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

Late Night at the SeaDust

TRAVEL THERE: AFTER DINNER ACTIVITIES

Dinner at the Maison de Michelle had been a little disappointing.  We were still a tad bit hungry and one more glass of wine seemed like just the ticket.  We were able to take care of both those problems.

Wine and Cheese Delight

Right outside Michelle’s was a bar and voila, they had a buffet with cheese and baguettes.  While I chose an assortment of cheeses to top off the meal, Bill ordered another round of drinks.  Yes, they served Savignon Blanc and Merlot in champagne flutes, but who are we to complain?

While we weren’t thrilled with everything we were experiencing, we weren’t suffering too much either.  At this point of the trip we chose to giggle about the chunks of duck and made plans to try another restaurant the following evening.  They had eleven after all!

Like our stroll on the beach and the poolside sunset, our after dinner drinks with cheese were very enjoyable.  We really only had one concern.  When we’d gone upstairs to change clothes, we discovered our balcony was lit up like Alcatraz.  The huge balcony had a big hot tub and we were hoping to enjoy it, but who wanted to relax under such a bright light and none of the switches in the room turned off the exterior lights.

Bill had stopped by the guest services desk to ask about the lights and they assured us the lights would be automatically turned off sometime between 10 and 11.  We also asked what time they were turned back on.  That was something no one knew.  We decided we were tired and even though it wasn’t 11 yet, we were going to go back to the room.

Hitting the Hot Tub

Our absolute favorite thing at the Seadust was the balcony.  When we first arrived, the curtains were closed, which was a mistake on their part.  They were hiding the best part!

The Cancun Hotel Zone is on a thin strip of land just east of Cancun proper.  From our room, we had a great view.  We could see the adult pool area (which we hadn’t figured out how to get to, yet) the main road connecting all the hotels, a golf course, the body of water which separated the hotel strip from the mainland and yes, the city of Cancun.  Yep, it was a pretty marvelous view.

When we got to the room after dinner, the balcony lights were still bright.  I suggested I get our things stowed away, while he filled the hot tub.  When we finished our chores the lights were still bright, but Bill was eager for a little hot tub action.  So, he rigged up a wall with some towels and assured me that since the hot tub was in the corner we’d have plenty of privacy.  Thankfully, that’s just about when the lights decided to go out, so we were able to fully enjoy our time in the hot tub.

Thoroughly relaxed, we drained the hot tub and headed to bed.  We had to be on our way to Chichen Itza just after seven the next morning.  Please come back next week and join us.

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

La Maison de Michelle

TRAVEL THERE: A LITTLE BIT OF FRANCE AT THE SEADUST

We capped off our discovery tour of the resort by making our way to the gallery of restaurants just off the lobby.  Most of the culinary options line this mall and La Maison de Michelle is a headliner.  We strolled over and a very distressed lady let us know there was a dress code.  We were fine with that and she was much relieved.  We changed clothes and were soon presenting ourselves again for entry.

We Could Have Done Without the Sales Pitch

When we were seated, a very self-important little man came to inform us he was the manager and sommelier.  He quickly engaged Bill in a conversation about the wine for dinner.  I probably had the same look on my face I had when the hustler at the airport was trying to get us to his timeshare.  I think they were brothers.  Both were soon disappointed.  Bill when he saw the prices on the wine list and the sommelier when he figured out we wanted the free stuff.

For free, the red was merlot and white was savignon blanc.  Neither was outstanding, but they would have tasted much better without the swarmy sales pitch.  Once we opted for the house wine, we never saw our sommelier again.

What we did get was this very strange rack to hang my purse on.  That was a real first!  I had a teeny bag I would have happily hung on the back of the chair  or thrown on the floor, but not at the Maison de Michelle, apparently

So What to Eat

The place was losing points fast when the menus appeared.  Get this, the menus were tablet based, complete with pictures of each entree.  I’ve seen this before and it’s not my favorite type of menu, but like the light show around the pool, I gave them points for trying.

