Another visit to Dubai to see our son, daughter in law and (of course) gorgeous 3 year old twin grandchildren. I always say to people that being a grandparent is intellectually stimulating – you have to be sharp and inventive to amuse 3 year olds – and physically a reality check, as you forget how much energy 3 year olds have and how your ability to cope with this has declined since you were a young parent yourself. My wife and I went into the huge Dubai Mall and one of the most interesting features – for a non-shopper (books excepted) like me – is the Waterfall (video). This is a stunning site inside the mall, with the constant falling water and the diving figures, which sometimes seem to be moving down with the water. The 2 photos below show the Waterfall with the United Arab Emirates flag moving down the wall, and a close up of one of the divers. The Waterfall comes in two parts, both 30 metres wide and 24 metres high and it is a mesmerising site.
If the Waterfall is mesmerising, then the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building – is mesmerising in the extreme. When you walk out the back of the Dubai Mall and look up to the Burj Khalifa, it’s hard – as my wife noted – to believe that it’s real. It’s as if a giant Meccano set has been dropped next to the mall and the lake. It is only when you realise that the buildings around the Burj would be classified as skyscrapers anywhere else in the world i.e. they are 60+ storeys high. It’s just that the Burj dwarfs them and makes them look much smaller than they are. Photo 1 (taken from the car) shows the Burj and surrounding buildings and Photo 2 shows the actual structure which, no matter how many times you stare up at it, still astounds.
We landed back in the UK at Newcastle airport and in the afternoon, we got an email saying that a piece of property had been found in the seat next to my wife’s – my camera! I’d taken some photos from the plane of snow capped mountains (but the quality was poor through the plane window, so I did not keep them) and we managed to leave it on the aircraft. It’s an ill wind that blows no-one any good and we had to go back to Newcastle to get the camera so, a day out in Newcastle was our reward. We got the train from Dunbar and were in Newcastle 70 min later. The city of Newcastle is properly known as Newcastle Upon Tyne and locals stress the 2nd syllable, so it should be pronounced Newcastle and not Newcastle. It’s a very interesting city architecturally, with many 19th century stone buildings and equally impressive modern buildings. We headed for the Baltic Centre – a large building which used to be a flour mill but now has 6 floors which house a gallery of contemporary art. The restaurant on the 6th floor has views across the city through the large windows. It also has excellent service and food. The Six Rooftop Restaurant menu provided us with a choice of interesting dishes. For example, I had a delicious chorizo scotch egg and salad – the scotch egg was halved, with a slightly runny yoke and a crispy chorizo and sausage coating as a starter. For the main course, my wife had a leek and mushroom orzotto. This was a new dish to us but we found out that orzotto looks like risotto but is made from barley, with orzo being Italian for barley. Both starters and mains were of a high standard and very good value.
The exhibition we went to – next to an outdoor viewpoint with even better views of the city – was entitled They Used to Call it the Moon and is described as “A group show exploring the enduring presence of the moon and the rich iconography of space on the popular imagination of artists”. When you enter the exhibition, there is a large and imposing cylinder which is like a round mirror – see photo below. There are also photographs of the moon, imaginative videos and science fiction books – altogether a fascinating and varied exhibition.
Newcastle is well known for its many bridges, most notable The Tyne Bridge. Popular myth has it that the Sydney Harbour Bridge was based on the Newcastle bridge, but in fact, it was the other way round. the photos below show the Tyne Bridge and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.