Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Emirates Experience

Suddenly I find myself off to visit Washington, DC.

I was prepared for Hubby D to take a business trip to DC but when he suddenly insisted that I come along because he wanted me there, it was a surprise.  It was a very wonderful but unexpected surprise.

Getting ready for 11 days in the States is something that takes a great deal of planning and preparation. D had my evenings in DC filled with dinners out with friends and special events.  What to wear and what shoes to pack?

I know it sounds silly, but if you take the wrong things, you suffer. And, recently we have had several bad experiences with lost luggage so I would also need to pack a carry on case with enough for a couple of days in case our luggage did not make it to our destination with us.

Along with my own packing, I also needed to pack for Hubby D as he was spending long hours at work preparing for the meetings he had scheduled in DC.

Then there is the mental preparation. I must admit that I dread – really dread the 24 hours it takes to get from Bahrain back to DC. I had to pump myself up more than normal for this trip.

The few days I had to prepare for the trip were also filled with some planned (and fun) activities.

The President of AWA, DR asked my friend DW and myself to volunteer at the American Cultural Center. We spent a couple of fun hours “talking” with Bahrain people who are studying English and want to sharpen their language skills.  I admit I had a great time and met some really interesting people.

The three of us with some of the students.

DW took this funny shot while I was standing in a door way.  She said, "We have been called to the principal's office."

The day before I left I had planned to make a wonderful recipe of Sweet Potato Ginger Soup and share with a couple of friends in the our building. I decided to go ahead and tackle the recipe.

I had a shock when I peeled the sweet potatoes from India. They were white.  I know this seems trivial, but it really shocked me that sweet potatoes would be anything but orange.  However they tasted the same as regular American orange sweet potatoes.  Have you ever seen white sweet potatoes?

So finally packed with all my planned outfits and the appropriate shoes (all you ladies understand how important that is), I was ready to head for the United States but there was one more planned activity.

We had been invited to the grand opening of the Bahrain Art Society’s Visions art show being held at the Ritz-Carlton. The opening was at 7PM and our plane left at 10:50.

The invitation was hand delivered to our flat.
It was tight and we were only able to rush through the art exhibits.  However we paused for a photo with our favorite Bahrain artist, Abbas Al Mousawi and caught a glimpse of Sheikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa. He was the patron of the show and owns the Ritz and our building where we live.

The art book for the event also featured some women photographers. This was an interesting photo.
Hubby D took this photo of me with DW and Abbas Al Mousawi in front of his paintings. 

Finally off to the airport and our flight on Emirates Airlines. This was our first Emirates Experience.  And, it was quite a lovely experience.

The first leg was to Dubai. Our flight was late leaving Bahrain and we were very nervous that we might miss our connection and that our luggage might not make it as well. The plane parked a long, long way from the terminal.

When we finally arrived at the terminal, we raced to the next gate.  Thankfully we arrived just in time to walk down a long jet way to the A380 double decker plane.  Our jet way ran on top and was one of  two leading into the plane.

2 jet ways leading to the plane.

After documenting the unusual ramps, we entered the luxurious business class section of the plane.

I was so impressed that Hubby D had booked us in the business section and I knew immediately I was going to enjoy this 14-hour portion of out flight much more than ever before. I gave him a big hug and thanked him in advance.  Life was good.

Our seats included a small “refreshment shelf” containing water, soda and glasses. It also had a long reclining seat and an entertainment system. Even the headphones were of high quality.

Before we began to taxi for takeoff, champagne and a dinner menu were delivered to my seat.

Maybe you have seen Jennifer Aniston’s commercial about Emirates where she mentions a shower.  Yep, it is there in first class.  Even the bathrooms in business class are luxurious.

Burl wood seat and counters?  Really? Yep!

My flight bag (handed out by the very helpful crew) included perfume.

Hubby D's bag had a box of perfumes and shaving cream. 
After a fantastic dinner with wine and chocolates, we settled in to get some sleep.  Hubby D sleeps pretty well on airplanes and seemed to snooze away easily.  I have never done well on airplanes as the light and noise bothers me. My children will tell you I am a very light sleeper.  LOL

However, I was able to sleep about 5 hours before I decided to get up and explore the airplane.