For starters, Bill chose an asparagus salad and I opted for escargot.  We weren’t blown away by our choices.  Bill said the asparagus was good, but really needed some sort of dressing.  The cute dots didn’t exactly count.  I knew my escargot was not going to be the classic presentation I love so much, but I had high hopes that I would like it.  I didn’t hate it, but the escargot was tough and should have been sauteed in something, not just heated up.  Not up to our hopes, but fair enough to hope the entree would be better.

Our entrees didn’t improve the situation.  Bill had a steak and it was OK.  I had ordered lamb chops, which somehow became duck.  There was such a stew when I pointed out their mistake I decided to go ahead and eat the darned duck chunks.  They offered to replace it, but I had a sneaky suspicion that they didn’t have any lamb or it was sub-par and they didn’t want to serve it.  Even if there was some language issues, lamb doesn’t sound much like duck.  Like Bill’s, mine was OK, but just OK.

 Thank Goodness for Dessert

The meal did have a redeeming event called dessert.  I had something with chocolate mousse in the description and Bill has no idea what his was called, but they were great.  We relished every bite of the meal topper.

As we finished up the meal, we looked around the restaurant and were mostly pleased by what we saw, even if the meal had been somewhat disappointing.  The waiting area was too dark and then there was an odd empty spot that made no sense, but the carpet, lighting furniture and decor were lovely.

 

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Welcome to Cancun

TRAVEL THERE: BROWSING AROUND THE SEADUST

Already our trip had its ups and downs, even though we’d just arrived, but ever the optimists, Bill and I set out to explore our resort.

Beautiful Beach

Escaping the disappointing buffet restaurant, we headed past the main pool to the line of palm trees at the edge of the beach.  OK – now we understood all the fuss!  Here was the epitome of white sugar-sand beach and brilliant turquoise water.  With flip flops in hand, I strolled along, enjoying the sound of splashing water and gleeful kids.

It was not a low flat beach like we’d seen in Punta Cana.  Here, the dry white sand made a quick drop of 6-12 inches where the waves rolled in.  So you had to decide whether to stroll along on the hard wet sand flirting with waves or up the small embankment on the dry sand.  We ended up trudging through the dry sand, because Bill was in sneakers.  We’d already discovered his leather slides had chosen to stay home.

No Visitors Allowed

The Cancun beach belongs to the Mexican government, so you can walk easily from one hotel area to the next without dodging no trespassing areas.  After passing a few smaller hotels we happened upon the Iberostar.  One of Bill’s favorite things to do on holiday is visit all the nearby hotels to compare them to our accommodations.  We headed up the stairs to the Iberostar and were immediately informed by security that we were not welcome.

I wish they would have let us in.  In Bill’s imagination, the Iberostar became the perfect hotel.  Anything that came up short at the Seadust, he believed would have been better at the the Iberostar.  After being turned away there, we headed back to the Seadust to sit by the pool.

Margarita Moment 

We were about to embark on one of our favorite moments at the Seadust.  On our way past the pool, I stopped at a bar and ordered my first Margarita.  We found a pair of lounge chairs and spent an hour enjoying the setting sun as it played among the clouds above the sea.

Every imaginable color danced in the sky as the palm trees swayed.  Nearby families frolicked in the deep blue pool.  AAAAAHHHHH, just what a resort holiday is supposed to be about.  We shared our impressions of the vacation so far and what our hopes were for the days to come.

Then we had a little comic relief.  As the sun faded and the sky began to darken, we noticed the lights around the pool began to change color.  Only it wasn’t the slow calming change of color you might expect around a pool.  Oh no, one color after another flipped past as if they were all frantically and unanimously  trying to decide which color they should be.  I couldn’t resist making a little video.  It gives you a peek at the frenetic lights and the family-oriented nature of the pool, not to mention the gorgeous sky and swaying palms.

