Sunday, 31 December 2017

Luxor, Egypt (Luxor Hilton Hotel)

Having a good time in Luxor. Successfully fallen back into my daily routine while I’m here. Wake up, get dressed, and go down for a full breakfast in the main dining room. After breakfast, sit along the Nile and watch the birds and the minimal river traffic for about 15 minutes, then return to my room and order coffee and a bread basket. After checking through email, and a couple cups of coffee, go to sleep for at least two more hours.

After Breakfast:

Hussein picks me up at around 2:00 and we go to McDonalds for a late lunch where we each have two cheeseburgers and a cup of coffee, with milk and sugar. Then drive around for a couple hours, doing errands, shopping, and sightseeing. He drops me off back at the hotel where I take an afternoon nap and have dinner, and later he picks me up and we may stop by for a beer at his cousin’s bar, drive around, or go back and talk at his place until midnight. Then he returns me to my hotel. Rough life.

Hussein Ordering at McDonald’s

Pizza: Dinner in Room

rom Hussein’s Balcony (at night):

Movie of Hussein’s Street: Here

Luxor Street:

Driving on West Bank (Valley of the Kings) at Sunset:

 

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Basingstoke, England to Luxor, Egypt

Everyone was up early and Pawel was in the kitchen making us a special “Russian” eggs and sausage breakfast. It really filled me up. I’m ready for my trip to Luxor!

Prean walked me down to the bus station (short walk from our flat) and showed the driver the ticket he purchased for me, to ensure I was on the right bus. And soon off to Heathrow to catch the 2:00 p.m. plane to Cairo.

Arrived at Heathrow with plenty of time. After sorting out my ticket with EgyptAir (still not sure what the problem was), I had my suitcase checked-in and my boarding passes for Cairo and Luxor. Had a quick bite to eat then walked around the airport. Was also able to get my VAT (Value Added Tax) returned for some purchases I made.

We had a little delay leaving Heathrow, but were eventually on our way. I was able to get a window seat – previously had a middle seat, which would be uncomfortable for a 4 hour flight. Sat next to a couple from Birmingham who were traveling to Mecca for Umrah, a lesser pilgrimage than the Hajj, but perform the same rituals. They were very nice and helpful when the flight attendant came around. Learned the husband collected data for broadcast news and is looking for advancement.

View of Heathrow Area

We landed in Cairo and I was able to purchase an Egyptian Visa, but had to cut in line for Visa approval so I could make my flight to Luxor. Was able to board the plane with time to spare. We landed on time and most were collecting our luggage a few minutes later. I was part of a group that was pointed to a different baggage carrossel where we received our luggage. Hussein was waiting for me outside the baggage location. Wow, I was tired. But first he wanted to show me the work that has been completed on his flat since I’ve been away. Was an amazing transformation since last year. When I first saw it, the walls and floor were in, but not finished off and no paint, plumbing, or electricity.

I finally checked in the Hilton and thankfully was given a quiet room. Haven’t been able to check email or texts since my Egyptian Vodafone SIM card account needs to be topped off. Now I can use the wifi in the hotel room.

Looking forward to some sleep tonight. Hussein will pick me up in the afternoon and we will have our traditional two cheeseburgers and coffee. When we first went to McDonalds last year, we were both surprised that we ordered the same thing. We even both put milk and sugar in our coffee.

Glad to be home in Luxor.

 

Monday, 25 December 2017

Basingstoke, England 

Everyone was up by around 8:00 a.m. and I had prepared Christmas stockings for Prean, Viktor, and Pawel. I enjoy finding items to put in their stockings and watching them pull out each little gift from “Santa”. Paddington Bear was with us as well.

While they were looking at their stocking “loot”, I started to make the requested French Toast. While I didn’t have the right-sized pan for cooking, I made do with what was available. I used 12 eggs to make 12 pieces of french toast, so we were all very full after we had our share. What a great way to start Christmas Day!

After breakfast we watched “Auntie Mame” which is now become an annual ritual. Viktor had seen the movie before and was able to follow about 90% of the movie, but Pawel had a lot of questions. It must be very difficult for native Russian speakers to follow the fast pace of the move, the slang, and the humor – but both of them enjoyed the movie nonetheless.

