"Far Away Places, with Strange Sounding Names"
Although I've never been anywhere exotic, I've always enjoyed travel. Over the years, I've spent time in most of the states - the exceptions being Alaska, North Dakota, Kentucky, and Tennessee (although I did have a plane change in Memphis Airport once; and a business trip to Cincinnati landed me in their airport, which is in Kentucky). I've "done" Europe plenty of times, starting with my first foray over thirty years ago, when my college roommate and I spent nearly 5 months hitch hiking, camping, hosteling our way around: England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Italy, and Spain. Somehow we failed to include Portugal in our mix, and I haven't yet rectified that oversight. But I have added Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to my checklist of places I've been (some multiple times, of course).
I haven't done Canada extensively - maybe this year. And my only trip to Mexico was a walk across the border to Tijuana, which didn't manage to inspire a trip back.
There are other places I'd like to go - even though a lot of them share a couple of highly negative attributes: they require long plane rides and they're hot. Oh, yes, and some of them are a bit dangerous.
Sometime, I'd like to see: Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico, Portugal, Russia (blessedly, it won't be hot!), Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Vietnam, India, Israel, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, and Morocco.
Tack on more of Canada (Quebec City, the Maritimes) and the states I've managed to miss along the way, and I'll die happy.
But I really should get going and start filling in some of my travel blanks if I ever want to get to these places. Darn the luck that we now have to suffer from jet-guilt every time we fly one of those big ol' polluters. Not to mention that air fares are getting sky high.
One place I have absolutely no desire to go is the Middle East. Forget for a moment the long plane trip, the heat, and the violence. I really have no desire to go anyplace where women are treated so abysmally.
But I am intrigued by the idea that Dubai is becoming a tourist destination, with several artificial islands (shaped like palms - which may be the only tree you'll see) full of skyscrapers. Skyscrapers. Hmmmm. Doesn't hot air rise? Well, I guess that energy is no object. It's just that I always thought that the local architecture was all about keeping places cool and airy, which seems to make an awful lot of sense. Hope that A/C doesn't fail on the 25th floor.
Not that I have any problem with skyscrapers: New York City remains on my Top 5 list of places I like to go.
It's just that the entire construct of Destination Dubai is so oppressively futuristic, with none of the human-scale pockets you find all over New York - the Trinity Church on Wall Street, P.J. Clarke's. Plus, in NYC you can walk, which I don't imagine you can do much in the glare and heat of Dubai.
The Dubai-ans, of course, can't help where they live.
But I don't get what the attraction is to going to a place that, once you get there, could be any-luxury-hotel-anywhere. (At one point, when I was doing some business traveling for Genuity, I had a little "where am I" moment at a Ritz Hotel outside of D.C. For a moment, I couldn't remember where I was, since the hotel looked exactly the same as the Ritz in Cleveland where I'd spent the night before.)
Even though my traveling has been of the somewhat namby-pamby variety (i.e., largely European), part of the reason I like to travel is to see things that are new and different. Prague is different from Galway. Paris doesn't look anything like Berlin. Although I usually backslide and have a McDonald at some point when I'm "away", I like to eat what the residents do. I like to walk around and look at places and things that are beautiful and/or historic and/or just plain interesting.
Even with the heat/travel/time etc. of the Middle East, if I did ever get there, I'd be interested in seeing where the battle of X was fought, or where the poet Y lived, or where the caravans caravanned through. I'd like to see an oasis. And camels. Or one of Rommel's old tanks. (Yes, I'm know I'm not talking Dubai here, but you get the point.) But I don't get the impression that there's much of that in Dubai.
The place just looks like a slightly less gaudy Las Vegas on the water. Yes, I realize that they have the world's only seven-star hotel. If I were willing to go there this July, I could get a low end suite for about $1,500 a night - about $1K off of the rack rate, so something of a bargain. Interesting, the highest end suite is called the royal, while the one just below it is the presidential. At least in the hotel world, monarchy manages to trump democracy. ("The royal suite features a marble and gold staircase, leopard print tufted carpets, Carrarra marble flooring and mahogany furniture." Leopard print tufted carpets? Wow!)
But what, pray tell, is the difference between a five- and six-star hotel and a seven-star hotel, other than the obvious differentiator of price. Are the toilet fixtures solid gold? Do they tuck you in at night? Do they peel your grapes for you?
Isn't enough enough? And just how high a thread count do you need in those sheets?
Personally, I don't really need a choice of 13 different pillows. Just let the butler pick one for me.
If there's nothing particularly Dubai-ish about being in Dubai, I really don't get the point - other than, if you've been everywhere else, and the only thing that you really enjoy about travel is the level of luxury. Then I get it.
But, even if I had the seven-star money, it's just not me.
Of course, I'm not a resort type of gal to begin with - which may be my problem. I like cities. And countryside that's near cities. And seeing people walk around in cities. And conduct their very real lives, oblivious to the gawking tourists walking around. (As I live in a tourist neighborhood, in a tourist city, I'm quite familiar with this mode of living. Us natives get to take for granted the excitement of living, say, in the same block as Cheers.)
I also read that there's something called Dubailand going up there, which will have its own Six Flags (yippee), plus Dreamworks/ Shrek, and Barney - good to see that we're exporting the best our culture has to offer to the kiddies of the emirates, although I do believe the world would be a better place if everyone was as nice, hard working, and earnest as Bob the Builder.
Then there's the Dunes golf course - I'll bet that one's well named. It must only be used during the temperate winter month's when it's in the mid-70's (vs. the summer when the average is over 100 degrees).
Not surprisingly, Dubailand will include one of the world's largest shopping malls.
Yep, it's starting to sound more and more like Las Vegas, with a bit of Orlando and Mall of America thrown in.
I don't think I'll be adding Dubai to my "must see" list anytime soon.