A Bit More Poking Around

The flashing lights irritated us enough to pull us out of our loungers.  I had a little more discovering I wanted to do and I needed to talk to the Best Day rep about our return trip to the airport.  We made our way to the Best Day rep and found I would need my paperwork to arrange the pick-up.  We’d just gotten there, so I figured I had time.

We wandered down a few hallways to figure out the lay of the land.  One hallway led to Kid Heaven, which included a delightful looking waterpark.  Bill had no interest in it though, so we never came back down that way.  We also found the Mexican restaurant, but Bill was holding out for French.

Down another hallway was a theater and a convention center.  Nothing gave a clue when the theater would be offering entertainment, so we went back to the lobby and checked out a gift store.  Cute stuff and reasonable prices, but no buying was involved.

In the lobby they were building a Christmas tree.  It was big, but I can’t say it was all that attractive.  Sort of the bargain basement version of giant fake trees.  Time to find that French restaurant.  Come back next week and see how it went.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Our Club Med Home Away From Home

La Nina

TRAVEL THERE: GENEROUS AND GRACIOUS SPACES

Since I’d won our trip to Club Med from CTC Travel, we had no idea what kind of accommodations to expect.  How bad could things be at a five star resort, right?  Still, I’ve usually pored over the available information and carefully selected our rooms to be as economical as possible, while providing what we need.  We made out just fine in what they provided – in fact, better than fine.

The Big Picture

Most of the entertainments and dining facilities are centrally located on the property.  If you go one way from there, you’ll reach the Zen side of the resort.  That’s the more exclusive, adults-only part.  If you go the other way, you’ll find building after building after building of more family-oriented hotel rooms.

Our Accommodations

I can’t speak for the rest of the rooms in any of the other buildings, but I can tell you 662 La Nina is a nice place to stay.  When you enter the door there is a hallway.  On the right is a room with a toilet and next to it is another room with the balance of the bathroom facilities, a huge walk-in shower and a large two-sink vanity.

The view from our front door

On the left side is a huge, and I do mean huge, closet.  Along with plenty of hanging space and hangers, there were two stacks of roomy shelving.  If I would have had my druthers, I would have preferred a dresser with drawers, but that’s just me.  The shelves worked fine.  There was also a shelf all around the top of the closet that was great for hats and such.  There was room for everything and to spare.

The room came with some equipment, a hairdryer, a frig, a coffee maker, an iron and an ironing board.  There’s also free wi-fi, not the fastest in the world, but more than adequate for the usual stuff. The Dominican Republic is on the same power grid as the US, so they had the same kinds of power and plugs as we do.

After you get past the bathroom facilities and closet, the room opened up.  To the right was a nice bed, queen-sized, I think.  It seemed a bit smaller than at home.  To the left was a secondary space with two sofas that could be made into beds.  We didn’t have to guess that this was great for families, a pungent smell told us someone had recently had an accident there.  As soon as we notified housekeeping they took care of it, but they had points taken away for it nonetheless.

The view from our balcony

There was also a nice balcony.  I wasn’t really roomy, but there were two chairs, a table and an ashtry, which we no longer see in America very often.  I spent some quality time out there, but had to be careful to wear socks, because if my ankles were bare, some invisible pest would begin to gnaw on me.

We were very comfortable there.  The rooms are not what I consider luxurious, but they weren’t spartan either.  Nicely, but not opulently furnished – it was a beach resort after all.  We especially appreciated the bonus room.  I’d retreat there in the mornings before Bill woke up and he liked to enjoy his online games there.  We slept well every night without any interruptions.

The Fitbit tells the story

We also walked a million miles or at least it seemed like it!  La Nina was sort of in the middle of the cluster of buildings with rooms.  I’m guessing there is a premium to pay for rooms which were closer to the entertainment section, but there were buildings which would have doubled our steps taken.  I hope they are a bargain.

