Our first class Eurostar journey went well with the exception of Seth getting tied up at work and making the train by only 5 minutes. A day with Bob, Eileen and Bailey was something we were really looking forward to. The best part of course, for Seth was seeing Bailey. Seth admits, the best part of the trip in Brussels, was without a doubt, Bailey. Bailey was a well under a year old terrier who's whole bum end would move along with the often wagging tail. She is a wonderful dog, full of play and intelligence and just a joy to be around. Bob and Eileen were understandably smitten and seth even admits "I probably haven't sent out more than 5 birthday cards in the last 10 years, Bailey got one this January 19. She's just wonderful."
We arrived late in the evening on the Eurostar, and of course Bailey
was there to meet us. A short ride home through the surprisingly dirty
downtown of Brussels and we were at the very nice large flat that Bob had
found after an exhaustive search. We stayed up with stories of travels
and talking about Dilbert books too late and so slept in a bit the next
Bob and Seth, no surprise, started a game of Axis and Allies that was destined to be finished very far away as we cruised down the Nile.
As the day leisurely progressed, the final time came - it was time for Bailey to go the 'spa'. In this case the 'spa' was a huge house far out in the country with a big yard run by the type of friendly Europeans that good stereotypes come from. The house was barkingly full of dogs running around, happy and playing. Eileen being the good mother had brought Bailey's favorite toy and carrying case. Seth had the feeling that as soon as we left the house, Bailey was swept up in a wave of friendly dogs running out into the yard to play and probably didn't notice for hours that her parents had gone. Eileen, on the other hand, held back the tears as we drove away.
To console Eileen, we gave her a small gift that Tara had brought in from Singapore and Tokyo - a tomagotchi. To kill this subject quickly, let it simply be said that these small computer eggs were quite a distraction throughout the trip. Bob and Eileen excelled in being the perfect parents and Tara was quite conscientious, but Seth's enthusiasm was slightly ebbed as we kept waking up the first night in Egypt to feed the thing.
Finally, the trip began in earnest. A trip to Bob's office to drop off the car and then the taxi took us to the airport to wait - and to wait - and to wait. Our journey did not have an easy start. The tour company, Bosphorus, had given us a time to be at the airport. We arrived before the specified time to a long line in front of the Bosphorus tour desk. In hindsight, the Bosphorus line was nothing compared to the Air Egypt line. The Air Egypt line was mass confusion. We waited in the Air Egypt line for well over an hour in a crush of humanity. Seth was a bit worried that Tara was overly stressed since she was quite adamant and snotty about NOT letting a German family push into line ahead of us. There was very little semblance of order and the stereotype of the pushy Americans didn't really hold true. Even though we were in line before many other people, we ended up being nearly the LAST group to reach the counter and have our seats assigned. The nice surprise at the end of the long line was a business class seat instead of an economy seat because the cattle class was full!
The flight was about 7 hours long, but very nice in business class. We arrived in the Luxor airport and wandered around looking for our tour group and figuring out what to do. We found out quickly that organization is not one of the Bosphorus tour companies forte. The whole process was, shall we say, rather informal? After getting our luggage, we didn't know exactly what to do. Finally we found a man at a table (like a card table) in a very open room taking names and sending all the tourists to the proper groups. After he directed the nightly crush of european tourists through the process, we were shuffled onto a bus late at night.
After we boarded the correct tour bus, we found out *very* quickly that we had ended up in a French-speaking tour group! We were the only 4 English speaking tourists on the tour. This was, of course, contrary to what the Belgian travel agent had told Eileen. As Seth deals with more tour agents, the more he likens them to used car salesmen - they'll tell you anything to get you to book their holiday. No matter, our guide made an attempt at explaining five minutes of French in one minute of English. The next change in plans was that our tour guide decided that since we had gotten in so late (huh? This was the scheduled flight for the tour) that we wouldn't be going to the hotel as planned and instead we would head directly to the boat. Changing expectations would become one of the themes of this tour.
We were very happy to arrive on the boat and go to sleep.
We spend five days cruising South on the Nile. The cruise was nice because we tried to relax on the boat, alongside the pool, as much as possible. However, we had to take some trips ashore because you only cruise by the Valley of the Kings and Queens once!
Egypt was very hot! Very amazing to see what remains from civilization 4,000 years ago! The colors in the hieroglyphics were still so bright and to think that they were painted thousands of years ago is hard to comprehend. It was also very eye opening to see an agrarian culture.
