Sunday, December 18, 2011
I have never been the best at checking the air pressure in my car tires and moving to Doha did not change my habits. I get in the car I look at the tires and think "Hmmmm, they don't look to bad, if has been a while though, I will get them looked at soon." This can go on for a while with me.
Earlier this week, I bought a really nice water color from a "local" artist. She is an expat and the watercolor is of flowers and fun a whimsical, just my style. I have learned from buying art in the past that if you do not frame it right away it will get tucked away for what can be years, so these days I go very quickly and get my art framed. So on Friday afternoon I headed out to Studio Qatar on Salwa at Decoration Roundabout (RA).
Lets talk for a minute about Salwa at Decoration RA. This is an intersection that I avoid LIKE THE PLAGUE. It is under construction and also happens to be a very busy RA. It is a mess. On top of the construction at the RA they are also ripping up the road itself for a couple miles on both sides. This makes accessing the stores on the road, including Studio Qatar a mess. After some attempts and failures to find access to the store, I finally make it, having to basically take the X-Terra through a combat zone to find a spot to park, thinking along the way, boy am I glad that I have a 4-wheel drive car.
I spend some time at Studio Qatar and figure out great mats and frames and then headed to Mega Mart to pick up some items for dinner as some friends were coming over. Mega Mart is like Whole Foods in the States only because it could take your Whole Paycheck to buy groceries. Mega Mart caters to the ExPat communities and you can find US, UK and other brands at a totally jacked up price. As an example a small bottle of Amy's Lite Gingerly Salad dressing that I just bought cost about $6 where in the States it would be about $3. I tend to go there as I have found that they have the best apples and meat (yummy Aussie Beef!).
So I was on my way home and the universal light for flat tire started lighting up. I thought that was funny as I just had air put in my tires and the guy who did it mentioned that my pressure was super low, which I had expected. I thought that maybe the sensor was off and I would need to get that looked at by the Nissan Dealer.
Well I made it home and started prepping for dinner with John and Heather who just moved to Doha from Houston. John and Heather are runners, with John doing more distance and he runs my pace. Hooray! I had told them to come on over at 6:30 for dinner and due to the way that our compound is set up it is easier to come through the underground garage to get from their place to mine. So when I opened the garage door, John and Heather were there to say hello and was I aware that my tire was flat. This tire was not just flat, but FLAT!!!! What a bummer. As it was the evening and there was nothing that could be done we went in and have a lovely dinner and evening, with John and I planning to run in the morning.
Sunday morning rolled around (Hooray for three day weekends and Happy Qatar National DAY) and John and I went out for a run. On the way back I asked if he would help get the spare on the car. He was very kind to oblige.
So we went down to the garage to get to work. So we found the spare, which is under the car in the back and found where we had to crank to get the wheel down, what we did not find was the jack and the equipment to actually do that process. We finally got the manual out to see if it listed the location, thank goodness it did, otherwise I would have never found it as it was under the seats in the back. Yes, under the seats.
So we finally get the spare tire down and start jacking up the car. Here is a picture with the car already lifted a bit and you can see how flat the tire is without the full weight of the car:
Well, we finally got the car high enough to get the tire off, unfortunately it was not high enough to put the spare on. We tried to get it to fit by letting some of the air out of the tire, but alas that did not work either. We stewed for a bit and then decided it was worth the risk of driving the car on the flat tire to get to a flatter surface as my parking spot has a small incline.
So it was back on with the flat, flat tire and a very slow roll back to a flatter spot. We then jacked up the car again to get the spare on and guess what! You guessed it the stupid tire still did not fit. ARGH. We let out some more air and we were finally able to get the spare on. At that point we had let quite a bit of air out of the tire and we thought that it would be a pretty good idea to get at least some pressure in the tire before removing the jack, so what did we do, we got out the handy dandy bike pump.
