I don't think I have ever been so thrilled to go on holiday as I was as we set off to Dubai. I have always loved travelling, right from the airport where I love the feeling of "have passport - will travel" - so many possibilities of wonderful places you could fly to and the feeling once you go through security that you are not really officially in any country at all. I've actually arrived at the point where the opportunity to sit down and read my book and watch a film for 7 hours is almost a thrill in itself. We had a super comfortable flight with Emirates and Chloe very kindly met us at the airport, and we had a quick dinner with Shane and Chloe at the Belgian Cafe at the Intercontinental Hotel before going back to their apartment.
We were up the next morning just in time to wish Shane well at the Al Shira'aa Show in Abu Dhabi before setting off to the Z7 Stables for a ride. What an amazing experience - Zabeel is about 30 acres right in the heart of Dubai. The stables are immaculate, with a race-track for the race horses, several blocks of stables, and several arenas for the jumpers, polo ponies and trick horses. Chloe, Claire, Laura and I all rode beautiful Spanish Horses and Mark rode a lovely Fresian horse. We had a lovely hack round the complex and then all did a few tricks.
We then took a taxi to the Frame which is a fascinating new addition to the Dubai skyline, with a very scary floor which changed from opaque to see through as you walked along with the ground looking a very long way beneath you. This didn't seem to worry Mark at all, whereas Chloe and I got more spooked every time we walked across it.
By this time Chloe and I were getting "hangry" so it was off to the Dubai Mall for a delicious lunch in a Lebanese Restaurant by the fountains and then we went up the Burgh Kalifa - currently the tallest building in the world. The views were fantastic, and particularly as we could see straight into the Z7 complex and see people riding where we had been in the morning.
After rather a lot of culture and excitement Chloe and I opted for a quick sleep while Mark went off for a swim and we then had the most lovely evening and about the most delicious meal ever at Ruya Restaurant in the Grosvenor Hotel. This was particularly special for Mark and I as Sophie was part of the Conran Partnership Team who designed this beautiful Turkish Restaurant. As "Sophie's Mum and Dad and Chloe" we had the ultimate VIP treatment from Claudia, Tiffany and Colin the Chef and the most absolutely perfect meal.
Next morning we were up in good time to go to Abu Dhabi to watch Shane, Georgia Tame and David Simpson jump at the Al Shira'aa Show, and join Edward and Julia Bunn who were visiting Al Shira'aa who are the sponsors of the Hickstead Derby. It was a spectacular show, and the Z7 Horses outdid themselves with a fantastic number of wins and places.
Friday is the Sabbath in the Muslim World so there was just one class at the show - a one, two for Z7, and we then went to visit the Abu Dhabi Louvre - the next step on the the Chloe Breen Cultural Tour of the UAE. The Louvre is the most beautiful building in the Saadiyat Island Cultural District in Abu Dhabi and the museum gives you a fabulous walk through the timeline of how the world was settled, with some truly amazing artefacts on display.
On Saturday morning we visited the Sheik Zayeed Mosque which is relatively recently completed and is quite breathtakingly beautiful. It was then back to the show to witness more Z7 triumphs and then back to Dubai, where we sadly said goodbye to Chloe - the best tour guide and fabulous company - as she went back to run the fort at Hickstead.
Mark and I had a quick visit to the Dubai Mall on Sunday and did a few little bits of shopping before relaxing by the pool for the afternoon until it got too windy. One Monday we had another Z7 treat when we visited the stunning Summer Palace of one of Sheik Mohammed's sisters where she keeps her tigers and orangutans, the tigers were in beautiful condition and had mostly been born at the palace so they were used to captivity, and were relatively relaxed for big cats and lived in groups rather than on their own. The Orangutans seemed to be having a fabulous time and were very lively and enjoyable company. They had a very free and easy time, hanging from the trees or driving their golf carts. They loved our sunglasses, sparkly belts and the sparkly bits on my shoes. They happily drove their golf carts, and were very clever and knowing exactly how to make them go, and interacted very easily with us. We spent two very enjoyable evenings with Shane and David Simpson and a wild old party night with Team Z7 at Fibber Magee's before coming back to the very wet and cold weather in England. What a truly amazing holiday, warm weather, lovely friends, a little bit of culture and a very privileged opportunity to enjoy some very special experiences. Thank you Chloe and Shane and a very big thank you to Team Z7.