A Travellerspoint blog

Mixing business and pleasure

Jersey day three


View Brief visit to Jersey April 2018 on ToonSarah's travel map.

Attending to business

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What a difference a day makes!
The same view as yesterday, but in better weather

Today was the day when I needed to attend at the Judicial Greffe to swear the oath in order to be granted probate. But with a bit of time to spare before the appointment we were able to have another leisurely breakfast before checking out of the hotel, leaving our luggage to be picked up later.

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Statue in Liberation Square

The sunshine had returned so we took the opportunity to get some photos in Liberation Square of the Liberation Sculpture, which stands there. This was erected when the square was created in 1995, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Liberation in 1995. It was the subject of great controversy at the time.

When the design was first revealed by the Occupation and Liberation Committee, people were astonished and very unhappy that the group of people was shown releasing a number of doves of peace. The Committee explained that they had decided to change the brief to commemorate 50 years of peace, but islanders had been anticipating a sculpture to represent 50 years since the Liberation. Apparently many remarked that if any doves had been around at the end of the Occupation, they would probably have been caught and eaten by the hungry population, rather than released. People also commented that there was no recognition of the military aspect of the Occupation so a serviceman in battledress and boots was added to the group. The artist, Philip Jackson, explained that his original idea had been to have the figures waving a flag, which would be much more in tune with the public's understanding of the experience of Liberation, but the committee had decided to change the brief to one of ‘peace’, and so the dove motif had been introduced. As a result of the public protests the revised design incorporated a giant Union Flag.

Although we were still early for my appointment we decided to find the Courthouse, which is in Royal Square, a few minutes’ walk from the hotel. This is the former market square, and until 1751 was known as Le Vier Marchi, the Old Market Place. Incidentally you see here the use of the local French dialect, derived from Norman French and known as Jèrriais. More on that later …

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Royal Square

Today the square has a rather French appearance, due in part to the pollarded trees. It was the site of many of the island’s historical events, including in 1781 the Battle of Jersey, when invading French troops were put to flight by the island’s militia.

A gleaming golden statue stands in the centre. This is George II, who for some reason was portrayed in Roman dress by the sculptor John Cheere when it was placed here in 1751. It is of gilded lead and stands on a granite plinth close to where the old market cross stood until the Reformation. All distances in the island are measured from this statue. Laws are disseminated by the Viscount from a stone at the western side of the plinth and the Proclamation of Accession of a new Monarch is read from a platform erected in front of the statue.

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The statue from the front

A visitor to the island in 1798 had one perspective on why the king should be dressed as a Roman:

‘At the head of the Market Place, upon a pedestal, stands a gilded statue intended to represent George II - the attitude of which is so graceless, and the countenance so unlike, that it has been found necessary to inscribe upon the stone the name of the personage it was meant to exhibit. The fact is - the States of the Island were duped by an old gentleman of the name of Gosset, who wanting a piece of ground to render a house he was building more commodious - offered, for the grant of it, a statue of His Majesty to adorn the publick square. The proposal was accepted and the figure was brought over from England. The site had been previously prepared, and iron rails placed round, to keep off the rude hands of curiosity. A day was fixed for displaying to the Inhabitants the brazen image of their Monarch - it was conveyed to its eminent station under the inscrutable cover of a blanket - the publick eye became eager to behold the Royal Effigy - the signal was given and the veil withdrawn - when instead of the British King - Jersey had conspicuously placed in its capital - the statue of a Roman Emperor.

Mr Gosset - the patriotic donor conceiving that his countrymen might be easily duped, and he perform, at a cheap rate, his part of the contract, purchased this old figure of Julius Caesar at a sale, for its weight in lead, and added to its ancient dress the decoration of the Garter - as a sure insignium of the expected Monarch - and a certain proof against discovery. But a lady who had recently returned from Rome, visiting the island soon after the erection of this valuable treasure, recognised, to the great mortification of the natives, the "very stamp and image" of her old friend in the Capitol.’

[from the Island wiki]

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And from the side and rear


An article in the Evening Post of 1930 ridicules this and other speculation about the origin of the statue (it had also been claimed that it was on old ship’s figurehead, as though such a thing would have been made of lead, or found among the debris of a shipwreck):

‘Lead statues, usually of a classical nature, were considered highly decorative and desirable objects of art during the 17th and 18th centuries. A nobleman's park was incomplete until it bristled with them. A statue such as that in our Square was quite in keeping with the tastes of the day, and the subtle flattery of depicting King George II as a Caesar went, as will be seen later, straight to the heart - and purse - of that valiant little monarch.

To the many who wonder why King George should be represented as a Roman Imperator, one must reply that fashion, then as now, blinded men's eyes to absurdities. Just as tomb epitaphs had to be composed in the pompous and pedantic Latin of Oxford, so had the worthies, whom the epitaphs described, to be decked out in the guise of the ancient Roman.’


[again from the Island wiki]

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Crests on the former Corn Market

On the southern edge of the square is the old corn market, now the registry office, and the former military police HQ. There is an attractive sundial on the wall of the latter and an old police alarm. As the sign explains, this was installed in 1901 and was ‘one of eight such alarms which covered the town of St Helier. Each box contained a manually operated telephone with detachable ear piece, writing platform and batteries. The telephone lines terminated at the town hall. On the formation of the States of Jersey telephone service in 1923 these police alarms were abandoned.’

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Sundial, and police alarm on the old police HQ

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Dome of the old library

The court buildings are on the eastern side and were formerly the public library. The sign over the door still reads ‘Biblioteque’, which somewhat confused me.

But I soon found where to go and the process of getting the Grant of Representation went smoothly, assisted by the friendly Chantelle. We then dropped the paperwork off at the relevant bank nearby, and were free to enjoy the rest of the day, with our flight home being not until early evening.

A walk by the sea

With the weather so lovely we decided to walk along the Esplanade to get views of Elizabeth Castle out in the bay.

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St Aubin's Bay and Elizabeth Castle


Elizabeth Castle was built in the 16th and 17th centuries, on a tidal island about half a mile out to sea, when the increasing power of cannons meant that the existing fortification at Mont Orgueil was insufficient to defend Jersey, leaving the port of St Helier vulnerable to attack by ships. The islet is 60 yards wide and about 500 yards long and can be reached at low tide by a causeway of shingle across the sands. For 400 years it was home to a priory. The monastic buildings were taken over by the Crown at the Reformation and surviving buildings used for military purposes. Construction of the castle began in 1594, and continued in the first years of the next century under the then governor of Jersey, Sir Walter Raleigh, who named it ‘Fort Isabella Bellissima’ (the most beautiful Elizabeth) after Elizabeth I.

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Elizabeth Castle, causeway still covered

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Elizabeth Castle, tide going out

It was first used to defend the town at the time of the English Civil War. Charles II visited the castle in 1646 and 1649, staying in the Governor's House there, and was proclaimed King on the death of his father, Charles I, by Jersey governor Sir George de Carteret despite the abolition of the monarchy in England. But in 1651 Parliamentary forces landed on the island and bombarded the castle with mortars. The destruction of the mediaeval Abbey church in the heart of the complex, which had been used as a storehouse for ammunition and provisions, forced Carteret to surrender and Jersey was held by Parliamentarians for nine years. The parade ground and surrounding buildings were later constructed on the site of the destroyed Abbey church.

By the start of the 19th century Elizabeth Castle was considered no longer able to protect the island and Fort Regent (which we didn’t have time to visit) was built on the hill above St Helier to replace it.

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Elizabeth Castle at low tide -
you can see the amphibious vehicle that ferries visitors to the castle


The tide was on the way out and the causeway just clearing but we didn’t feel we had enough time for the walk out and back, so just took lots of photos from the beach.

