Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

It’s Nice in Nice!

Travel There: Lunch and Shopping in Nice

Life on a cruise:  another bus ride, another meeting point and another meal.  That about sums it up, but come on with me and enjoy Nice.  While I’d still take Cap d’Antibes over Nice, there nothing not to enjoy about the city.

An Dining Opportunity

One thing I can easily say about this trip is that we bought more food onshore than we usually do on cruises.  Some of that may have been because our shore excursions were such marathons and not all of them included a meal.  However, I think it also had a lot to do with Jim and Melanie.  One of their primary interests at every stop was where to eat and drink, while Bill and me on our own tend to find other things to do.  I’m not complaining though.  It was fun.

Though it seemed as if we’d just left the sidewalk cafe in Cap d’Antibes, the first order of business in Nice was to find another sidewalk cafe.  This time it was Le Gande Balcon and we were getting more than a snack. 

Bill and I both had prawns and oh my goodness, I have rarely seen such big ones.  Mine came with pasta and Bill’s came with risotto.   Glasses of wines and adult beverages were enjoyed by all.

A Shopping Opportunity

Le Grande Balcon was in the middle of a shopping area.  Nearby shops filled the sidewalks with their wares and a little further down was an open air market.  We’d all been so busy being tourists, very little shopping had been happening, in spite of all the shopping opportunities the guides had forced on us.  Those opportunities usually came with a pretty heft price tag.  Though there was one more day of touring left, no one wanted to get home without the requisite souvenirs, so after our wonderful meal, we hit the shops.

The shop closest to the restaurant had laminated place-mats and for some reason Bill was all over them.  He picked out four odd place-mats – two with roosters and two with cartoon cats.  They were the absolute last thing I would have chosen as a souvenir of this trip, but hey, Bill rarely shows any interest in any souvenirs.  So, if he wanted plastic place-mats, by golly, I thought he should get plastic place-mats.

Further down I found a shop of linen goods.  They had a darling dress I knew my sweet next door neighbor would love, so I had to get that.  Continuing down the street we wandered into the open air market.  I found a delightful vendor offering gifts of lavender sachets in the printed cotton which Provence is known for.  That’s where I bought my souvenirs.

Visiting the Beach

There wasn’t much time left, but we wanted to get a few pictures of the gorgeous beach.  We headed back to the meeting point, which had been across from the beach.  We wished for a few more hours to explore the area, but we had minutes, not hours.  Another reason for us to head back to the French Rivera someday.

After having time for just a few photos, it was time to get on the bus and ride back to the ship. We had a quiet afternoon in our cabin.  Bill napped.  I caught up on my journal and did some reading.

That evening the rest of the gang had decided to fork out big bucks to eat at Eden.  They say it was fabulous and for the first time in his life, Bill actually admitted that he wished he’d had any idea it would have been so good.  He actually wished that he had spent the money.

Instead, we had dinner at the Cosmopolitan, which was actually the third time we ate there.  I was surprised Bill didn’t want to go back to the Italian or French restaurant, but I think it may have had more to do with proximity than anything else.  We enjoyed the downtime.

After dinner we took in a show called Gilly and Girl in the Theater.  It fit the easy-going mood of the day – just a couple doing love songs and ballads.  We strolled the shopping area where various events were supposed to be happening, but it was all just a come on to get passengers shopping.

Even the shopkeepers didn’t want to participate, so we just went back to our cabin.  Guess what!  We’d both left our keycards in the room and had to go back to guest services.  We giggled all the way there and all the way back to the room.  We’ve traveled entirely too much to have both made that mistake on the same evening – but that’s just what we’d done!

One day of touring left.  Come back next week for Palma de Mallorca.

 

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Museums, Shopping, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Back to Naples

Happy nappers on the way back to Naples

TRAVEL THERE: WRAPPING UP THE DAY

Our ten and a half hour baptism by tourism was drawing to and end.  We were treated to one more shopping opportunity.  This one had to do with Limoncello liquor and came with another restroom visit, but this restroom required an entry fee.  Bill didn’t realize that when he he headed up the stairs.  A small personal drama ensued.

