"Never say 'no' to adventures. Always say 'yes' otherwise you'll lead a very dull life", Caractus Potts, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang The Magical Car
  • Day45

    Last morning

    November 7, 2019 in Qatar ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    We're out and about early again, this time arriving at the Souk by 07.30, before the stalls open. This turns out to be a great idea : things are only just coming to life, wheelbarrows of goods are being wheeled about, stallholders are smoking their early morning cigarettes and sipping coffee as they remove the curtains covering their wares overnight and just one or two authentic eateries are already open.

    We plunge into Ali Al Naama for breakfast. We're liking the look of it because it has a number of local gents already established so hopefully that indicates decent food. I like the stripey cushions, too. Or maybe it's actually the only place open this early? The faint scents of cardamon and coffee waft around.

    Right, food. What the heck is shabati which features heavily. A glance through the windows at the griddle answers that : chappati breads. Ok, so filled hot chappatis. We can run with that. We have four, cheese and thyme, chicken and cheese and two meat and cheese ones. They are all pretty good, the meat ones being the best.

    John orders a Qatari cardamon and saffron coffee whilst I am predictably boring with black Nescafé. The gorgeously scented Qatari coffee arrives unsugared -wrong. The boring Nescafé arrives heavily sugared - wrong; I just knew I should've gone for the Qartai coffee with horseradish and dates... John asks for sugar and then drinks both coffees. The Qatari one is much better now that the sugar has opened up the flavours.

    Then I'm on a hunt in the souk for dried lemons to take home. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them but I've got a huge bag for about £1 so I'll have to get inspired! The taxi back actually seems both fairly quick and direct, which makes a change.

    We're now sitting round the pool again for our final about hour and a half. It's in the mid 30s, with clear blue skies, so going back to sub 10C and rain isn't an agreeable thought, as I move from the direct sun into dappled shade.

    But, inevitably, we have to make a move to the airport. Our taxi makes a, um, nifty move at 90° right through 4 or 5 lanes of stationary traffic to get to the other side. Shortly after, someone swings directly into our path as if we didn't exist, forcing us into another car's path. Horns are blaring right, left and centre. Thankfully we make it to the airport unscathed.

    It looks like we have a spare seat in our row of three which is always a bonus. Take off is scheduled for 14.35 but it sounds like all passengers are on board and the doors are shut already at 14.15. We push back a bit early and are at the end of the runway at 14.35. Time to go...

    And we're back at Gatwick on time. The bags have made it, too. And so, finally, both this journey and this blog have reached their end.
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  • Day44

    The Qatari Museum

    November 6, 2019 in Qatar ⋅ ☀️ 32 °C

    Our taxi drops us in the Qatari Museum car park but we wander around wondering if we're even in the right place. There are no signs at all and the ground is just unfinished. It was only opened a few months ago so we'll put it down to teething problems.

    Once we find our way in, this building details the history of Qatar over the millennia. It's quite nicely done but I prefer the Islamic Art one from yesterday. The light coloured beautiful rug in the photos is actually embroidered with about 1.5 million Basra pearls! Again, there are no signs, even for fire exits but we do run across the hidden away reproduced fort whilst we're trying to find our way out.

    After that it's a very slow taxi back to the hotel. We're sick of this traffic. It takes so long, there's so much of it, the traffic lights have lengthy waits. It's tedious and not that safe. Horns are used a lot here, and abs.

    I'm now sitting by the pool again, enjoying the sun on the final afternoon. We've got a nice infinity pool but it's a shame infinity finishes 15' away with a hedge. As the sun comes off the pool we move to the pool bar for a drink and a plate of hot meze.

    We're bored with fighting the traffic so spend our evening in the rooftop bar with snacks. But we're still on Oz time so it's early to bed for us again.
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  • Day44

    Breakfast at Saravanaa Bhavan

    November 6, 2019 in Qatar ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    Thaxi drops us at Saravanaa Bhavan for breakfast; it's a favourite of his. It's off the main streets and my initial thoughts is that it's a bit dodgy. But I got over that: it's ok for the road to be rough with lots of stones on it, it's ok for traffic to be going in eight different directions at once, all hooting madly, it's ok to be on some strange back street in Doha by yourself. You know, it really is ok.