Time for a nap! Prean was working on his turkey, stuffing, and roasted potatoes. When I woke from my nap, he was still in the kitchen. (He is going to be very tired later on.)

Before

After

Andy picked us up at 3:00 and we returned to his home for Christmas Dinner. The table was all set, but it took another hour to finish all of the preparations and then we were able to fill our plates. We had both turkey and salmon, yorkshire pudding, roasted potatoes, stuffing, spiced wine cabbage, brussel sprouts with chestnuts and some other items.

We were able to get everyone around the same table and found we had poppers (English tradition) to pull. After filling my plate once, I had a second helping of the turkey and a large chunk of salmon. Was stuffed by he time we were finished. Then ate a dessert, some sort of waffle, raspberry, white chocolate, etc. Then added some brandy butter. Very rich!

While people were finishing eating, I was able to make a few phone calls to wish people “Merry Christmas”. Was able to talk to my brother too. (Spoke with Cousin Donna yesterday.)

After dinner we talked about gratitude. All 11 of us, including the children, talked about for what they were most grateful. Both Pawel and I, being new to this extended family, were very welcomed by all and heard that we could come back anytime. We are now part of this family.

When everyone started to fade from all of the food we ate, we took a few pictures and Prean ordered a taxi. I needed to get up early in the morning and Pawel asked if he could make breakfast in the morning.

Viktor, Pawel, and I stayed up for a little while longer to talk, but Prean was conked out. No doubt, he was cooking most of the day.

Think I’m ready to leave for Egypt tomorrow. I have my flight and hotel confirmed, I just need to get on the 8:25 a.m. bus to Heathrow, then I should be okay.

 

 

 

Sunday, 24 December 2017

London, England (5 Ranelagh Road)

Was very ready to leave this flat and meet Prean, Viktor, and Pawel (Viktor’s friend from Moscow). We’re going by bus to Basingstoke where I’ll stay for Christmas.

I should have called a taxi since I was trying to roll my suitcase, carry-on, and sack of food and gifts to the underground to Victoria Station, then to the Victoria Station Coach (Bus) Station, which I didn’t realize was several blocks away. I arrived at the Coach Station very hot and perspiring. Live and learn…

Nice bus ride to Basingstoke and it took about an hour and a half. We shopped at Waitrose where we picked up the turkey and food items that we’ll need in our flat. From there we checked into the flat, a two bedroom with two bathrooms. I got the room with the ensuite.

We were picked up by Andy who took us to his house where we had dinner with his family and Prean’s friends. Played some games, talked and listened to music until 11:00. Prean suggested we attend midnight mass at St. Michael’s Church, an Anglican parish church.

This was my first midnight mass. Nice, but not anything I’d like to do again. Very formal – though we sang a couple of Christmas carols. We walked back to the flat and all of us where ready to call it a day and went to sleep.

Tomorrow we will open Christmas stockings, have french toast (made by me), and watch Auntie Mame, our traditional Christmas movie.

 

Saturday, 23 December 2017

London, England (5 Ranelagh Road)

Woke up early to work on my Early Memories. Took most of the day, but also did some laundry while editing. Done! Looking forward to hearing back what everyone has to say after they read what I wrote.

Including some pictures I took last night and the night before. London really gets into the lighting their main streets.

Tomorrow I leave for Basingstoke and will be there the 24th and 25th. On the 26th I travel to Luxor.

 

 

Friday, 22 December 2017

London, England (5 Ranelagh Road)

The past few days I’ve been doing a little Christmas shopping for the friends I’ll be staying with on the 24th and 25th. Have seen Prean and Viktor a couple of times and another friend who also lives in London. Walked around London at night and took a few pictures. Enjoying my mostly alone time before I’m with a house full of people.

Tomorrow I’m looking forward to sending off my Early Memories to cousins. So much more to edit, but think I have a good solid block of time to get them sent.

 

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

London, England (5 Ranelagh Road)

This morning, after getting the place organized, the dishes washed, and then a shower, I was ready to take the underground from Victoria station to Oxford Circle and Soho. I really enjoy walking around the Soho area because of the shops, restaurants and is a great place for people watching. Oxford Circle station is only a couple of stops away from Victoria station.