At the reception area they tell you that you can call whenever you like and a cart will come and transport you back and forth.  On our first day we tested that theory and attempted to grab a ride to our room.  So, had everyone else on the property.  Well, not everyone else, but enough someone elses that we weren’t going to wait – especially when we watched an aggressive group jump on a cart and zoom away, rather than allowing the ladies who had been waiting ahead of us to take it.  In other words, we didn’t plan to fight that battle on a regular basis.  While I did see a lot of carts whipping around the property, it was rare for them to have guests as passengers.  Usually they were toting bags or equipment.

So that’s it for our accommodations.  Come back next week and we’ll go to breakfast.

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

First Impressions

TRAVEL BUG TALES: NOT WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR

Like the lyrics of “Both Sides Now,” I find myself fond of illusions.  Yes, I do end up being disappointed from time to time, but what fun I have anticipating things – and sometimes I even get it right.

Welcome to the Bahamas!

I always know in my head how I want things to go and much about this trip was a perfect fit for a young girl’s first international travel – especially on a trip without my family.  Some things weren’t so great. 

Take meals for instance.  I’d never been to an all-inclusive resort, so I didn’t realize I’d be going through a buffet for every meal.  I’m not all that fond of buffets – especially free or all-you-can-eat varieties.  The food was fine at the Grand Bahama Hotel, but standing in line with my tray and dipping up my selections didn’t merge very well with my dreams of elegant tropical meals.

Or take the hotel itself.  The entry area was grand enough.  There was a lovely pool area.  Even the beach was very nice.  However, the cinder block buildings where we stayed were not exactly deluxe accommodations.  The furnishing were serviceable, but not more.  In fact, they weren’t even as chic as what I’d become accustomed to in my parents’ favorite hotel chain – Holiday Inn.  What’s more, we showered with salt water!

Bingo?  Are You Kidding?

We checked-in to our cinder block room and unpacked our luggage.  One of our first assignments was to go to the Adventure Tour desk and pick up vouchers for our various entertainments.  That’s when I realized that the first night’s entertainment was going to be bingo.  BINGO?  Was this some kind of joke?

Other events seemed to be pretty good, a native show, a manager’s cocktail party, a catamaran ride with a beach picnic, etc.  That’s what I came to the Bahamas for.  But bingo?  BINGO? I wasn’t buying it.

I started a rebellion.  First I convinced Debbie and Frances that we were not going to play bingo.  I preferred to stay in my room and take a salt water shower over bingo.  The table next to us at dinner felt the same way and soon we had a large group of people who weren’t going to spend their first night in the Bahamas at any stinking bingo game.

I forget exactly how the logistics went, but it wasn’t too long until we were loading into taxis and limos in front of the hotel.  They drove us through a series of unfamiliar streets.  We paid them for a round trip and told them what time to come back and get us.  You probably know how that went, but we were young and had no idea.  So we were on cloud nine.

The taxis had delivered us to a local bar.  Our group was just about the only patrons and that was sort of disappointing, because we were trying our best to go native.  We ordered up some cuba libres and settled in for a good time. After a while, a band began their first set and soon afterwards the natives arrived.  To our delight they were black.  We were going native!

For the first part of the evening the tourists and the natives kept their distance for the most part, but kids will be kids.  Soon enough, the groups melted into one another and we were all dancing and laughing together.  It really was one of the best evenings of travel I have ever had.

Eventually, it was time to go and our transportation showed up, but they claimed we’d only paid for the first half of the trip and we’d have to come up with X dollars to get back to the hotel.  I forget the price, but it seemed steep and we were just college kids who pooled nickels to get drinks.  Somehow we came up with enough money to pay.

That’s when we discovered we’d only been around the corner from the resort.  All the driving around on the way to the club had been a ruse.  We could have walked to and from the club quicker than we could get to the beach and the resort was on the beach.  We could have been mad, but we decided not to be.  The folks who had played bingo were sitting in the lobby looking miserable and we wanted to be sure they regretted not joining us, so we put on our smiles and wrapped our arms around one another.  We’d only just arrived and we were already having adventures.