On a personal note, "don't drink the water", OR, eat the food on the boat even! Tara was the first to be stuck with King Tut's revenge. She had a stomach ache at 3 AM when we woke up for the 3 hour bus ride through the desert to Abu Simbal. Thinking nothing of it, we got on the bus. By 2 hours into the bus ride, I HAD TO use the toilet on the bus, no matter how horrible it was. So, I tried to hold my breathe as it smelled pretty bad & I went inside. When I closed the door, it was pitch dark, but it was a toilet. I survived sunrise and getting back on the bus for the rest of the journey.
Our bus driver was in a huge rush to get to Abu Simbal first & we kept passing all the other busses. We tried not to pay attention to the danger (only later did we find out there was a fatal bus crash on the route recently) and were very happy to see Abu Simbal devoid of tourists. We were the first into both tombs before the other tourists started arriving. Tara, in hindsight, should have gone to the toilet first. As, it became urgent that she split up with everyone and hunt it down. Not many others had braved the bus toilets and there was a huge queue. I wish it had been dark once I actually saw it!!
Slowly, everyone's digestive system gave into whatever is in the water
& one of Eileen's favorite quotes from the trip is Tara saying from
inside the hotel room in Egypt "sorry, can't come out now, Seth and I are
sharing the toilet." Credit should go to Bob, as he had an iron stomach...
right up to when he got back home, when he was also struck with the Tut.
|This is Bob relaxing on the upper deck. Notice the narrow strip of
green on the Nile shore and the barren desert hills beyond. The meaning
of the fertile Nile delta truly came to life as we cruised down the Nile.
Sailing down on one of the many small cruise ships, the green shores contrasted
with the desert that could be seen off in the distance at some points.
Birds flew out from the rushes of reeds and as the fishermen spear fished
from small wooden boats, it was easy to imagine how life had been here
Cruising down the Nile was very relaxing for all of us, the most taxing
thing we did was rush up to the pool deck before breakfast to claim chairs
before the German tourists laid their towels out on all of the chairs!
Proof that tourism moved ever onward as we sailed further into civilization.
|We were very surprised at how colorful the hieroglyphics were. At first we thought they'd been re-painted - but no, these are the original colors.|
|We saw many camels from afar when we were cruising down the Nile. But it wasn't until Aswan when we saw one up close! This is one of the camels we took a ride through the desert on. Not a very long ride, only 30 minutes of so, but that was enough for Seth (who thought he may be sacrificing future children by too much contact with the saddle!). Bob and Eileen had to share a camel, but the camel owners took one look at Seth and we each had our own camels! We rode in the desert with the Nile on one side and barren hills on the other.|
|We saw the pyramids at night first. We had enjoyed the light and sound show at the Philae temple, so we decided to see the show at the pyramids. We didn't go close to the pyramids, just admired them from afar. It was mind-boggling to think they were 4,000 years old.|
|The next day, we went back to the pyramids. We walked close to them and even crawled inside the largest. The sphinx was also worth a visit.|
|Our Tomagotchi Pets
Tara had bought a few tomagotchi's in Singapore back in June, but we hadn't started playing with them yet. Seth thought that on vacation would be a good time to bring them to life. Plus, since Bob and Eileen had to leave Bailey in Brussels, we thought an electronic pet might keep them company. Well, since Bob and Eileen's instructions were in Japanese, their first pet died after only one day. But their Japanese must have improved since their next pet lived for 11 days.
However, Seth and Tara's pet lived a total of 28 days!! Near the end, Tara was having to feed and play with him every 5 minutes to keep him happy.
|Overall Experience||7||A very memorable trip because we had lots of fun traveling with Bob and Eileen and especially memorable because of the sights we saw.|
|Ease of Journey||4||This poor rating was due entirely to the tour company which was not what we'd call organized.|
|Accommodation||5||The Nile Cruise Ship: This was our first cabin on a cruise ship. In
some ways it was just fine, but our biggest complaint was that there were
limited times in which you could eat. Seemingly a small thing, but Tara
started hoarding bread from breakfast in case she wanted a snack.
The Hotel in Cairo: The best thing about the hotel was that it was a 2 minute walk from a McDonald's. So, even though we arrived at 2 AM the first night, guess where we had a late dinner?
|Activities||9||The cruise was a perfect way to admire the Nile Delta as it went by. Camel riding is also high on the been there, done that list. Plus, climbing on the outside and the inside of the Great Pyramids is a pretty great activity that we'll always remember.|
|Coolness||8||Actually, seeing the Pyramids and King Tut's tomb was totally worth the whole trip. Our concept of time and history was seriously challenged by seeing so much from 2000 B.C..|