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Elizabeth Castle at low tide

We had a break for coffee in a café overlooking the bay and then strolled back to Liberation Square where we had lunch in the same bar where we had eaten on our first day here, The Square - a Reuben sandwich for Chris and smoked salmon one for me, both excellent.

A visit to the museum

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Welcome to the Jersey Museum


After lunch we visited the Jersey Museum, devoted to the history of the island. At the ticket counter my eye was caught by the Welcome sign, which was in dual language – English and Jèrriais. I promised to tell you more about the latter. Jèrriais is the ancient language of Jersey, still spoken today by around two thousand people and closely related to the Norman language spoken by a minority in mainland Normandy. It is often referred to as Jersey-French, but that is a misnomer, because it is not a Jersey version of French, but rather a Jersey version (or versions, because words vary from parish to parish) of Norman French. Some of the words are Norse in origin, such as hougue which means mound, but most, like this welcome sign, are closer to French. The Island wiki has the words of the British National Anthem in Jèrriais:

‘Dgieu sauve not' Duchêsse,
Longue vie à not' Duchêsse,
Dgieu sauve la Reine!
Rends-la victorieuse,
Jouaiyeuse et glorieuse;
Qu'ou règne sus nous heutheuse -
Dgieu sauve la Reine!’

After paying for entry (£9.95 each) we watched a short but very well-made film which took us from Neanderthal times to the Liberation of 1945. This is available on Vimeo and as it is publicly available there I trust it is also OK to share it here:

We then went to look at the exhibitions. As we went in we saw a display about Lillie Langtry, who I was surprised to learn was born on the island.

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Lillie Langtry's dressing case

The main area, called the Story of Jersey, had some interesting artefacts but we found the arrangement rather confusing as we seemed to move from prehistoric times to the occupation and back to Victorian times, rather than following events chronologically - but maybe we just got lost! Of most interest were the old films from the 1930s and audio of people speaking Jèrriais, and I loved a 14th century brooch that I would happily wear today, its design was so pretty.

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14th century silver and gilt brooch

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Stained glass from the Fishermen's Chapel, St Brelade

There was also an area devoted to the 1980s, the time when the well-known TV series Bergerac (which neither of us has ever watched) was filmed here. This was both unnerving (to see the first decade of our marriage considered as ‘history’!) and interesting. As the intro to the exhibition explains,

‘It was a decade of huge contrasts. There was lots of greed and selfishness and widening gap between the rich and poor, but at the same time, people took action to help look after the planet and each other.

The 1980s were a decade of people power and individuality. World-changing events were led by public opinion and the need to change an unfair world. The most momentous of these changes was the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, reuniting a divided Germany. International protests and campaigns led to the eventual release of anti-apartheid campaigner Nelson Mandela. The world was changing and people became much more aware of the need to look after it.’

We saw displays about the impact of AIDS, major political events, the Great Storm of 1987 which battered the British Isles, and even Bergerac’s car, a 1947 Triumph Roadster.

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1980s disco scene, and Bergerac's car

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In the Merchant's House

Attached to the museum is an old house, the Merchants House, which I personally found more interesting than the museum exhibits. Here you can visit all the rooms, furnished as they would have been in 1869. Rather unusually, they are displayed as if set out for auction, as the house was formerly owned by a doctor who tried to sell off all his possessions to meet his extensive debts, so each piece of furniture, ornament etc., bears a lot number, and the descriptions provided in each room read like an auction catalogue.

As the museum’s website explains:

‘On the evening of 27th August 1869, a momentous decision was taken by the family that lived at No 9 Pier Road. Dr Charles Ginestet persuaded his wife Jeanne that they should abandon their beautiful home and flee to France to start a new life. They would be leaving behind friends and family but also a nightmare of debts and legal proceeding.’

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In the Merchant's House


As you walk round the house ingeniously placed screens play footage of actors in the role of various family members, talking about their lives and their feelings on having to leave their home. As I understood their story, the doctor had been widowed and remarried, bringing his new wife to live in the family home. His grown-up children, still living here, seem not to have been impressed by her and the changes she brought, and blamed her for the debts run up by her husband. The whole thing was very cleverly done and intriguing.

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Our plane home,
Jersey Airport

By the time we left the museum there was just time to have a coffee before collecting our bag from the hotel and catching the bus to the airport. This was rather small and appeared to have no seating in the departures area other than by the gates, which were inaccessible until your flight had been called, or in bars and restaurants – so we felt forced to have a beer!!

The flight home went smoothly and despite a slight delay in taking off we landed more or less on time at Gatwick. Using the Gatwick Express and the Tube we were home by around 9.00 PM after a successful and enjoyable few days in Jersey.

Posted by ToonSarah 09:48 Archived in Jersey Tagged buildings islands castles architecture coast beach history statue fort houses museum seaside Comments (5)

Of birds and beasts … and seafood!

Jersey day two, part two


View Brief visit to Jersey April 2018 on ToonSarah's travel map.

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Emerald tree boa, Jersey Zoo

Plan A

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Meerkat

Back at the bus station we caught another bus, the 23, which took us on a winding route through the Jersey countryside and a couple of small villages and delivered us right to the entrance of the Durrell Jersey Zoo. Named for Gerald Durrell, who founded it, this zoo is run on very different lines to the majority. There are few large animals here - no big cats, no polar bears. The stated purpose is foremost to help to preserve endangered species and the entertainment of visitors is only secondary to this. And of course the income from those visitors helps with the preservation work. The website explains their mission thus:

'Durrell' is an international charity dedicated to 'Saving Species from Extinction'. Founded by author and naturalist Gerald Durrell, we've been saving some of the world's most endangered animals for over half a century. Through our Wildlife Park in Jersey, conservation academies in Mauritius and Jersey, and 45 field projects worldwide, our unique approach tackles conservation from all angles.

And describes their work at the zoo:

‘Our founder, Gerald Durrell, held the pioneering belief that zoos should primarily act as reserves and regenerators of endangered species. So while it’s still important we provide a fun and engaging day out for families, over the years Jersey Zoo has focused as much as possible on conservation.

Today, the overarching role of our animal collection in Jersey and overseas – our ‘ark’, as Gerald would have it – is conservation. We manage breeding programmes for release back to the wild, develop the skills and tools to conserve species in the wild, train others in animal husbandry and conservation practice, and communicate important messages to our visitors.

We rigorously and regularly assess our animal collection, assigning each animal in our collection to one of four roles: conservation, research and training, education, or visitor experience. By 2020, we aim to have 90% of the species at Jersey Zoo contributing to conservation, training and research, or education.’

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Flower at Jersey Zoo


We paid our £16 entrance fee and started to explore. And we had a wonderful time here! The zoo is thoughtfully laid out, with space for the animals the priority and lots of greenery for both them and the human visitors. We followed the recommended walking route which took us past all the enclosures. Among the highlights were:

‘Jewels of the Forest’, where we walked among colourful and very tame birds:

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Red-billed leiothrix or Pekin Robin

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Palawan peacock-pheasant

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Palawan peacock-pheasant - tail detail

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Nicobar pigeon

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Nicobar pigeon

The reptile and amphibian house, with colourful frogs and snakes and other interesting creatures:

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Cuban iguana

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Ploughshare tortoise

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Emerald tree boa

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Brazilian poison frog

The lively meerkats - great fun to watch and to try to photograph:

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Meerkats at Jersey Zoo

The gorillas, especially as our arrival here coincided with their second lunch time which provided us with great photo ops (I took far too many!) and some interesting explanations from the keepers – I learned, for instance, that the youngster was five years old.