Next week we’ll head to the beach, so please come back and join us.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Drinks at Cielo Every Evening & All Day Long

TRAVEL THERE: ROCKING WITH A TROPICAL RHYTHM

When they raise the traffic gate and welcome you into Club Med Punta Cana, you enter another world.  It took me a few hours to slither out of the daily grind and figure that out, but I did.  I was still in a bit of a rush as I hobbled back to our room and then headed out again for dinner, but by

dessert, I was on island time.

Denim and White Night

Dressing for Dinner

Sandra Rubio, my travel agent at CTC Travel, warned me they had themes each night at Club Med.  It wasn’t a have-to thing, but something to add to the fun.  She’d mentioned a pirate night, but if they have one of those at Punta Cana, it didn’t happen while we were there.  Our first night was White Night.  I wore a mostly white top and some white jeans, but if you are into themes, be warned, don’t take any shortcuts, especially on White Night.  Your fellow members have spent a lot of money on gorgeous white sundresses, white linen suits and all things white.

Saturday was Denim & White, Sunday Red & White, Monday Flowers, Tuesday 45 & Fluorescent – then we went home.  The 45 thing requires an explanation, but it can wait.

Meet You at Cielo

Cielo Bar is a large, circular, open air, (wait for it) palm-frond-roofed bar/cafe/coffee shop/living room sort of place that takes central stage in the entertainment section of Club Med Punta Cana.  We were wandering in and out of it all the time.

During the day they had salsa lessons and various games.  The bar was always open for coffee or drinks.  A serve-yourself soda fountain sat at one end of the U-shaped bar.  A very convenient restroom was around the back.  Though we never quite figured out a schedule, there were often snacks available – pastries in the early hours, chips, salsa and guacamole during the day and at night hors d’oeuvres.  Comfortable sofas and lounge chairs hugged the outer edges.

Red and White Night

Most of our evenings began on the white sofas of Cielo.  A live band would entertain the crowd.  We’d try to make conversation with some of our fellow GM’s (Guest Members), but most of them were French.  We grew to absolutely love the French Connection.  We also discovered we weren’t particularly proud to be associated with the other Americans on the property.

We didn’t usually bother with evening hors d’oeuvres, because the fabulous buffet meals kept our hunger at bay, but we would have a drink.  The first night I tried a rum & coke, which was fine, but I’m really a white wine girl and that became my regular.  Bill would get a beer with a tequila shot chaser.  He really was on vacation.

Many of our French friends would arrive at Cielo in family groups, but unlike the usual situation with American families, the children were not the center of attention and they didn’t sit staring into a tablet or phone.  French children of all ages were expected to sit quietly in their seat, enjoying their hors d’oeuvres and sodas, while the adults chatted with one another.  We were very impressed by this.  Temper tantrums and meltdowns just didn’t happen.  Americans are doing something wrong.

Eventually, we’d leave Cielo and head over to Samana, the dinner buffet.  Dinner officially began at 6:30, but the Cielo experience began at 7, so Cielo is where we began our evenings.  Then we’d wander across to Samana.  I’ll tell you about that next week.

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!

Accommodations, Architecture, ART, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Welcome to The Cecil Hotel

TRAVEL THERE: FADED GLORY ON THE SEA

Ah! Civilization!  Crystal chandeliers, beautiful draperies, crisp linen sheets, thick carpeting.  Welcome to Alexandria’s Cecil Hotel!

So Happy to be There

Izzat pulled up in front of a glorious edifice right next to the Mediterranean Sea and set our bags on the sidewalk.  A bellman appeared and ushered us through a revolving door and the obligatory security equipment.  My mind registered old style elegance in the lobby, but I’d had a long day and was just ready for a decent room.

After the usual front desk rigmarole they pointed us to one of those antique elevators encased in black rod iron.  We rode it to our floor and WOW!  It wasn’t the Fairmont, but to my eyes it was even better.  This was elegance the way it used to be and for my money, I like it that way.  Gorgeous furniture, elaborate urns, ubiquitous crystal chandeliers and a floor that only creaked a little bit.  As we strolled down the thick elegantly patterned  carpet we were impressed with the way the magnificent door to each room was recessed to create a small alcove.