Lost in Pompeii

So, we heard all about the wonders of Limoncello and several people bellied up to the bar to take some home.  Bill headed to the restroom, but I didn’t need to go, so I browsed around the little shop near the bottom of the stairs.  Bill was supposed to get me on his way out, but somehow a restroom that required euros damaged his thought process.  He headed out of the place and forgot all about me.

After I’d looked at everything in the store about 75 times I started to wander around a bit.  I had someone check the restroom to see if Bill was inside.  I walked every inch of the building several times.  I kept telling myself that he wouldn’t have left without me, but it became apparent that he actually had.

The ‘being lost’ rule in my family had always been, stay where you last saw someone, because if you start wandering around you’ll never be found.  The lesson had stuck with me and even though it was apparent Bill was nowhere in the building I kept walking around looking for him.  Problem was, Bill was not in my family of origin, so he didn’t know the rules.

I finally worked up my nerve and wandered outside to look for him.  He was nowhere in sight.  I finally saw some people from our bus, but no one that I knew.  I strolled over to chat them up, hoping my desperation didn’t show.  Before too long other people from our own little group began to show up, but none of them was Bill.  I was relieved, because others had seen him since I had, but I still wanted my husband.

He showed up happy as a clam unaware that I was on the edge of being distraught.  He hadn’t missed me, didn’t realize he’d abandoned me in the shop and he felt no remorse about the terror I had been dealing with.  It was all well and good to tell me everything was alright, but it wasn’t doing anything for the adrenaline pumping through my veins.

We climbed back on the bus to go back to Naples and I tried to get back into the rhythm of having fun, but it had been pretty upsetting. I did eventually get over it, but if you’ve had a similar experience, you know that you really, really want to be mad at someone for something, even though you know there’s really no need for your angst.

Back on Board

Once back on board the ship, some of our group visited the always-open Oceanside Buffet for an afternoon snack, but food didn’t even sound good to me.  I went back to the cabin and got gussied up for the evening.

Bill and I love on board entertainment, so we caught an evening performance in the theater called Kaleidoscope.  It was much better than the Whitney Houston thing – very Cirque de Soleil.  I know the Bagleys were still very much involved in the whole Art Gallery scene.  They were always showing up at the last minute saying they’d been there picking out frames or arranging shipment or whatever.  I’m not sure what the girls got up to, but they really liked having drinks and people-watching.

Dinner was at the Tuscan Restaurant, which meant we ate Italian.  Exhaustion had set in and I couldn’t tell you what I ate or whether I liked it or not.  My journal says we had a perfectly lovely evening, so I’ll have to leave it at that.  After the meal, some of us went to Eden to see something called Revelation, but it was late and we were tired, so we didn’t stay long.

The next morning was our day at sea, the one in which we’d celebrate our 25th Anniversary with a Vow Renewal.  Come back next week for that for sure!

 

Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Shopping, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Sojourn in Sorrento

TRAVEL THERE: PIZZA IN THE PIAZZA

Though I deemed it worth the visit, Capri had been very hot and very crowded.  Now, we had ferry ride back to the mainland.  That’s OK, we all needed a nap.

Better Than Before

It wasn’t a jet foil we took to Sorrento.  It was much larger and all the seating was downstairs. It was pretty much superior in every way you can imagine.  The hordes of Asian tourists we’d had with us on the way to Capri were nowhere in sight and no one, including Bill, was sea sick.  He didn’t take any chances, though.  He closed his eyes as soon as he boarded, so he was the first of us to fall asleep.

Though Bill fell asleep first and stayed that way longer than any of us, he was not alone.  We were all snoozing.  Bill just happened to be the only one I caught with my camera.