    On his recommendation we order the ghee roasted dosa with a spiced potato filling and some sauce accompaniments. It arrives in next to no time and is rather good. To follow, it's medhu vada, which are crispy lentil doughnuts, with the same sauces as before. John also goes for a frothy tea. This restaurant is a good choice. Breakfast has just cost us £6. We may be back tomorrow!
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  • Day44

    Taxi ride with Thaxi

    November 6, 2019 ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    We're both awake really early so decide to go ahead with my idea of an early morning walk on the Corniche. We're there by about 05.30. The traffic is a vast improvement on yesterday but this time of the morning simply isn't going to be a viable option to be getting around.

    We potter around looking at all the moored wooden dhows. There's no evidence that any of these are working boats nowadays.

    We're paused on the Corniche when we're approached by a taxi guy offering a tour up to the city and the exclusive Pearl residential area. After a bit of dithering we decide to go for it. If we don't, we probably won't see that part of the city at all. His name begins with Th but that's all John catches so I'll just refer to him as Thaxi.

    First off is the best view across the water to the City. Then we head into the City, with a considerate stop by Thaxi for me to nip into the Western toilet at Costa. Parts of the City are a lot less developed than they look from a distance.

    We chat about all the road and construction works going on. As we expected, everything is the build up for the World Cup in three years. There are 6 new stadia, a metro system and a whole new hotel area with 38 new hotels going up. Thaxi also told us that for the duration of the competition the almost exclusive ban on alcohol will be lifted and it will be widely available citywide.

    We swing by the Pearl, the Andalucian quarter and Little Venice, complete with the Rialto Bridge. All very nice and I'm glad we did this trip. And, largely, the traffic was fine.
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  • Day43

    To Souk Waqif

    November 5, 2019 in Qatar ⋅ 🌙 29 °C

    It's 16.15 so time to Uber over to the Souk to be there for sunset at 16.51. More than one person has said it's so much prettier in the evenings. The traffic is heavy; this is obviously normal.

    We have a good wander around the souk. They are very civilised with absolutely no heckling or trying to get you into their shops at all! Not that there was much we would've wanted to buy : loads of plastic junk, phone stuff, swathes of material, sweets, household stuff... I thought we could try local food, maybe support some of the local ladies out the front of the souk but, you know, flatbreads with crisps sprinkled over the top and then folded into quarters really wasn't doing it for me, even if they were freshly made!

    Later on we found the camel market and the falcon souk which were nice to see. We ran across the food section with all these items we either didn't know what to do with them or simply didn't even know what they were. The souk looks lovely all lit up in the dark.

    It's Syrian for dinner. The lamb sausages with potato were the best part. Then off to the hotel for some wine as it's not widely available. 20.30 and I'm drooping, can I make 21.00? No idea if I did...
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  • Day43

    Museum of Islamic Art

    November 5, 2019 in Qatar ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    We Uber to the Museum of Islamic Art and are amongst the first visitors of the day. We go to some of the upstairs galleries to enjoy them almost empty.

    The Museum is displaying Islamic art from the last thousand or so years from the many countries that it has touched. It is a lovely place with big, darkened galleries with pieces lit up on spot display. Space is a big feature and it's very calm.

    We share a chicken shawarma wrap and an almond croissant in the museum cafe, overlooking the city and sea. I discover the lovely outdoor space with lots of fountains. It's really warming up now, it's about 33C and there's some humidity.

    We both shattered now so Uber back to the hotel. John puts his head down and I go off for a swim. There's actually a definite chance of me falling asleep in the sun so I go back to the room to try to snooze. No chance.
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  • Day43

    Arriving in Doha

    November 5, 2019 in Qatar ⋅ 🌙 24 °C

    It's 05.00 local time and we're quarter of an hour off landing. It's been a long flight. I did drop off for less than an hour for which I am grateful. The seat next to me was free so I managed to twiddle myself round and curl up in a bit of a ball. Not great but better than sitting upright.