Please enjoy the hilarity:
Let me tell you this is actually quite the workout. It made me think of a rowing machine. After I would guess was a few minutes, we thought that it would be decent and let the car down. While the tire was still flat (there was no way I was going to fill with a bike pump), it was not horrible and it could make it around the corner to the gas station (which I was not sure was open due to National Day). Luckily it did not have to as I got a text from a friend and she let me know that the compound had an air compressor, which she had learned the hard way herself, BOOOO. The compressor was not great, but it got the tire to a decent point, so that was good for me.
So I now have a mostly full tire which I will get looked at tomorrow. I am fortunate as my neighbor is in the US for the holiday and Hip Replacement, so I have his car keys so that I can start it every once and a while, well I am going to more then start the car tomorrow. Thank you so much David!!!! Tomorrow after work I will take the car in to have the tires looked at and see if the old one can be salvaged. I am very lucky that the car did not go flat until I got home and that there are amazing people that live at ARV and are willing to help in a time of need.
So that is my first major "If and not When". When the next one happens you will get the joy of reading about it here.
Have a good one!
Thursday, December 15, 2011
I went to Dubai last weekend to participate in the Dubai Creek Strider's Half Marathon and to see Dubai for the first time. I have to say that this was one very well run event that had tons and tons of perks. First, you got two goody bags, one a backpack and one a pull top bag. The back pack was full of cookies, crackers, Listerine, sports drinks and other various items. You also got a tech shirt. More stuff then I have received in a LONG time.
The course itself was very scenic and started and ended at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club. From there the course when along the creek, across a couple bridges, through a tunnel, also through the old souq. Just a lovely course.
After the race there was a breakfast buffet. This was not a banana and bagel, this was eggs, sausage, fruit, croissants, potatoes, a full on Breakfast Buffet. Good food and beautiful view.
Now I do not very many pictures of this part of my trip as I was an idiot and dropped my camera either on the plane or at the Terminal. I talked to the airline, the airport Lost and Found and police, but no dice the camera was gone. Thank goodness I had downloaded all my pictures. So one of my shopping goals in Dubai quickly became getting a new camera. LOL.
After the race, Gaybrielle, Rick and I headed back to the hotel to clean up and then head to the Dubai mall. The Dubai mall is something else.
It is everything that you have heard and more. When we arrived, we had scoffed that you could spend all day at the mall, but we started about 2PM, after a lovely lunch and shopped until 6:30 when we had tickets to go to the Burj Khalifa. I was excited to find a store that had Triathlon gear and a Salad Spinner at a reasonable price. I am odd I know.
At 6:30 we had tickets to go to the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa. You only go about half way up the building, granted that is about 430m high. It is a really really big building that can be seen from just about everywhere in Dubai.
Viewing the city from the observation deck makes some tall buildings in Dubai look quite small. I have to say that I would like to up back up to the deck again during the day just to get a different perspective.
After returning from the observation deck we headed over to the Address Hotel to have a beverage and watch the fountains. They have fountains that are basically the same as the ones at the Bellagio in Vegas. They go off for about 5-10 minutes every 30 minutes. Very cool!
After this it was back to the hotel for the night. Yes we had spent the entire day at the mall. Go figure.
The next day we took the Metro. I will say that the Dubai Metro is super nice and can get you to all the big spots about town. You would think that I would have been shopped out, but no I split of from Gaybrielle and Rick and headed to the Mall of the Emirates where kid you not they have an indoor ski slope. CRAZY. They also have a Crate & Barrel, NIRVANA!!! I had to restrain myself as i did not have much luggage space, but i did get new kitchen stuff. Next time I go I am taking more luggage!!! After this mall I actually went back to the Dubai mall to see some things that I missed, sit outside and enjoy the day. I went back to the hotel about 4PM to grab my stuff and head to the airport.
I learned something important on my trip to the Airport. Terminal 2 (where Fly Dubai lands) is no where near Terminals 1&3. The metro takes you to terminals 1&3. Guess who had to take a cab from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2. That would be me. I am thinking that in the future it would be better to pay a bit more, get free check in luggage and be able to take the metro to and from the hotel. We shall see.