Sorrento

Welcome to Sorrento

Like Capri, Sorrento was a bit of a logistical challenge.  There was a small part of the village down by the shore, but the part we wanted, the Old Town was up a pretty steep road.  So, we trotted from the dock to a small square, where we waited while Paolo went for our transportation.  We climbed the hill in a small van and minutes later we were on another small square.

We were whisked from the van to a shopping opportunity, disguised as a craft demonstration, only everyone saw through the ruse.  It was a woodworking shop where they did elaborate wood mosaics.  We stood politely through the demonstration and appreciated the lovely merchandise, but no one in our group had come prepared to purchase a convert-able gaming table or a huge grandfather clock.  The establishment did offer restroom facilities, but our group took care of that on the ferry.

It seemed Paolo was impatient with these “shopping opportunities” he forced on us, but it’s all part of the tourist game and we appreciated access to nice toilets.  Once we were released from the shop, we were given free time for eating and shopping.

The Value of Proximity

Right next to the shop was a restaurant with a nice patio.  We were thrilled to take a seat under it’s awning and relax on dry land.  We ordered up cold Bierra Morettis and hot Napoli pizza.  They served french fries with the pizza, which we thought was weird.  However, we were hungry after our long hot morning and nap, so it didn’t matter.  We compared notes about the cruise so far and had some of the best moments we’d had yet.  I’ve included a video to prove it.

Soon it was time to load up on our bus again.  Our next destination was Pompeii.  I longed for one of those private early morning tours of the site, which avoid the heat of the day and the crush of tourists, but we only had one day in Naples and I was glad I had not missed Capri or my piazza-side pizza in Sorrento.

Enjoy the short video and get a feel for the enjoyable time we were having.  Then come back next week and we’ll look at the ancient ruins of Pompeii.

 

DESTINATIONS, International, Shopping, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Let’s Go Gown Shopping

Wedding Toast 25 Years Ago
The First Time Around

TRAVEL THERE: WHAT DO YOU WEAR FOR A VOW RENEWAL

From the day we decided to go on this cruise and have a vow renewal ceremony, the thing my friend Deb seemed the most excited about was shopping for my gown.  That’s not that big of a surprise.  We love shopping and we don’t even need a reason to do it, but this was somewhat of an occasion.

Setting My Expectations

While Bill thought I should probably wear a lace sundress I’ve had in my closet for several years, Deb and I were determined I would have a proper gown for the big day.  She started asking early on what I wanted and I actually had no idea.  I did run on to several photos that had a sort of flapper feel to them that I liked.

I’d done the big , heavily-beaded satin gown with long sleeves the first time around.  I was looking for something more simple, more mature and perhaps a little sexier.  What I didn’t want was strapless, with a sweetheart neckline.  I’d seen one too many of those on Say Yes to the Dress.

During our discussions about this singular article of clothing, Deb warned me that I’d need to spend about $5000.  I knew that wasn’t happening.  My original wedding dress had been a sample I found at a consignment store and it had only cost me a few hundred dollars.  I’d seen it elsewhere for several thousand, but that’s not what I’d paid for it.  I didn’t see why the renewal gown should cost more than the wedding gown – even with inflation.

The top dollar I had in my mind was $500 and it would have had to be some kind of gown for me to pay that much, but that was my ceiling.  Deb thought I was in for an education.

Shopping Day

The first place we visited on a slightly dreary February day was David’s Bridal.  I actually didn’t see anything I wanted to try on in the regular stock.  Over on the clearance rack I found two likely suspects.  One I adored and I adored the price tag even more, but I wasn’t going to end our shopping fun quite so quickly.  If it was meant to be, then it would be there when I came back to get it.

We spent the day going all over the place, but I actually only found one other gown that even competed with that downright bargain I’d seen at David’s Bridal.  We went to special occasion dress stores, bridal salons, a designer outlet, consignment stores and even a few department stores, but nada.  With the field narrowed down it was time for Bill’s input.  People are aghast that I have no problem allowing him to see the dress.  He picked out the first one and it worked out OK, so why wouldn’t he do the same for the vow renewal.