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Silverback gorilla, and the youngest member of the family

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One of the females

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Gorilla feeding time

I also shot a short video here – look how carefully and dexterously the gorilla handles her food:

The orangutans, swinging among the trees on the many ropes strung between them, and the white-handed gibbons (confusingly available in both black and beige colour schemes ;) ) who shared their large enclosure:

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Orangutans

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White-handed gibbon

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Young white-handed gibbon

The golden lion tamarinds and marmosets, also sharing an enclosure:

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Golden lion tamarind

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Marmoset

The Chilean flamingos - we had seen them a few years ago in the Atacama Desert but it was great to get a much closer look here - I loved the deep pink feathers under their wings:

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Chilean flamingos

Nearby were some White-naped cranes, a new species to me:

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White-naped crane

The lemurs, although we spent less time with them as it was at this point that the rain returned

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Lemurs

The aye-aye - impossible to photograph in the darkness of his enclosure but fascinating to see.

Even the flowers around the zoo were lovely, and the odd shower only added to their beauty, with rain drops glistening on the petals:

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Bluebells, and (I think) an arum lily

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Magnolia, and camellia

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Collected by Durrell
in New Caledonia

We also visited the exhibition room that tells the Gerald Durrell story, from his birth in India, his childhood fascination with animals, his books, and his work as an adult devoted to their protection and conservation, including the opening of this zoo and its development. There were lots of photos, early editions of the books, and some of the souvenirs he had brought back from his travels.

After a hot chocolate in the café (we had decided after our large breakfast that lunch would only spoil our appetites for dinner) we caught the bus back to St Helier to rest up a little, sort photos and catch up with messages.

While going round the zoo we had already caught the football score that told us Newcastle had beaten Arsenal 2-1, which, as well as being a great result in itself, also meant that Premier League survival was guaranteed. So there were match reports to read too, and friends with whom to exchange messages of celebration.

An excellent dinner

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In the Quayside Bistro, St Helier

In the evening we decide to splurge a bit and went to the nearby Quayside Bistro, an upmarket restaurant overlooking the marina which specialises in seafood. We had a fabulous meal - in my case a starter of tempura prawns with wasabi dip, main course of lobster thermidor, and dessert of prune bread and butter pudding with local ice cream, washed down with a great Austrian Grüner Veltliner, one of our favourite wines. Chris had a crab and scallop starter, chicken with dauphinois potatoes and finished with coffee and Armagnac. Service was friendly and for such a special meal the bill of just over £100 really not too bad. And of course we raised a glass to my late mum, as she was the reason we had come to Jersey and had such a super day!

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Tempura prawns, and crab with scallops

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Lobster thermidor, and bread and butter pudding


Then it was back to our hotel room in time to watch the highlights of our match v Arsenal on Match of the Day 2. A great end to an excellent day.

Posted by ToonSarah 01:26 Archived in Jersey Tagged animals monkeys islands lizards food zoo restaurants reptiles apes Comments (11)

Jersey under occupation

Jersey day two, part one


View Brief visit to Jersey April 2018 on ToonSarah's travel map.

A change of plan

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Rainy morning in St Helier -
view from the hotel restaurant

We started the day with a good breakfast at the hotel, in the Harbour Room restaurant which, as the name suggests has good views over the marina. A shame then that those views were marred by grey skies and rain.

The plan today had been to visit the famed Jersey Zoo, but given the disappointing weather we decided on Plan B, a trip to the War Tunnels. We caught a bus from the nearby bus station, number 28, after a brief delay due to a problem with the bus, which refused to start. A replacement was soon brought alongside and we left only five minutes late.

The journey to the tunnels took about 15 minutes. On arrival we paid the £13 adult fee and in addition to our tickets were given a gender appropriate ID card and told to look out for ‘our person’ among the photos and information boards.

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Replica ID card, Jersey War Tunnels

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The Jersey War Tunnels

The extensive network of tunnels was dug during the occupation of Jersey by the Nazis during World War Two, from 1940 to 1945. It was designed to allow the German occupying infantry to withstand Allied air raids and bombardment in the event of an invasion. The Nazis used more than 5,000 forced and slave workers from nations across Europe to dig this complex over 50 metres underground. They lived in harsh conditions, although how they were treated seems to some extent to have varied according to nationality, with the Russians suffering worse treatment than, say, the Spanish or Dutch. My assumption is that this was because the Russians were actively engaged in fighting the Nazis while some other nations had surrendered and been occupied.

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Replica of hospital

In 1943, the tunnels were converted into an emergency hospital.

As you walk through the tunnels different display areas each tell one aspect of the history of the island during that period - the British decision not to defend the Channel Islands, the difficult choice facing the islanders, who had only 24 hours in which to opt either to stay or be evacuated, life here under German occupation and eventual liberation on 9 May 1945 - a date still marked each year by a public holiday. The following more detailed descriptions of each section of the story below are taken from the Jersey War Tunnels website, but the photos are of course all my own:

To Leave or to Stay?
As the UK announced that it would not defend the Channel Islands, residents were faced with an impossible choice - to stay and face the unknown enemy or to go, leaving behind families, friends and possessions.

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Display describing the experience of some who chose to leave

First Contact
As German troops arrived in their thousands, Jersey was firmly under the jackboot. Discover those uncertain days as the occupied learned to live with their occupiers.

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Our hotel under Nazi occupation - the German German Naval HQ

The Paper War
With little physical resistance to deal with, it wasn't long before the German command began interfering in daily life. Its main weapon - a formidable bureaucracy, generating new laws and orders on a daily basis.

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Rules for islanders under Nazi occupation

Daily Life
As restrictions and shortages increased, daily life for islanders became more difficult. This recreation of a Jersey home during the occupation gives an insight into the make do and mend mentality that kept residents going throughout these dark years.

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1940s house

Whispers & Lies
Under occupation, accepted realities change for good. In a small community where trust is everything, can neighbours and friends still be trusted? Whispers and Lies gives you an idea of how things change when huge strains are placed on the bonds that hold people together.

Cooperation & Resistance
Nothing is as it seems and choices are hard to make. And how do you resist when you have no weapons? Examine the dilemmas faced by everyone during the occupation, from the UK government to the island's leaders and islanders in their daily lives.

OT Gallery
This impressive interactive exhibit will reveal more about this prolific engineering organisation, its methods and the people who, willingly or not, worked to build Hitler's Atlantic Wall and changed the face of Europe forever.

The Unfinished Tunnel
Men toiled with picks and shovels, loading rocks into trolleys and pushing them back up to the tunnel entrance. In the semi-dark and the damp, with the constant fear of rock falls, this back-breaking work went on in 12-hour shifts. You experience it all through an interactive audio-visual experience in the unfinished tunnel itself.

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The unfinished tunnel

Fortress Island
Far in excess of their military significance, the Channel Islands used one twelfth of the reinforced concrete of the entire Atlantic wall. Had the Nazis deployed these resources more reasonably, they could have doubled the strength of the Atlantic wall and had a profound effect on the Allied advance.

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Telegraph station

Under Siege
After D-Day, the Channel Islands were cut off from all supply routes through France. The last year of the occupation was characterised by hunger and desperation.

Desperate Times
In the final months of Liberation, Islanders became desperate. Food shortages were acute and with no knowledge of when the war would end, the Island entered its darkest times.

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1940s kitchen

Air Raid Shelter
Step inside a replica air raid shelter to get a feel for the conditions, noises and bleakness of the situation faced during World War II.

Liberation
Discover the event that islanders will never forget: 9 May 1945. Finally, after five years of occupation, British forces arrived to free the Channel Islands. Scenes of happiness and relief characterised this most wonderful of days, which is still marked by a public holiday and celebrations today.

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Liberation celebrations

As to the people on our ID cards, we found them both. Chris’s man, Clifford Cohu, was one of many islanders who did what they could to resist the occupation. When war broke out he was rector of St Saviour. With three of his parishioners he acquired an illegal radio set (German authorities had banned their use by islanders).

