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.

Accommodations, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Embarking on Adventure

A Chilly Sail Away

TRAVEL HERE: EMBARKATION, LIFE BOAT DRILL & SAIL AWAY

Once we were aboard, the first thing we did was go to our room to drop off our stuff.  It was fine.  Plenty of storage, enough room not to trip over each other every moment and by some sort of miracle, more than enough hangers.  That hangers part was most amazing.  Then it was time to eat.

The Embarkation Buffet

Theoretically, this meal should be a showcase of all the good things to come.  This buffet gave us a preview of what to expect in the upcoming cruise – we just didn’t want to accept that reality.

Travel is a learning experience and I never learned about the embarkation buffet until I took the cruise with my bestie back in 2015.  She made sure we took advantage of the culinary offering and I was wowed.  Can you say seafood and lots of it?

The Embarkation Buffet on Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas was just a mess.  Yes, we rolled in there at the last minute, but it looked as if no one on the staff had even looked at it for a few hours.  We wandered around and around and around looking but not finding anything that appealed to us.  We were hungry, no meal since breakfast, but it looked like they had just taken all the leftovers from the previous cruise and slapped them out on the buffet tables.  It was bad.

We picked up a few items that were the least bad of the bunch and tried to make a meal of it.  It was about 2:30 and the buffet was supposed to be over at 2:45.  Bill decided to go back for some bread and I went to check out the desserts.  We were too late.  Everything was gone.  At 2:35 Bill asked a member of the crew, “What time is the buffet over?”  The answer, “2:45.”  Obviously, not exactly.

Life Boat Drill & Sail Away

Next up was the Life Boat Drill and that was fairly painless.  Our SailPass Card had our location on it.  There was fantastic signage and helpful crew all the way along.  We stood on the deck a few minutes and then it was all over.  We wandered the boat a little, getting our bearings and then it was time for the Sail Away.

Bill loves the Sail Away.  Some of our favorite moments on cruises happen then.  Like when we sailed away from Budapest or Kauai or Miami.   This was not one of our favorites.

I’ve already mentioned how ugly Galveston’s port is and there is really nothing Royal Caribbean can do about that.  They really couldn’t help the weather either.  A little foggy and misty.  Lots of wind.  Sort of miserable actually, but we gave it a brave try.

However, they could do something about volume – as in the volume of the music.  Everywhere we went on deck was LOUD!  Someone needs to explain that louder is not better.  A poor singer is only made worse when you turn up the volume.  Bad weather does not disappear because you turn up the music.  This tendency to blast away everyone’s eardrums was not limited to the Sail Away.  It was one of my biggest complaints about the whole cruise.  If there was a microphone and a speaker, whatever was being amplified was too loud.

Perhaps we could have stood the weather if the music hadn’t been so loud or we could have put up with the loud music if the weather had been better, but we couldn’t tolerate both.

And then there was my glasses.  I was still traumatized from thinking I had lost my sunglasses in the embarkation madness.  Standing on deck fighting the wind as Bill looked over the railing, I decided to take a look at the day’s schedule to find a better place to enjoy the Sail Away, but first I needed my glasses.  I frantically started looking for them and soon I was telling Bill I had to go back to the room.  He asked what for and I said I needed my glasses.  As we stood there discussing it in less than pleasant tones, I realized my glasses were actually on my face.  You’ll notice I realized it, instead of the person who was looking at me.

That little crisis over, we headed inside for a better vantage point and found the Park Cafe.  I scored a Chocolate Chip Cookie and it was pretty good.  Bill got a cup of coffee and it wasn’t so good.  I had been trying to discover where one got one’s cup for the soda program since I got on board, but I wasn’t having much success.  The cup was supposed to be in our cabin, but just as I had run into on a past cruise – it wasn’t.  Finally, a female crew member, who was supposed to be selling the soda program, took pity on me and gave me one of the cups she had.  Finally, a little Diet Dr Pepper!

We eventually gave up on the Sail Away and then went to talk about wi-fi privileges.

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

An Alexandrian Adventure

We were in no mood for another hantoor tour!