Two Choices

The David Bridal dress would be best described as old Hollywood.  Halter styled in ivory chiffon with a great big bow at the neckline – you’ve seen Marilyn Monroe in dresses like it.  I found the other dress at Terry Costa and it was more Aubrey Hepburn than Marilyn Monroe.  Demure, with a high-neck, lace bodice and chiffon skirt, it was in white.  I couldn’t lose.

In neither of my stores was I going to get the Kleinfield’s treatment.  Bill and I visited David’s first.  He had the requisite tears, but he wanted to see the other dress, too.  There was no comparison.  He couldn’t wait to get back to David’s.

Remember my $500 budget?  Well subtract $375 from that, because when I’m telling you I got a bargain, I mean it.  What?  You want to see it? Well, just because I let the groom see it doesn’t mean you get a peek at it before the big day.  Come back next week and we’ll talk about shore excursions.

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

Visiting Chichen Itza

The Famous Pyramid of Chichen Itza

TRAVEL THERE: A VERY LONG DAY

Our visit to Chichen Itza was a very long day and there is no way I can cover all of it in one post, so I’ll start with the logistics of the day and we’ll work from there.

Finally Chichen Itza

Though Chichen Itza has always been at the top of my Yucatan Wish List, I didn’t make it either of the other two times we visited the area.  Both of our previous visits have been via cruise ship to the port of Progresso and Chichen Itza is significantly inland from there, so we chose more accessible Mayan sites.

The first time we visited the ruins at Dzibilchaltan and it was a particularly enjoyable shore excursion, complete with lunch and a rodeo.  The archaeological site was interesting and there was a wonderful museum.  Last time we went to Xcampo.  It was a smaller site, but still interesting.  So, we’re getting pretty knowledgeable about the Mayans, but nothing can prepare you for Chichen ItzaIt is both marvelous and horrid.

Up Early  & Out Late

The first thing the guidebook I bought warned me about Chichen Itza was to avoid excursions from Cancun, because so much time is spent in transit.  Well, I appreciated the advice and understood the reasoning, but this was it.  If I didn’t go this time, chances are I might never again get the opportunity.

As we shopped excursions I saw two versions of the trip over and over.  Either you had to be on a bus by 4 AM or you left between 7 and 8.  The problem I discovered however, was that when you took later tours, you were in Chichen Itza during the hottest part of the afternoon, because all the tours stopped for lunch before going to the site.

Then Sandra Rubio, my travel agent at CTC Travel turned me on to ShoreTrips.com and they had a package called the Chichen Itza Plus.  This version of the trip would pick us up between 7 and 8, but we’d go to the site before lunch.  SOLD!

Since we were among the first to be picked up, we had to be in the lobby at 7:10.  When we got there after a quick visit to the breakfast buffet, they were waiting for us.  It was quite the ordeal to get out of town though.  The bus they picked us up in was bigger than the airport transport vans, but not as big as the full-sized tour buses.  We stopped at several hotels in the smaller bus and then traded to the big bus, but even then we had many more stops to make.

All that driving took a long time, but it was interesting to drive around and see other parts of Cancun.  I’d say it was about nine when we finally headed to Cancun.  They served a small breakfast – pastries, coffee and orange juice.  We were glad we’d hit the resort’s buffet.

The drive to Chichen Itza was about an hour and a half.  They stopped off at a shopping opportunity to use the restroom.  I was focused on sightseeing, not shopping, so they didn’t get to sell me anything.  Another short drive took us to the archaeological site – which I’ll go into in detail later.

After a couple of hours at the site, we went back to the shopping opportunity to have a very nice buffet lunch.  In my opinion, they would have gotten a lot more shopping out of me if they’d have let me use the restroom at Chichen Itza and given me shopping time after lunch.

Then, after lunch we made another short drive to Ik Kil Cenote.  I’ll also tell you more about that in a later blog, but it was a great way to end the day.  Well, the day wasn’t quite over.  We still had to drive back to Cancun, which seemed to take forever in the dark.

