DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

The Big Easy

Seeing the USA in our Chevrolet

TRAVEL TALK: TURN IT UP! THAT’S MY SONG!

The Trip That Didn’t Happen

Some people say they found themselves when they went away to college.  I think I always knew who I was, but I did try out a few other personalities.  One of them showed up the day I called Mom to tell her I was going to New Orleans with some friends.  Mom threw a conniption fit, but I held on to my guns. I was going to New Orleans and since she wasn’t in Nacogdoches, there wasn’t much she could do about it.

Only I didn’t go.  I can’t remember what kind of teen-aged drama played out to keep me in my dorm room, but I do remember pouting all weekend.  I also remember wanting to call Mom and complain to her, but I couldn’t because I was punishing her.  Aren’t we silly sometimes?

Were I a psychologist, I would probably expound on why Mom chose Louisana that year for the summer vacation, but I’m just a travel blogger, so I’ll leave it to your speculation.  Choosing hot, humid August for traveling probably had a lot to do with my summer job.  The big news was that Aunt Edie was going with us.

The Trip That Did Happen

Poor Aunt Edie was stuck in the back seat with the two Kool-Aid lovers.  We didn’t actually love Kool-aid, but in those days, Bill Cosby was the bomb and my sister adored him.  She played the LP “To Russell My Brother Whom I Slept With” so many times, the whole family had it memorized.  Mom often adopted the Kool-Aid moniker to refer to Susan and I.

Aunt Edie sat in the middle, straddling the hump, because if we’d had to determine which one of us would sit next to her, there would have been all out war.  We’d grown up enough for Mom to abandon I Spy, Twenty Questions, Travel Bingo Cards and personalized grab bags, but not enough for Aunt Edie to have a relaxing ride in the back seat.

Whispering Bill Anderson (Vinyl, LP, Album) album coverThe Radio

Eight track tapes were all the rage, but having a player in your car cost extra, so our Chevrolet didn’t have one.  Dad was an AM radio aficionado anyway – because that’s where the sports were.  Because of Dad, I have a fine ear for sportscasting.  I can tell which sport is being broadcast, just from the cadence of the sportscaster’s voice, even when I can’t hear individual words.

Radio is a bit of an adventure on the road, because you have to take what’s available, especially when all you have is an AM radio.  When Dad could find baseball or news, that’s what we’d listen to, because he was in charge.  He also preferred country and western music over rock and roll, so if he could tune in Whispering Bill Anderson or Charlie Pride, then that’s what we’d listen to.

Thankfully, we’d also go through places where all we could pick up was Top 40 Hits.  That’s when Susan and I would perk up and pay attention.  Even though I remember the trip as a series of newscasts and sportscasts, highlighted with a baseball games, according to Aunt Edie, the whole trip was one great big rock and roll experience.  She claimed each time a new song came on the radio, either Susan or I would shout out, “That’s my song!  Turn it up!” and then we’d both bounce to the rhythm of the music.

Related imageNixon Resigns

There was something else happening on the radio on that trip, though I didn’t appreciate the significance of it at the time.  Much like the Blue Dress incident of Clinton’s day and our current fascination with collusion, our nation was preoccupied with the matter of Watergate.  The news was full of speculation, but late in the afternoon, the newscast was so dire that my dad pulled off the road and into a parking lot.  We listened as it was announced Nixon had called a news conference that evening and word was he would resign.  My dad cried.  And that’s not something that happened very often.  He forecast our nation would be forever changed by this and he was right.

Looking back from this day to that, it seems as if our nation has been constantly embroiled in some expensive Congressional hearing – Watergate, Iran Contra, Monica Lewinsky, Fast and Furious, Benghazi and now Russian Collusion, among so many others.  How much money has all this investigating cost our nation and what good has it really done for anyone?  It’s all political one-up-man-ship.  What if instead it had been spent on feeding the poor, our failing infrastructure, education, improving our health system?  Anything but politicians trying to oust their opponents.

I usually avoid political discussions here on my blog, but that day began a new era in American politics.  The presidency was vulnerable and you didn’t have to win an election to unseat the Leader of the Free World.  It hadn’t been the ill-advised break-in which had led to the popular president’s demise.  It had been the cover-up.  It had also been technology.  He had tapes and it was his own tapes which had undermined his term.  Today’s scandals are all about technology.  We don’t question whether the Russians used social media to influence the election, but the Mueller investigation is desperately looking for the text or e-mail that proves our president colluded with the Russians, even though collusion is not even a crime.