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Replica ID card

The Island wiki tells his story:

‘The set was owned by John Nicolle, a farm labourer; Arthur Dimmery, a gardener, was the set's "guardian" - he was responsible for digging it up and reburying it after use; Joseph Tierney, a gravedigger at St Saviour, typed up the information; and Cohu, who also performed chaplaincy duties at the General Hospital, provided information about the course of the war to various patients. Cohu was also known on at least one occasion to ride along the Parade in St Helier shouting the news. …

Cohu was arrested on 12 March 1943, and on 9 April the case came to trial. … Cohu was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for "failing to surrender leaflets and [...] disseminating anti-German news". Other people caught at the time normally expected to serve between 2 and 6 weeks: the harshness of the sentence reflected the severity with which the authorities viewed the conspiracy. Given the length of the sentence, Cohu was deported from Jersey in July 1943.

Cohu was taken first to the Fort d'Hauteville at Dijon, then to Saarbrucken in December 1943. By March 1944 he had reached Preungesheim, near Frankfurt-am-Main, where he was kept in solitary confinement and forced to work. Food and heating were both inadequate.

Cohu's wife Harriet … was informed that on 30 August Cohu had been released to an internment camp at Naumburg-am-Saale, near Leipzig. This was in fact untrue: Cohu had been sent on to Straflager Zöschen, where he arrived on 13 September 1944. A Czech, Premysl Polacek, witnessed the beating that the enfeebled Cohu received at the hands of the SS guards, who singled him out as der Englischer. Weakened by this he contracted dysyntery and died on 20 September 1944, aged 60.’

My Lucie was a French artist who was sentenced to death by firing squad for leaving inflammatory notes on German staff cars but had her sentence commuted to life imprisonment on the intervention of the Bailif (the governor of the island who had been left by the British with the unenviable role of running the island under the Nazis).

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Display board mentioning Lucie Schwob

Later I found out more about Lucille Schwob online and it turns out she was a fascinating woman. She was born in 1894 in Nates, France, to a Jewish family. She was sent to school in England, and later the Sorbonne University in Paris, where she started to experiment with photography, mainly self-portraits. She adopted the pseudonym Claude Cahun, deliberately non-gender specific. At the age of 17, she met Suzanne Malherbe, a graphic artist who worked under the name Marcel Moore [also mentioned on the display board I photographed]. Moore became her lover and companion and, later, her half-sister, after Cahun’s father married Moore’s widowed mother. During the 1920s they lived in Paris, collaborating on various written works, sculptures, photomontages and collages.

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Replica ID card, Jersey War Tunnels

The following is based on the Wikipedia article about her, with minor grammar and factual corrections (the latter based on other sources):

In 1937 Cahun and Moore settled in Jersey. Following the fall of France and the German occupation of Jersey and the other Channel Islands, they became active as resistance workers and propagandists. Fervently against war, the two worked extensively in producing anti-German fliers. Many were snippets from English-to-German translations of BBC reports on the Nazis' crimes and insolence, which were pasted together to create rhythmic poems and harsh criticism. The couple then dressed up and attended many German military events in Jersey, strategically placing the fliers in soldiers’ pockets, on their chairs, and in cigarette boxes for soldiers to find. Additionally, they inconspicuously crumpled up and threw their fliers into cars and windows. Moore spoke fluent German, a secret kept from the Nazis. The leaflets were written as if written by a German officer and signed ‘The soldier without a name.’

In many ways, Cahun and Moore's resistance efforts were not only political but artistic actions, using their creative talents to manipulate and undermine the authority which they despised. Cahun's life's work was focused on undermining a certain authority; however, their activism posed a threat to their physical safety.

In 1944, Cahun and Moore were arrested and charged with listening to the BBC and inciting the troops to rebellion. But it took some time for the trial to take place as authorities found it hard to believe that old ladies, which is how they presented themselves, could take on such a resistance. The death penalty was finally commuted to imprisonment. They were freed when the island was liberated from German occupation in 1945. However, Cahun's health never recovered from their treatment in jail, and they died in 1954. She is buried in St Brelade's Church with her partner Marcel Moore.

We would probably not have visited the tunnels were it not for this morning’s rain, and we both found them absolutely fascinating, so we ended up being grateful for the bad weather! But after walking through the tunnels we emerged to improving weather, so we had a coffee in the café then took the bus back to St Helier. It was time to revert to Plan A and visit the zoo after all. But as this is becoming a long page, and I took lots of photos at the zoo in addition to these at the tunnels, I think I will finish here and save the zoo for the next entry ...

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German tank at the entrance

Posted by ToonSarah 05:57 Archived in Jersey Tagged islands history museum war_and_peace world_war_two Comments (9)

A mini island adventure

Jersey day one


View Brief visit to Jersey April 2018 on ToonSarah's travel map.

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First sight of Jersey

After my mother died last September we discovered that a small portion of her savings were invested in a Jersey fund, and that to access them we needed to get probate there as well as in the UK. We could either pay a Jersey solicitor to do the work or go over there ourselves. As the latter option worked out cheaper, and would give us a chance to see a little bit of an island we had never visited, it was a no-brainer!

So today saw us boarding an EasyJet plane at Gatwick Airport, en route to St Helier. The weather at home had just, finally, turned spring-like, so our timing could have been better, but at least that meant clear skies for the flight, and thankfully we landed, about 20 minutes late, to even warmer sunshine than we had left behind in London.

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Landing in Jersey

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Pomme d'Or Hotel,
under German occupation

We took the bus (#15) from the airport to Liberation Square, where our hotel, the Pomme d’Or, was situated. This hotel has a long history. Victor Hugo stayed here in 1852, and the hotel later played a significant role during World War Two when Jersey was under German occupation. It was commandeered to serve as the German Naval Headquarters and German Harbour Master’s office. The swastika flew above its entrance as a constant reminder to the people of who was now in charge. My photo of this period was taken at the Jersey War Tunnels, which we visited the following day.

When the island was finally liberated, on 9 May 1945, the swastika was replaced by a Union Jack as celebrations began on the square outside and all over the island. That square is now known as Liberation Square, and 9 May celebrated as a public holiday each year. We were to learn much more about this period in the island’s history tomorrow, so I will save it for my next entry and return to the present.

First impressions of St Helier

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By the time we arrived at the hotel it was after 2.00 pm so we were able to check in and leave our bags in our room before heading straight out again to find a late lunch.

Everyone was out enjoying the sunshine and it was quite hard to find a table at an outside café, but eventually we got one at a place called The Square, just around the corner from the hotel. We shared some light bites - garlic bread, chicken strips and calamari rings. The food was just right and the drinks too (I had my first rosé of the season) and although the service could have been faster we enjoyed relaxing in the sun after our journey.

Given our difficulty in finding lunch we thought we should book a table for dinner later. We tried several places in that vicinity, including a highly recommended Mexican restaurant I’d hoped to eat in, but all were fully booked or not serving food in the evening. So we wandered around the back streets, taking a few photos as we explored, mainly of details such as statues and street art.

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Toad column at Charing Cross

When I took this photograph I didn’t know the significance of this toad which sits atop a column in a small triangular ‘square’, Charing Cross, but I researched it later. I learned that Jersey is the only one of the Channel Islands to have a native toad, and it is a unique species, different from those found in England, for example. Being the only island with toads led the residents of the other islands to use the term ‘crapaud’ (French for ‘toad’) to refer to those of Jersey in a derogatory way.

But instead of resenting this, the locals made the most of their ‘nickname’ by proudly erecting a monument crowned by one of their toads! This reflects the location of the monument on what was originally marsh land and home to many of the toads. Later, between 1698 and 1812, it was the site of the island's prison, and this column, erected here in 2004 as part of the commemoration of the octocentenary of Jersey's status of Crown Dependency, is engraved with extracts from the Code Le Geyt of 1698 concerning crimes and applicable punishments.