As we neared Cancun, the lights inside the bus switched on, a recorded version of “Tequila” was played on the loudspeaker and one of our guides had donned a wild get-up that I supposed was intended to be Mayan.  They served shots of tequila to anyone who wanted one, but right then it didn’t even sound good to me.  I was whupped.

It seemed like midnight when we got to the hotel, but I think it was only about 8:30.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about our time in Chichen Itza.

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL

Let’s Go Shopping!

TRAVEL BUG TALES: SOMETHING I WAS GOOD AT

Three days into my tropical vacation I was finally excited about something.  We pooled our resources for a limo (one way only) and headed to Freeport.  I was happy to finally be on familiar ground.

We Hit the Sidewalk Shopping

Our limo dropped us off at a shopping area near the casino.  Each of us had a list of people to buy for and some cash to spend.  This one wanted a watch, someone else was looking for jewelry and I’d heard you could get good deals on porcelain and crystal.  My list really just consisted of Mom and Aunt Edie, so I took an interest in what everyone else was looking for and helped them in their search.

When it came to understanding what was a bargain among the luxury items we saw, my friend Debbie actually had a better grasp, but I was the one with a good sense of direction.  I was able to maneuver us around the shopping maze with ease.  We browsed around all morning and at the end of it, I was able to direct everyone back to the place they’d seen their favorite thing for the best price.  I got some Wedgewood pieces for Mom and Aunt Edie.  I was going to get my dad a golf cap from the resort.  That just about did it.

What’s for Lunch? 

We’d heard from somewhere that the best place for lunch was at the Freeport Princess snack bar.  Like the shopping area, the Princess was near the casino.  I have to confess that when I got there I wished we were staying there rather than out in the boonies.  This place was happening.  The clientele was very different from the families with 2.5 kids and the college students we had out at the Grand Bahama Hotel.

That’s where we made the love connection.  The guy in the solid yellow shirt and bell bottomed jeans was Michael and he was a hunk.  It was one of those across a crowded room sort of things.  He had a crew of friends and they sorted themselves out among my friends, but Michael and I had energy.

The guy in the white jeans and hat was the organizer of the group.  He pointed the conversation towards the guys coming out to see us on our end of the island.  Michael and I were happy to go along with whatever anybody else dreamed up as long as it meant our chance encounter would get an opportunity to develop into something.

It was nearing the time we’d arranged for our limo to return and pick us up.  The guys planned to borrow a car from somewhere and drive to our end of the island.  It seemed like a great plan.  After all the disappointments I’d endured so far, it seemed as if my vacation prospects were picking up.

There was giggly girl talk all the way back to the hotel.  While Michael and I had been an item from the get-go, the other connections were still pretty loose, so there was a whole lot of bargaining going on.  We all agreed on one thing, Michael was the hunk of the bunch and he was all about me.

We had dinner at the buffet and started watching for the guys.  Come back next week and see how that went.

ART, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Shopping, TRAVEL

Our First Day at Sea

Photo Won at the Art Auction

TRAVEL THERE: ENJOYING THE BOAT

There she is!  Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas.  On our day at sea, we explored many of her charms and suffered a few of her deficiencies.  Come along and see how it went.

Up & At ‘Em

First up, the gym!  I’m an early riser, so I take advantage of it to get in an hour on a stationary bike.  The gym on Vision of the Seas is nice, but quite small.  On this morning, pretty much every spot on the equipment was filled.

I got my hour in and headed back to the room via the the buffet.  I filled up my soda cup, got Bill some ice water and picked up a few pastries in case Mr. Bill was ravenous.

More Like Eggs Benedict Arnold

Breaking Our Fast

We enjoy the luxury of sit down service and convivial company, so we returned to the Aquarius Dining Room for our morning repast.  There is no assigned seating, so you get the luck of the draw in table mates. The luck of the draw in food was pretty marginal, especially their sorry excuse for Eggs Benedict.