TRAVEL THERE: STARVING , DAZED & CONFUSED IN ALEX

The smallest things trip you up when traveling – like landing at the Library of Alexandria mid-day.  If there were vending machines in the Library we didn’t find them.  There was no coffee bar.  We found a sorry excuse for a gift shop, but all they had were tacky souvenirs.  We were about ready to eat a few books.

Where’s the Fish Market?

Instead of just finding the closest place to eat, Bill decided our next stop should be The Fish Market, a restaurant recommended to us by several people as the best food in Alexandria.  So Bill started a campaign to find this marvelous place.  There was one small problem.  No one knew what he was talking about.

One of the first people he asked directed us to go back towards Fort Qaitby, where we’d visited earlier in the day.  He was all ready to head that way when I pulled out my phone and showed him the directions he’d gotten would take us, not to a restaurant called The Fish Market, but to an actual open air fresh fish market in the old part of the city.

So, he tried another tack.  The people he was talking to were confused by his inquiry.  Most thought he wanted to buy fish and directed him to various grocers in the area.  Finally, he found someone who would listen long enough for him to explain that he wanted a restaurant where you were able to pick out your fresh fish for cooking and then have it served to you at the table.  Bingo!  Someone knew exactly what he was talking about.  They said they didn’t know if the name was right, but there was such a restaurant in a mall that’s connected to the Four Seasons Hotel.

Bill was beaming.  He decided we’d grab a cab and head to the other end of the Corniche where the elegant Four Seasons Hotel was the anchor of a popular mall.

Terror in a Taxi

Bill hailed a cab and negotiated the fare.  We headed off with the beach just over our left shoulder.  We anticipated a short ride along on the main drag.

Suddenly, there was a big traffic jam due to some construction.  Our driver left the main drag and headed off away from the beach.  I’ve already told you how scary it was when we got off the major thoroughfares in the hantoor.  I really wasn’t paying all that much attention to our taxi driver or his vehicle until he started taking short cuts through parking lots.

Remember those terrorist I was worried I’d run into in Dahab?  Well, suddenly I was afraid they’d found me in Alex.  I realized the noise on the radio was actually some sort of political rant.  Of course, I couldn’t understand what was being said, but the tone is the same all over the world.

Then I took a look at our driver.  He had the same beard and crazy look every terrorist on the television seemed to have.  Hanging from the rear view mirror were a selection of Islamic prayer beads.  Please understand.  I don’t think every Muslim is a terrorist, but I was beginning to think the one driving our car was.  There were a number of decals on the windows and none of them looked like they were devoted to a prophet of peace.

We had no idea where we were.  He’d made so many turns since leaving the Corniche I couldn’t even guess where the beach might be.  I started to think about the fact that this was our first day in Alex and it would be a few days before anyone expected to hear from us again.  What could happen to us before anyone even realized we were missing?

When I was young, my favorite Bible verse was, “What time I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee,” a verse from Psalms.  The rational person I walk around as most of the time was pretty sure everything would turn out OK, but that person who thought Dahab was the end of my line was quickly taking over.  I had forgotten about the verse on the way to Dahab, but suddenly, it was on my mind.  I began to repeat it silently.  Rational me thought everything would be OK.  Irrational me wasn’t taking any chances.

Before too long, my friend the terrorist was back in familiar territory.  His detour had taken him around the construction and he was about to turn right onto the Corniche.  Part of me felt a little silly, but I was reminded how fragile life can be.  All of us are one careless decision away from tragedy.  Keeping that in mind makes each moment sweeter.

Soon we were getting out of the taxi and heading towards the mall.  Would The Fish Market Restaurant be inside?

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Welcome to the Galveston Cruise Terminal

Not Galveston!

TRAVEL HERE: CLIMBING ABOARD OUR CRUISE

After all the difficulties Bill had faced trying to get out of town, our actual departure was fairly smooth.  We left within 15 minutes of our targeted ETD.  We miscalculated where the HOV lane would dump us, but even going out of our way in downtown Dallas, the traffic was so bad on I-30 we made time with our mistake.  About 11, we exited at a rest stop to use the facilities and change drivers.  By 2, we were at the cruise terminal, but so were a whole lot of other people.

