Out of our comfort zone…

Posted by on 27, Jan 2024 in 2024 - An Indian Winter, Middle East, Tilly the Tandem, UAE

Out of our comfort zone…
Abu Dhabi

I’ve said before that we talk frequently about where to go to escape the lovely English winter, then book it and then I spend the time between booking and departure really not wanting to go. I’ve no idea why, but that feeling gets worse as I get older and this time, we’ve been really adventurous / stupid and are heading well outside our comfort zone. Oh well, we’ve told people that this trip will be 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 months…. That should just about cover it!

Linda has a routine that must be adhered to which is not something to be trifled with I can assure you. So we’ve scrubbed the van, washed all our clothes, cleaned from top to bottom and made sure it’s absolutely sparklingly clean for the burglars…sorry,… for our return.

Our taxi to Heathrow arrived on time and was a very plush mini bus with the owner of the company we always use driving this time. We’ve never met a man who’s had so many jobs and found it really amusing when he told us about his time as a lorry driver smuggling his cigarettes and tobacco through Harwich when I worked there for HMC&E. To be fair, Linda always says that I can’t find anything….

We’ve never flown on Etihad before but the airfare to our eventual destination via Abu Dhabi was so cheap we couldn’t say no. Especially seeing as it included a 2 night stop in Abu Dhabi with a complimentary hotel.

The aircraft was another first – an Airbus A380 and it was less than half full. Our emails for the few days before departure kept imploring us to upgrade to first class or businesses or at least please buy the rest of the seats in your row! Oddly enough Etihad had another A380 flying to Abu Dhabi a couple of hours later and that was full. Good choice to take the earlier one!

Naturally getting Tilly checked in was painful. “How bigs the television?” We got asked at check in, which is definitely a first. Then once it was established it was a bike it was off to somewhere they could weigh it followed by the “We can’t fly that, it’s too big, the X ray machines won’t accommodate it, it’ll have to be opened and have a manual search, it’ll have to go by cargo…” whilst I smiled sweetly and eventually they decided it wasn’t too big, could go through the x-ray machine and it wouldn’t have to go via cargo.

Obviously all this was the male staff whilst the female check-in lady was looking fed up with all the macho morons saying to Linda “I don’t know what they’re on about, it’s fine” and once the macho posturing had played it’s course Tilly vanished into the x-ray machine and we headed for our gate.

We were very impressed with Etihad. Brilliantly organised boarding, spacious comfy seats, a games console and bigs screen entertainment system and even free WiFi . Plus a free shopping bag! That’s our laundry bag for the trip sorted .

Abu Dhabi airport is an impressive building looking like a manta ray about to take to the skies. It’s also huge and at first we couldn’t find our pre booked taxi, but once we did, we headed to our hotel at slightly less than the speed of sound as the driver over took everything on the road, including a departing flight. Glad I was facing backwards!

We had one full day and the rest of our arrival day in Abu Dhabi, so after a quick shower and snooze at the hotel we went out for a walk along the Corniche (seafront) and ate at a Lebanese restaurant who berated Israel at length and seemed to be telling us that even Israel couldn’t stop him serving us delicious vegetarian food, which we weren’t allowed to choose from the menu – he had decided and ordered for us! A brave man indeed if he’d known just how fussy an eater I am….The food though was fab.

Our full day off started at the Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the world which is so big they built a shopping centre underground next to it for you to walk through on your way to the entrance. Take that Disney! Even though we had pre booked tickets the queues were lengthy but well organised and after a bit of clothing rearranging as Linda’s jacket was deemed see through, we followed the underground airport like travellators to the main entrance to the mosque where you emerge from the depths to be greeted by this magnificent building.

We followed the prescribed route and loved the building, it’s decoration and the calm atmosphere despite the thousands of people.

Linda had calmed down from one of her rants about sexist religions by the time we left so we headed to the 8km Corniche for a sit by the sea in the shade followed by a quick cycle! We can’t miss ticking another country off our cycle list, so hired bikes which Linda promptly fell off 3 times. Who says you never forget how to ride a bike! So we upgraded to a 3 wheeled bike which only had pedals for me. I wonder if Linda really can still cycle and just fancied a bit of chauffeuring about?

The Corniche is gorgeous, imagine Disney did seafronts and you’ll get the idea, loads of greenery, winding walkways, toilets and ice cream and coffee shops with a nice cycle path and promenade.

We managed a very relaxing couple of days and headed back to he airport at 6am for our next flight. Naturally Tilly caused another fuss! The check in staff had never had a bike this big and didn’t know what to do. The manager came and thought it may not fit on the plane etc etc. I’ve learned to ignore everything until they eventually reach a decision on what they will do, and as usual Tilly was fine. And as usual the lady check-in staff member thought it would be fine from the outset until the men got involved. The world could do with a lot more women in charge and a lot less men.

So, all checked in we wandered around this fabulous airport and boarded our next onward flight…


  1. Brilliant first blog … It’s going to be a page turner !!

  2. We heard from Colin that you were off to India so really looking forward to your blogs. That Grand Mosque is so calm and beautiful, we loved everything about it. Have fun – “hey double bike” and “selfie, selfie” coming up ????????

  3. Nice blog guys, looking forward to reading about the rest of your adventure. How big is this bike box?

    • Thanks Alex, the box is 195cm x 75cm x 25cm approx. Oddly we weighed it at 29.4 kg which the scales in Abu Dhabi agreed with but it showed as 30.8 in Heathrow – no idea why there’s such a difference in the airlines scales! We are allowed a maximum dimension total of 300cm.

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