I’ll climb off my soap box.  Susan and I didn’t grasp the magnitude of what we’d heard.  Our lives had been influenced by other milestones – the assassination of JFK, Viet Nam, man walking on the moon, Kent State and LBJ refusing to run for re-election.  These seems like momentous events.  Watergate seemed like much ado about nothing.  For now, we’re almost to Evangeline County.  Come back next week for some crawfish.

Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

What Was That About Padre

TRAVEL BUGS TALES: PICKING UP WHERE I LEFT OFF

Has it really been almost two years since my last Travel Bug Tales post?  Yep, Novemeber of 2016, so that’s almost two years.  Friends, we’ve done a lot of traveling together since then. 

Instead of trying to explain the Travel Bug sabbatical, I’ll just get busy and pick up where I left off.  If you’ve been hanging around here for a long time, then you know, Travel Bug Tales are stories from my pre-blog days – in particular from my youth, when my love for travel first started.

If you’ve just shown up in the last year or so, then let me explain.  Travel used to be different.  You didn’t have a smart phone, flip phone or even a mobile phone.  You had pay phones.  Hence there was no GPS, no texting, no email and no internet.  You just took out on the road with no digital means of support and hoped for the best.  Personally, I thought it was a lot more fun.  Come along with me to the beach.

The Padre Trip

Right before I abandoned Travel Bug Tales, I promised to tell you about a trip to Padre Island, one of the beaches we visited in Mom’s effort to find a Texas replacement for Myrtle Beach, her favorite place on Earth.  For this particular vacation, we traveled with another family.  The Smiths had boys and my parents had girls.  All the Smith boys, but one, were too old to go on a family vacation and Tracy was my sister’s age.  Actually, they also had a son my age, but he stayed home – by himself.  I couldn’t decide whether to feel sorry for him or be jealous.

I can’t imagine what I would have done at home by myself.  I had a car, but I only drove it to school and church.  I’d traveled without my parents before, but only on a mission trip and on church retreats.  So, while a part of me thought it was pretty cool Kieth got to stay home by himself, the other part of me would have been devastated to miss out on the family fun.   

Still I was the odd man out any way you sliced it.  I didn’t quite fit in with the adults, but I when I spent time with the kids, I knew I wasn’t a one of them any longer either.  The picture of me standing alone on the beach sums up my vacation perfectly.

Beach Memories

I didn’t keep travel journals back in the day, so things get fuzzy, but the first stop on this trip was Corpus Christi and it was unremarkable.

Next came Padre.  While I didn’t love Myrtle Beach quite as much as my mom, I did enjoy the days we spent in the Lides’ beach house and getting up early to comb the receding tide for shells.

We three kids, Susan (my sister), Tracy (the Smiths’ son) and I, got up very early on our first morning in Padre.  Light had just begun to suggest it might appear as we hit the beach with our buckets.  Nada!  Not so much as an interesting rock.  I was so frustrated I was almost in tears.  No big deal, I was a teenager.  Tears were always at the edge of erupting.

This was only the beginning of my frustrations.  Perhaps this trip may begin to explain why I’m iffy about beaches now, when I’d lived for beach time as a kid.  I was uncomfortable in my skin.  When I threw myself into the enjoyment of the trip, I was met with frustration, like the shell-less morning on the beach.  The rest of the time I just wasn’t sure what to do with myself.  I can understand, up to a point, why kids live on their phones.  I didn’t feel like me on this trip and a phone full of friends would have been comforting.

Heading Home

The rest of the trip turned out better.  From Padre we went to San Antonio.  I never feel odd on the Riverwalk. We stayed in the Hilton which was at the turn of the river and it’s the first time I remember staying in a hotel that upscale.  My folks usually opted for Holiday Inn.

A highlight of the trip was a riverboat ride.  Susan and the adults weren’t all that interested, so Tracy and I made a round trip.  Without Susan to tend to, something very unusual in my childhood, I ignored Tracy and pretended I was by myself.  It was exhilarating.  I was discovering that while I enjoyed people, I didn’t need them to enjoy myself.

From San Antonio, the Smith’s headed to Dallas, but we made a stop in Temple to visit my beloved Aunt Edie.  Her home was my second home.  I was allowed to go for long rambling walks on my own and I loved it.  We’d go on fun shopping trips and have laughter filled lunches.

