Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Afternoon Tea in the Burj Kalifa

On the first backpacking trip I took, around Europe after graduating, my friends and I were back to basics travellers. We stayed in 20-bed dorm rooms, and scouted out free places to visit. We'd walk around and around for ages trying to find the cheapest place to eat dinner. Stuck to tap water where ever possible, and sometimes risked the public transport systems without a ticket. Over the years, however, I've learnt that it's not always necessary to be such a spend thrift. Trekking from restaurant to restaurant and ending up at the first one anyway. Sometimes it's worth saving money on something but other times it will be worth the splurge. For me, this is generally when I think that I will regret not having done or seen something. An experience that will stay with me long after the trip is worth handing over a little bit of dosh. This was why, when visiting Dubai, Samantha and I decided to spend a little more on afternoon tea in the Burj Kalifa, rather than just heading to the viewing deck. The restaurant is a couple of floors below the observation deck, but having visited my fair share of tall buildings: Taipei 101, Seoul Tower, Tokyo Tower, Radio City tower (in Liverpool)... I know that there is only so long you can stay at the top, having taken pictures of each direction and attempting to recognise buildings. To spend a little bit more, and have a longer time to enjoy the view, whilst drinking tea and eating cakes was definitely worth the extra cost.

Now, although I am extremely happy that we did this. Things did not on the whole go smoothly. I am always ready to admit when things go wrong through my own mistake or carelessness... ok not always. But anyway on this occation, Samantha and I were in no way responsible for the drama that surrounded our Afternoon Tea.

To get to the restaurant (Atmosphere), you must enter the Burj Kalifa through the Armani Hotel entrance. We did this, quickly popping to the loo to change into our finery. We approached the staff to ask the way to the restaurant. Each staff member sent us the same way; along corridors, down in lifts, each smiling and pointing the same way when we double checked 

"This way for the restaurant? For afternoon tea?" 

"Yes, Yes this way, this way". 

We eventually reached the end of the line when we emerged into the Dubai Mall. NOT where we wanted to be. Finally a staff member actually listened to where we want to be and shook his head;

"No, no through the Armani hotel entrance" 

He refused to let us retrace our steps, and informed us that we will need to walk around the entire circumference of the building to return to where we have just been. 

"Take a taxi, it's easier" (!)

Clearly it's absurd to suggest getting a taxi, so out we go (in our nice clothes) to walk half way back around the building, up and down steps and around large fenced off areas. It's really bloody hot and we are flustered because we are now going to be late. We walk up the slope, to the vehicle barriers (UAE is not pedestrian friendly).

After much frustration, we make it to the Armani hotel (again) I'm extremely annoyed by now and make it very clear to the reception staff that we need to be personally escorted to the correct place to avoid another catastrophe. They do this (reluctantly), and then the second lot of reception staff make us feel about 2 cm tall by explaining that we needed to be at the Armani hotel entrance to reach the restaurant. Of course that's exactly where we were, before the hotel staff sent us on a wild goose chase, but the self righteous lady on the desk doesn't want to believe us.  Heaven forbid two single western women actually know what they're doing.

Anyway we finally get into the lift and head up to the 122 floor. By now our table is gone. Or at least the restaurant decide to seat us away from the window. We have expressly asked for a window table, otherwise what's the point? So we start to talk about leaving. It is only when we are practically standing up with our coats on that they magically find us a table. Thank goodness! We are now seated with a great view and are ready to enjoy our cakes. Unfortunately the staff seem to forget about us, and we twice have to request they take our tea order and bring us the cake stand of goodies. 

On the plus side; the food was delicious, the tea lovely and the free Pink Flamingo mocktail very refreshing. And not only did we get a fantastic experience out of it, but I guess the drama is entertaining... in hindsight!

A night-time view from our restaurant opposite; clouds and light pollution clearly visible!

There's a fountain show with music in the marina next to the tower

And the view of the marina the following day from the 122 floor

Pink Flamingo mocktail

A crappy picture of the Burj Al-Arab (The sailboat hotel)

An odd mushroom vol au vent thingy (tasted ok though)

Our cakes, sandwiches and scones! Yay!

tea with a view

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Snapshots from the Middle East

One of the beautiful chandeliers in the Abu Dhabi grand mosque

Bought a book I'd been longing to read for a while - and had my hands henna-ed while in Dubai

The aerial view on the way in

Love for life jackets
River cruise on Dubai Creek

An odd sculpture made of chairs in AD art gallery

at Ferrari world

visiting the NYUAD portal campus

The view from the 42nd floor of Sama Tower

Catching the view with a sunset and plane coming in to land. Picture perfect!

Lotus tea

It's crazy to think that this metropolis is built on the desert.