Not Exactly a Tourist Destination

I want you to know that Galveston is a wonderful place to visit, but you wouldn’t know that from a picture of their port.  It is an industrial port with a couple of cruise ships thrown in for good measure.  What can I say?  It’s ugly!

We dropped our bag off at the terminal and made our way to the parking lot. (Yes, that was a singular bag!  I got everything in one suitcase!)  We’d saved $5 by booking online (Thank you, Sherry!)  We needed to be on board by 3:30 and I hadn’t been worried when we got to the terminal, but the parking lot made me nervous.  I don’t even think a hurricane would have lit a fire under these people, but we did make the deadline.

Going Through Security

I understand the need for security measures, but I hate it.  You’re passing around important documentation and taking valuable items out of your carry-on, not to mention dressing and undressing.  When I’m flying, I try to dress around the metal detectors, but to tell you the truth, I didn’t even think about going through a metal detector to get on board the cruise.  Maybe that’s why I had on a metal belt and shoes with metal decorations on them.  I took off the offending accessories and tried again.  That time my sunglasses set it off.

I went through all the rigmarole of getting dressed again and headed for check-in.  Suddenly, I needed my glasses and I couldn’t find them.  This would cause a panic in any situation, but if you read my blog last week, then you know why the disappearance of my glasses made me absolutely frantic.  I ran through the terminal back to the place where I re-dressed.  I made the people at the metal detector and x-ray machine prove my sunglasses weren’t there.  I felt tears brimming in my eyes.

I ran back to the pile I’d left next to Bill and started rifling through my backpack again.  Bill wasn’t happy.  At the moment he was more interested in checking in, but if I had lost my new prescription sunglasses, he was going to be even more unhappy.  Sitting in the floor, dumping everything out of the backpack I did find the glasses, but by then I was already suffering heart palpitations.  It would take me awhile to get back to normal and before that could happen, I would misplace another pair of glasses.

But enough about my glasses, lets go have lunch.

TRAVEL

Not The Fish Market Restaurant

TRAVEL THERE: WELCOME TO THE FOOD COURT

As it so happens, as we entered the mall, which was supposed to feature The Fish Market Restaurant, we chose the door closest to the Food Court.  There was Pizza Hut, McDonald’s and a variety of other recognizable restaurants, but we were looking for The Fish Market.

Great Mall

I want you to know this a was a great mall – even by American standards.  Everything was pristine.  The many modern shops had gorgeous merchandise.  There was lovely indoor landscaping to add color to the ecru stone everywhere you looked.  Well maintained escalators carried shoppers in several directions.  All thoughts of potential terrorism were erased.

We were on a mission.  We scouted every corner of the mall for the restaurant we wanted.  Finally, after asking a few people for directions we ended up in front of a market restaurant, but not THE market restaurant.  The very upscale market featured all kinds of fresh produce, specialty items and chef made entrees, like the popular Eatzi’s here in Dallas, but it was not The Fish Market.  The front of the shop was devoted to cafe tables where you could eat the items you’d just purchased if you didn’t want to take them home.

The Frantic Search Ended

We’d put all our fish in this basket and now we were starving.  We hated to have to admit it, but Alex had beaten us.  We would not be having fresh seafood for our late lunch.  In fact, we’d be having fast food.

Bill found a great little place offering up fresh entrees with an Arabic twist, but the Pizza had been calling out to me since the moment we’d opened the door to the mall.  Yes, I know it was very touristy of me to gravitate to something I could get back home, but right that moment I needed some comfort food and what’s more comforting than pizza?

Revived, Rejuvenated and Reluctant

It’s amazing what a little food will do for you.  We’d been at our wit’s end about half an hour before, but the mere ordering of food gave us hope.  We had to do a little fancy footwork to score a table, but we managed to do so and fed our very hungry faces.  Soon it was time to head back to the hotel.

I was reluctant to get back on public transportation.  The Hantoor Tour had ended with a wild goose chase and the ride in the taxi had just about done me in.  I pulled out a map and showed Bill how our hotel was just down the Corniche from us.  I extolled the virtues of a nice long walk and promised we’d have a good time.