Nearby in a small park known as Parade Gardens we came across a statue of Lieutenant-General Sir George Don, Jersey's Lieutenant-Governor from 1806 to 1814. He looks very impressive in his uniform, and on either side, at the foot of his granite pedestal, sit the figures of Commerce and Industry. Don is credited with developing Jersey’s road system as a result of his frustration at not being able to easily move troops around the island.

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General Don

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Is this Commerce? Or maybe Industry

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Le Sueur Obelisk

Also in this vicinity is Le Sueur Obelisk on Broad Street, a monument to five-time St Helier Constable Pierre Le Sueur. It is according to the Island Wiki ‘widely acknowledged as irredeemably ugly’ although I would be generous and say boring rather than ugly! However, the website goes on to quote author and genealogist J Bertram Payne who in his 1863 ‘Gossiping Guide to Jersey’, expressed his dislike of the memorial as follows:

‘The monument itself is a sad blot on the good taste of the island, and is merely an exaggeration of those spa toys one buys at Sandown or Clifton. At each side of its square base are lions' heads, pierced for fountains. The water, however, has never been forthcoming, so the lions look like hapless sea-voyagers - retching without effect. We do not know who designed this thing - this cross between a pillar and a post. We wish we did, for his name ought to go down to posterity, encircled with the halo that should belong to the inventor of the ugliest bit of pillo-pyramidical construction in the world.’

In between taking photos we eventually managed to book an Italian restaurant which looked OK, and then headed back to the hotel for a short rest back at the hotel and a chance to unpack and settle in properly.

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St Helier street art - the Murals Project

Evening in St Helier

As a Catholic Chris wanted to attend Sunday mass but in order to have a free day for exploring tomorrow we decided on the Saturday evening service. St Thomas’s church, about ten minutes’ walk from the hotel, proved to be an attractive and imposing building.

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St Thomas RC Church

It is the principal Roman Catholic church in Jersey and was built in the 1880s to replace an earlier, smaller (much too small) church on New Street just to the south. It has some lovely stained glass and an impressive collection of church silver and relics. I had unfortunately left my camera behind at the hotel but was able to get some passable photos with my phone. If you are interested there is a very detailed description of the church on the Island Wiki: https://www.theislandwiki.org/index.php/St_Thomas%27s_Church

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Stained glass in St Thomas

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Just a few of the relics

Emerging from the church after the service we felt a few spots of rain so hurried to the restaurant, Bellagio. We were early for our reservation so had a drink in the bar downstairs before going up to the restaurant on the first floor to eat. The food was good (I especially liked our shared meat antipasto platter), the house wine very good, and the service friendly. A good choice.

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Spaghetti with pancetta and chilli

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Bellagio


We then retired to our hotel room to watch a bit of TV and catch up with emails (both of us) and journal (just me!)

Posted by ToonSarah 01:16 Archived in Jersey Tagged islands monument history statue hotel flight restaurants street_art Comments (8)

Our work here comes to a close – for now

Abu Dhabi days six and seven


View Abu Dhabi business trip March 2018 on ToonSarah's travel map.

Sunrise at the beach

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Abu Dhabi sunrise

I woke early and decided to get up to see if there was an opportunity for some sunrise photos. I dressed quickly, grabbed my camera and headed downstairs to the beach area behind the hotel. The sun was already above the horizon but I got a few photos before it climbed too high, including several of a heron stalking the edge of the water in search of fish for his breakfast.

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Beach reflection

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Heron on the beach


Talking of breakfast, as we ate ours about thirty minutes later, a mist descended and shut off the bright sun I had been photographing. The tall buildings on this short strip of hotels were all lost in the clouds, and when we left a little later the Emirates Palace and palm trees opposite were only hazily visible.

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Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi, on a misty morning

An invitation to the Palace

Our work today took us to the Presidential Palace, where a new library is being developed alongside plans to open the palace to tourists. Security there is incredibly, if understandably, tight. Our names had to be submitted in advance of the visit and ID (passports) checked against a list of expected visitors. Having been missed off that list I had to wait a while before being granted permission to enter. Once in I joined my colleagues and we were given a tour firstly of the main section of the palace that visitors will see, and then of the space to be devoted to the new library.

Frustratingly no photos were allowed (we hadn’t even been able to bring our cameras into the grounds, never mind the buildings) but I am unlikely to forget the sense of opulence and splendour conveyed by the decoration of the palace’s huge rooms in a hurry. In one, designed to host conferences and assemblies, I asked about the chandelier which was even more magnificent than those elsewhere in the building. I was told it weighed twelve tons and consisted of 400,000 separate glass crystals. Forty four of these, forming a circle near the base, are blue, representing the forty four years since Abu Dhabi had been formed as an Emirate state.

Photography is indeed tightly controlled and I could find only a few images of the interior of the palace online, but these should give just a little sense of what we saw:
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Interior of the Presidential Palace

I also found a YouTube video of a reception there which really shows the scale of the building: Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi. Bear in mind that this is just one room, albeit the largest! It would certainly be worth a visit here once it is opened to visitors - I just hope they relax the rules about photography at that point, as otherwise there will be a lot of frustrated tourists!

After a morning spent here we returned to the Nation Tower for lunch again at the Café Bateel (an excellent chicken wrap) and a couple more meetings.

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View from the terrace, Café Bateel

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View of the Presidential Palace

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Chicken wrap at Café Bateel

These concluded our work appointments here. Back at the hotel there was time to relax, write up notes, check emails and messages etc.

Another ‘Palace’

Late afternoon I went out again with my colleague Ted to take some photos in the immediate area in the golden hour.

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Hotels at sunset (ours is on the right)

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Doorman at the Bab al Qasr hotel


We checked out the Emirates Palace hotel opposite and found some great foregrounds for sunset shots as well as seeing the opulence of the interior. The hotel is one of the Kempinski Group chain and opened in 2005. It is, according to wikipedia, the third most expensive hotel ever built, costing three billion dollars, and is on a truly grand scale. In addition to the main dome which stands 240 feet above the atrium, there are 114 smaller ones spread out over the building, and it stretches over a kilometre from one wing of the building to the other. Would I want to stay here? I'm not sure that I would, as I found all the gold, glitz and grandeur a bit overpowering, but it's certainly worth seeing!

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Dome of the Emirates Palace hotel

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In the grounds of the Emirates Palace, and the gate at sunset

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In the grounds of the Emirates Palace at sunset

Along the Corniche the lights were coming on as the sun went down. I loved the design which I realised is inspired by the palm trees.

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Lampposts on the Corniche

Then we walked down to the main gate of the Presidential Palace where we had been that morning and, being on the outside, could take all the photos we wanted in the early evening light as the illuminations came on. And I did take a lot of photos! Some of the ones below were taken from the hotel as we left, other later after the sun had gone down. I loved the way the changing light turn the building from white to gold.

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Presidential Palace gate at sunset

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Gate details

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Fountains at the Presidential Palace gate

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Presidential Palace gate at dusk

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Eggplant Extravaganza!
At Li Beirut

We were back at the hotel in time to take advantage of the happy hour at the bar for a final time (I enjoyed my Ginger Cosmopolitan though it could have been more gingery for my taste) before going back to Li Beirut at the Jumeirah hotel for another excellent dinner there.

Then it was time to say our goodbyes for this trip, as the others will leave quite early tomorrow and my flight isn’t until after lunch. We’re all hoping that this work will give us the opportunity to return to Abu Dhabi, but not until the heat of summer (40 degrees centigrade is not uncommon here) has passed.

Time to go home

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Misty morning in Abu Dhabi

The next morning I woke to see mist again drifting around the tower block hotels and Emirates Palace opposite, so I dressed quickly and headed outside to grab a few photos.