So, that was our trip to Padre.  Mr. and Mrs. Smith were good friends to my parents, but we didn’t take anymore trips together.  It wasn’t their fault that Padre didn’t stack up to Myrtle Beach, but I think it was more than that.  No one could replace the Lides for Mom and Dad.  The annual pilgrimages to Myrtle Beach began then and suddenly I was left behind, on my own.  They’d head to Myrtle Beach and I’d stay home.  I would have summer jobs and needed the money for college.

I was growing up.  There are more Travel Bug Tales, but I’m not sure which one I’ll tell you next.  Come back next week and find out where we’re headed.

 

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

It’s Time to Go

TRAVEL THERE: HEADING HOME IS ALWAYS GOOD

Just a few hours and Egypt will be in our rear view mirror.

Final Moments

When we left Mokattum Mountain, Izzat dropped us off in Bill’s sister’s neighborhood.  Mona had made one of her feasts for us to enjoy when we dropped by to say farewell.  We had a sweet visit with her and then it was time to go.

Somewhere along the way on that final day, I managed to leave my hat behind.  Perhaps it was in the Uber vehicle we took to get back to the Fairmont.  I sincerely regret that, because it had been a loyal servant on the Danube cruise and on this trip.  I’ve missed having it for several trips since.  I also donated my prescription sunglasses to the country earlier in the trip.

I’ve already shared the frustration of our last night at the Fairmont, so no need to revisit that.  Izzat was there the next morning to take us to the airport.  I felt like I was saying good-bye to an old friend.

At the airport, some of the towel-clad pilgrims we’d seen on our arrival were also departing Egypt.  I’m not sure what the trip was supposed to imbue them with, but love and respect for their wives doesn’t seem to be one of results.  I watched a man and a boy in their white terrycloth outfits stand to the side with their arms folded as their mother/wife pulled huge suitcases, too large for her to handle, from the security table to a cart and then struggle again to get the cart going in the right direction.

I would have sent Bill to help her, but he was already on a mission of his own.  A group of giggling ladies in pilgrim caftans and hajibs needed his help with the elevator.  They’d never been on as escalator or an elevator.  They were terrified of the escalator, but baffled with the controls of the elevator.  I was proud of him for helping them, but wished he could have embarrassed the towel-clad men by assisting the floundering woman.  The pair had looked so smug.

Traveling Companions

Miriam and Bassem were taking the same flight as we did to the States.  Bassem wanted back-up in case Mariam had any trouble in Customs.  We breezed through the London airport with no trouble at all.  At DFW, US Passport Control did bring Mariam in for a short interview, but it was very cursory.  Then they grabbed a rental car, because no one sedan was going to hold all the luggage for four people, especially when one of them was moving here.

And then we were home.  My bestie had kept my cat for me, so we were eager to go claim her.  Mariam and Bassem stayed with us a few days, because Bassem had only bought tickets back to Dallas, not on to LA.  Too soon they’d made arrangements to go home and we were all alone – just us and the cat.

It was quiet and a bit lonely after so many days around our dear family members.  It was a little boring too, after three weeks of activity.  It had been a great trip and like all good trips it had changed me.  I had stronger ties with my nieces and nephews and their children.  I’d overcome my fears and traveled to places the US State Department said I should stay away from.  I’d been in one of the poorest neighborhoods I’d ever visited and discovered that its inhabitants were more joyful and thankful than my affluent neighbors in my golf course community. We will probably never travel to Egypt again, but that’s OK, because now Egypt is in my heart.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, International, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL

More Old Cairo

TRAVEL THERE: WRAPPING UP OUR TOUR

So after Abu Sargus, what else can I tell you?

The Rest of Old Cairo

We visited St. George’s.  It’s nice, but confusing.  There’s all these pictures of St. George and the dragon, but St. George is a Roman soldier martyred because he would not give up his faith.  No dragons in the story, so don’t ask me.  It’s also confusing, because it started out as a Roman Catholic Church, but is now is a convent for Greek Orthodox nuns and old George is a Coptic saint.

We visited the very old Jewish Synagogue which they call the New Synagogue, because the current building was built in the 1890’s and this building is one of three known synagogues on this site.  However, according to tradition, there’s been a synagogue here since ancient times.  I mentioned a few weeks ago that it was built on the site where Pharaoh’s daughter discovered Moses in the bullrushes.