I didn’t realize we were five miles from The Cecil.  Had anyone told me, I would have been horrified.  I told Bill we could just walk until we got tired and then we could grab a taxi, but I didn’t plan on getting back into a taxi on this day.

Somehow I convinced Bill it was a sound plan and we set off.  In truth it was a very pleasant walk.  There was a lot of construction going on which made it a little dicey from time to time, but we were never actually in any danger.

I loved walking along elbow to elbow with the Alexandrites.  Most of the women wore scarfs around their head in the style of a hajib.  There were many pairs of blue jeans.  Our fellow strollers ranged from toddlers to senior citizens. 

A Few Miles Down the Road

Eventually we did actually get pretty tired of walking.  It had been a long day.  We’d walked a lot inside the Library and clocked some distance inside the mall.  As reluctant as I was to get back into any taxi I finally agreed to ride along IF we found a cab.

We continued to trudge along watching for a ride.  In a city in which we’d seen cabs all day long, suddenly there wasn’t a single one in sight.  I’d started this trek and felt compelled to keep things on a high note, so a began to tease Bill with promises of something he would like close to the hotel.

We began to see hints that we were reaching our destination and we were much encouraged.  Soon the hotel was in sight, but we had one stop to make.  Come back next week and discover what I had planned for Bill.

ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, Libraries, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL

The Museums of the Library of Alexandria

TRAVEL THERE: MORE EXHIBITS THAN YOU CAN SHAKE A STICK AT

When we finally found the museums at the Library of Alexandria, we were stunned by everything there was to see.  Come along with us.

Arabian Artists

Confession:  I know little to nothing about Arab Art.  I like what I see, but I can’t name any favorite artist or tell you the life story of any of them.  In sixteen and a half years of formal schooling in the US and a degree in Humanities, that’s a pretty sad situation.  The Dallas Museum of Art’s Keir Collection is beginning to open a few doors for me on this subject, but I really do understand the blind spot in my knowledge.

This means that I had no idea of what I was looking at down in the guts of Alexandria’s famous library, but I can tell you it was beautiful.  In gallery after gallery I found plenty to enjoy.

There were sculptures and works on paper.  There were paintings, from the very modern to the very old, with a great representation of what is known as folk art, but some of it didn’t look very folksy to me.  It looked spectacular.

There was a whole gallery devoted to astronomy and scientific instruments, but they were so pretty you couldn’t believe they’d been designed for practical use.  I stood before their cases in awe of the men and perhaps women who had crafted the gorgeous items.

Perhaps my favorite section was the many examples of every day items which transcended the idea of crafts, like the lovely caftans and pottery in the picture above.  I moved from case to case wondering about the craftsmen who had envisioned these lovely pieces and envying those who had worn them, poured water from them or carried them from place to place.

There are several different galleries with a variety of Arabic names I wouldn’t even try to spell or pronounce, but I didn’t worry about the divisions.  You can’t make up for lifetime of neglected information in a few hours.  I promised myself I’d learn more about these talented artists and artisians, but on that day, I just resolved to enjoy what I was seeing.

The Sadat Museum

My ultimate destination in the Library was the Sadat museum.  This is the area with a personal touch to my favorite Egyptian, my husband.  Bill’s Uncle Raouf had been a translator for Nassar, president while Bill was growing up, but Sadat had been actively involved in Nassar’s  administration.  All of the personal items included in the exhibits of the Sadat Museum were familiar to Bill.

Bill was already hungry when we got to the Library.  He’d endured the hour of wandering around lost among the stacks.  Then he patiently stood by while I gawked at all the beautiful items in the art galleries.  The exhibits in the Sadat Museum were so interesting to him, that hunger stood still.

He lingered at each case, pointing out items similar to those in his own home.  He read headlines to me. He’d say, “We had a radio just like that.”  The suits Sadat wore were the same style Bill’s dad and uncles wore.  The newspapers documenting important events in Sadat’s life were the same newspapers Bill’s family shared around the breakfast table.  He looked for familiar faces in the photos.