With several hours till I needed to depart I took my time over breakfast and packing, then caught up with Facebook and emails before checking out and taking a taxi to the airport. There I dropped off my bag (having checked in online the previous evening), did a little bit of shopping (make-up for me and some cookies to take home for Chris) and had a coffee.

Boarding went smoothly but then we just sat on the tarmac while departure time came and went. The pilot announced that there had been some problems with the luggage and the ground crew had to recheck it all. As you can imagine, that took some time and in the end we were over an hour and a half taking off.

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Taking off from Abu Dhabi

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Sunset from the plane

Once airborne lunch was served immediately. I was rather less impressed with this than on the flight over - my fish was fine and the sauce pleasantly spicy, but the rice stodgy.

The extra time spent waiting to depart meant that the flight dragged rather, although the good selection of films helped to pass the time (I watched 'The Hours', which I had missed at the cinema) as did a good book I'd had the foresight to download on to my iPad ('The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood, which I've been meaning to read for years).

We finally landed about 80 minutes behind schedule, having made up only a little of the lost time en route. There was a long queue at immigration and an even longer wait for the luggage. I did start to wonder if the problems in Abu Dhabi hadn't been fully resolved and some bags left sitting on the tarmac, but thankfully my bag appeared at last. So it was off into the chilly London night to catch the tube home, very glad that I live so close to the airport and could soon be in a warm house :)

Posted by ToonSarah 04:40 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises people birds planes architecture views hotel flight palace restaurants weather photography abu_dhabi Comments (5)

Out and about

Abu Dhabi day five


View Abu Dhabi business trip March 2018 on ToonSarah's travel map.

Visiting libraries

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Khalifa Park - view towards the library from the gate

As a change from meetings, today started for me and one of my colleagues with a visit to two of Abu Dhabi’s six (currently) libraries. We started in Khalifa Park, at the eastern end of the main island, quite near the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. We met the manager and had a tour, and talked to two of the library’s users. The park itself, which was established in 2007, seemed quite attractive, with flower beds, a miniature train and a maritime museum. The library however looks rather old-fashioned and is under-used. Well, that’s exactly the sort of challenge we are here to help with!

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In Khalifa Park Library

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In Khalifa Park

From here we were driven to the library at Al Bahia. On the way I managed to get a couple of photos, through the car window, of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This is the largest mosque in the UAE and as well as being a focus for worship in the city (especially Friday prayers and during Eid) it is also a major tourist attraction. Unfortunately I was never able to get closer than this, but it’s top of my list if I manage to return to Abu Dhabi. It was built between 1996 and 2007, and has 82 domes of various sizes, four minarets (each around 106 metres high) and is clad in white marble. It is surrounded by rectangular pools tiled in different shades of blue which act as mirrors to reflect its arcades and columns.

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Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

The mosque is named for Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who was the emir of Abu Dhabi and was behind the formation of the UAE, becoming its first president. His tomb is in the grounds of the mosque. When we were here the country was celebrating the ‘Year of Zayed’ to mark his achievements. Reading about him later, on my return, I discovered that he was a relatively liberal leader within the constraints of Islamic principles and a non-elective political system. Wikipedia has this quote from a 1997 interview, in which he was asked why there is no elected legislature:

‘Why should we abandon a system that satisfies our people in order to introduce a system that seems to engender dissent and confrontation? Our system of government is based upon our religion and that is what our people want. Should they seek alternatives, we are ready to listen to them.

We have always said that our people should voice their demands openly. We are all in the same boat, and they are both the captain and the crew. Our doors are open for any opinion to be expressed, and this well known by all our citizens. It is our deep conviction that Allah has created people free, and has prescribed that each individual must enjoy freedom of choice. No one should act as if they own others.

Those in the position of leadership should deal with their subjects with compassion and understanding, because this is the duty enjoined upon them by Allah, who enjoins upon us to treat all living creatures with dignity. How can there be anything less for mankind, created as Allah's successors on earth? Our system of government does not derive its authority from man, but is enshrined in our religion and is based on Allah's Book, the Quran. What need have we of what others have conjured up? Its teachings are eternal and complete, while the systems conjured up by man are transitory and incomplete.’

Al Bahia is a relatively newly developed area on the outskirts of the city – indeed it seemed to me that parts will still very much under construction. Its library is set in a much smaller (than Khalifa) but pretty park near another attractive mosque (also, rather confusingly, named for Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan), but rather on the fringes of this growing community.

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Mosque in Al Bahia

Here we met with the librarian responsible for events in all of Abu Dhabi’s libraries and had a very interesting chat about what she has done to transform the events programme so far and her ambitions for the future.

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My colleague Ted at Al Bahia Library

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Al Bahia Library

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Chatting to the librarian at Al Bahia Library

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View of Abu Dhabi skyscrapers from the car

We returned to the offices at Nation Tower to meet up with the third member of our team for a couple of meetings. Between these we had an excellent light lunch at Café Bateel in the Nation Galleria, below the offices, where we sat outside on the terrace and enjoyed salads and bread with a delicious date flavoured balsamic vinegar.

An evening out

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Sign on a lamppost,
spotted from the car

We got back to the hotel mid afternoon but I only had a short time to catch up with notes and relax in my room. Our evening started earlier than usual as we were invited out to dinner by our client here, Shaikha. She picked us up in her very nice car, a Cadillac, and drove us through the downtown area to another smart shopping mall, the Galleria, on one of the other islands, Al Maryah.

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Galleria Mall

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Menu at Nolu

Here we ate in a restaurant, called Nolu, serving Afghan / Californian fusion food (yes, really!) According to their website: ‘We have taken the Californian "farm to table" concept and fused it with traditional Afghani dishes.’

The food was absolutely delicious, especially one of the starters, a fairly spicy dish with spinach and rhubarb (again, yes, really!) I also enjoyed my salmon kebab - the fish perfectly cooked, still pink and moist, and the rice also just right. Apparently they have been voted the best café in Abu Dhabi for three years in a row by Time Out magazine – I can see why.

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Salmon kebab

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View from Nolu restaurant


Shaikha then drove us back past a park where she hopes one day to have a library, still busy with local families at 8.30 at night, and through a very affluent area where the streets were lined with palaces and large villas. It was a great opportunity to see more of Abu Dhabi than we had done on this trip to date.

Back at the hotel we had a quick night-cap at the bar before retiring to bed after our fullest day, work-wise, so far on this trip. Tomorrow we have an invitation to the palace …

Posted by ToonSarah 03:50 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged food parks mosque restaurants city abu_dhabi libraries Comments (10)

More work – and play!

Abu Dhabi day four


View Abu Dhabi business trip March 2018 on ToonSarah's travel map.

Another morning of meetings about the library service, in the same room as yesterday - and with a short time to wait before our first meeting started I seized the opportunity to take some more photos of the view. Opposite us, across a narrow stretch of water to a small man-made island, one of many dotted around the coastline here. Indeed, the city of Abu Dhabi sits on an island. Most are connected to each other by bridges, so wherever you drive (and everybody drives here) you find yourself near or crossing water. This particular island, for which I couldn’t trace a name, is home to a shopping mall with a tower that looked to me to be one you could go up (though we never had a chance to investigate), an unusual-looking hotel (still under construction I think), some high-end properties and embassies, and at its western tip the Al Kareem Mosque.

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View of the Al Kareem Mosque from the Nation Towers

Over to our left I got great views of the Presidential Palace complex, beyond the Emirates Palace marina (yes, that hotel has its own marina!) Looking down at the Palace from here made us look forward even more to our scheduled visit in a couple of days’ time!