Hanging Church Depiction of Moses in the Bullrushes

They say stuff like that all the time in Egypt.  St. Catherine’s Cathedral out in the Sinai has THE Burning Bush.  One of the murals at the Hanging Church depicts the Moses in the bullrushes story.  There’s also a mural of the documented story of when faith actually moved a mountain.  You really need to get to Egypt.

 

One of the sad things I learned was that while there was a large Jewish community in Cairo for centuries, it has virtually disappeared.  The Synagogue is a tourist attraction, not a place of worship.  Imagine a congregation, whose place of worship was originally associated with the story of Moses and which was perhaps the place Joseph worshiped when he was in Egypt, no longer having any Jews to worship in it.

Another important miracle recorded in the murals of the Hanging Church is the moving of Mokattum Mountain.  A Muslim Caliph was ready to do away with Christians altogether when a bishop made a deal with him.  If he could get a mountain to move then the Christians were safe.  According to tradition, the bishop had everyone pray and then they had a mass at the foot of Mokattum Mountain at the edge of Cairo.  Lo and behold the mountain jumped up into the air and the Christians were saved.

In recent years a church has been planted in a cavern out there at Mokattum and Bill and I would travel there before the day was over, but for now, I’ll round out my tour.  On the way into the area I saw a shop selling shawls.  I love shawls and capes.  Bill promised we’d stop back by on the way out, probably thinking I would forget all about it – and who knows, I might have – but Zuzu remembered and now I have this beautiful shawl.

The shawl I saw on the way in was not the one I ended up with.  I saw a pretty shawl that I thought would be great for evening wear and the price was minuscule.  When I went back I saw this gorgeous, heavy, reversible number and asked if all the shawls were the same price.  “Yes,” was his answer.  I know value when I see it.  I immediately abandoned the evening style and held on to this one until Bill paid for it.

Come to find out, the shawl I chose is hand woven goats wool.  A tag identified the Egyptian craftsman who made it.  We probably should have paid $100 for it.  I’d be surprised if Bill paid $10.  He’d bargained so mercilessly that he was embarrassed when we walked out of there.  Once again, not understanding Arabic saved me.  I would have told Bill to pay the man his price and quit bargaining.

Next week we’ll move on to Mokattum Mountain, but first, enjoy these beautiful photos.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

The Hanging Church & Abu Sarga

Courtyard of the Hanging Church

TRAVEL THERE: WONDER OF WONDERS

OK.  Get ready!  This is big.  The Hanging Church is a pretty marvelous place, but wait until you hear about Abu Sargus.

Why Is It Called the Hanging Church?

When you don’t know something, your brain can make up weird stuff.  I figured it was called the Hanging Church because they used to hang people there.  I was wrong.  It’s called the Hanging Church because of the way it hung over the city like a mirage, in the days before sky scrapers.

This church was one of the most pleasant tourist destinations we visited.  The Old City was not crowded and as you can see by the picture, this is a very lovely place.  The walls have pretty murals depicting the most significant events in Cairo’s Christian Community.  More about that later.

Abu Sargus

I have to confess to you that I’m not big on relics.  I’ve seen more bones, scraps of fabric and hair than your average traveler, because I’m always interested in churches and many churches are interested in relics.  Even palaces, like the Hofburg in Vienna, have their relics.  In fact, I probably saw more relics in one place in the Hofburg’s Treasury than I have seen in any church.

I feel the same way about religiously significant locales.  While I would like to go to Israel, I’m convinced that most of their religious sites are not sitting in the right place at all.  In most cases it is the traditional location, not the actual location and knowing there is a difference bugs me.

So, while I had probably read something that told me what I was about to see in the basement of Abu Sagus, known as the Cavern Church, it really hadn’t registered with me.  I just marked it up to, uh huh sure, would you like a piece of the True Cross?  

Hanging Church Mural of the Holy Family traveling to Egypt

Jesus in Egypt

Now we all know the story of the angel appearing to the Wise Men and warning them not to return to Herod after they had seen the Christ Child.  We know how Joseph, Mary and Jesus escaped Bethlehem to avoid the Massacre of the Innocents.  We all know that the Holy Family went to Egypt, but have you ever thought about where in Egypt they went?  OK, me either.  I assumed it was some cave or small town.  That’s what you get for assuming.

