Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Turning 30 can be a scary thing. It’s the age when I thought that I would have the world figured out, a solid career that was on the upswing, an amazing house, and a great luxury car. Five years ago had you told me that I would not have any of those things, I would have been scared and probably disappointed in myself. Had you told me that I would have achieved all of that but purposely given all of it up to work freelance and travel the world, well, I would have called you absolutely crazy.

Oh, how times have changed. So have priorities.

Who wants a camel souvenir?
Who wants a camel souvenir?

We booked the trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai over Christmas 2014 (prior to making the decision to leave the corpo world behind) as Katie found an unbelievable deal as a result of a fare mistake. She’s never admitted it, but I think she chose to take the trip over my 30th birthday because she thought that I would be having a hard time coping and she knew that the only thing that would help would be travel (I didn’t complain and planned on milking it a bit). So UAE it was.

One of the pools at our hotel, we spent lots of time here in the sun.
One of the pools at our hotel, we spent lots of time here in the sun.

To celebrate, she planned an amazing few days, which started as we arrived at the beautiful Shangri-La in Abu Dhabi, after an amazing 5 days in Dubai. We were a bit hesitant to stay there as we had a very poor experience when we stayed in their Fiji property.

The balcony in our room at the Shangri-La
The balcony in our room at the Shangri-La

But this time, they knocked it out of the park. From the moment we arrived and they presented us with amazing dates and delicious tea, I could feel that the service was on a whole different level.

The service at the hotel was on point. They gave us chocolate and dates 24/7.
The service at the hotel was on point. They gave us chocolate and dates 24/7.

Our room was superb. It was more spacious than our first apartment and came equipped with a massive tub, a full walk-in closet, an office, and a huge balcony with some stunning views of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (which we’ll write about seperately).

As we explored the property, I couldn’t help but notice how chic the dishdash and keffiyeh (white robe and headscarf) that the men wore. They looked unbelievably comfortable but I couldn’t imagine wearing one everyday as I have a tendency to spill at least a few drops of my morning coffee.

The property was so big, we took this little boat to get from one side to the other!
The property was so big, we took this little boat to get from one side to the other!

The property was fairly large and to our surprise, there was a canal build with boats to shuttle the guests from one side to the other. We rode more for the novelty of it and to snap a few photos.

I was also very surprised when we made our way to the gym and spa that they had separate workout facilities for men and women. It was quite a contrast from leaving the forward thinking Dubai prior to arriving.

Despite that, the birthday celebration was just off to a great start (and we never even bothered to use those segregated gyms). Katie had arranged for the concierge to decorate our room while we explored and when we came back, it was full of balloons, a happy birthday banner, and a beautiful cake.

Balloons and a birthday banner!
Balloons and a birthday banner!
The insanely DELICIOUS cake from the Shangri-La for my birthday.
The insanely DELICIOUS cake from the Shangri-La for my birthday.

The also provided us with chocolates, dates, and wine (I guess they forgot we don’t drink!). As I indulged and tried not to share, Katie warned me that if she didn’t get a few bites, she would cancel the surprise she had planned for me the next day.

What's the birthday surprise?!
What’s the birthday surprise?!

Stay tuned…

Cheers, Jeremy

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