All I can say is that i totally want to go back to Dubai. It was the Vegas of the dessert. Very fun, kinda fake and good for a weekend. Next time, maybe a slightly longer weekend.
Talk soon and Hook'em.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Just some few last thoughts, thanks and recommendations.
I have to say that I always enjoy travelling, but I loved this trip. Turkey is amazing with so much history and culture. There is also amazing food and people. I can honestly say that I can not wait to return. My hotels were great too and for that I have to thank Keri Stooksbury. The Faros Hotel was great in a great location, close to everything that you want in Istanbul. Then the CaravanseraiCave Hotel was fun as well with GREAT GREAT service. While I was sad to say bye to Turkey, I was looking forward to Athens and meeting up with friends.
Once again, Athens was everything that I could have wanted and more, and the apartment that Julia found was AMAZING. As there were six of us there to run the Athens Marathon and a seventh would show up later we decided that an apartment over hotel rooms were the way to go, and boy were we right. The Acropolis View Alpha was stunning. A very clean, modern and nice apartment with an amazing view. The company just made the Apartment all the better. What a great time that I had with Boun, Dora, Kevin, Benjamin, Marieke and Julia. This was a great city that was so much better for being able to spend it with great people.
After Athens it was on to Santorini for some relaxation and peace. It was interesting visiting the island in November as it was really empty, that was in ways nice and sad. There was not the hustle and bustle of Athens, but it did make you wonder how the place would be in the spring/summer/early fall. That said we had a great hotel room at the Aroma Suites. The room was a little primitive, but everyone that worked there made you forget the small flaws. What a great few days.
Finally it was on to Prague. I wish that I had been able to stay for more then 36ish hours, but those hours were great. Once again we had a great hotel and this time through sheer dumb luck. I was cruising through TripAdvisor and thought that the Hotel Pod Vesi looked ok, and as it was in out price range I booked. What a great little hotel. It is right at the base of the Charles Bridge on the Castle side and the room was HUGE. Perfect for the three of us. In the short time that I was in Prague I saw the Castle, the old square, a Jazz performance, ate great food, drank good wine and cocktails and overall had a great time.
I have been back in Doha for about a week and a half now and I wish that I was still out vacationing. I am looking forward to the Holidays even though I will be here, and I must say that Thanksgiving was a ton of fun. So it looks to be a good end of the year. My intent is to write more frequently but we will have to see how that goes. LOL.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
So as I am sitting in the lounge in Prague waiting for my flight to Istanbul, a super long layover, and then my flight to Doha I figured that I would catch up on my totally delinquent updates on my travels.
So the last update was the afternoon after the race, which I would like to reiterate was COLD AND WINDY!!!!!
After getting nice and squeaky clean, Benjamin and I went out to find some snacks for the hungry masses. One of the things that I loved about he stay in Athens was that we were in a real neighborhood as with 6+ people is was smarter to get an apartment. We came back with some souvlaki and baklava to share and mainly chilled. Marieke also joined us at that point as she was going to travel with Julia and I for the rest of the trip. She headed out to see some sights and then met us at the Royal Olympian Hotel for dinner.
The Royal Olympian has an AMAZING view of the Temple of Zeus and the Acropolis, and it is stunning at night. The view alone was worth the cost of dinner, it was a total bonus that the food was amazing. The only downside was the poor service, it was not horrible, just not great. From there the group walked back to the Apartment and stopped for some pictures in front of the Stadium where we finished the race and then home to chill.
