Monday, January 21, 2013

From KAUST to London and Paris

Visit Paris Museums & Galleries Free

The next big adventure

Fresh off of the success of our first international "holiday" to Dubai, we have started to plan the next. It looks like the finalist is going to be 3 weeks in Europe. One of our next adventures has us headed to London and Paris. We will go to London in early August and probably take the train to Paris.

So far we have locked in the airline tickets and Barbara scored an AWESOME Priceline deal in London. One of the difficulties with us is finding accommodations for 6. So Barbara bid $85 USD for 2 rooms and got a yes for a Marriott near Hyde Park!!! It is still more expensive than our little American minds like to deal with, but we were stoked given what we have been seeing. We will see how it actually turns out, but for now it was exciting

We still need to lock down the lodging and transport to Paris, the "Paris Pass", and the details for Disneyland Paris.

Paris Lodging

In the end we will probably try the Priceline option in Paris, but for right now we are looking as some of the vacation rentals we can find. Unfortunately Craigslist is just full of scammers (they should just not even have that option on the page. I didn't see one option on there that did not look like a scam, but I digress, but has a pretty good inventory so we are hoping that something will work out in our favor.

Paris Pass

In Paris it seems that the "Paris Pass" is going to be a great deal for us. It includes a pass for the Paris transportation network, another pass for a number of the Paris museums/ galleries, and other perk such as the Big Bus tour that shows many of the Paris icons.

This will be one of my first times relying exclusively on public transit for my family, so we will see how it goes, but for now it seems like the "Paris Pass" is at least going to help check some of the transportation boxes and some of the "cultural" boxes. Plus the good thing about it would seem that it will give us the incentive to visit some of the museums that are not on the normal must see sights. We will just leave if we dislike it. Instead of feeling like we paid some money and should at least try and find some redeeming value.

I will fill you in as we go along this planning process, plus I have some more updates from our Dubai trip that we took at Christmas, but I haven't transferred the photos yet. Hopefully I will get it posted before CiCi and I start diving next week and add a whole new topic for discussion ;-)

Best wishes, KC
Explorers Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Explorers Hotel at Disneyland Paris

Explorers Hotel at Disneyland Paris is located close to Disneyland Paris, Golf Disneyland Paris, and Centre commercial Val d'Europe. Additional points of interest include Sealife Aquarium and Aquarium Sea Life Paris. Hotel Features. Dining options at Explorers Hotel at Disneyland Paris include 3 restaurants. A bar/lounge is open for drinks. The hotel serves a complimentary breakfast. Recreational amenities include an indoor pool and a children's pool. This 3 star property offers a meeting/conference room and audio visual equipment. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available in public areas. The property has a theme park shuttle, which is complimentary. Tour/ticket assistance and tour assistance are available. Guest parking is complimentary. Additional property amenities include a concierge desk, an arcade/game room, and multilingual staff. This is a smoke free property. Guestrooms. 390 guestrooms at Explorers Hotel at Disneyland Paris feature coffee/tea makers and safes. Accommodations offer garden views. Beds come with pillowtop mattresses. Bathrooms feature shower/tub combinations with handheld showerheads, and hair dryers. Wireless Internet access is complimentary. In addition to desks, guestrooms offer phones. Flat panel televisions have satellite channels and pay movies. Rooms also include ceiling fans and windows that open. Guests may request irons/ironing boards, hypo allergenic bedding, and wake up calls. Housekeeping is available daily. Guestrooms are all non smoking. Notifications and Fees: This property offers transfers from the airport (surcharges may apply). Guests must contact the property with arrival details before travel, using the contact information on the booking confirmation. A resort fee is included in the total price displayed The following facilities will be closed from 17 September 2012 to 19 September 2012 (dates subject to change): Swimming poolOne of the dining venues Some properties have extra fees for amenities or services that may apply even if you do not use them. Government fees or taxes also may be charged to you when you check in or check out. This property told us they will charge you for the following: A tax is imposed by the city: EUR 1.1 per person, per night We have included all charges provided to us by the property. However, charges can vary, for example, based on length of stay or the room you book. The following fees and deposits are charged by the property at time of service, check in, or check out. Airport shuttle fee: EUR 18Airport shuttle fee per child: EUR 15 (one way), (from 3 to 12 years old) Additional towels/sheets fee: EUR 2 per stay The above list may not be comprehensive. Fees and deposits may not include tax and are subject to change. Notifications and Fees: This property offers transfers from the airport (surcharges may apply).

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Christmas in Dubai (Part 1)

This year for Christmas we decided that Dubai would be the site for our first overseas Christmas experience and what a choice it was. We had some highs and lows, but all in all everyone enjoyed it.

We traveled to Dubai on Thursday the 20th and returned almost exactly 8 days later (actually 8 days and one hour, but who is counting ;-). From the moment we landed in the airport we knew it was going to be a different experience than we have had in Saudi. For starters while the official religion is Islam, Dubai caters to all people and nationalities. They are obviously a very proud country as flags drape numerous homes sometimes from the roof all the way to the ground, sort of like a giant slide.

As I mentioned we were able to tell immediately that there were distinct differences from Jeddah (JED) and Dubai (DXB) with the greatest being the level of cleanliness throughout not only the airport, but the whole city. The service was also very good, which is an additional distinction from Jeddah. We arrived at passport control and found lines and respectable ques to keep people in order. The biggest surprise was that we thought that we would have to get a Visa, but US citizens can stay for 30 days with nothing but a passport :-) We were directed to a "Fast Track" line and though there were about 20 people in front of us we were done in about 20 minutes.

From passport control we went and collected our baggage with one of the numerous carts that were freely available. After a little bit of a walk we collected the rental car and headed out to our hotel.

Barbara had found us a great deal on 2 rooms (the joy traveling with 6 people) through at the Premier Inn Dubai Investment Park. The rooms were comfortable enough that we didn't mind being there, but we also didn't feel a great need to just sit around since the sitting couch is also made into the bed for the 3rd person in each room (if you have a 4th person there is a rollaway bed that fits between this couch-bed and the queen sized bed. The kids liked it and left it up in their room, even though Ben stayed with us). It was a little bit away from various locations, but compared to staying in the heart of the action we saved more than enough money that we were able to rent a car and commute to them.

Barbara didn't realize the scale of the map that she was looking at and in hind site thinks that next time we will try and sacrifice the money so that we can be closer to the sites and use the public transit systems since getting lost was not an uncommon occurrence. The driver in me is not sure that I am willing to give up my ability to flee, but the married part of me says that I should at least give it a chance and see where it goes because it did seem like we spent a lot of time in the car trying to find places that hopefully the cabs or buses would already know their way to.We will see how that goes on the next one.

I will post some of the ups and downs of the experience later, but long story short, we had a great vacation in Dubai and highly recommend it to anyone considering the trip.