Thursday, January 7, 2016

2015: A Year in review - January/February

2015 was a packed year and no mistake. I have covered some of it elsewhere but given some of the gaps, I thought that I would provide a brief month by month run-down.

This time last year we were just arriving back from our Christmas Holiday in UK - the first time we had been back for a while. It was lovely to see everyone for the Christmas holidays and we had some great days out (including a Panto at the Hazlitt Theatre and a steam train ride which I think the adults enjoyed as much as the kids - although it also gave my Sister the opportunity of photographing me looking somewhat Borat-esque (with my Movember tache rather than my choice of swimwear…) atop a merry-go-round horse which was later to be used as the basis of a party invite....). The long nights/short days (and the fact that everyone managed to pick up some kind of bug) also reminded me why we tend to avoid the UK during the Winter!

Back in Dubai, we took the kids to see Mama Mia at the WTC and a good time was had by all (lots of singing along by the parents...). I then embarked on a hectic schedule of business trips that included 4 days in a rather cold Seoul and on the day after my return to Dubai a somewhat ill-timed visit to Abu Dhabi which meant that I was out of the office for nearly a week. At the end of the month I also returned to various meetings in London which at least allowed me to catch up with the family in Maidstone for a very quick return since my last visit at Christmas.

February was less hectic save for our first skiing holiday since our trip with K + W to Sahora, Japan in 2009. No K & W this time as it was just the 4 of us going to Wengen in Switzerland although as with our trip to Japan this was a Club Med holiday. To some extent the resort was dictated by the location of the airport we were flying to. We had decided to try our hand at skiing again the previous September/October but it had proved impossible to get any ski packages originating in UAE (to the extent that there were any, they were madly expensive) so I had checked the cost of flights to Europe from Dubai and the cheapest (by a long shot – although there was not exactly a huge number of airports with direct UAE flights with easy access to snow) were to Zurich. I therefore contacted a couple of ski operators in UK to work out where would be reasonably accessible from Zurich and eventually one of them came back with Wengen and suggested that Club Med was good value since it basically included everything foo/accommodation wise and did a separate package if you travelled separately. There was a train link to Wengen (the resort itself can only be accessed by train in the Winter and is therefore pretty much car free at that time of year which certainly added to the ambience) but it did make getting there a little harder. In the end we plumbed for a taxi transfer which ended up costs a heft E500 but when compared to the train fares etc. worked out at about twice the cost but around ¼ of the hassle so we went with that.

I was able to finesse the whole family into the business lounge at DXB (and on our return from Zurich) which was a good start and the journey itself was fine – around 2 hours from airport to resort including a picturesque train ride up to Wengen and a 10 minute walk through snow covered street s to the Hotel.

In keeping with most of tier Hotels the Club Med Palace Hotel was not particularly palatial but was clean and the we had two adjoining basic rooms. The holiday itself was terrific. E. decided to forego the skiing but spent a relaxing week pottering round the town and watch V’s efforts on the nursery slopes. A. had a challenging couple of days in a higher group but eventually found his level and seemed to enjoy it. I joined a lower intermediate ski group (everything including the skiing (but not the equipment) was laid on) with a British instructor, Mark, whose family had lived in Wengen for over 40 years and who was really excellent – he knew the mountains really well and whilst after the first couple of days skiing morning and afternoon I was completely shattered (I eventually took to skiing just once a day which except for the gourmet dinner on the final day when I weaved my way back down the mountain in the late afternoon sunshine after a couple of glasses of wine) it did show me how much I had forgotten how much I enjoyed skiing. The Jungfrau region itself was spectacularly beautiful – it also helped that there was plenty of snow and the sun shone the whole week apart from the last day when we had enough snow for the kids to build snowmen. We also managed a visit to the “Down Hill Only Club” – founded by some Brits in the 1920s to take advantage of being able to take the train up the Mountain and the first ski club in Alps. We also went to the C0E judge (complete with English vicar and a huge St Bernard who had a leisurely snooze in a pew which it had almost completely to itself.

The food at the Hotel was excellent and we were also able to go tobogganing which the kids absolutely adored. Apart from E. believing she had lost her ring and trekking down the mountain to the police station to file a lost report for insurance purposes (in fact the ring was sitting patiently at home) it was a great holiday and as soon as I got home I booked again for next year!

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