I’d had a hard time finding the museums of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, but when we finally walked among these treasures, it was well worth the effort.  It would have been worth the effort if there had been no Sadat Museum, but because there was, I had a special peek into my husband’s history.  It’s something he doesn’t talk about very often, and I loved every moment of it.

If Bill was hungry when we got to the museum, imagine how hungry he was after all the time we spent there.  I collected my belongings from the area where they’d been collected and checked.  Now it was time to eat.  Join us next week as my hungry husband looks for the fish market.  In the meantime enjoy these few photos from the museums.  Unfortunately, no photos were allowed in the Sadat Museum, but there are other lovely things to see.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

T-Minus 4 Days

TRAVEL HERE: BAD NEWS BEFORE THE CRUISE

It was Thursday.  Our boat would leave on Monday afternoon.  I had everything I would wear gathered into one section of the closet, ready to pack.  Bill would wait until the last minute, as always.  I was having lunch with my Bible study girls when I got a text from Bill.  One of his uncles had died.  This was sad news, but since they lived in Canada, no way we’d be attending the funeral.  When I got home and he was in a blue mood, I thought the death was the cause.  I didn’t know the sky was falling.

A Workplace Hiccup Shakes Up Our Cruise

It would take more than a blog post to explain what Bill does, but suffice it to say he’s in the market.  He trades using a series of programs he has developed.  His plan was to turn his programs over to his broker to make the trades while he was gone.  This was a humongous project.  There’s always a little housekeeping you need to do when you turn your work over to someone else and Bill had to put safeguards in place, so that his proprietary information would stay proprietary.  So, in the weeks before the cruise he logged a lot of hours in on his computer to get everything ready.  We were celebrating his birthday, after all.

Then it came time to shift his programs over to the broker and they ran into a glitch.  It would take another entire blog post to explain it, so just believe me – it wasn’t good.  They might have overcome the issue with more time to work on it, but there wasn’t any time.  Like most glitches, there had been no way to anticipate it, so Bill was just stuck with having to monitor his systems himself during the cruise.  He wouldn’t be involved in all the research and coding that goes into a normal day of work, but he wouldn’t be free of it either.

Bill spends his day with an array of pc’s and extra large monitors to do what he needs to do.  He’d spent a couple of weeks getting some of it ready to turn over to his broker, who had his own set of pc’s and extra large monitors.  Since that wasn’t going to happen, Bill now had to figure out how to get all that computer power into his laptop.  The balance of time before the cruise was barely enough time to accomplish this.

Then the Market Blew Up

Friday morning the market blew up, as in fell apart and started dropping like a brick.  Since the first of the year we’d been doing pretty well and that was why Bill had been ready to turn everything over to someone else and really enjoy the cruise.  Now all of his plans were going to hell in a hand basket.  We weren’t going to have to sell the house or anything, but it really wasn’t the kind of thing a trader wants to have happen before they leave town.

Even when it’s being good to  you, the market is stressful.  Trying to keep up with it on vacation with the market going down and no bottom in sight is bad enough.  Throw his technical challenges into the mix and we couldn’t have picked a worse time to go if we’d tried.  We had a standing joke that every time we try to leave it’s the worst time we could do, but he didn’t find it funny when I brought it up.

He kept all of this to himself until some time on Saturday.  I just thought he was reeling from the market dive and his uncle’s death.  When I knew enough to really appreciate what he was going through, I was surprised he didn’t just call off the cruise – but we hadn’t gotten travel insurance and I don’t know if our issues would have qualified for a refund, even if we had gotten the insurance.

So come back next Monday and we’ll head to Galveston and try to have some fun.

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

Don’t Bother Asking the Librarian

The Library of Alexandria

TRAVEL THERE: LOST AT THE BIBLIOTHECA ALEXANDRINA

So Rom the Rogue Hantoor Driver dropped us off at the Library of Alexandria.  We knew we were there, because the unique curved roof is unmistakable.  What we didn’t know was how to get inside.

A Little Signage Please

We thought we were standing in front of the Library.  Huge plate glass windows allowed us to look in, but nothing told us we needed to go around to the other side.  We did eventually find our way to the front, but that was even more confusing.