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View of the Presidential Palace from the Nation Towers


The meetings went well, and we returned to the hotel in time for lunch at the pool bar (I had a nice pizza with the local touch of a spicy lamb topping) and after catching up with some notes from the meetings, we made the most of the free afternoon by relaxing on the hotel’s small beach and taking a dip in the sea. Being more of a lagoon it is very calm, and the view across to one of the many small man-made islands still apparently under construction was nothing special, but it was nevertheless a pleasant swim and at least I can now say that I’ve swum in the Persian Gulf!

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View from my lounger


Late afternoon, just before sunset, one of my colleagues and I went for a short walk armed with our cameras, with the aim of capturing the colourful lights that illuminate the Emirates Palace (opposite our hotel) and Presidential Palace (just down the road). These are both very grand and opulent, and indeed might with some justification be called ostentatious, but the use of coloured lighting at night is effective.

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Street sign on the Corniche

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Gate to Presidential Palace at sunset

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Gate of the Emirates Palace hotel

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Gate of the Emirates Palace hotel

And not only are the buildings illuminated but also the many small fountains in front of the gate to the Emirates Palace. We arrived at this spot just as the call to prayer rang out over Abu Dhabi and it made a fitting backdrop to the dancing waters, which I attempted to capture in a short video .

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Gate of the Emirates Palace hotel at night


By the time we’d retraced our steps back past the hotel to the Presidential Palace we were a little late to get good photos, as the light fades fast once the sun has set. We will have to go back another evening if we can fit it in.

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Moon over Abu Dhabi

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Gate to the Presidential Palace and Corniche at night

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Dinner in Artisan

Meanwhile the bar beckoned with its lure of happy hour, and after that we had dinner in the hotel’s buffet restaurant, Artisan. I’m not a great fan of buffets (breakfast excepted) but Middle Eastern cooking lends itself well to this form of catering as you can graze on the many delicious meze dishes, salads etc. I was less impressed with the main course dishes, but there were many dainty little sweet dishes to tempt us afterwards, many no more than a single mouthful in size, so it was easy to try several - which of course we did!

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Abu Dhabi sunset

Posted by ToonSarah 06:11 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches buildings skylines night food architecture mosque monument fountain views palace restaurants city Comments (7)

We start our work

Abu Dhabi day three


View Abu Dhabi business trip March 2018 on ToonSarah's travel map.

Sunday morning meetings

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View from the 12th floor, Nation Towers

Sunday is a working day here (the weekend consists of Friday and Saturday, with the former being the day of prayer, naturally in a Muslim country) so we had our first business meetings of the trip. These were held in offices on the 12th floor of the Nation Towers, not far from our hotel, with excellent if distracting views from the meeting rooms. The towers are in fact much taller than we were ever able to go, with 52 floors to the smaller and 65 the larger. The views from the top must be amazing but we never went higher than this 12th floor.

We did however get to see an innovative facility developed for staff here, on the ninth floor, called appropriately Cloud 9. Here they can relax, eat, play (there’s a billiards table, chess boards, darts and table football), read and have informal meetings. The space is attractively decorated with natural colours and materials, and the walls have inspirational quotations. What a great space to encourage staff interactions and motivate people.

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Cloud Nine at the Nation Towers

A relaxing afternoon

After our meetings we returned to the hotel for a late lunch in the outdoor bar and then separated - my colleagues to go shopping and me to take my camera for a walk! I first took a few more photos of the hotel.

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Bab al Qasr hotel atrium, and view from the beach

But I spent more time down by the beach where a cormorant caught my eye because it apparently had no fear of the nearby sunbathers and sea bathers. Research since my return suggests that this might be a Socotra cormorant, which according to Wikipedia is considered to be a vulnerable species owing to the large amount of development along this coast. If so, I was lucky to see him!

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Cormorant on the beach

I found a report in an online newspaper, The National, dated January 2013, announcing a scientific study of these birds:

The Socotra cormorant, a rare bird that nests in large numbers on offshore islands in the UAE, is to be the subject of a study by the Ministry of Environment and Water … The breeding population has been estimated at 110,000 pairs, spread across the Gulf, Eritrea and Somalia. About a third of the birds breed on offshore islands in the UAE, mostly in Abu Dhabi waters. The birds live in colonies of several thousand and feed on fish. The study is part of efforts to protect the Socotra Cormorant, which is under pressure due to the destruction of its habitat and marine pollution.

Later I relaxed in my room for a bit and also caught up on emails, before being distracted for a time by the music and excitement of an Indian wedding party outside the hotel next door. My video shows just a little of the activity - and when I remind you that it was shot on full zoom from the 22nd floor you will get some idea of how noisy the music was!

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Indian wedding at the Jumeirah hotel

A great dinner

In the evening I joined the others for another happy hour drink. We then went to dinner at the nearby (next door but one) Jumeirah Hotel’s Lebanese restaurant, Li Beirut. We ate excellent meze including hummus, baba ganoush, moutabel (another aubergine dip), chicken livers in pomegranate molasses, tasty olives and more.

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Etihad Towers at night, and restaurant sign


The bonus was that the Indian wedding I had seen earlier from my room was in full swing on the terrace by the swimming pool below us and we could enjoy the spectacle and music as we ate.

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Indian wedding


Our outing was also a chance for me to photograph the Emirates Palace at night and the ever-changing light show and illuminated fountains at its gate.

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Gate to the Emirates Palace at night

Posted by ToonSarah 03:54 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged buildings birds night food architecture wedding beach culture fountain hotel music abu_dhabi customs Comments (9)

Exploring the city

Abu Dhabi day two


View Abu Dhabi business trip March 2018 on ToonSarah's travel map.

I slept well in my very comfortable bed but woke quite early (especially considering the four hour time difference) to see that I was up in the clouds - literally. Low early morning mists were drifting around and partly obscuring what will be, when I can see it properly, an excellent view of the Emirates Palace (a luxury hotel) just across the road. I battled with the only half opening window to try to capture the effect on camera, with only very limited success.

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Misty morning on the Corniche, Abu Dhabi


The breakfast buffet at the Bab al Qasr is a comprehensive one, with cereals, fresh fruit, juices, yoghurt, assorted breads and pastries, cold meats, cheeses and salads, and hot food of all kinds, from an omelette station to vegetable curry and pakoras. With no appointments to keep today we lingered over this while making plans for a bit of sightseeing.

Downtown Abu Dhabi

Setting out from the hotel we took a taxi to the downtown area, near the World Trade Centre and its souk. This occupies the site of a former market and opened in 2011 as a modern take on the traditional Middle Eastern shopping experience. It was designed by architects Foster and Partners to offer the traditional mix of small independent shops in a clean, contemporary environment – see https://www.dezeen.com/2011/05/06/the-souk-abu-dhabi-central-market-byfoster-partners/ for more information about the architecture, and more photos.

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In the souk

I’m not sure whether to suggest that anyone familiar with the souks of, say, Marrakesh would be disappointed with this, or otherwise. On the plus side, there is relatively little hassle to buy, but to counter that I found the modern setting very artificial and lacking in character or atmosphere. It’s certainly a good place to shop for your souvenirs however, with textiles, jewellery and lamps among the most appealing items, and bartering is fine so you should get a good deal if happy to haggle. My friend bought a pretty scarf, but I resisted all temptations, as I’m always cautious about shopping on the first morning of a trip - although with the rest of the visit to be mostly devoted to work I knew that might come to regret that restraint, as there may be few other opportunities to shop. This indeed proved to be the case, but never mind, my wallet will thank me!

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In the souk

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Salt and pepper pots in the souk

After spending a little time in the souk we set out to walk to the old fort, about a mile away. Our walk took us along wide streets lined with modern tower blocks, punctuated here and there by the minarets of modern, but traditionally styled, mosques. I enjoyed taking photos which reflected the contrast between these architectural styles.