We ended up at a table with a bunch of round dancers, who were nice, but only interested in their dancing, so we were relieved when a mother and her daughter arrived.  After a little chatting we discovered they’d been caught in all the flooding from Harvey and it was interesting to hear about their experiences.  They became our new cruise buddies and we enjoyed seeing them several other times during the week.

We went back to the room so Bill could wrangle with his computer and the market.  I took a shower and got ready for the day, in part by perusing the Cruise Compass and picking out the good stuff, like the Art Auction

My Free Gift

Champagne Art Auction

One of my favorite things at sea are the Park West art auctions. How can you lose if you’re spending your morning looking at art and hearing tidbits about artists and the art world, while you sip free champagne?  I’m probably not ever going to be bidding, but it’s relaxing, fun and interesting.  Bill doesn’t exactly feel the same way.  He’ll attend, probably more for the champagne than the art, but he sits there, giving me a running commentary on the dangers of buying art at sea, just in case I get the urge to lift my bidding card.

Were I to actually bid on something, it would be because I thought it was a pretty picture and I’d enjoy looking at it.  Occasionally I’ll say something complimentary about a painting and Bill reacts as if I’m considering purchasing a fake Mona Lisa and he demands to know which wall we’d hang it on.  It sort of takes the fun out of the dreaming, but I just shake my head in amusement and have another sip of champagne.

Beyond the champagne, there’s always a free gift of art.  This time a 7×7 seriolithograph by Yuval Wolfson.  If I had any space on our walls, I could frame it and hang it.  Instead it will end up in my scrapbook.  There was an extra bonus this time which will also find its way to my scrapbook.  To hold the audience’s attention, they also have drawings for Royal Caribbean chotkies, like t-shirts and water bottles.  To my amazement I won one of the drawings and I got two lovely 8×10 photos of the ship – one of which is shown above – and which will kick off my scrapbook of this adventure.

Winding Up the Day and Gearing Up for the Night

The auction lasted past the sit down lunch, so we were forced to go back to the Windjammer for a buffet lunch.  It was marginally better than the Embarkation Buffet, but that’s not saying much.

Usually we would have explored more of the boat, but on this trip, Bill had to keep an eye on the market, so we went back to our room.  I really can’t complain about the relaxation.  The room was comfortable, the sea was just outside our window and after catching up on my travel journal I did a little reading.

Come back next week and I’ll tell you about formal night.

Accommodations, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Shopping, TRAVEL

No Vavoom in VOOM

TRAVEL THERE: GETTING CONNECTED

Royal Caribbean calls their internet service VOOM and it comes in two flavors – with and without streaming.  We call it FAIL in either flavor.

First Impressions Matter

After a disappointing Embarkation Buffet and Sail Away, we were getting worried about out cruise, but the boat was nice, our cabin was fine and we liked our cabin attendant.  All was not lost – yet.  We’d made a stab at having fun.  Now it was time to get down to business.  As I shared a few weeks ago, even though he’d tried to offload his business for the few days we’d be gone, it hadn’t worked and Bill was going to have to keep an eye on the market.  For that we’d need internet, so we made our way to Deck 5 to do a little business.

Literature I had read suggested there would be an internet cafe somewhere on the boat with free wi-fi.  There wasn’t.  Perhaps some of the ships have it, but not Vision of the Seas.  There were a few computers you could log onto and there was some limited internet access, but if you wanted to check your email forget about it.  Doing what Bill wanted to do would have been impossible.

Chasing VOOM

We went to the Customer Service Desk and they said we could just log-in and get internet ourselves or we could see the Internet Desk.  Since there were two different packages and he wasn’t sure which one he wanted, he went to the Internet Desk.  He also only wanted internet on two of the four days, not the balance of the cruise.

There was no attendant at the Internet Desk, so we cooled our wheels until they came back.  When she appeared, Bill really challenged her scripts.  Everybody is supposed to want internet for the whole cruise and she didn’t know what to think of Bill.  In the end, she also told him how to sign up online, because if she signed him up on his phone,he’d have to log out of the phone and then log back in on the laptop.  See when you sign up for internet you only get it for one person on one device – and they mean it.

