For those of you who’ve just joined us, let me recap: Ten months ago, Stephanie found some mistakes in pricing from Etihad Airways. This is how we could afford to travel to Africa for a safari. That same pricing goof also yielded a round trip to Dubai for an unbelievable $187. Taxes included!! When my brother, Erik, heard about it, he decided to join us, and a family trip was born.
Fast-forward to the present. At the Etihad counter in JFK airport, Erik sauntered up dressed like the forgotten love child of Giorgio Armani and Orville Redenbacher. We were happy to see him anyway, and after a quick conference, decided that he could travel with us despite his wardrobe. In the months leading up to this trip, we struck a deal with him: We would get a credit card in his name, and in return for allowing us to earn the points on it, he could have the perks of airport lounge access and TSA Pre-Check (which totally didn’t help us at JFK). And so it was that we ushered Erik, wide-eyed with wonder, into the world of international airport lounges.
Dubai had not changed much since our last visit, and it was fun to show Erik all the things we remembered: The funky, art-deco buildings, the ridiculous wealth and our old friend the Dubai metro. We specifically chose a hotel in the Deira Creek section of town, also known as “Old Dubai.” Our room at the luxurious Radisson Blu, where we stayed on points, had a great view of the river, and of downtown beyond.
The last time we visited, Stephanie wasn’t feeling well, and so wasn’t up for several attractions. This time, fit as a fiddle, she prioritized what we would see. On our first full day, we went to Wild Wadi – an outdoor waterpark in the shadow of the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel. Some of the highlights included a multi-person raft where we could all ride together, a Flow Rider surfing simulator, and of course, the obligatory lazy river.
Our next day we hit up the Gold Souk in search of a new watch for me. This was just a recon mission, though. Unfortunately we went on a Friday, which we learned is basically a weekend in the Arab world, meaning all the best stuff was closed. (Fortunately for you, dear reader, we have already blogged about the Gold Souk.) The guys touting “copy watches” were everywhere, though. It’s said that in Dubai’s Gold Souk, you can find perfect replicas of any watch you could want, so we set out to test that theory. The guy we chose to follow walked ahead of us as if he had no idea we were tailing him to his secret stash of illicit watches. The store he took us to only seemed to sell clothes, but suddenly a secret lift (dubbed the James Bond Lift by us) descended out of nowhere to take us to a hidden second floor full of watches, electronics, perfume and “designer” handbags. They kept trying to offer Stephanie designer purses, and me jewel-encrusted Rolexes, or giant, chunky Breitlings, but at least I had a sense of how this game worked. We could come back another day for some serious shopping.
That afternoon, it was swim time. The pool in our hotel was closed, but they shuttled us from our 4-star hotel to a 5-star one where we could enjoy the pool and the double-thick, queen-sized towels they provided. The views from the 7th floor pool were great. Here, take a look…
Day three, and the fun didn’t stop. We took this day to do the most unnecessary, gimmicky and totally cool thing there is in Dubai: We hit the indoor ski resort for a day in the (artificial) snow. Knowing that Erik is an expert snowboarder (and I’ve been known to rock a skateboard or two in my day), I decided to start on a snowboard. Stephanie started out with skis, but once she saw Erik giving lessons, she switched to snowboarding. I *thought* that it would be fun to do it together, but she soon proved that she’s better than me at picking up this new skill. I shouldn’t be surprised; she has a kid-like lack of fear when it comes to trying new activities. Me? I’m worried I’ll break a hip at my age.
We slowly picked our way down the hill while Erik carved up huge plumes of snow around us. After a break for some food and hot chocolate, we switched to skis for the afternoon. Although snowboarding feels more natural to me, I found that I was inherently better at skiing. I guess those couple of days on the slopes in my teens stuck with me. I let Erik and Stephanie convince me to take the lift all the way to the top of the double-black-diamond-super-secret-death run, and immediately wished I hadn’t. Even though it’s only a man-made, indoor construction, it still looked like a terrifyingly long way to the bottom. I only fell once as the two of them babied me down, but I’m glad I did it.
That night, we returned to the Gold Souk on a quest for the perfect watch. On our third attempt at following a copy-watch guy, we found what we were looking for. Now I had never heard of Vacheron Constantin before that night, but the watch was exactly what I was looking for. It turns out they’re one of the oldest watchmakers in the world, and that if my spiffy new watch had been an original, it would have set me back about $12K. Actually it would have set Stephanie back by that much. The traditional eleventh anniversary gift is steel, and Stephanie got me this stainless steel watch for an anniversary present. As you can see below, Carlos and I love it.