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Abu Dhabi architecture - traditional and modern

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Downtown Abu Dhabi

It’s as well that it was an interesting walk, as when we reached the fort we found it inaccessible due to major construction work all around it - a new cultural quarter is being built here, possibly to include a children’s library. Known as Qasr al Hosn, the fort was the first building constructed in what is today Abu Dhabi and was once home to its ruling family. It started life as a watchtower, built in the 1760s from coral and stone, overlooking the sea. Later it was extended and developed as a fort, its white walls reflecting the sun and acting as a guide to sailors. When oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi and the other emirates, in the late 1950s, it transformed the country, bringing significant wealth and leading to independence in 1971. The first Emir of the newly independent Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, turned the fort into a museum celebrating the country's history.

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Tower block and old fort


Unable to go inside (and not learning till another day that there is a temporary visitor centre located nearby for the duration of the building work) we retraced our steps, albeit by a slightly different back streets route, and went into the large shopping mall, the World Trade Centre, next to the souk where we found refreshing drinks (fresh lemonade with mint) and clean toilets!

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Tower blocks and minarets

The Louvre

After our break we took a taxi to the relatively newly opened (November 2017) Louvre. This was developed in partnership with the Paris original and the French government, and is the first of several museums planned for the new Cultural District on Saadiyat Island where it is located – a Guggenheim Museum will follow, as will a museum devoted to the history of Abu Dhabi and named for its founder, Sheikh Zayed, and a performing arts centre to be designed by one of my favourite architects, Zaha Hadid.

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The Louvre

Despite being an offshoot of the Parisian museum this is very different architecturally. It was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, inspired by the architecture and traditions of the UAE. The museum website describes it as ‘a floating dome of light and shade’, and goes on to say:

‘The centrepiece of Nouvel’s vision is a huge silvery dome that appears to float above the entire museum-city. Despite its apparent weightlessness, the dome in fact weighs approximately 7,500 tonnes (the same as the Eiffel Tower in Paris). Inspired by the cupola, a distinctive feature in Arabic architecture, Nouvel’s dome is a complex, geometric structure of 7,850 stars, repeated at various sizes and angles in eight different layers. As the sun passes above, its light filters through the perforations in the dome to create an inspiring effect within the museum, known as the ‘rain of light'. This ode to nature and the elements takes its inspiration from the palm trees of Abu Dhabi. Their leaves catch the bright sunlight from above to dapple and soften its projection onto the ground.’

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The Louvre

The dome arches over the 55 small buildings which constitute the museum. The intention was to create the appearance of a cluster of small, traditional houses, surrounded by the sea, as in an old coastal medina. You can read more about the design and build on the museum website.

And it was the architecture we had mainly come to see, as my companions had already been inside on a previous work trip here and I felt I had already walked a fair bit this morning and might not want to do enough more to get my money’s worth of the 63 dirham admission (about £12) before lunch. So we strolled around the exterior and took loads of photos, as every spot seemed to throw up a different vista of this striking building.

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Visitors to the Louvre

We also went inside as far as we could without purchasing a ticket. The unpaid area unsurprisingly included the gift shop, but disappointingly the café was out of our reach beyond the ticket barrier.

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In the The Louvre

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Downtown Abu Dhabi from the Louvre

Unwinding

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Salade Niçoise

So it was back in a taxi to the hotel and a late but very good lunch at the poolside bar – a Niçoise salad with fresh tuna and quails’ eggs and more minty lemonade.

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Heron

After lunch we separated, and I had a dip in the pool, rested a while on a shady lounger and then relaxed in my room sorting photos, writing this journal and doing a bit of background reading for tomorrow’s meetings.

In the evening we took advantage of the hotel’s happy hour to enjoy a drink in the bar (alcohol is served in the hotels despite this being a Muslim country) and a chat to the Nepalese barmen who served us, who told us they come to get higher wages than are paid for the equivalent work back home.

Keeping the multicultural theme going, we had dinner in the hotel’s Peruvian restaurant, Limo, which was very good – tasty food served with great style by friendly waiting staff. And I don’t think their friendliness was due just to the restaurant being very quiet (for a while we were the only guests) – good service is very much the norm here. Although it has to be said that it became a bit over-whelming after a while, and we were glad when other diners arrived to occupy the staff a little! Nevertheless, I enjoyed my ceviche, spicy chicken skewers with potatoes, mushrooms and corn, and chocolate mousse very much.

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Limo restaurant, Bab al Qasr hotel

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Chicken skewers

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Chocolate mousse

Then it was back to my room for a relatively early night - we have our first meeting at 9.00 tomorrow. But before going to bed I had to take a few more photos of the fantastic view from my room!

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Emirates Palace Hotel at night

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One of the gates to the Emirates Palace

Posted by ToonSarah 06:46 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged buildings birds night food architecture mosque restaurant shopping city museum abu_dhabi Comments (9)

A rare work trip abroad

Abu Dhabi day one


View Abu Dhabi business trip March 2018 on ToonSarah's travel map.

How lucky am I!

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Leaving London

I work as a consultant in the UK public sector, and my work takes me all over the country, but very rarely out of it. But recently it took me to Abu Dhabi for a few days, and presented me with the chance to see a little of what was a new country for me. Last year Chris and I had changed planes here on our way to Kerala, but I had never actually visited any of the United Arab Emirates and was keen to explore somewhere new. So my colleagues and I arranged to fly out a day early to allow a little time for sightseeing.

While they left from Manchester I flew from Heathrow with Etihad, as on that previous flight en route to Kerala. We left on time at 9.00 AM in a half-empty plane, so as well as the extra leg room I had paid for I had the luxury of an empty seat next to me - room to spread out!

I enjoyed the inflight catering (spicy lamb kofta followed by chocolate mousse) and watched The Shape of Water, a film I had missed seeing at the cinema but was keen to catch. While a little unusual perhaps I rather liked it and was glad to have had this opportunity to see it.

We had clear skies much of the way and I had some great views of mountain ranges in Turkey, south of the Black Sea, and the barren desert and mountain landscapes to the south of Baghdad.

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View over Turkey

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View over Turkey

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Landscape over Iraq

But by the time we reached the Gulf there was cloud, and although this soon cleared, darkness fell, and we came into land over the bright lights of Abu Dhabi.

We were on the ground about 40 minutes ahead of schedule, and with a smooth passage through passport control and baggage claim, I was in a taxi and on my way to the hotel (the Bab al Qasr) before I should even have landed!

The ride took about 30 minutes and the hotel when I reached it was very swish! It is very new and successfully (in my view) combines traditional and modern influences in its décor. The copper-coloured exterior shows the influence of Islamic architecture in the huge lower floor windows and entrance, while the large atrium on the ground floor, which doubles as a coffee shop, is a beautiful space, especially at night when the glass roof is illuminated in a sequence of colours.

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Front of hotel (taken the next day), and atrium

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Atrium roof, looking up

I had booked a standard room but was upgraded to a larger one on the 22nd floor, with king size bed, lots of seating, a huge bathroom with both tub and walk-in shower, and great views. But I didn’t linger long as I was due to meet my colleagues for a late dinner. I called for them in their room, which made my upgrade look pretty feeble, as they had scored with a suite!

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My bedroom at the Bab al Qasr hotel


We had a pleasant meal from the buffet on the lawn overlooking the beach, with lots of typical Middle Eastern dishes – I especially liked the hummus, always a favourite of mine. It was lovely after still-chilly London to be able to sit outside well into the evening. But bed soon beckoned, as it had been an early start for all of us. Tomorrow would be our sightseeing day.

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Buffet salads
(on a glass plate, not the table-top!)

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Bab al Qasr hotel from the lawn

Posted by ToonSarah 08:44 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged night food architecture restaurant hotel flight abu_dhabi Comments (13)

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