The world was lined up at a building over to the side of the Library, but nothing suggested the crowd was headed into the library itself.  Remember, I may not read or understand Arabic, but Bill does and we stood there at the curb reading every sign we could see and watching the people to figure out what they were doing.

Through trial and error (and an exasperated guard) we found out we had to join the crowd and check pretty much everything on our persons, except the clothes on our back at the place with the crowd.  Then we got the secret sauce to entering the library.  Once inside there are all kinds of signs directing you to the various stacks of books over many floors, but nothing seemed to direct us to the free museums we were there to enjoy.  Now they have great signage to the museum that has a pricey entry fee, but I wanted the free stuff.  

We even asked people for directions and they’d point vaguely in a direction which wouldn’t help at all or they’d give us very detailed directions to something that wasn’t what I wanted to see.  We were literally about to give up and walk out when I decided to see if there was any wi-fi.  Rest assured there was no signage to suggest they did, I just thought it made sense for them to have it.

VOILA!  There was wi-fi, but the first thing it told me was the exhibit I had been asking about for the last hour was closed for restoration.  It also sent me down a staircase I’d been down several times before and directed me to what seemed like a dead end.  We’d been there at least four other times.  We decided to give the dead end a try and suddenly we were in free exhibit heaven.

How to Get There

So, if you ever go to Alexandria, here’s what you do.  First, find the front of the building.  It will be on the opposite side from the part facing the beach.  Go get in the huge line at the building next to the Library.  At the counter,  hand them everything not actually connected to you and pay them whatever they want.  Move quickly during this process so you can follow the person who was in line in front of you or you won’t find the entrance.

Once in the foyer, look for a stairwell on the right side.  Go down to the next floor.  Right in front of you will be the museum you can pay to go into, but turn to your left instead.  Go to the end of the hall and turn to the right, even though it looks like you are entering a warren of offices.  If you walk down the hall past the offices, you will suddenly find yourself in a treasure trove of exhibits.  

The pictures above are all of the library proper, which you enter through many doors all along the back of the foyer.  I do recommend you take some time wandering around.  We happened upon several interesting exhibits that way, which weren’t even listed in the cornucopia of materials I’d been studying for weeks before the trip.  It’s also the only way to seem the amazing architecture of the place.  But if you want to see the free museums, follow the instructions above.

I’m all out of words today, but come back next week and I’ll share some of the marvelous things we found down in the guts of the library.

Accommodations, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

What Else to Order Before You Board a Cruise

Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas
Cruise Compass kept us up to date with what was happening on the boat

TRAVEL HERE: WI-FI, SHOWS AND MORE

We’ve looked at shore excursions, specialty dining and beverage plans.  If you’ve never cruised before you are already worn out.  If you are a cruiser, then you know this is just par for the course.  It takes a little time before you go, but it makes things much more seamless when you are on board – and I promise it’s easier to do the ordering than it is to explain the complexities of it.  So if you were about to give up on the idea of cruising, hang on, we’re almost through with the whole pre-boarding thing.

Different Things to Order on Different Boats

Except for the headaches associated with having to make the food and beverage decisions, this Royal Caribbean Cruise was pretty easy.  Before our Norwegian Cruise we had to schedule all the specialty dining and book times for the on board entertainment.  We also took advantage of their wine program, where you pre-selected and paid for your bottles of wine ahead of time.  On different ships you will have different opportunities.  This might be one of the reasons some people like to keep cruising on the same line.  Once they figure it all out, they don’t want to have to learn a new system.

One of the things I had a hard time figuring out was what shows would be available on this cruise.  I’m a lot happier when I have an idea of what to expect, but it was pretty much a blank page.  Had I actually known what they would be delivering, I might have jumped ship before I got there, but that’s for later.  For now I just encourage you to be thorough and read through all the material they send you.  It might look like fine print, but later you will be glad you did.

