Sunday, June 15, 2008

Egypt Trip: The Journey out Manchester to Heathrow to Cairo (Day 1)

07:00 hrs Holiday - old feeling when alarm went off at 7am. Just another day? I don't think so!

Grotty because a certain little boy had woken several times in the night. Who was a teensey bit excited about his holiday then?

All hands to the pumps (eventually) to finish packing, start washing towels - yes really - and generally tidying up for the cleaner... what?

Gresford Taxis arrived smack on time 10:15 - just about got the four big bags in the boot of his car. Good job we are only going for a week! Got the same old stories from the driver - he is still thinking about buying a Scorpio - and I got the story of the flight over the Grand Canyon again. Still he got us to Terminal 3 at 11am.

Manchester Airport. Started to queue for check in and immediately had a stroke of luck. About 10 men were all in one group so they were shepherded to one counter leaving us just one family back from our counter. Our check-in man commented on the cost of our entry visas - £15 each. If we got them in Egypt they would only be £11.90. However, we both felt that the extra was worth it to avoid the queues to get them in Cairo. Booked our tickets to both Heathrow and Cairo. All baggage marked for Cairo so we wont see it till then (fingers crossed).

Left Manchester at 12:45. When we had levelled off after take-off, the cabin crew came round almost throwing the 'snack and a drink' into our laps. Just as the last drinks were being served the Captain told us he was now descending to land! Everything cleared away sharpish and, after a 5 minute delay, we landed at 13:30.

Heathrow Airport. Smoothly off the plane at Heathrow, follow the signs, catch the bus to Terminal 4... and rest. Well actually, look at the shops; girls take headache tablets and sit and read; I ignore all the jewellery shops and join them. Mary went to find her 'creams' armed with her boarding pass and passport (plus Visa card I suspect).

It is very interesting listening to the announcements re lateness for flights. Mr Kane has finally been thrown off the New York flight - his bags are being unpacked even as I write! Mary has returned with a bag full of skincare 'things'.

Eventually boarded our plane. Very good BA 747 (or was it 757) - big anyway. Comfy, I got the window seat. Bumpy take-off but as soon as levelled off was OK. However, cloud all the way - now what good is a window seat if its cloudy? BA provided eye patches, socks, earphones, blanket and a small pillow. Fell asleep after about 10 minutes (using the useful pillow and the useless window). Awoke to find the girls had ordered me a drink of coke - lovely. Meal was fine - Lamb Medallions with one of those small bottles of White Wines. Film was Meryl Streep in 'Music of the Heart' - a weepy. Then a double bill of Simpson's cartoons. Just like on the way to Canada tho', just as it all got interesting the Captain switched it all off for landing!

Cairo. Just over 4 hours for the journey. They are 2 hours ahead of GMT. I put my watch on 2 hours. Katie told me that should only be 1, just as the Captain has said (twice). I partially retrieved this loss of face by 'remembering' that we were on BST and not GMT.

Met at Cairo airport by our rep from Travel Plus - we were his only charges. Whilst we were waiting for Passport Control he went off and found our luggage. And yes, we did by-pass the scrum to pay for Entry Visas as we had already got ours in the UK - smug. Straight through Passport Control and to the mini-van. 12 seater all air-conditioned. 23:00hrs through Cairo - great roads, great driving. Courier said that there are rules but no-one uses them - you just 'make your own space'. 3 lanes, any lane, red lights, flashing headlights, tooting horns - just sit back and enjoy the ride. Eventually reached the Marriott which is on Zamalek island in the Nile. We had traversed most of Cairo on the 6th October Bridge. This was named to commemorate Egypt beating Israel and handing back Sinai . . . . . . OK fine! It is 28Km long and at one place is on 3 levels - part of it being a suspension bridge!

Posh Hotel - built for the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 to house Empress Eugénie- check out the travelogue:

"Palatial is an apt word to describe the exquisite Cairo Marriott Palace, built as it is around a magnificent royal residence constructed with no expense spared on the orders of the Khedive Ismail, to mark the opening of the Suez Canal, in 1869. Elegantly detailed and lovingly restored, its antique adorned interior forms the core of a grand hotel which marries traditional grace with the contemporary panache of dramatic twin towers offering the finest of modern accommodations"

Anyway the courier checked us in OK. Our rooms are 435 and 438 in the Zamalek Tower. We were all sitting in the girls' room when an American walked in. Obviously check-in had given the room out twice. He left, they rang, all sorted.

And so to bed, after a long day. Little did we know how short that day really was to have been compared to those that followed!

Forgot to mention that courier had run after me when porter was showing our baggage to its room. He wanted to take away my return flight tickets to authenticate. Gave them to him without much thought - well it was late. That night when I regularly awoke because of tiredness and/or new bed and/or strangeness and/or rumble of traffic and car horns etc., the fact that I had no flight tickets for home played on my mind somewhat!! Too late now.

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