hotel, checked out, and departed for the airport in Paris to return our rental car. I’d contemplated visiting one of the Champagne maisons or touring through some of the vineyards, but we ultimately just decided to move on to Paris. The prior evening we’d enjoyed a half bottle of grower (meaning grown and produced on a single vineyard) Champagne, Paques et Fils, which was delightful in its light and delicate style, as well as relative value compared to the more famous, large-scale houses. Unfortunately, Paques et Fils isn’t generally available in the States–though I am going to seek our smaller producers that are available.

The drive to Paris-CDG airport was uneventful, as was dropping off the car and securing a taxi into the hotel. Our rooms weren’t quite ready at our hotel, the Idol Hotel in the 8th. That was fine by us. We dropped off our bags and wandered off to explore Paris. Emerson experienced her first macaroon:

We then walked the the Centre Pompidou, Paris’ premier modern and contemporary art venue. It was tres bien! See for yourself:

After this we grabbed dinner (well, the ladies did — I refused to partake after my order was botched) at some “authentic French tako” place that was frankly just kind of bizarre. “Authentic French takos” consist of a protein (from chicken nuggets to tuna), French fries, cheese, and a sauce (of all varieties and types aside from what one might think of as a Mexican salsa). This is wrapped in a flour tortilla / pita type bread and then crisped on a griddle. All in all, pretty disgusting and the worst kind of fusion cuisine IMHO. 😂

After dinner, we visited Norte Dame de Paris, which was packed with tourists (unlike our nearly empty visit to Reims Cathedral). But, it is always nice to see.

On the way back, it started to rain so we took a taxi home to our jewel box of a hotel (small rooms, ornately and colorfully decorated). All in all, it was a good first day in Paris–a city I seem to more like than love for whatever reason–despite my having developed a little of a sore throat and just feeling kind of “off.”

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