So, if you are a Jewish Family looking for a place to wait out a bad political situation, wouldn’t you go find some other Jews to hang out with?  And wouldn’t you look for a community where you could ply your trade?

To this very day, Jewish families tend to gather in the same area, near their synagogue of choice – especially observant Jews and those who practice the Orthodox tradition.  Wouldn’t the Holy Family do the same thing?  And where was there a significant Jewish Community and synagogue in Egypt?  Well, Cairo, of course, and for good measure it was supposed to be built on the spot where Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses.

We went down to the basement and there was the remains of a two room house, but this wasn’t just any house.  This was where the carpenter Joseph lived with his wife Mary and the Christ Child.  OK, so it it the traditional two room house where Joseph, Mary and Jesus lived, but this space is more believable to me than most of these types of locations.

Oral histories are very strong in Egypt.  I can see the Gospel writer Mark arriving in Cairo sharing his testimony.  Someone says, “Jesus of Nazareth?  His dad was my family’s carpenter!  You say He’s the Messiah! Come on, they went to my synagogue.  I can show you the very house they lived in.  He died on a cross and was resurrected?  Well, I’ll be!”

Without the Jerusalem Temple crowd, who did everything they could to wipe out any hint of a Messiah, I can see the Egyptian Jews accepting this information.  Especially since along with the tradition that the family lived in the neighborhood, there are stories of events which demonstrated Jesus was known as someone special, even as a child. Our Muslim guide considers it common knowledge, more than a mere rumor or tradition – just short of a scientifically proven fact.

We don’t get this, because here in American we’ve only been around for a few centuries.  Egyptians talk about ancient Pharaohs like we talk about our 2nd cousin on our mom’s side.  We might not know them personally, but we know about them.  So can I prove Jesus lived in the basement of the Abu Sargus before there was a church there.  No, but it seems reasonable to me.

Come back next week and we’ll see some more of Old Cairo.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Sightseeing in Cairo

TRAVEL THERE: SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST?

This trip to Egypt was one best thing after another, but our day in Old Cairo was special for many reasons.  Let’s get started!

A Long Wait

During my 1996 visit to Egypt, my niece had plans to take us to the churches in Old Cairo, but those plans were always for bokra  (tomorrow) and bokra never came.  I really didn’t know what I was missing.  I was so focused on getting to the Pyramids and the Cairo Museum the churches weren’t even on my list.

This time things were different.  Old Cairo was on my radar and the research I did told me not to miss it.  It also told me not to let anyone squeeze it into some part of a day, but to keep demanding the outing needed its own day.

First, Bill and Ayman tried to squeeze it into the day of the wedding, but I said no.  Then they suggested I see it on the day we transferred from the Fairmont to the Mena House.  I kept saying no.  Then I was somehow supposed to drive from Alexandria to Cairo, see the churches and get on a plane.  Nope that wasn’t happening either.  I’m only occasionally stubborn, but on those occasions, I’m very stubborn. 

The Cairo Museum

And speaking of stubborn.  Remember Zuzu, our guide to the Pyramids?  Well, he was back for a repeat performance.  And remember how he was determined to take us to Giza before we went to Dashour or Saqqura?  Well, we had the second stanza of that.  We were going to the Cairo Museum before we went to Old Cairo and that was that.

I have been to the Cairo Museum and unlike my first trip to the Pyramids, my visit to the museum trip was very satisfying.  I felt like I had the time on that trip to process everything I saw.  If I lived there, I would go to the museum on a regular basis.  Since I didn’t live there, I wanted to spend my time doing new things.  That didn’t happen.  So here I am out in front of the Cairo Museum with Zuzu listening to whatever it is that he wanted to tell me about the museum.

 

Old Cairo, Finally!

Old Cairo is very, very old.  To impress this fact upon us, Zuzu started with this ancient fortress.  It was known as the Fortress of Babylon in the early AD years and once the Nile flowed through it.  That’s important later on in the story.

The Old City is a warren of churches.  There is St. George’s Church and Covent, The Hanging Church, St. Barbara’s, Abu Sargus Cavern Church and a Synogogue.  It gets a little confusing, because some of the properties have changed hands several times.  Several have been rebuilt several times.  As I researched this part of the trip, I imagined having to walk great distances to see these various sights, but they are actually cheek to jowl – right in the same place.

