I realized last night that it has been a good bit longer than I realized since I last posted anything here. I have good (or at least semi-good) reasons for it, I promise! First I was out of town for a week (more on that below), and then when we got back I was ... not particularly quick ... at getting back into anything resembling a routine. In fact, I'm still not there. It may have something to do with the fact that I wasn't in anything resembling a routine before I left, either, what with the first trimester exhaustion and all. But now I'm not as tired and I need to get myself on some sort of schedule to keep me that way--I've realized that if I just laze around, I stay tired, but if I'm active (even if only intellectually by typing away online), then I have more energy. All that to say that I'll try to do better about that--primarily about the routine and activity, but that will include posting here more frequently again too.
So now that's out of the way ... on to today's real topic!
I was out of town from 31 January to 5 February because Jeff and I were on a very special trip--a Nile cruise! We booked this vacation last fall, I think, well before we got pregnant, so I was very relieved that pregnancy and its symptoms in no way interfered with our trip. In fact, in some ways, it made it better!
Let me start at the beginning. Several of our friends have gone on Nile cruises, and they all highly recommended (1) that we go on a cruise and (2) that we go on a ship owned and operated by Abercrombie & Kent. Because we had so many recommendations for this particular cruise line, we didn't even bother to check out any others. I've since heard that Movenpick and a few others are good too, but most everyone agrees that A&K is top of the line. So we picked out dates and contacted a local travel agency to handle the details. We decided on a 4-night cruise from Luxor to Aswan, with a night in a hotel in Luxor so we didn't have to get up early enough to fly from Cairo to Luxor and be at the ship by the 9 a.m. check-in time.
On Sunday, 31 January, we took the hour flight from Cairo to Luxor, where we were met at the airport and driven to our hotel, a wonderful place called the Steigenberger Nile Palace Hotel. Both of us breathed deeply the moment we stepped off the plane--the last few days in Cairo had subjected us to particularly "crunchy" air, and Luxor had clear blue skies with no hint of pollution. We arrived around lunchtime, so after we checked in, we went in search of food. But not before checking out the view from our large balcony.
Nice, isn't it?
Anyway, we decided to just get lunch at one of the four or five restaurants in the hotel rather than taking the time to go find something somewhere else. We chose the Lebanese restaurant, where both the service and the food were excellent. We appreciated it even more that night when we got around to looking at the hotel information in our room and realized that we'd sat at one of their tables and been served with no problems over an hour before they actually opened!
After lunch, we went back to the room, where Jeff kindly agreed to put the sightseeing on hold while I took a nap. He sat out on the balcony with his book while I slept for an hour. Then, refreshed and ready to go, we decided to walk out to the Corniche (I assume that's what the road along the Nile was called, at least the part that had the wide park-like strolling area; that's what all such roads in Egypt seem to be called) and see what was there. As we left our hotel and walked down the road, we saw hotels on the left (the Nile side) and shops and restaurants on the right. Taxi drivers and horse-drawn carriage drivers alike asked if we wanted a ride; many promised "Five pounds! Five pounds tour of Luxor!" We didn't fall for it. We just kept walking, and soon enough we came to the Corniche.
We walked along the Corniche for a while, all the time looking for a stand or someplace where we could reasonably buy just two bottles of water without being expected to buy an entire meal. We saw a vast number of feluccas on our left and the ruins of the Temple of Luxor on our right. Eventually we decided to go down a set of stairs to the narrower walkway that was closer to water level--signs indicated that there were shops down there. We quickly found some bottled water and, refreshed, kept walking along. We tried not to look at the shops we passed; the vendors were even more aggressive than those in the Khan! As usual, I was unable to resist giving some response; I'm a nice Southern girl, after all, and I was raised to have manners. So I kept responding "La, shukran" or "La, mish ayziin" to their pleas for us to come in and look--after all "No cost to look!"
Eventually one of the vendors slipped beneath our defenses. He seemed genuinely impressed that I was responding in Arabic. He asked us where we were from, and--conscious of the dislike that often flows toward Americans abroad--we replied that we live in Cairo. "Ah! My brother! My sister!" I'm not sure what it was about him, but before we knew it, Jeff and I were in his shop, trying to explain that although I would love to accept his hospitality and have some tea, my pregnancy prevented me from drinking it. He showered us with congratulations about the baby, seeming even more delighted with us when he asked what we do for a living and I replied that I'm a sett beyt (housewife). He showed us pictures of his beautiful wife and adorable children. Eventually we made our excuses and left, and I honestly believe that he had enjoyed our chat and didn't mind that we hadn't bought anything.
As we continued down the walk, we allowed our experience with this friendly man to lull us into complacency. We soon found ourselves in another man's shop. While he also seemed genuinely friendly at first, he quickly turned on the pressure to buy. We left his shop disgruntled and ready to be done with the shops for good.
At the next stairway, we went back up to the street level, where the only vendors were selling taxi, carriage, or felucca rides. These were much easier to ignore. We walked a little while longer, then sat for a while on a bench overlooking the Nile when I got tired. Not too long after that, we took a taxi back to the hotel.
That night we ordered room service and went to bed early--I was still so tired I could barely think straight. We were offered, and considered accepting, an early morning hot air balloon ride, but we turned it down. We had decided that we wanted this trip to be a vacation (characterized mostly by rest and relaxation) rather than an expedition (characterized more by a sense of adventure and constant activity). In retrospect, I'm very glad we turned the balloon ride down. The next day was the longest and fullest day of the vacation, and I wouldn't have made it had it been any longer. My mother-in-law also pointed out that balloon rides are not exactly recommended for pregnant women, a fact that I should have considered but that frankly didn't even occur to me at the time.
The next morning, we had a delicious breakfast--included with the reservation--at the hotel, then were ready and waiting for our pick-up and transfer to the ship. But of course we had to get one more picture first, from the balcony.
If we make it back down to Luxor again, we'll have to plan to be on one of those.