Our last day in Europe was well, interesting. After our day began by popping over to another country with a 3 hour tour of The Vatican City. I was aware it was it’s own city inside a city, I had never realised it was also it’s own country. It was a pleasant tour wandering the Vatican and seeing the Sistene Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica. The rest of the day was not so pleasant and can be best summarised by delayed flights, long queues, marathon runs between terminals and almost-missed flights ….9:18pm was not one of my finest moments. No doubt to avoid a rather disturbing scene the Emirates staff at Heathrow made a few calls to ensure we could still make our flight – phew. 10:45pm we were on our way to our last weekend of the trip, a two day stopover in Dubai. You would think after 60 days of travel of what could best be described as an ‘extreme sport’ and a somewhat traumatic evening I would have spent my entire flight snoozing away. Noooooooooo, arriving 9am Dubai time I was even a little more worse for wear. We made it through security, after yet another ‘random’ check and headed for the arrivals.
As I’ve mentioned before, hubby is quite interested in architecture and was familiar with a lot of the cutting–edge building designs in Dubai. One in particular that had caught his attention was the ‘Burj Al Arab’ ….otherwise known as “the most luxurious hotel in the World”. Naturally it had price tag to match but in keeping with our ‘we might only get this opportunity once’ approach decided we would lash out and spend our last 2 days in style, REAL style. This would definitely be a weekend to remember and a VERY grand finale to the trip.
We were supposed to be met by a representative of the hotel but somehow missed her in the arrivals area. A little time later we found our driver and got it all sorted. Standing there exhausted, the chauffeur reached into the car and presented a beautiful bouquet of bright colourful flowers “For you Mrs Parker”. It took everything I had to not burst into tears there in the car park. Given with a sincerity of kindness I was completely blown away. He assisted us into the car, packed our bags and got in. Before we moved we were handed the ‘music selection’ and offered wine or cool drinks. We hadn’t even left the airport and I had been made to feel a million dollars! The drive through the city to the hotel took around 40 minutes, we had a lovely chat with our driver as he gave a commentary to hubby about the various buildings and structures we passed. As we drove the long driveway to the hotel there it was, just like the pictures, a grand building on its own island – beautiful.
As we pulled up an entourage of staff quickly moved to meet us. Some collected our luggage, others simply opened the door and a beautiful young lady greeted us as our host. It was a hot day and we moved into the foyer. There were staff everywhere there to serve us, medjool dates on the offering and warm welcomes everywhere. Our host helped us to our room giving us a quick run-down of the facilities on the way. We were ‘upgraded’ to a double room and looked forward to seeing what it was like, expecting a usual hotel room with a few added luxuries. We grossly underestimated what it would entail.
Each floor hosts approximately 12 suites and each floor has it’s own butler. Together with our hostess they took us to our suite and showed us around. Two words:
Our ‘Suite’ was bigger than my house. The foyer hosted a grand staircase to the upper level. To our right was the downstairs powder room and toilet (bigger than my bathroom at home) and then a small study. We walked over to the living room that had floor-to-ceiling windows approximately 10m across – WOW. It didn’t end there, it was only when we proceeded further that we saw the ‘formal lounge room’ to the left, equal in size with an equally large window overlooking the ocean. There was a large dining area and a small kitchen as well .
Moving upstairs, past the enormous chandelier, we had our bedroom suite to the left. Again, at least 10m across it included the King size bed and a lounge. Behind that was our bathroom and a dressing room – massive! Each room had its own mini-bar and wide-screen television, telephone system (linked to the TV) and high-tech lighting.
As I mentioned before, they ‘upgraded’ us to a double bedroom suite. I’m not sure if this is the norm or if we were just lucky to be missing the peak season and thus, wherever possible they upgrade you. It would have been interesting to know how much extra this room would normally be and just what we would have got otherwise for our ‘cheaper’ room. Miss 8 had her own, very large room. This also included her own bathroom, a mirror of ours. There were beautiful touches everywhere, from the robes to the gifts of perfume, fresh fruits and wine, date and nut gift packs and tote bags. We couldn’t have been made feel more welcome.