Then we entered our room.  It was small, but so lovely that I didn’t even care.  Of course my first stop was the bathroom and there I found some comic relief.  In the mode of luxury hotels everywhere, the ends of the toilet paper had been folded into a point, but this one was a little off balance.   It was just what I needed.

Moving In

Since we’d be in Alex for several days, I went through the motions of unpacking what we’d need in the way of clothes and toiletries.  As I got us organized for the next few days, Bill was inspecting the room.  He discovered the balcony which overlooked a park and the sea.  He even found the ice bucket and then went on an expedition to locate the ice machine.

In my unpacking, I’d found the bottle of Bourbon my nephew had bestowed upon me and when Bill went for the ice, he also found a can of Coke Zero.  I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a drink quite so much!

The Breakfast Buffet

After a good night’s sleep I was up early and raring to get out to the museum.  The Cecil didn’t have a gym, but we’d be doing a lot of walking, so I wasn’t too worried about it.

Once we were ready to attack the day, we headed downstairs to breakfast.  Yes, it was another buffet, but the space designated for the morning repast was a delight.  Black and white marble floors, large bouquets of fresh lilies, huge windows, antique iron chairs and marble topped tables.  What was there not to like?

I was sick to death of breakfast buffets, but the space was so pleasant that I was able to enjoy the atmosphere.  I was also very excited about the day ahead.  The days of leisure were over and we were going to start in on my long list of museums.  I could not wait! Come back next week and join us on our way to the Library of Alexandria.

 

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

Welcome to Dahab Paradise Resort

TRAVEL THERE: A SECOND LOOK AT DAHAB

Okay, this is where I confess that there is actually nothing wrong with the Dahab Paradise Resort.  The real problem was my attitude.  I still say we had no business heading off into a desert the US State Department warned us to avoid, but if we were going to be there anyway, this was a nice place to go.

The Bare Necessities

The Dahab Paradise is a lovely resort, but not in the traditional American five-star sense.  You’re not going to find stationary in your desk drawer or a terry robe in the closet (what closet?).  However, you will find very nice people in a very attractive facility.  The open air lobby looks out on the gorgeous pool.  Beyond the pool is the Red Sea.  Your room will be clean.  Our balcony was a small piece of heaven.  The furnishings are very appropriate for a hotel in the Sinai Desert.  They had a definite Bedouin charm.  In other words, if you’re going to Dahab, stay here.

There’s a very nice open air restaurant not far from the pool.  We had a fine dinner there and the breakfast was spectacular – especially if you are Egyptian or like Egyptian foods.  Personally I love pita, feta and olives for breakfast.  They will even fix up whatever eggs you want, but I’m not very eggy.

Now the bathroom facilities are minimal.  Don’t drink the water and only one of you will be able to be in there at a time.  I couldn’t face the shower and hubby wasn’t crazy about it, but it was functional.

Hanging by the Pool

The Dahab Paradise pool is out of this world.  It looks beautiful and our family had a great time in it.  There are plenty of chaise lounges and umbrellas for those of us who prefer to stay out of the water.  It’s so gorgeous that it’s a little surreal to think, “Here I am in the Sinai Desert and right over there, about 30 miles away is Saudi Arabia.”  The only real problem is the radical Islamist who cause so much trouble are probably even closer.

Once I was over my pout I was thrilled to discover my coloring cards and colored pencils had done their trick.  My grandnephew climbed up into my lap after his dip in the pool and I thought my heart was going to burst.  Even my grandniece, who is a little more stand-offish behaved as though I was on her team.  Of course, we’d be heading back to Cairo the next day and then parting ways until our next chance to get together.