Next week we’ll go start touring the churches. You won’t want to miss that!

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Yucatan Adventure

TRAVEL HERE: DISCOVER THE YUCATAN & THE MAYAN WORLD

No time for working out or a sit-down breakfasts today.  Our shore excursion met on the pier at 9:15, so we grabbed breakfast in the Windjammer Buffet and disembarked.

Progresso, Mexico

I love cruising and one of my favorite moments is stepping off the boat at a port of call.  Progresso was not new to us.  We’d been there several years ago on a Carnival cruise, but that was before I started blogging.  On that trip we visited the Dzibilchaltun ruins, which I highly recommend.  This time we were taking a tour called “Discover the Yucatan & the Mayan World”.  It was a sort of compromise somewhere in between going all the way to Chichen Itza and spending the day on the beach.

The city of Progresso is developing their port and I’m pretty sure the cute little market at the end of the pier was not there last time.  We didn’t see anything that tempted us to pull out our wallets, but it was a nice commercial enterprise and it gave us something to do while we waited for our tour to be called.

How do you spell relief?

On the Bus

Once everyone on the tour had been accounted for, our guide led us to our bus for the day.  For the most part it was in good condition, but I could tell it had been in service for awhile.  Our guide had a shtick about his name.  He complained that all of us tourists didn’t know how to properly roll the “R” in Carlos, so he’d prefer it if we called him The Big Chihuahua or Uncle Chewy.

Our first stop was Xcampo.  (Well, actually the roadside restroom before you got to Xcampo.)  Xcampo was a temple complex, like Chichen Itza or Dzibilxhaltun, but on a much smaller scale.  The visit was not very long, but long enough to wander around and climb on the pyramids.

And speaking of climbing the pyramids, we learned that the steps of the pyramid were so steep to be sure that no one could turn their back on the god and walk down.  They’d have to crawl down to do honor to the god.  In addition, That’s the reason the door to their huts were so low – to remind people to bow and do honor to the home’s inhabitants.

On to Dzemul

Dzemul was a small town primarily occupied by descendants of the Mayans.  Our first stop in the town was an architecturally correct replica of a Mayan home.  When the bus arrived our hostess was nowhere in sight.  We sat there a few moments as the guide tried to decide what to do about her absense.  Just about the time he decided we’d go to the next stop, up comes this darling little lady on the orange human-powered vehicle you see in the picture gallery.  These were the most popular vehicles in town and came in a wide variety of colors and themes.

As Uncle Chewy explained the details of Mayan home-building, our hostess went out back, stoked up a fire and made us some tortillas.  They were good!

The next stop was the local Catholic church with a long history.  There we were greeted by this beautiful woman in her traditional hand-made dress.  Just so you don’t miss it, that’s cross-stitch and it covers the dress.  Can you imagine how long it took to make it?

We were enchanted by this lady.  She exuded pride and self-confidence.  She and some associates performed some folk dances for us and one performed with a tray of water-filled glasses.  The the tray of dancer in the picture got a little off balance and dribbled water on her as she danced.  She was such a pro that it didn’t even cause her to blink.  She completed the dance without ever touching the tray and behaved as if the water dripping on her was just part of the act.  The dancers on the ship could take lessons from her.

Inside the church we were treated to a little history. Bill was amazed to learn that they used to make church doors so large in order for people on horseback to ride in, without having to get of their horse, in times of emergency.

Cultural orientation completed it was time to go to the beach.  Come back next week and join us there.  In the meantime, enjoy these pictures of Dzemul.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Return to the Fairmont

TRAVEL THERE: READY TO GO HOME

This is the scene that welcomed me to the Heliopolis Fairmont over two weeks before.  The lobby hadn’t changed, but we weren’t quite as happy with our rooms.  Yes, that’s plural.  We were in three different rooms before the stay was over.

Hello Mr. Sadek

The Fairmont staff was eager to welcome us back, but before the next few days were over, I bet they were glad to see us go.  “Is there anything we can do to make your stay more pleasant, Mr. Sadek?”  The question was a mistake.  Bill asked for a view of the pool and they gave it to him, but it should have come with a disclaimer.

We were exhausted.  Day after day had been one adventure after another.  We felt as if we’d walked a million miles since we’d last been in Cairo.  The bellman ushered us to our room and along with our luggage.  Bill went to the toilet and I laid on the bed.  I had a bit of a headache, but laying down didn’t seem to help.  A part of me said, “That’s because of the loud music you’re hearing.”

