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Early morning. Freshly (?) squeezed mango juice and strawberry juice! Oh. My. Goodness. So yum. It made the 5ish am start to the day bearable. Thank goodness for 5 star hotels!

After our delicious breaky we headed off to the airport and hopped onto our Egyptair plane. Oh dear. Firstly the flight attendants scared me. Smile people! And secondly they had a camera on the bottom of the plane giving us a great view of the dodgy tarmac. Hmmmm. Sounding like a whinging westerner here but whatever!

Up, up, up we went. Then, eventually the scary attendants served us a weird inflight meal: partially frozen muffin (which was actually quite yummy) and a cup-o-tea! It was a shortish trip to Luxor. And after we landed, the whole plane cheered! Fu-neeee. But it was all worth it. This place was incredible. Temples a-go-go! Hardly any tourists.

After a day of temple exploring we headed to our boat. Oh bliss! We had to walk through about six other luxurious floating hotels to get to ours. We found our room – just like the hotel we left in Cairo. This is the way to travel Egypt! (Cocky westerner now? Oh well.). Up to the deck we floated and sat there sipping some kind of drink overlooking the Nile! The Nile!!!!!

That night we headed back to Karak temple for an exciting (yawn) sound and (yawn) light show. Ooo sorry… flashbacks. It was freeeeeezing cold and the first ten minutes was creepy and exciting. But then it went on… and on… and on! And we both nearly fell asleep.

Next day was the flippin’ Valley of the Kings. This place rocked. The tombs were beautiful. The colours of the drawings/paintings were still brightly coloured and well preserved. We headed down into the bowels of the thing and checked out where the poor Egyptian was laid to rest. We heard tales of brains being sucked out the noses, grave robbers and the afterlife. Fascinating… and a bit gross.

Out we popped and off we went to one of my fav places: the temple of Queen Hatshepsut. This giant temple was built into the side of a mountain. It has a sad history. In 1997 62 people were shot by terrorists so it had an eerie feel about it. But it was also magnificent and awesome. For me, Egypt was full of ‘moments’. And this was one of them. Loved it!

After a full morning we headed back to the boat and set sail for Esna. Ah, this was the life. I felt for the poor adventurous tourists in Felucas (small sailing boats) with their lack of toilets or personal space. Imagine if you got the runs on board! Eeeeeeek.

The next few days were filled with Nile-side temples, jewellery purchasing (oh why didn’t I buy more? So cheap and lovely) and various interactions with various locals that made us feel a various range of emotions from annoyance to affection.

After reaching Aswan we went to a perfumery, had a dance on the ship with our tour guides and headed back to the airport to brave the scary flight attendants once again. Smile and nod. Smile and nod.

Hello Cairo with your crazy cars and your millions of people. Hello The Egyptian Museum with your amazing artefacts and floor filled with King Tut stuff. Hello Bazaar and Egyptian Restaurant. Hello taxi driver and hotel again. Hello… where had the Americans got to?

After we went to the restaurant our tour guide put us all in taxis (this was not part of the tour so no bus). We all made it safely and way too swiftly back to the hotel except the car-full of Americans. We feared the worst. It was a bad time to be an American in Egypt. Half an hour went by. One hour. Our tour guide was frothing at the mouth. He was furious.

Finally the little taxi ambled its way back to the giant hotel and everyone started to breathe again! Crazy times.

The tour was over. We said our fondest farewells to our lovely tour guide and prepared ourselves to become our own tour guides in Europe. In countries we had no idea about. In places we couldn’t speak the language. Driving on the wrong side of the road. Um. Yeah. We felt a little apprehensive. But that’s adventure, baby!

See you in Paris! Bye.

 

Picture this you’ve been awake for 30 hours straight, travelled 13 hours and spent 10 hours waiting in an airport in foggy London. Add to this 5 extra plane hours full of gurgly foul tummy motions and a single vomit and that’s how I arrived in Cairo!

We hopped off our BA flight to be met by our ‘tour guide’ (or WAS he?). Off he tottered with our passports, tickets and tour coupons as we stood dazed in the Cairo international airport. Ding dongs. The first rule of travelling is do not let go of your passport. But there you have it.

We were lucky. Our smiling guide strode back with all our things in hand and we were whisked past eager taxi drivers to our minivan. We were off. It was a tense time in the Middle East. Bombs had just started to drop on Egypt’s next-door-neighbour, Iraq the day we arrived and we were not sure what reception us Westerners were going to get.

