Sunday, 29 March 2009

New hotel

So I've been kicked out of the 5* La Cigale because of the Arab Summit. I was wondering why things were starting to look busy in there. Apparently ever other big name hotel is also fully booked, so I've had to take up residence in the deceptively named Ayana Golden Coast Hotel. In fact they have such a problem with their name they couldn't even decide on the spelling -





I'm actually finding it quite charming in a Fawlty Towers kind of way. I've seen other people milling around a bit but according to my personal chef, I'm the only guest (hence personal chef). The bed is rock hard (which I love), I'm right in the centre of town (although the logistics of getting to the office is going to be something of a challenge) and they have more English channels on the TV than the Cigale did. And the restaurant will open for dinner in a couple of days - tonight they just asked what I fancied, and it was quite delicious. Plus it's fairly cheap (though over £100 a night, but that's cheap here) so if I find it bareable I might stick around after I get my residence permit until I find an apartment.

Annoyingly though I'd just got a dozen shirts cleaned and pressed at the Cigale, which were then stuffed into my suitcase erasing all signs of ironing. Work will just have to put up with me looking a bit dishevelled for a while. It's their fault for not being a bit more organised.

Speaking of the Cigale, I was quite suprised to learn that it's a favourite amongst celebrities and sports stars. I mean it's ok but barely scrapes into 5* category. There were a lot of things that annoyed me. For example:
1. Everything wobbled. It seemed like all the chairs and tables in the restaurants and cafes wobbled. Dinner was served on oval plates, which also wobbled. Bizarre.
2. You'd think that if you left the 'do not disturb' on all day (a work day) that perhaps it was a mistake. You wouldn't expect to come back from the office with half a dozen notes saying how they'd like to make up the room but they were respecting your privacy. Either a) phone b) knock c) leave 1 note.
3. The food was, frankly, crap. Nothing I ate there was particularly delicious, only the sushi came close. It was really below par for what you would expect of a place like that.
4. For a 5* hotel it's cheapness was unsettling. They watered down the Chocos with some local equivalent. They let the bar snacks go stale and wilt. The sight of shrivelled crudites is enough to make you choke on your £12 glass of wine.
5. They didn't have any apple juice. Anywhere. You'd think it was pig's blood.

So not overly impressed with the place. I've got a week here and if my RP isn't sorted then they're threatening to move me back, but I'll ask to go somewhere else I think.

In other news, work is going ok. I'm getting to grips with things and the days are going quicker because I'm busy. There is a lot to do here, and I've got to make sure I stay focused on one thing at a time when it's so easy to discover something else that's a complete mess and try to fix that.

I had a great time this weekend. Friday was spent quad-biking in the dunes, a highly recommended activity; as long as you're very careful. I nearly went flying off the top of a dune (and these aren't like the ones you get by the sea - they're 150 feet in places with sheer drops) but just stopped in time. My companion was not so lucky, but managed to only find a small drop, though big enough to separate him and his bike. Thankfully he was unhurt as you can get a nasty injury from coming off these little machines, as we were to learn the next day.

On the Saturday we went off in a convoy of 4x4s to the inland sea (actually an inlet, by the Saudi border) to do a bit more of the same as the journey is over 40km of dunes. Getting stuck seems to be half the fun and thankfully one of our party (a South African) seemed quite prepared and very adept at getting the others out of tricky spots. I'm happy to report that we didn't get stuck, thanks in no small part to our shiny black hunk of GMC Envoy (7 seater). Once we got to the sea we settled down for a spot to eat, then soon afterwards a quad-biker comes hurtling down the beach, hits something (or suffers a tyre-burst, who knows) and flips his bike. He tumbles through the air a fair old distance, breaking a leg and possibly a shoulder in the process. We got to him quicker than his friends did and administered some first aid and ice, and tried to keep him warm until the air ambulance arrived. I say we but in reality it was mostly down to the ever calm South African, the rest of us were mostly standing around looking useless. Which is more useful than this unfortunate fellow's friends who were recording him on their phones to laugh about later.

Still, by the time the ambulance got there he'd perked up a bit and managed to have a bit of a joke with them;
Ambulance man to his friends (in English) "Can one of you translate for me and tell him that we're going to strap him to this board and put him into the helicopter feet first"
Injured man "Are you speaking in capital letters or lowercase?"

I guess this passes for humour in Lebanon, or Yemen, or wherever they were from. When they'd flown off one of his friends told us that they came down here every week, and he was always falling off...
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