I got up off the bed and looked out the window.  We had a view of the pool alright – a view of the pool and the huge party they were having around it!  elegantly clad Egyptians stood in congenial groups around the pool.  Food and beverage stations were spread throughout the crowd.  And there was music – loud music.  Music so loud that you would have thought that the band was in the room with us.

Bill emerged from the bathroom and I asked him if the noise was bothering him.  In fact it was and a peek out the window confirmed it had only begun.   It was just about sunset and the party was just warming up.

Hello Again Mr. Sadek

Bill confirmed via the phone that the party wasn’t about to wrap up anytime soon.  He may have said a few other things, but since it was in Arabic I can’t tell you what it was.  Maybe this has something to do with why I haven’t learned the language.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss.  Bill can have an hour long conversation with one of the family members and I get about a 10 second summary.  I also don’t have to know exactly what he says to people when he’s unhappy and Mr. Bill was unhappy.

Bill decided to handle the situation in person and went down to the lobby.  He returned with a bellman who moved us to a room overlooking the other pool.  The noise situation had been unfortunate, but the new room seemed fine.  I didn’t have as much unpacking to do as usual, since we only had one day left, but I set about getting us moved in for this stay.

The next day was one of our favorite touring days and I will tell you about that next week, but first let me tell you about our next night at the Fairmont.

Hello Once Again Mr. Sadek

We had a busy day of sight-seeing and saying farewell to family on our final day in Cairo.  We returned to the room well-fed by Bill’s sister and filthy with the dust of Cairo.  We both took showers and got ready to make it an early night.  We needed to be up around 4 AM.

Bill watched a little TV and I puttered around the room, packing everything except the clothes we would wear, a few toiletries and what we had on our back.  When I finished, Bill switched off the TV and fired up his phone.  Checking Facebook and watching a few videos is a nightly ritual with him.  It was just about 9:45 when I pulled out my book intending to read myself to sleep – which I didn’t anticipate would  take very long.  Just about the time I got comfy, our room was invaded by loud Egyptian music.

A paper tent next to the bed reminded me that it was the evening of the hotel’s Arabian Feast and guess where it was?  At the pool right below our window.  This was not a good thing.

Bill got on the phone again.  This time he was not speaking in Arabic, but I can’t repeat what he said and keep my G rating with WordPress, but basically, he wanted to know what a guest had to do to get some sleep in that hotel.  It’s the first time we’ve ever had to explain what we were going to do in a hotel room.

This time they did not want Mr. Sadek in the lobby.  A committee of management figures and a bellhop reported to the room.  They wanted to move us to a suite, but all those available overlooked the Arabic Feast now going full steam out at the secondary pool.  Bill said he didn’t want a suite.  All he wanted to do was sleep.  So they offered another room, a larger one this time, but that wasn’t good enough for Bill.

He’d just watched me painstakingly set out everything for a quick departure in the morning.  He didn’t want to have to pack up all the incidentals, move them all and then reorganize things once again.  After a bit of negotiating, they offered to let us keep our stuff in this room and just move ourselves over to the other room.

So we all paraded (Bill and I in our pajamas) from a room on one floor to a room on another floor which faced the street.  Bill had been livid, but maintained the presence of mind to bring that beloved bottle of bourbon with him.  Thanks again Shady.

We had a nightcap, which settled us down enough to sleep.  What a way to spend your last night in Egypt.  Next week I’ll recap our final day in the city, but this is one story that all needed to be on one page!

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Cruising the Nile Like a Queen

TRAVEL THERE: THE PHARAOH’S DINNER CRUISE

Moksen, my nephew Bassem’s new father-in-law, invited us to be his guest on an early Nile Dinner Cruise.  He’d enjoyed our hospitality on a visit to the States and was eager to return the favor.  He returned the favor in spades!

An Early Arrival

Since we’d allowed plenty of time to visit the monastery during our trip from Alex to Cairo, we were early to the cruise.  Izzat entertained us a little by driving us around the elegant neighborhood near the dock of the boat, but that didn’t take very long and we really didn’t have time for anything else.  Hence we arrived at the boat long before anyone else – and what a boat!

