John Thatcher and family speed to the Waldorf Astoria Ras al Khaimah for a grand weekend.
It’s rare that my wife and I fight over the car key. Admittedly, this has less to do with the car we drive (the Dubai standard SUV) and more to do with the actual driving we do — the daily school run, which we both undertake to the detriment of our respective blood pressures. This time, however, the allure was altogether different. We wouldn’t be driving (or actually inching our way, bumper to bumper) to school, or clambering inside a permanently dust-covered SUV, littered inside with bits of food, sweet wrappers and whatever ‘art’ the kids have made at school. No, this time we would be driving to the palatial Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah on a glorious Friday morning, on almost traffic-free roads. And better still, we would be doing so in an Aston Martin Rapide AMR, a four-door sportscar that would likely get us there quicker than it takes for us to complete the 3km school run.
The downside? In every picture I had seen of the Aston it has a lurid lime green, 80s style ‘go faster’ stripe running the length of its body, which to my mind makes me at least 20 years too old to drive it. Behind its wheel I would feel as conscious of my age (44) as I would if dressed as a grime artist. So it was with a sense of palpable relief that on collecting the car I saw that the boy-racer green was restricted to a strip of lime that outlines the car’s body. Better still, it was just enough disagreeable detail to dissuade my wife from laying claim to the key.
The other downside to driving a car built and styled for speed is that everyone else on the road takes it as a green light to try and race you. It’s inevitable on Dubai’s roads that drivers of white Nissan Patrols or any coloured Dodge will do this, but you don’t expect it from the driver of a noticeably aged Kia Picanto. But much to the amusement of our kids — loving life in the back seats, which are surprisingly roomy, for anyone aged 10 or below — the manic-eyed male at the wheel of his midnight blue Picanto was pushing it to its extremities as he tried to overtake us, the Picanto visibly shaking. I could have merely touched the accelerator with the weight of a feather and remained ahead of him, but egged on by the kids (try and forget that I’m 44 at this point) I activate the car’s sports setting and soundtracked by the best sounding engine around, left the Picanto with an aurally delightful roar.
And that’s the whole point of the Rapide AMR — it’s great fun. Speed aside, the carbon ceramic breaks are exceptional, the car’s handling impeccable (despite its obvious weight), its balance impressive (thanks to fat tyres on the largest wheels ever attached to an Aston) and it corners nimbly, allowing for full throttle exits. Of more of a surprise is the size of the boot, which easily accommodates a weekend’s luggage. Just as well, as this was a weekend when size mattered.
On arrival, the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah really is an extraordinary impressive sight: enormous, regal and capped with golden domes. Equally striking is the size of the King Junior Suite, which feels more apartment than room like, so much so that I had to significantly raise the level of my voice to be heard from its entrance hall. Yes, that’s right, an entrance hall.
Endless sea views are yours to drink in from an expansive terrace, but with just 24 hours at the resort we were keen to hit the pool and beach — both, as you’ll have guessed by now, gargantuan. In fact, the beach is by far the country’s most impressive. So large, that in the time it takes you to cross the sand and reach the lapping waves, you’ll be a few chapters into your holiday read.
The benefit of everything being super-sized is that despite the large number of guests soaking up the sun and families splashing in the pool, we never once felt like the resort was crowded. It makes for a thoroughly relaxing getaway that feels far longer than its 24 hours, aided by excellent staff throughout.
Dinner at sleek steakhouse Lexington Grill was the proverbial icing on the cake — a decadent, baked-to-order warm blue cheesecake, to be precise. The steaks top the bill: a fist-sized fillet with seared-in juice and ample flavour, and a hulking rib-eye dry-aged on site (this is the only UAE restaurant housing the necessary set up to air-dry its beef).
A meal fit for a king-sized appetite made for a great night’s sleep, which it was until the bedside alarm clock sounded at 6am. The work of a mischievous previous guest? Perhaps. But it did afford extra time for the kids to order a second stack of buttermilk pancakes at breakfast, and for me to further indulge my midlife crisis in the garish green-striped speed machine.
Inspired to go? Click here for the latest offers