I found a place to get a pedicure, but their first opening wasn’t until 4:15 tomorrow. I made the appointment anyway but looked for another place to get my pedicure. While walking around I was getting hungry and saw a Starbucks where I bought a bottle of water, a yogurt, and a blueberry muffin.

Nearby, I found another place that offered pedicures and asked if they had an opening. And they did! The young girl who did the pedicure was very nice and we talked about traveling and learned about when she worked in New York City. After she was through, my feet felt relaxed and ready for some more walking.

I took a video of some entertainment on Oxford street – a small group of Hare Krishna and a Mickey and Minnie dancing to the music of the nearby Hare Krishna.

Click: YouTube Video

When I got back to the flat, all was quiet for about 5 minutes, then heard music playing from down below. Didn’t mind it actually – the music was not too loud and was entertaining as I got settled in. Before long, I was ready for a nap.

Just as I woke up from the nap I received a text from Prean asking if I’d like to join them for coffee. I hadn’t had dinner, so before I left I popped a couple of slices of bread into the toaster and ate them while I was getting on my shoes.

I met them at the Chelsea bridge and from there we walked across the bridge to a new restaurant in the Battersea Power Station development. (The Battersea Power Station, which really was a power station at one time, is being converted to housing, shops and restaurants to make a new community.)

The restaurant we went to was nice (they had been there before) and we sat at some couches and ordered a bottle of wine to share. So much for having coffee. We talked mostly of our plans for Christmas where we will travel to Basingstoke on the 24th and stay until the 26th.

After we finished the bottle, we walked back over the bridge and took a few pictures. Not too cold outside and no rain.

New Battersea Power Station Development (on the right) and Thames River: 

Pictures from the Chelsea Bridge:

From there I walked back to my flat, about 10 minutes away. Was greeted by more talking from down below while I fixed dinner. Watched a few more episodes of “The Crown” before going to bed. The talking stopped at around midnight.

Tomorrow I will publish two more travel blog updates and then shop for Prean and Viktor. Later, think I’m meeting up with them again and be introduced to Prean’s friends from South Africa who are arriving tomorrow. We will see them again in Basingstoke for Christmas.

 

Monday, 18 December 2017

London, England (40 Sutherland Ave.)

Today Corrine leaves from Heathrow to return to Oregon and I will move to a new flat in the Pimlico area of London, near where Prean and Viktor live. Before we left, we got the flat cleaned up a bit and our bags packed before our taxi arrived.

The taxi dropped us off at Paddington station. Corrine bought us some coffees, as she has done I think every morning we’ve been in London. I walked her to the Heathrow Express train where we said our good-byes and she was off to Heathrow. It will feel a bit odd not having her around and will miss her company. But that is my life as a vagabond, meeting up with people and sharing experiences together and then moving on to new adventures.

I found a place in the station to sit down and wrote and uploaded two posts to the travel blog. Since my flat won’t be ready until 1:30, I had some time to fill and it was only 10:30. After I uploaded the posts, I decided it was cold in the station and went up to the Hilton Hotel lobby, that is connected to the station, and had a cup of tea. Before I knew it, It was time to leave for the new flat.

The plan was to take the underground to Victoria and then a taxi to the new flat. But that didn’t work out since the line to Victoria was down and I would need to take the Bakeroo Line to Oxford Circus and transfer there to Victoria. So, went to the taxi stand and caught a taxi there to drive me to the flat. A little more expensive, but it got me to the flat on time.

The flat is a bit smaller and not as nice looking as it was pictured in the Airbnb listing, but it should be okay for the few days that I’ll be here. Or so I thought. After I returned from a visit to the nearby Tesco Express, I heard people talking in the flat below mine. Then some music, then more talking.

Later, as I was cooking dinner, the talking continued. And it continued as I was watching a program on my laptop (no TV here) and they kept up the talking until early the next morning. It was practically non-stop! Fortunately, from the bedroom, I could barely hear the talking and was able to get some sleep, though woke up a few times during the night. Yes, the people below were still talking until, I think, about 5:00 a.m.