    So, the final part of our trip is about to start!

    The airport is enormous. After disembarking and walking for a good bit we see a sign saying baggage reclaim is still an 18 minute walk! Luckily there is a monorail to take us most of the way. Passports and visas are slow, but our luggage is just passing us on the carousel as we walk up.

    We duck the taxi touts at arrivals and take an official one. The traffic is crazy busy; obviously we are running into the start of rush hour. There is so much building with going on, all the road have concrete barriers along the sides to protect the contractors and everything is covered in hoardings. There's lots of hooting, and pushing and shoving, and more than once I dig my nails into my leg wincing at the too close proximity of another car.

    But we make it to the Westin Hotel in one piece, are checked in and into our room by 07.00. It's quite a nice room but has no view. Well, it does but of a large expanse of industrial flat white roof. Hardly surprising as it's costing us $25 USD, courtesy of Qatar Airlines and their campaign to get tourists to visit Doha.
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  • Day42

    It's our last day in Oz

    November 4, 2019 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Time for another move, so we pack up and take ourselves off for breakfast at Social on Cam. We both have poached eggs on sourdough toast and share bacon, mushrooms, a hash brown and steamed spinach.

    Susan, John and I head for the Ocean Beach Hotel in North Cottesloe to meet her mum, Gillian and other half, Peter, for coffee and cakes. Gillian was close friends with John's mum as a child so was keen to catch up on family news. A pleasant hour passed.

    Then the three of us wandered along the beautiful beach for a while before Susan took us on a brief tour of some of Perth's nicer residential areas. Definitely some rather fabulous places!

    Moving on, we parked up in South Perth to take the ferry across to Elizabeth Quay. This area was still being constructed four years ago so it was interesting to see the end result. It's a very open and calm place, without too many people but doubtless that will change soon as Perth is being developed for population growth. Lunch was beetroot hummous with toasted Turkish bread for Susan, whilst John and I both had wagyu beef burgers in green buns. The seagulls were loitering and pounced on my leftover half bun almost as I laid down my cutlery.

    Susan had to get back to collect Peter from school so John and I took our car up the coast road just to fill in the last couple of hours. The views were good although the Fremantle Doctor (wind) was blowing inland which made things a little chilly. We swung by Hillary's Harbour for a bit before turning round.

    Then showers, dinner and wine at Susan's before having to say goodbye and heading to the airport at 20.00. for our flight to Doha. It took an inordinately long time to buy fuel, find the right place to drop the hire car and get airside. So long, in fact, the gate was just opening as we got through. It seemed like they were calling everyone fairly quickly so we were hopeful of an early pushback. It was but only by 10 minutes.

    I'm not delighted to be in a long haul seat again with the in flight entertainment not working. It wasn't working in my seat from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur either...
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  • Day41

    Kangaroos

    November 3, 2019 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Southward bound back towards Perth we decide to stop by Yanchep National Park. The afternoon is drawing on so it should be a great time to see kangaroos. It is! There's are loads of them. We see koalas, too, but they aren't native so don't have quite the same thrill as the wild ones back on the Great Ocean Road.

    Dinner for John and myself is a curry at Shalimar just a couple of minutes walk from where we are staying. I order chicken madras and John a fish curry. What with a parata bread, an aloo naan and rice it is far too much. The older couple at the next take have it sussed : 1 meat dish, 1 bread and a small rice. Anyway, it's all very good.
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  • Day41

    The Pinnacles

    November 3, 2019 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    And now to The Pinnacles. Well, just extraordinary...

    There are thousands and thousands of weathered jagged limestone pillars, some taller and thinner, others shorter and fatter. It's a fascinating 4km drive round on a yellow sand track.

    They do bring to mind some sort of abandoned cemetery but I like the Aboriginal term 'fossilised ghosts'.

    And if you want any more information I'm afraid you're going to have to look it up yourselves
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