Friday, June 29, 2012

SO CAL ~ Around the world stop #4

We have a few places we call "home" and Southern California is one of them. This leg of our trip was focused on lots of family and friends time. Here are a few of the highlights.

Visited my alma mater- Cal State Fullerton- where hubby and I met.

Richard Nixon Library and Museum- although we really didn't see "everything".

Mrs. Knott's "famous fried chicken dinner" at Knott's Berry Farm Restaurant.

Lots and lots of good American food! BBQ with the cousins.

Swim time with the cousins.

Friend Time!
 I chopped off a lot of my hair!
My longest friend and I.
(Am I the only one who never knows where to look on the back of an iPhone camera?)

Grilling with the cousins.

Cousins, but much more like twins!

Summer Reading- in a very odd spot!

College Roommates- still great friends after all this time!

Manhattan Beach

Beach Time at Manhattan Beach
Next Stop...Northern California!
(the REAL home)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

London- Around the world stop #3

Do you know how excited I was to go to London?
This picture should give you some idea.
I can never pass up an opportunity to go to this wonderful city! 
We decided to make it a two day layover.

We did a whirlwind tour of all the main sights...
Big Ben- we were there when the tower name was
changed from St Stephen's to Elizabeth Tower.

St Paul's Cathedral

River Thames

The Tower of London

Westminister Abbey
 We bought some goodies at the Harrod's food court and had a picnic outside.
Sandwiches, meat pies and cupcakes.
Buckingham Palace

Tower Bridge all decked out for the Olympics.
They lowered the rings a week after we were there.
Another shot of St. Paul's Cathedral
One of the things I love the most about London are the pop culture icons like the big red bus, the Union Jack and the red telephone booths. There is nowhere like London!

Since I had faced my fear of heights in Dubai with the Burj Khalifa and the "Leap of Faith" waterslide it was time to tackle The London Eye!
View of the Houses of Parliament from The London Eye.
I thoroughly recommend a ride on The London Eye. We were so lucky to have fabulous weather and the views were the best you could ever imagine!
D on The London Eye

 There is always something new to do and see in a city with this much history. We decided to take a boat ride up the Thames to Greenwich. We were told that despite Olympic Park being in Stratford, Greenwich provides great views from The Royal Observatory.
The quaint town of Greenwich

 Countdown to the Olympic Games; London 2012!
We were surprised that the Olympics were not more prevalent around town. With only 35 days until the opening ceremony it seemed they still had a ways to go. 
Signage explaining about Olympic procedures in Greenwich
 Right in front is the venue for the equestrian competitions, while to the right is the site for the opening ceremonies. There sure was excitement in the air here. 
London Olympic 2012 sites.
 One of the bonuses about heading to Greenwich was seeing the Greenwich Meridian Time Line.

 We picked a great time to visit London. Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee was just two weeks prior to our visit, the Eurocup was being played and England beat the Ukraine while we were there, and of course the anticipation of the Olympic Games just a month away.
The closest I will ever get to the Queen!

We really loved our two days in London. Although we were anxious to make it to the good ole' US of A!
The fam on The London Eye!
 Next stop...Southern California!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Atlantis- Around the world stop #2

To check out our sight seeing of Dubai, click here.

For me, the NUMBER ONE ~ top of the list~ must do reason for me to go to Dubai was for this place!
pic courtesy of Google
The Palm, Dubai
To fully embrace the amazingness of this place you have to look at the above picture.This man- made island, representing a palm tree, can be seen from space. The center line is a road leading from the main land. The "palm fronds" are roads with beach front houses. The outer islands have hotels and resorts being built on them. At the very top, on it's own island is the Atlantis. From the tip frond, to the island, you take an underwater tunnel or monorail. 

Seeing this place was a dream come true for me! I had hopes of going to the Bahamas Atlantis in three years for our 20th anniversary.

When we decided to visit Dubai, I immediately went online to check out day passes. I knew we would be using Marriott points for our hotel, so staying at the Atlantis didn't even cross my mind. We originally were going to just spend one day, as a day passer, at the resort until we learned that the water park and aquarium are free for guests. A one night room was about $300 USD and included two days of fun for all four of us! We booked our room online and my excitement level for Dubai catapulted!

The amazing lobby with an enormous glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly.
 The lobby is impressive! When we arrived we were greeted with cool towels and rose water. We also were greeted with a scare...the guy said our reservation was in their system for September 1! Although we had our email confirmation that showed the correct date he still assured us it was wrong in their system...hmmmm suspicious! Anyhow, it all worked out with only minor worry.
Our room was gorgeous, but our view was unbelievable!
Left view from our balcony, the pool and resort.
Right view from our balcony. Beach, monorail and skyline of Dubai.
 I had never experienced full Arabian desert heat before. The pools, beach and water park are essential to this type of climate!

 The pools did not disappoint!
The zero entry pool- families and kids welcome!
The Royal Pool- right on the beach and looking over the skyline.
 Steps away from the pool is Royal Beach. The sand and water was HOT. The water was clear and very salty.
We were all dying to get to AquaAdventure park to hit the huge, vertical slide that sends you through a shark tank. I was apprehensive, but willing! It was super fun and not scary at all!

 Below is a video of three out of four of us plunging down the slide!
 A view of the sharks lurking above the slide tube.
That slide was called "Leap of Faith" and wasn't the scariest slides there. Most of the other slides send you through pitch black tubes, going extremely fast. The dark tubes were much scarier than the plunge through sharks. As a matter of fact, you are going so fast on the "Leap of Faith" that you don't even know you are seeing sharks. There is another slide called "Shark Attack" where you slowly cruise through the shark tank on an inner tube. You are completely safe as your tube is fully enclosed. Kind of a gimmick.

 Throughout the resort you come across HUGE aquarium tanks with colorful sea life. The best views are in the hotel where you don't even need to go into "The Lost Chambers Aquarium". We did go in since we didn't have to pay. I don't think this aquarium is worth an entrance fee.

 We were warned how expensive the food in Dubai would be. Coming from China, it was of course much more expensive. But we didn't think it was outrageous, compared to America. 

Our highlight meal at the Atlantis was at Kaleidoscope, an international buffet. Since living in China we have all acquired a taste for Indian, Thai and other Asian cuisine. Kaleidoscope had all of those, plus Italian and DESSERT from heaven!
My dessert plate from the buffet...homemade churros! YUM!
 Our flight did not leave Dubai until 1:50 AM. After we checked out of our room we were able to store our luggage and use a hospitality suite with showers. So we played in the water all day long, had dinner and showered at about 9:00 PM before heading the airport. 

The Atlantis was, by far, the nicest resort I have ever stayed at! Our kids had a blast! This will be a cherished family memory for a very long time!

 Next stop... London!