Tomorrow, I’ll walk around Soho and perhaps get a pedicure. I still need to find a few things to put into the stockings I got for Prean and Viktor that we’ll open up on Christmas Day.

 

 

Sunday, 17 December 2017

London, England (40 Sutherland Ave.)

Today is Corrine’s last full day in London. We were looking forward to our tour of Buckingham Palace and a concert at Westminster Abbey in the evening. We had some time before our tour to meet up with Prean and Viktor at a coffee shop near the St. James’s Park station.

The tour of Buckingham Palace was excellent! It was a small group with a guide who walked us through the palace’s state rooms. It was Corrine’s first visit and my third visit this year. There were three guides with us and were available to answer our questions. I highly recommend any tour through this historical building. Our tour ended up with a small champagne reception before we were escorted out the front gates. (I tried to take a picture and was immediately told I had to wait until I left through the gate.)

It was raining fairly steadily at this point so we took a taxi to the Corinthia Hotel for tea. I really wanted Corrine to see how tea is properly served in England. We were not disappointed. They really know how to do it right at the Corinthia. We also had something to eat as well. As we were enjoying our tea and meal we both decided to change our plans and go see Star Wars instead. Her husband and three boys saw it this past week and I also wanted to see it before I left London. It will be a few months before I’m in an English-speaking country.

We found a theater in Chelsea and purchased our tickets on-line before leaving the Corinthia. The weather by this time was clearing up and we enjoyed walking along Kings Road in Chelsea to the theater, or cinema as it is called in England.

What a great movie! The two or so hours that the movie played went by very quickly. Corrine bought some popcorn and learned that you can have it with salt or sweet. No butter! After the movie we walked down the other side of Kings Road, looking in the windows, before we reached Sloan Square for our train to Royal Oaks where we get off.

Tomorrow we’ll be busy packing in the morning. Prean arranged for a taxi to pick us up at 10:00 a.m. to take us to Paddington station where Corrine will take the Heathrow Express for her flight back to Seattle, then Portland. I have to wait around for a few hours before my flat in Pimlico is ready.

What a great time I’ve had with Corrine! We certainly were busy this past week. Perhaps we can travel again to another location. Who knows?

 

Saturday, 16 December 2017

London, England (40 Sutherland Ave.)

Walked out of the flat a little later than usual. The idea for the afternoon was to visit the Portobello Market, a Saturday event that takes place in Notting Hill. I saw that we could walk there in 20 minutes, but after reaching a dead-end street and then the rain starting to fall, we decided to take the underground instead.

When we arrived at the Notting Hill station we followed the crowd to the market. So much to see! Between shops along the street and vendor stalls in the street, there was a lot to take in. Also took a picture of the homes in the area.

Notting Hill Homes:

Portobello Market: 

After nearly two hours, we returned to the underground and caught a train to the Embankment / Westminster area to have tea at the Corinthia. When we got to the Corinthia Hotel we found that the place to have tea was fully booked so we had cocktails in the bar instead (and to use the restrooms). From there we found a very warm (!!) place to have a bite to eat. Both Corrine and I couldn’t wait to leave because the place was very hot and were uncomfortable.

We cooled down by walking around Leicester Square and a portion of the West End. So many people! Corrine lead the way. We found a place that served gelato and each had a dish before we walked to St. Martins-in-the-Fields were the Messiah was being performed.

 

St. Martins-in-the-Fields is in a neoclassical early 18th century church that boarders Trafalgar Square. The interior is very traditional and we sat is a stall or box located on the side. It had wooden seats but you could rent a cushion, but we roughed it out.

Trafalgar Square:

St. Martins-in-the-Field:

Leicester Square and West End:

The soloists, choir, and orchestra were terrific and well-received by the audience. During the first part of the Messiah, I nodded off because the music was so relaxing and beautiful. At intermission, I walked around while Corrine visited with the mother and daughter who were from Denmark. After intermission, Corrine and I traded places in the stall. The second and third parts of the Messiah were as good as the first and we enjoyed the whole performance very much. Glad we could get tickets.

Was another easy ride back to the flat and we watched some TV before bed. Tomorrow we will tour Buckingham Palace and then attend a Christmas program at Westminster Abbey.