So we dutifully went down to the room.  I finally started unpacking and Bill sat down to log in.  Soon I was unpacked and Bill was headed back out of the room, because what had sounded so reasonable at the Internet Desk didn’t work on the laptop in the room.  I stayed behind to finish unpacking and to start getting ready for the evening.

When he got back I could tell things did not go well.  The VOOM lady had offered to give him a refund when he told her how much trouble he was having.  I bet that was an interesting conversation.  She quickly got the message that a refund wasn’t going to cut the mustard and soon he was working his way up the food chain to find someone on board who could get him online.  They’d finally gotten him operational, but barely.  He was one unhappy cruiser.

Obviously, things were not going well on this cruise – and guess what!  The disappointments had only just begun.  Come back next week and we’ll go investigate a few other shortfalls.

DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL

A Sweet Alexandrian Tradition

TRAVEL THERE: DELICES PASTISSERIE

After our five mile stroll from the Four Seasons to The Cecil, Mr. Bill was ready to get to our room and take a nap.  He suggested we forego whatever surprise I had in store, but I urged him to hang with me just a few minutes more.

Delighting Alex since 1922

Our balcony at The Cecil gave us a jaw dropping view of the Mediterranean Sea, but it also overlooked a lovely little park that filled the block next to the hotel.  In one of my visits to the balcony I’d spied people sitting along the sidewalk on the south side of the park, chatting over coffee and pastries.  Delices didn’t mean anything to me, but since they’d been around since 1922, I thought they must be doing something right.

With the front door to the hotel just steps away, I led Bill to my discovery and was he ever happy.  The pastry store fronts two different streets and inside is case after case after case of amazing looking pastries.  Bill’s desire for his nap disappeared completely as he wandered from case to case trying to decide which treat he would indulge in.  After narrowing it down to a few favorites, Bill gave me the final choice for something to share.  I chose the the chocolate treat above, of course.

Naptime

We took our treasure back to the hotel to enjoy and then Bill promptly went down for a nap.  I don’t do naps very well, so I used the time the way I usually did – updating my travel journal, catching up on social media (when there is wi-fi), doing a few crossword puzzles and reading.

It had been a long day for Mr. Bill.  Museums always tire him and the Bibliotheca Alexandrine had been a humdinger.  We’d had our stressful moments with the rogue hantoor driver and that wild taxi ride.  Then we’d walked five miles.  Quite a day!  Even though I don’t usually manage to take a nap, this time I eventually dozed off to sleep.

Late Night Stroll

When we woke up, we both wanted a little something to eat, but not a full meal.  Bill wanted ice cream and I reminded him Delices had ice cream.  We were out of that room in a flash!

I had on a snakeskin printed lounging set I’d gotten from my Aunt Edie.  It’s perfectly acceptable for wearing out in public, even though that’s not something I usually do.  I’ll wear it down to breakfast or perhaps put it on when I know we’re going to spend most of the day in the car on a long drive, but it’s not my go-to outfit for a stroll around a big city like Alexandria – especially when a peek outside tells me there are more people out and about than there had been during the day.  I  suggested I change clothes, but Bill insisted that all we were going to do was pop over to the pastry store.  I slid into a pair of canvas espadrilles and threw a windbreaker over my outfit.

Yes, we went right over to Delices.  Both of us got some ice cream.  Even though that’s not my usual snack, an ice cream cone sounded fun for our late night adventure. However, we did not immediately head back to the room.

Bill led me off down a side street full of action.  All the stores were open and the sidewalks were lined with pop-up vendors.  You could buy anything from toilet paper to an engagement ring along the street.  Crowds of natives wove between the stalls and the stores, laughing, talking and occasionally making a purchase.