I’m telling you Cleopatra would have been thrilled to take a cruise on this boat.  The photos really don’t do it justice, but the boat was covered in gilded pharaonic decorations.  The waiters wore the same garb as Cleo’s servants would have worn.  All that was missing was getting fanned by ostrich plumes and I have a feeling if I’d asked for it, they would have been able to comply with my wishes.

An Excellent Meal

If you remember any of the details about my nephew’s wedding and reception, then you know that no expense was spared.  This dinner cruise was similar – the best of the best. 

While we waited for our party, I checked out the restroom facilities and they were much improved over our roadside stop.  Then we wandered around the boat checking out every elegant detail.

Before long Moksen and his lovely wife Shahira, first on the left side, were coming aboard and the party started.  It was a huge, delicious meal and I was thrilled to be with my family once again.  

Once we’d eaten our fill (and a little bit more) we all wandered outside to enjoy the view from the decks.  Our hosts had invited us to the early cruise – about 2:30 – and this allowed us to see Cairo in all it’s daytime glory.  I’m sure the evening experience is romantic, but I would not have traded our daytime views for anything.

I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to enjoy this amazing trip.  It seems as if every time I travel I say, “This was the trip of a lifetime,” but each time it seems true.  From family tours of historic American sites when I was a child to wandering through the English countryside in my twenties to the Danube Cruise I took in 2016, they are all singular experiences many people never get the opportunity to enjoy.  This trip was no different.  Each day was an absolute wonder.  It has taken over a year to share it with you, but it is finally drawing to a close.  Only one more full day to share and then we’ll have to see what our next adventure will be.

Enjoy and come back tomorrow for our return to the Fairmont.  The second time around was a little more problematic that our original stay!

 

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Alex to Cairo with Detours

Farewell to the incongruities of Alex. McDonald’s Delivery Bikes at the Montazza

TRAVEL THERE: ROADSIDE DETRACTIONS

Our time in Egypt is coming to an end.  We are on our way back to Cairo from Alexandria.  We had a couple of detours, but made it in time to get on the boat for a family celebration.  Come along for the ride.

Alex to Cairo

After our visit to the archaeological sites in Carmous, we’d planned to take in another important historical contribution to Egypt’s culture.  The early introduction of Christianity to Egypt had an interesting by-product.  Egyptians eagerly embraced monotheism and added their own particular brand of devotion – monasticism.   Egyptian monastic aesthetes  led the the way in creating places for men and women to withdraw from the world and serve Jesus Christ.

That was the plan, but then there were the Good Friday massacres.  In response to these horrific bombings, the Roman Catholic pope was going to make a visit to Egypt – unprecedented in modern times.   This was good news for Christianity in Egypt, but it had some side effects.  One of them was the closing of the monasteries to outside visitors in the days leading up to the visit.

In true Egyptian fashion, we had to arrive at the gate of the monastery to find out they were closed, but it was a nice detour.  We got off the main road to travel through some rural areas and small towns on the way to the monastery.  It was the Muslim holy day and it was great to see all the white clad men in their caftans and turbans walking to their place of worship.  I rode along thinking about the juxtaposition of these two forms of worship.  Then we got to the gate and discovered what had seemed like such a tranquil setting was actually hiding the age old conflict between Christian and Muslim.

Our Potty Stop

So, we’d enjoyed the restroom facilities near Pompey’s Pillar.  I assumed I’d be able to visit the restroom again at the monastery, but we were turned away at the gate.  Religious differences aside, I needed a toilet.  Besides the obvious issue, I had another problem.  Women are supposed to wear long sleeves at the monastery and if they are wearing a skirt, it should be long and there should be no bare legs or feet.  In other words I was about to burn up.

Izzat didn’t seem real happy about finding a restroom for us to visit, but as always he assured us he would take care of our needs.  Did you ever see the movie Deliverance?  Well there was no river with wooded shores when we stopped at a roadside convenience store, but I could have sworn I heard the soundtrack playing – just not on the banjo.

I made short work of my wardrobe adjustments and potty stop.  Then I high-tailed it back to the car.  I think Bill and Izzat got some snacks, but I wasn’t going to waste any time.  Izzat was a perfect driver, but he was awful at finding restrooms.  I don’t think that was from a lack of trying, but a scarcity of facilities.  We’d had difficulty with this at both ends of the trip to Alexandria.

Cairo is up next and you’ll love The Pharaoh Cruise.  See you next week