The A380 business and first-class cabins share a really nice bar area. The bar was “manned” by Alison from Russia who offered me a range of cocktails and other treats. Somehow a martini at 5AM just did not seem right.

Our selfie at 5AM over Oslo.

There were heated floors in the bar area.  
The view out the window.

The big screen TV in the bar lounge area along with a buffet of sweets.

Our flight was going over the area where BHB went on her honeymoon.

This view comes from a camera mounted on top of the plane.

Alison took a Polaroid picture of me behind the bar and even signed the picture for me. I don’t think I am the first “tourist” on the Emirates A380. Apparently there are many other travelers who have been impressed with the luxury of this aircraft.

Just like at a Disney ride, they had folders to put the photo inside so you have a reminder of your "experience" with Emirates.

After 2 movies and an entire season of Downton Abbey, we landed one hour late at JFK airport in New York.  Reluctantly we left our luxurious accommodations on the A380 and headed for a commuter flight on Jet Blue to Washington, DC.

From business class to the second to the last row of the economy section – back into the real world.

I have to tell you, I loved the flight on Emirates. It was a luxurious experience and a lovely memory.

Thanks Hubby D.  Good job.

I am actually looking forward to the flight back to Bahrain on another A380 with Emirates in a few days. I don’t think I am going to have to mentally prepare for the return trip quite as much as I have in the past.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Living Large in Bahrain

While in Bahrain, one of my goals has been to visit the American Ambassador’s residence. I have seen pictures of the residence because the American Woman’s Association has a coffee morning there every January.

However with little LW’s birth in 2015 and then his first birthday in 2016, I have not been able to go to the coffee morning with AWA in January. I was in Florida celebrating.

However, I finally achieved my goal.

AB, the Ambassador’s wife invited me to coffee – a personal coffee.

Wow!  What an honor it was.

I felt like Cinderella and kept pinching myself to make sure I was awake.

The entrance to the Ambassador's Residence is very impressive.
Along with me, AR (the Ambassador’s wife) invited DW (my good friend) and another very interesting American lady that just arrived in Bahrain, DC.

When we stepped into the entry hall I knew this was going to be a very memorable experience. The entry area was huge with the perfect impressive space for receiving important guests.

The staircase leading to the second level was impressive - MUCH MORE impressive than the pictures I have seen.

I could not help myself but to ask for a selfie in front of the massive stairs.

The residence is much nicer and far grander than I had imagined. AR has added some beautiful personal touches to the décor from her many travels all over the globe.  She and the Ambassador also chose some artwork for the walls created by American women.

The gardens were equally impressive. We sat in a beautiful gazebo and sipped coffee from gold edged cups with the American Eagle emblazoned on the delicate china.

Life is good and I am definitely living large.

The gardens were lovely with splashes of red, white and blue.
AR entertaining us in the gazebo.

As I sat listening to AR and the ladies visit, I could not help but feel proud of my heritage and to feel equally lucky that I was a citizen of the United States.

Along with those thoughts I kept thinking how absolutely wonderful it was right there at that very moment – the weather was absolutely perfect with a very slight breeze. I was enjoying myself with extremely interesting ladies sharing delicious sweets and strong coffee in the most beautiful of surroundings.

Along with the beautiful flowers, AR planted a kitchen garden.  I named this the Ambassador's Vegetable Garden. She also had many, many other fantastic vegetables throughout the garden beds.
DW with the Ambassador's wife in the garden. DW was completely enthralled with the plants. It was so, so, so much fun!

After a special morning and a fantastic tour of the residence and gardens, it was time to return to the real world.  As we walked down the front steps, I turned and captured a picture of the front doors of the residence.

I was about to turn away when DW pointed out the American Crest above the door.  I had almost missed it.

It was a wonderful morning and I will remember the honor of being entertained by the American Ambassador's wife at their residence in Bahrain for many, many, many years.  This will definitely be at the top of my wonderful memories of life in Bahrain.

Thank you so much, AR. You are so kind and I am so very proud to have you as a friend.