I’d had a moment’s hesitation when Bill veered into the side street.  It was late.  I wasn’t dressed right.  I didn’t know if it was safe.  I could have made all kinds of excuses to scurry back to the hotel, but I’m glad we didn’t.  We got a look at the real Alex without any tourists (besides ourselves) in sight.

Water is a constant challenge in Egypt.  There’s the need to stay hydrated in the desert sun and heat, but you can’t drink anything out of the tap.  To meet this challenge every other store sells bottled water and on every block there’s a rickety wooden stand staffed by a burka-ed grandmother.  We opted for the grandmother every time that we could.  On our way back to the hotel we visited the grandmother we’d chosen to be our vendor in Alex.  We also bought a Coke Zero from her so we could enjoy a little of my nephew’s bourbon.

A sweet ending to an exciting day.  I’ll leave you with one final photo.  More museums are in store for next week.  Come back and visit me then.

ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, Shopping, TRAVEL

My Sharm-ing Shopping Opportunity

TRAVEL THERE: A MIDNIGHT TRIP TO THE LOCAL SOUK

Bokra is a word you hear frequently in Egypt.  It means tomorrow, but just like the Spanish word for tomorrow, manana, it also means ‘maybe tomorrow or maybe never.’  Since I’d been in Sharm I’d been promised a trip to the souk to do a little shopping and this was to be our last night in town.  As the clock ticked towards midnight, my anxiety grew, but I should have realized there was no need for worry.

THE SHOPPING

Mirette made good on her promise. It was well after 10 PM, but this was Egypt, so everything was still going strong. Maggie came along, because she still had some shopping to do, too.  The sisters headed off in one direction and I headed in another with Bill. Now that my mom is gone, souvenir buying is not as urgent, but I do like to pick up something for my bestie.

We wandered the shops but I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted. I like pharaonic jewelry, but it’s no longer fashionable in Egypt. Most of the jewelry looked like pieces I could buy anywhere, lovely, but they didn’t seem representative to me. Then there would be the pharaonic section, with huge scarabs or an elaborately decorated eye, but that wasn’t what I was looking for either.  I wanted something that would be worn frequently with pride, but I also wanted it to have an Egyptian flavor.

At one of the few shops which was closed, I found a lovely piece in the window that was just what I wanted.  The shop was locked up tighter than a drum.  Some shops were sitting wide open with no one inside, but if you entered a nearby vendor would come to help you.  I looked around helplessly and complained about the shop being closed a little louder than I normally would, but I was hoping someone would hear me, and then come over to offer their services.

Mirette showed up just about then to see how we were doing and I pointed out the necklace.  Darling Mirette disappeared for a moment or two and before I knew it, there was the shop’s proprietor, opening his shop and apologizing for his absence.  I’m not sure what it took to get the man back to the shop.  Perhaps Mirette was a friend or the shopkeeper understood her husband Ayman’s influence.  Whatever it was, we were very grateful, because nothing else in the bazaar was anywhere as lovely as the necklace in the window.

Come to find out the beautiful hand-made piece was beyond reasonable. I’d picked out the necklace for my bestie, but wished for one for myself. However, the proprietor was also the craftsman and he had only made one. I can understand why, because the necklace consisted of many tiny talismans and intricate beadwork, which is why I couldn’t believe the price. It was truly a unique piece. I satisfied myself with a lovely lapis lazuli lotus pendant. Bill pointed out that I could have taken the elaborate necklace for myself and given Deb the lotus, but then that wouldn’t have been quite fair now, would it.

Maggie too, had found just what we needed and we headed back to Mirette’s house.  The young ones had been put to bed long ago by their grandparents and a group of neighbors had joined the family, sharing sheesha and laughing at one another’s stories.  Soon the shoppers were gathered around, relighting the hookah pipes and telling their own stories – in Arabic.

I hate being the party pooper, but it was far beyond my bed time and all the chatter in an unfamiliar language only made it worse.  We were traveling in the morning.  I had my bags ready, but I needed to sleep.  Mirette carried us back to the hotel and another day in Egypt ended.