As people that know me can attest to, I do not sleep in late, so I was up the next morning at about 8AM (really late for me) and figured that I might as well shower while everyone else was asleep and clean up some. As the rest of the group was still not stirring at ~9:45 I decided to go for a walk about the neighborhood to stretch the legs and shop a bit. I am glad that I did as I found a cute pair of black flats and a top that I had coveted when I had walked about on a previous day, but he store was shut. After about an hour I made it back to the apartment where Julia and Marieke were up and we got ready and head out for a quick lunch and then we split with Julia and I going shopping and Marieke off to see the Acropolis. Our plan had been to meet after at the Agora and tour that as well but it was shut when we arrived. Note to self, make sure to check more then guide books on opening times for museums and historical sites. With that closed we walked to the National Archeological Museum and looked around for a bit then back to the apartment to meet the others for dinner.
(Break in time and typing, I am now in the THY Lounge at the Istanbul Airport for ~6 hours waiting for the next flight)
Through some magic superpowers of which I was unaware that I possessed, I managed to get us up, out the door, into a cab and to the airport on time. The flight to Santorini is about 45 minutes which were a sleepy blur. We arrived at ~7:45AM and the hotel (Aroma Rooms and Suites) picked up up and gave us rooms where we could sleep until our room was ready. Basically from 8:39-10:45 I dozed and then got up to get something to drink and walk about. As I went out of the room Chris the gentleman from the hotel let me know the room was ready so we moved our stuff. Marieke still slept, but Julia and I went to grab lunch, then Julia took off to nap some more and I wandered a bit. It was during these wanderings that I found a GREAT jewelry shop called Athena (owned by Athena too!). While I should have bought stuff for others for Christmas I bought three necklaces all for me! :) I walk about a bit more then back to the room to sit and talk with the others.
In the last 16-17 days I have been in:
7 airports (of which only one did not get you to the plane on a bus)
I had an amazing trip, but I am ready to be home. I just wish that home was Houston and not Doha. Oh well.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
So I arrived in Athens on Thursday morning about 9:45 and got to the apartment that we are renting at about 11AM. First of all, Athens is an interesting city with the old and new in a crazy juxtaposition. The apartment that we are staying at is a lovely three bedroom, three bath, two story apartment with an AMAZING view of the Acropolis.
It is fun living life in a city more like a local. Once I got into town I decided to explore my new neighborhood and see what I could find. This little exploration had me stimulating the Greek economy. I found a great fruit stand, coffee shop, clothes store and pasty shop to spend euro. After my wanders I headed back to the apartment to eat lunch and wait for Tina to take me on an Architectural Tour of Athens. The tour aw great and I learned lots of interesting items about the city, its more modern and ancient sites. Then I met Julia and Kevin who arrived at 6:00PM and we picked up some wine, cheese and bread and had quite the meal on the terrace since the weather was still nice. Then the others finally arrived after a delayed flight and we had a drink and then, for me at least, to sleep.
Saturday took us to the Marathon Expo, not the best one that I have been to, but ok in general. From there we went to the Acropolis Museum which was great. I had been to the British Museum about a year ago and it is interesting how each side has its views on Elgins Marbles. I really enjoyed the new Acropolis Museum. They have done a phenomenal job and the exhibits are great.
After visiting the acropolis and lunch we came back to the apartment o rest or he marathon.
Sunday - ok, so it is never cold in Athens, WRONG!!! The low today was 48 with a high of 53 with 20-25mph wind gusts. It was crazy cold for this race. Not only that this course is hilly, and for a girl living inDoha and mainly running on a treadmill this was tough. I did finish in a respectable 4:23:36. Not my best, not my worst, but ok. We have basically chilled this afternoon and are heading out to dinner t the Royal Olympic hotel to celebrate.
One more day in Athens and then off to Santorini!!!!