We arrived at our fancy pants hotel and found ourselves staring at a king sized bed, wondering what the dickens it was… ah yes… a bed! We took a quick glance out our window at the glistening Nile and fell into a deep sleep. In the morning we arose with a spring in our step… sort of. We had a down day at the hotel and it was here we met our first Egyptians.

The cleaner came in around umpteen o’clock with a smile on his face. I swear  I could see dollar signs reflected in his eyes. We soon realised that a lot of Egyptians thought Westerners = cash! How wrong could they be!? The poor fella tried everything from us teaching him a little bit of English, he teaching us Arabic to gifts of sandy pyramids and other impractical travelling the world, can’t take home prezzies. Then he brought a friend along for some more English lessons and that’s when we called it a day. We had learnt our lesson. The door gently slammed shut on that chapter.

The following day we met our real tour guide and our other fearless fellow travellers. Poor Egypt. Instead of having a full tour of 30 people, our group was down to 8, which was good for us. People were just plain scared to come to the Middle East with bombs and such. Not us!

Off we toddled to our first couple of  sites: The Pyramids at Saqqara and the ancient city of Memphis. For this part of the tour we had our very own bodyguard with an impressive looking weapon. And this was the moment I embraced the travelling thing and  decided to (pardon the Egyptian pun) live in denial (de Nile!?!).  I love history so I was not going to cancel this tour, unless something major happened… and it didn’t!

After this we headed to … wait for it… The Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx (pronounced Spinx in American). This was bloody amazing. Beautiful, old, tall, strong structures. It was awe-inspiring. You have to go! But I must say, the Nile does not flow past the pyramids – that’s just a Hollywood thing peeps. The Sphinx was so special. It was a moment in life I will never forget.

Back we went to the hotel. And, to tell you the truth, I would have been happy with just that day cos it rocked. But we had 9 days ahead of us… Stay tuned to see what other Egyptian adventures we had. Watch this space…

My favourite hat is not expensive or overly gorgeous. It is not always comfortable or in the right shape. It does not always protect me well enough from the sun but my favourite hat has a story and this is it…

2003, Europe, or more precisely, Italy. The sun shone, the sea sparkled. Washed undies hung in the bathroom once more, drip drying, begging for a ride in a real washing machine. Bodies filled  3 rooms. A snoring chorus was rocking the joint. This was travelling, cheapish style.

Bleary eyes opened on a perfect Cinque Terre day. Those bodies rolled out of the semi-comfortable beds in the rooms of one of the colourful buildings in Riomaggiore. Dressed for a day of walking (or training, depending on energy levels) the bodies consumed breakfast, shared plans, and … exit!

Down the winding steps we went, down the steep road or pavement or whatever it was to the beginning of the famous walk. Money paid, off we went. I had my ridiculously small hat on my head. Twas all the rage in ’03. Or so I thought. We sauntered through the first part of the walk, scouring the sparkling waters for any sign of exotic wildlife. None.

The first town was ticked off with a visit to the chemist. Poor hubby was suffering from some nasal condition. With a dubious nod, hubby bought the suspect Italian drugs and kept walking. Sun shone, feet pointed straight ahead so off we went.

Town 2. Time for a spot of pizza. We trespassed on one of the farms that overlooked the incredibly sparkly, crystal, gorgeous ocean. We sat and looked and chewed and sipped on beers and headed for the 4th town. Beautiful Vernazza with its church by the sea. Here we sat once more, drinking in the beauty of the colourful buildings and the chiming of the church bells. A wedding. Why not?

The 5th town is where I met my hat. Intimidated by the reports of a difficult walk, we hopped on the train and headed to Monterosso al Mare. Hello hat, Hello Emma! I had been eyeing similar wicker hats that other fancy tourists had and had secretly wanted one of my own!

Our eyes met across a crowded marketplace (I think?!). Its beauty and price seemed to draw me in, like one of those weird background shrinking, face getting bigger shots you see in modern movies. Love my technical language! Super. Money was exchanged for goods (ie hat) and from that fateful day, hat and I have never been apart.

Hat lived in my backpack for the next few travelling months. She was the keeper of the clean undies. She smelled rustic and exotic. She still does. And that, my dear readers, is how I met my favourite hat. Not a rich, fancy hat. But a humble, floppy number with a great story!

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