WI-FI

There are so many ways to deliver wi-fi that I couldn’t begin to do them justice.  On Viking wi-fi was included.  On Norweigan, the public areas had wi-fi.  When we sailed with Carnival I still had a flip phone, so I didn’t care.  On Royal Caribbean they have what they call VOOM and you pay for it.  They also say in some of their materials they have free wi-fi in designated areas on board and they might on some ships, but not Vision of the Seas.

VOOM comes in two flavors, wi-fi alone and with streaming.  You can also buy it in a combo package with your soda or beverage packages to get a few dollars of discount.  Bill and I discussed it thoroughly a week or so before the cruise and since he thought he had a plan for off-loading his work for a few days and I thought they’d have an internet cafe with free wi-fi we decided to forgo any wi-fi.  What could we miss in four days, right?

Well, we both figured wrong, so keep coming back, because eventually I’ll tell you the sad saga of VOOM, but next week we’ll head to Galveston.

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

Rom & the Hantoor Tour

TRAVEL THERE: ALEX OVERTURE VIA HORSE & BUGGY

Stepping out of The Cecil on our way to the famous Library of Alexandria, we met Rom. He was waiting at the curb to offer us the services of his horse and carriage, which they call hantoor in Egypt.  The day was gorgeous – just right for taking a ride in an open buggy.  To my delight Bill was able to make a good deal with him and soon we were gliding around the streets of Alex as the horse’s hooves clip-clopped along.  

First to Fort Qaitby

Since the hotel was situated pretty much in the middle of most everything we wanted to see, we had planned on walking to most of the attractions on my list.  However, there were a few I wasn’t sure we could make it to on foot.  Fort Qaitby was one of them.  Located on a small peninsula near the ancient site of the Pharos Lighthouse, Fort Qaitby was the end of the line for Alex’s Corniche, the beautiful sandy crescent of beach along the Mediterranean.

Since the Fort was 2-3 miles away, it wasn’t that we couldn’t walk there, I was just concerned about taking the time to do so when there were so many other things I wanted to see.  Rom seated us in his buggy and took off for the fort.  This is a big time tourist locale, so there was a shopping opportunity and also a small museum inside the old English fort.  I was tempted to go in, because I love all museums, but with the Library of Alexandria calling for me, I managed to drag myself away.

We’d seen everything I was interested in seeing in just a few minutes, but then we stumbled onto a group of fishermen throwing their lines into the sea from a rocky beach on the other side of the Corniche.  Bill was fascinated.  Alex used to be a place he came on vacation and the coastal activities, like fishing and eating at fish restaurants were one of his favorite memories.  I reined in my urgency to get to the library and relished Bill’s childlike delight in the fishermen, the birds, curious cats and crashing waves.  Here’s a few pictures from our time near the fort.

Too Much of a Good Thing

After the Fort, Rom drove through a whole lot more of the rest of the city than we actually wanted to see.  It started out pretty well.  We were in the downtown area, where we got out and took pictures along the Corniche.  We saw Kom al-Dikka, some Roman ruins I’d wanted to visit, but knew we wouldn’t have much time for.  It was a great overview of the city.

Then we got into some of the residential areas and that wasn’t quite so pretty.  Alex is a city whose time has past.  While there are a few areas where there are new developments and hotels, most of it is old, peeling and falling apart.  There’s plenty of beautiful historic areas to enjoy also.  However, once you get off the main drags, things get a little scary.  The charm is completely worn off and the residents look at you with narrowed eyes, as if to say, “What in the hell are you doing here?”

We finally convinced Rom we’d seen all we needed to see.  He clicked his tongue and slapped the reins, heading towards the Library.  With the exception of the run down residential area, it had been a wonderful morning, but unfortunately, the ghetto was not the only ugly thing we were going to see that day.  When we arrived at the Library, Mr. Nice Guy Rom turned into somebody else.  He hit Bill up for a lot more money than we’d agreed to pay him for the tour.  A small disagreement erupted.  Bill paid the amount he’d agreed to and walked away, leaving a very angry Rom.  Apparently we had not committed too serious of an infraction.  We saw him later in the day and he greeted us like we were his long lost friends.

That’s all for today.  Come back next week and visit the library with us! In the meantime, enjoy some of the sites we saw on our tour.