Tuesday, 25 September 2018

London, England (Kensington Hilton)

Nice to compose my blog updates again with a laptop. Today I bought an Acer 14″ Chromebook and was up and running within 30 minutes after I returned to my room. All of my bookmarks were where they should be and I updated my Google password too, just in case. Now, I must learn a new keyboard layout. Not only are the key placements slightly different, but this is a UK keyboard, so there are differences from that regard as well. And very, very different from the manual typewriter that my dad had in his office where he taught me how to type: Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party.


Now, how to provide an update for the past couple of weeks. I decided to provide a summary by location, as best as I can remember.

Hamburg, Germany (September 13)

On my last full day in Hamburg I walked up to the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg concert hall and enjoyed the beautiful sunny day and admired the sites along the way. I took a number of pictures before I arrived at the Elbphilharmonie. When I arrived, it really is something to stand before it and look up. A glass edifice, with a wavy top, placed on a muli-level parking garage. I walked around the viewing level of the building and took a number of pictures of the views from each direction. I asked about seeing the concert hall but was told I must buy a ticket to an event to do so. (Ah, very cleaver.)

My only other destination was St. Nicholas’ Church, a WW2 memorial that I remember seeing while watching documentaries of Hamburg. This Gothic revival church was kept pretty much intact (with a little 20th century technology) to support the remaining structure after one of the many bombing raids. I rode the elevator up through the steeple to a viewing platform. Again, I had the opportunity for more pictures of Hamburg from another terrific viewing location.

I left Hamburg with no regrets. I only had planned to stay a couple of days and what I saw gave me a good idea of what I could expect should I decide to return. I would have liked to ridden in the high-speed boat around the harbor, but I was okay with a walk through the old part of Hamburg.

Mainz, Germany (September 14 – 16)

I arrived in Mainz on Friday afternoon and got settled into the hotel quite well. Thought, it was funny trying to get into my room. (Though, not quite so funny at the time considering I had just lost my travel bag.) My room key didn’t work, so I needed to return to the hotel lobby and perhaps ask for a new key. The clerk who checked me in said that I had to put the key in the slot quickly, in and out, and then turn the door handle and then push to door open. I just looked at him, then said, “Isn’t this something you could have told me before I went up to the room?” He just looked at me.

Thankfully, the next day turned out very well. I ran a view errands before meeting up with Ori and Molly at 1:00 p.m. One errand was to visit the train station to ask questions about my lost luggage to see if there was an update. I spoke to someone who knew about these sort of things and let me know that once I have my case number (which I have, thanks to Ori), this will be used to track and respond back if anything is found. I also picked up a charging device for my phone. Fortunately the TV in my room had an USB port that I could use to charge my phone while I slept Monday night.

I met up with Ori and Molly at the hotel where we had coffee and tea in the lobby lounge while we caught up, and of course talked about the bag as well. Our plan today was to walk over to the Mainz Dom (Cathedral), then visit the Gutenberg Museum, and to top off the day, have dinner at a local restaurant.

The Mainz Cathedral or St. Martin’s Cathedral is located near the historical center and market square. It is 1,000 years old and is in very good condition. As we walked in the door we could hear an orchestra and choir rehearse and listened to the music reverberate off the interior walls. We could see several statues of former bishops who evidently were quite powerful in their day. Ori was great about explaining so much about this building. Was like having our private tour guide.

The Gutenberg Museum is one of the oldest museums of printing in the world. Included within the museum are two Gutenberg bibles, a demonstration how his press worked, and early printing examples from other cultures. After the museum we took time for another break and enjoyed visiting in a restaurant overlooking the square.

The dinner was in a restaurant just off one of the main streets. It offered a couple of set menus that we selected. All we did was eat, drink and talk for almost four hours. I thank Ori and Molly for hosting this dinner and appreciate their kindness during my short stay. This is our third year that we have met and discussed where we will meet next year.

Cairo (September 16 – September 23)

The flight from Frankfurt to Cairo went very well, but was about 45 minutes late due to a late departure from Frankfurt. I had arranged for a hotel driver to meet me at the airport and drive me to the hotel. The process of independently procuring a driver outside the airport is somewhat dicey, but in the past I’ve been able to get where I need to go with only a little negotiation. I felt that now that I had that experience, like my one and only time I skydived, I’d now take the easy route. Normally, when a driver meets you at the airport all they do is take your bag to the car and you drive off. Not in Cairo. There is a two-part process. A Hilton representative meets you at the gate, processes your passport and visa and gets you through the lines quickly. Then he hands you over to the driver outside the building. I didn’t ask too many questions, but it all worked out fine.

Hussein took the bus up from Luxor and met me 15 minutes after I arrived. (Good timing!) We were both tired and ordered room service, which is what we normally do for most of our meals. We both mostly like plain basic food and the hotel has enough variety for us. For the next seven days we took walks, slept, ate, sat and watched the traffic on the Nile, and watched a few movies. When we needed a taxi, he made the arrangements and sits up front with the driver. When we walk, he is a few paces ahead of me. Where the hotel is located, it is near many of the embassies so is very safe. On our last day we visited the Cairo Tower, which was at one time the tallest building in Africa.

We were awake by 4:00 a.m. last Sunday for our flights. Hussein’s flight was at 7:30 a.m. and mine was 9:10 a.m. and we left the hotel at 5:00 a.m. I knew it was going to be a long day.  And it was. The flight to London was delayed by 45 minutes, but we made up some of the time along the way. Passport Control took about 15 minutes, but waiting for the luggage took almost an hour. Then I tried the Heathrow Express to Paddington, thinking that it would be quicker than the underground train. What I’ve concluded is that it really isn’t. It takes almost 20 minutes to walk down where the train is located, then to wait for the train, then the train does actually take 15 minutes to Paddington Station. So much easier (and cheaper) to take the underground.

Csabi was patiently waiting for me at the hotel. I expected to arrive at 3:00 p.m. but actually didn’t get to the hotel until 4:30 p.m. We walked around the nearby Westfield Mall then had dinner at a Thai restaurant nearby. Was good to hear about Csabi’s job at a printing company in Milton Keynes, outside of London.

The remainder of the day, after I made a decision about which Chromebook to buy, I returned to the room for more sleep. Another friend, Mugiel, was meeting me for dinner at 7:30 a.m. Was good to catch up with him as well. He told me what it was like to grow up on a farm, outside of Granada, Spain. He and his brother still plan annual vacations with their parents even though both are in their 30’s.

I’m really enjoying meeting and getting to know people from different countries and being able to talk with them more than a few hours on a train or bus. In just three days I was with people who grew up in Egypt, Hungary, and Spain. Tomorrow, I meet up with Prean (South Africa) and Viktor (Russia).

Travels with Corrine Update

At around 3:00 a.m., after I went to bed, I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking that Corrine was arriving on Wednesday, September 26th. Something just didn’t seem right, I guess. I checked her flight itinerary again and discovered she leaves on the 26th and arrives at Heathrow on the 27th. We have reservations to stay at Littlecotte on the 26th. I immediately sent her a text and she responded back that she can’t change her flight. Just a little hiccup. All a part of travelling…


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