Thursday, November 10, 2011
So I figured I would write my experiences from my last two days in Istanbul as I sit on my flight to Athens. Some of this might be a repeat as I can not remember what I wrote when I was leaving Goreme. Warning, all my Istanbul info is packed in my luggage that was checked, so the spelling and names of areas and buildings are all a bit suspect. Please Forgive. ;)
First, I was supposed to be picked up at the hotel at 6:45 for my 9:15 flight back to Istanbul. For reasons that were never quite explained the shuttle was 45 minutes late. Granted that still got me to the airport a hour before the flight after the driver acted like a kamikaze pilot. LOL. I did have a wonderful talk on the shuttle with two gents from NZ that were traveling for about a month in Turkey. I have to admit that I was glad that i was not at the Kayseri Airport early as there is nothing there but the gates. As it was I got there in time to check in sit for ten minutes and then get on a smooth flight to Istanbul.
Once I arrived in Istanbul I met up with Mary, Eric and Nick Febbo for lunch and a quick stop at a archeological dig that was on Cities of the Underworld. We had lunch at Metropolis which is the #1 rated restaurant on TripAdvisor and it was lovely. A nice time to chat and talk about each others adventures. We then walked back to the hotels where they were soon to head to the airport back to Doha and I continued my walk.
I started toward the Grand Bazaar (which was shut due to national holidays) and walked by the University (I passed the Department of Pharmacy, picture for dad) and then continued my wanders to the Mosque of Sultanmete (sp?). After that I got a bit lost in a shady neighborhood, I did not feel threatened but did not linger. From there I hit the main street that paralleled the Roman Aqueducts. This street was bustling with locals that were shopping and walking about their neighborhood. I passed some interesting parks, the Istanbul Administrative Buildings and then stopped in at the Fatih Mosque. I realized that my original destination was farther then expected and would be closed once I walked there, so I decided to walk toward the water and back toward the Spice Market area.
There were some great sites as I walked back. I found a small market area that was totally local. I picked up some pumpkin seeds (local speciality), dates and Turkish Delight for 1/3 the price of the tourist area. I also saw two 10-12 year old boys walking down the street with freshly butchered goat/sheep (it was that size), I mean you could see the not so clean cut where the head was hacked (I will not say cut) off. I soon realized why they were walking down the street when I saw the butcher about two more stores down. The man was in the process of butchering something and, kid you not, there were live goats, lambs and poultry eating in the shop waiting for their turn under the knife. I am really sorry that I did not take a picture, but I was not sure how it would go over, but really an amazing thing to see.
As I continued my walk I finally made it to the waterside. There fisherman were cleaning and cooking their catch for the day right at the back of their boats. Families had gathered about eating the fish sandwiches and sitting on plastic lawn furniture. It smelled amazing, but I was not hungry so I passed. The was at the second bridge down the golden horn. I continued my walk along the water heading back to the hotel. Along the way I stopped in some galleries and bought some great silver earrings that I will convert to a couple necklaces as my ears are not pierced.
I returned to the hotel to drop off my goodies, check my email and figure out what to do for dinner. I decided to eat at a place right in the alley by my hotel (Faros BTW, great hotel). The place that I chose was ranked #3 in Istanbul by trip advisor. The food was enjoyable, but maybe not number three worthy. Still good though.
PLEASE SKIP IF YOU DO NOT WANT TMI!!!!!!!
Ok, so I have been battling with stomach and intestinal issues for the past 3-4 months and the EMQI doctor wants me to see an internal specialist when I get back to Doha, which I will do! Well, my issues reared their ugly head about 2:45 in the morning. I took an extra Prilosec hoping that would help, and I think that it did, by about 7AM I was feeling a bit better (and had found the immodium) I then rested until about 8:15 to shower and see how I would do moving about. At 9 I went down to breakfast to have some bread, egg whites, and a banana. I knew that if I was going to head out I would need to eat something and I was not going to spend my last day in Istanbul in my room. As I felt quasi ok, I decided to head out the door to the "new" Asian side of town.
OK YOU CAN RETURN. :)
So my plan for my last day in Istanbul was to head over to the Asian side of the city and walk about. I prefer to see a city walking versus taking public transportation. Granted I might not squeeze as much into a day, but I also get to see fun and interesting side streets in my wandering. So first I went to the Galata Tower which is the tallest tower on the Asia side and provides an amazing view of the city.