Noticing my cough the butler offered to call the hotel paramedic to come and see me. Huh? Was there nothing that they didn’t offer? We had some massage vouchers as part of deal so while Hubby and Miss 8 went to check out the pool I indulged in a much-needed pampering at the spa.
The hotel has a number of restaurants including a la carte and buffet menus. It would have been nicer to stay longer and try them all. Before we even got to one though, late afternoon there was a knock on the door and a lovely young woman offered us a pre-dinner aperitif and appetiser. A cocktail and and platter of smoked salmon with dips. We relaxed and enjoyed this immensely, a lovely surprise.
That evening, on our way out the butler asked ‘Are you heading down for dinner?” to which we replied “yes”. We were welcomed at the restaurant ‘Junsui’ as Mr & Mrs Parker (clearly they had been called to be informed of our imminent arrival):
“The Japanese word for ‘pure’, Junsui is an authentic Far East Asian restaurant set within the opulent interiors of Burj Al Arab. With breathtaking views over the Arabian Gulf and an uber-stylish cocktail lounge, Junsui is the definitive place to be in a setting which is a pure delight. The Culinary team is comprised of Asian chefs preparing a wide selection in front of the guests, from twelve live stations in open kitchen concept. Japanese and Chinese cuisine will be well presented and completed with Thai, Indonesian and Korean dishes”.
You could dine here every night of the week and still not be able to enjoy the best of all they had to offer. Our waiter ‘Tatsuya’ was awesome. Despite being a buffet restaurant they were more than happy to assist with our dining experience “Can I help you back to your table with that?” (errr, well I can carry my own plate but, if you have to, who am I to argue?), entertaining and indulging Miss 8 wherever possible, we had the most lovely time.
It occurred to me during the meal “I bet when we left our floor the staff took the opportunity to go to our room and ‘turn down’ ready for our return” …I wasn’t wrong. Lights dimmed, beds turned down, gifts left for us – just lovely to be spoiled.
Breakfasts were at the Bab Al Yam:
…”a poolside café restaurant provides informal al fresco dining with attractive sea views. Located next to the private pool and sundeck at the base of Burj Al Arab, this complex offers a relaxing and tranquil atmosphere. Guests can select from an extravagant selection of international cuisine served buffet-style and enjoy their meal in a relaxing casual dining environment”.
The breakfast buffet was enjoyable with lovely pastries (mmm, doughnuts), fruits, hot dishes and a chef to cook your eggs any way you like it. Staff were available to assist catering to your every need.
The following day we had the opportunity to dine at Al Iwan:
“In the heart of the world’s tallest atrium, flanked by golden columns and next to the lobby fountain is Al Iwan, where you can enjoy a taste of the finest Arabic cuisine. With spectacular sea views during the day, Al Iwan is transformed into an intimate dining room by night, with sumptuous tables and flickering candles”.
We enjoyed curries and other Arabian fare. Executive chef of the Burj was there and stopped to have a lovely chat with me. He was interested to know I was a cooking teacher back home and asked I send a photo when I got back, a lovely man indeed. He described the many traditional desserts they had including a few varieties of baklava. As with so many places I wanted to make the most of my opportunity to sample traditional ethnic cuisines, so I helped myself to a bit of almost everything, including the camel’s milk panacotta.
The staff at the Burj could not be more lovely. Whilst one could claim ‘When you’re paying that much you would expect that level of service’ there was a sincerity in their actions that could be felt above and beyond what you would expect. These people weren’t just ‘doing their job’, they genuinely wanted to ensure you had the best possible time with them. These people loved their vocation and it showed in their every action.
We didn’t regret spending a single dollar at the Burj. Whilst we don’t get to spend every holiday like this – oh ‘how the other half live’ [that ‘half’ would be the 5% of the population with 95% of the wealth] – it was truly an experience I think everyone should be privileged to enjoy at some time in their life. If you ever happen to be stopping in Dubai, save your pennies and indulge a little, well a lot, you will appreciate every moment of it.