Drinks in the Conversation Pit

After everyone was out of the pool we went back to our rooms to get freshened up, but soon we were back outside for the sunset.  The hotel has a great sunken conversation pit on the grounds with a wonderful firepit.  My nephew Shady moved to the head of the class with a bottle of bourbon.  All these guys are scotch drinkers and I’m not.  So, time after time the rest of the crew would be sharing a nice buzz and I’d be sober as a judge.  This time Shady showed up with a bottle of bourbon and gifted it to me.  Thank you Shady!

Awhile later they let us know dinner was served and we enjoyed a delicious moonlit meal.  That’s one of the picture postcards from the trip seared into my mind, but no one thought to take a picture.  The time in the conversation pit and around the dinner table under the stars were moments words don’t do justice and even a thousand words would not have been able to aptly describe it.   

Next up we’re headed back to Cairo after a quiet morning at Dahab Paradise.  Come back next week to read about that.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Pre-Wedding at the Fairmont

The American Contingency

Travel There: Photos, Metal Detectors and Machine Guns

So it was here, the reason we had come to Egypt.  My nephew Bassem is very dear to both of us and his wedding is just about the only thing that could have convinced Bill to go Egypt.  On the afternoon of the wedding, we left our room at the appointed hour and headed to the lobby for pictures.

Pictures at Four

Family members were told to be in the lobby at four for pictures, but it quickly became obvious that was 4 PM Egyptian time.  The American contingency was dutifully in the lobby by 4:15, but it was a very lonely lobby.  I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the time I spent visiting with the guys, Bill, Steven and John, but in spite of myself, I was wishing I’d had a little more time to solve the electrical emergency.  I had really wanted those tendrils.

All dressed up with somewhere to go.

About 4:45 the Egyptian contingency wandered into the lobby and we were a good-looking bunch.  When everyone was assembled we were marched out onto the lawn to be photographed.  There was a certain amount of frisson, but I blamed it on wedding jitters and a ticking clock.  What I didn’t know was that the bus to take us to the wedding hadn’t arrived yet and there were serious negotiations going on with the hotel about how many guards with machine guns would escort us to the wedding.

Yes, I Said Machine Guns

There was a certain amount of friction throughout the trip about the status of the people in our party.  We were visiting just days after the Palm Sunday bombings, so security was high.  Most of the members of the family were Egyptian, in origin if not in passport, but they considered themselves Egyptian.  Some of the exceptions were pint-sized kids born in the US to Egyptian parents, but they looked just like any kid born to an Egyptian – olive skin, dark curly hair and big brown eyes.  The other exceptions were Steven, John and myself.  We looked like tourists, plain and simple, and American tourists at that.

Even though most of the people in our party considered themselves Egyptian, that’s not how the other Egyptians saw us at all.  To them we were a bunch of foreigners.  The idea of 20 or 30 of theses foreigners traveling by bus from the Fairmont to a Coptic Church created fear and trembling to the hotel’s staff.  They intended to keep their name off the evening news by providing us with protection, and that protection was two guys with machine guns.

On the bus with the groom

To my Egyptians, the armed guards seemed like a red neon arrow pointing to us saying, “Blow this bus up!”  While the photographer tried to get pictures of the whole crew smiling at once, some very tense conversations were going on behind the scenes.  The bus arrived and a compromise was reached.  We’d have one armed guard and his machine gun would stay out of sight unless needed.

The machine gun guy did pretty good.  He looked just like most of the rest of the guys on the bus – dressed in a suit, headed to a wedding.  As we approached the church, he unbuttoned his coat and wrapped his fingers around the gun.  I can assure you that did not make me feel more secure.

Entering the church was just like entering a hotel, museum or other area.  You either put your purse on the table or cleaned out your pockets.  Then you entered the metal detector.  On the other side, someone would rifle through your belongings to be sure that tiny beaded bag didn’t have a weapon in it.  Perhaps they would frisk you for whatever reason they picked out, be it concern or just a random practice.  We stood around on the steps of the church for awhile and then it was showtime.

Come back next week and hear all about it.