I ended up grabbing a quick cheese pida (Turkish fayter) as it was bland and then walked to the Archeological Museum. This was a pretty good museum, not as good as the British Museum but it had some highlights including:
Sculpture of Sappho
And some interesting information an Ancient Troy. There was also a separate building for Tile/pottery and the Ancient Orient. I did a quick run through those two buildings and then headed out to go to a small street/bazaar area that I kept missing, as i kept arriving after closing. I am glad that I finally made it as I picked up some Turkish towels, one item that I had really wanted to find. After that I went back to Faros to organize for leaving the next day (5:15AM, I really need to rethink the times that I book flights) and take a nap. I got up to get Mom a magnet and grab a small bite at a local chain called Samit Sekrit (once again, spelling?!?) across from the hotel. I then pretty much did my final organization and read for a bit and then off to sleep for the 4:30AM wake up call.
So I am on my way to Athens as I type after enjoying the Turkish Airlines Lounge. I have about six hours between my flight from Prague and to Doha, if i do not make a quick run to town, i know that I will be plenty comfortable in the lounge as TA knows how to do a lounge.
On other issues, I am still feeling off, and I pray (please, oh please, oh please) that I feel better by the marathon. Otherwise that is going to be a very interesting race. I have three days for everything to settle down and if my past history over the last 3-4 months is anything to go by I should be good, but still, cross your fingers for me.
To wrap up my Turkish portion of the trip, I loved Turkey. I thought that Istanbul was super cool and Goreme was amazing. I want to go back and hit some other areas of the country as historical sites from the Hittite, Greek, Roman, Byzantium and Ottoman times are all over and super interesting. I would recommend a visit to anyone.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
So the early morning started with a trek to the main offices of the balloon company where we had a quick breakfast and gathered the groups to head to the launch point. I had a great conversation with two American ladies that were teaching in Istanbul. It is interesting how in demand American teachers are in other parts of the world.
The balloon ride itself was quite wonderful. First we were able to watch about 60-70 other balloons launch and also watch up close the launch of the four balloons from our company. I am not super good with heights, but this is such a gentle ascent and decline that it did not really bother me. Our pilot John was able to maneuver the ballon so that we could decent into some of the valleys and also drop by some of the rock formations. Other then that we were at the whim of the winds, and they were in a good mood. I will say that a balloon ride maybe a better Spring/Summer venture as it was COLD. Otherwise a great start to the morning.
Then it was time for a quick return to the hotel to grab some coffee and a snack/breakfast (as the one at the balloon office was not too great) and the I was picked up to go on the "Green" Tour. This was an all day tour that visited
Goreme panorama - this was a quick photo op. I had better pics from the balloon.
Selime Kathedral - this site was incredible. In the 9th century, monks carved a monetary into the hill side, obviously expanding existing caves. Even taking that into account, what they were able to do was amazing. The work that they had to do to carve these rooms and create a place to live is mind boggling. Over time this site was also a hotel of sorts and a palace.
Ihlara Valley Walk - The walk started with a Cathedral that was built into the cliffs. From there it was just a beautiful 4km walk in the valley.
Lunch in Belisirma - Decent lunch with some good hi point. Great fresh trout.
Derinkuyu Underground City - While the underground city was an architectural feat, parts were quite un-nerving. There was a section that I did not do because of the tight constraints. All I kept thinking is that there is no way that Jim or Dad would fit down there. LOL!
Pigeon Valley - Photo op and end of day.
Then back to the hotel. This was a great tour for someone that really did not know much about the Cappadocia region as it hit some major highlights. I enjoyed having a knowledgable guide to talk about the places the we visited.
Dinner was really fun as the restaurant sat me with a fun Canadian couple. It was nice to have someone to chat with over dinner.
I am currently on the plane back to Istanbul for two more days of wandering about before heading to Athens. I am thinking that I am going to have some majorly tired legs for the race, but totally worth it. :).