Cairo: Walking Home

Jade and I just walked home from our school. It is about a 2 minute walk from our house.

It doesn’t get much closer.

For a teen, she can roll out of bed, get her uniform on and dash to school in no time. When school starts that is… the countdown is on… Aug. 31.

She snapped this picture as we walked in the dark. We love the dark here. Dark means cooler and cooler means less than the 40+ temperatures we have been experiencing.

And if you don’t regularly feel 40+ temperatures, it feels like a hot yoga class that never ends!

In fact, last night when we walked home from the store with our Ikea rolling basket full of water bottles, mangoes and a chocolate bar for Miss Jade, we glanced at a few puddles on the road. Longingly, we considered stepping in them and even playing.

Dirty water puddles have never looked so good!

Cairo: A Felucca On The Nile

So as the heat wave continues, we ventured out to the Nile for some respite. I am not sure a breeze was actually felt, but seeing the water cooled us down…slightly.

It is hard to get your head wrapped around the “This is the Nile River!” fact as water is water but the surroundings made it known that we were indeed in Egypt. Looking out to the shore, it was easy to decipher that this was no river in Canada. Palm trees, brown sandy buildings (they scream, we are in the Middle East now!), and cars honking were left behind as we slowly drifted down the river. Fishermen (fisher people?) were out in their long thin boats sometimes used as their homes. Address: The Nile River 🙂

What was most outstanding was the sun set. A spectacular orange foggy glow appeared as the sun set. As this was the first teacher event, I spent most of my time conversing with new colleagues and discovering what drove them to teaching in Egypt.

Jade, on the other hand, spent time at a special place at the back of the boat with another teen which of course made her experience even more wonderful. Her words after we docked the boat, “This was the best day in Egypt so far!”

I love those words.

Wonder when I will hear them again.

Maybe tomorrow at the pyramids?

Arrived in Cairo: First Impressions

We have landed! After so much time thinking about and preparing to leave for Cairo, it seems surreal to actually be here.

Air Egypt was very good to us. No one looked twice at our massive carry-on luggage and one poor flight attendant even survived lifting it above his head to get it into the overhead bin. Jade and I together had massively failed to do the same!

I cursed at myself a few times as I tried to manage the luggage cart leaving the airport.. 5 huge bags leaning off to the side as I maneuvred the cart through sand, dirt, potholes, cars honking to get me moving faster which of course, made me falter and begin to drop said bags onto the ground.

Sweaty and tired, Jade and I managed to find our way onto the school van, pleasantly pleased with ourselves to have finished stage 1 of moving. As we glanced at the terrain from the airport to our new home in New Cairo, we both thought of Morocco. Hot (like heat wave hot, like “I forgot to turn the oven off on the hottest day in Canada” hot), sandy, slightly windy, dusty and yes, dirty at times, was what it looked like from the van’s windows. All this was immediately confirmed in minutes when we arrived at our flat.

Glancing up at the building, I reminisced of places lived in the world. Other than my home in South Africa, I haven’t lived in such a grand looking building. Elaborately designed and coloured to melt into its surroundings, homes seem to be one colour in our neighborhood…a light brown that makes home and earth look like one.

Trudging up the stairs to the second level was a work out. Second level being a misnomer as it feels much more like 5th level. If I decide to “cheap it out” and not join a gym, I think I could leave my flat and return to it various times through out the day and call it “even”.

As Jade and I entered, we were slightly blown away. Appearances wise, the flat appears decadent, spacious and cool. Air con will do that! Marble floors, huge oversized furniture, deluxe heavy curtains reminiscent of castles in Europe make our flat far from any hardship posting I might have encountered in my past!

Our landlord seems “hands on” in a good way. Available when you need him and with the added bonus, of being able to speak English. Immediately Jade and I collapsed onto our beds in a sweaty heap. Nothing elegant about how we felt or looked by this point.

After a few hours of sleep, we ventured out to do some shopping in a loopy kind of comatose state. Struggling with the currency (never my strong point), we found some basic items (plastic containers for our food to set parameters for any future insects who desire to eat their way through our home, adapters that didn’t work, and plastic cups because one can never have too many plastic cups!) Satisfied, I ate my first Egyptian veggie burger with some other teachers and enjoyed our first dancing water fountain that came complete with Michael Jackson tunes.

So far our suburb doesn’t come with camels, too much noise or too much chaos. In fact, it seems safe, quieter than expected and very manageable. The mosque is next door but because our building resembles a castle with fortress walls, we can only vaguely hear the call to prayer. The dogs are much louder but then again, dogs in the countries that I travel to, always are!

Contemplating going outside to take a picture of our building, I realize that I have to go through 3 sets of locked doors and the “which key is it?” as well as the numerous stairs…uhmmm…we will see.

Ciao from Cairo! I know Italian seems strange but it is short and I know how to spell it as opposed to my Arabic which consists of 1 word at the moment! Yes… it is on my To Do list 🙂

Yes! Time To Move From Canada To Cairo

The world of travel is unbelievable.

Monday, I am living in the familiar. My world in Canada.

By Friday, I will be living in the unfamiliar. My new world in Cairo.

Hard for me to comprehend beginning the week in one country and ending it in another.

You step on a plane and a mere 12 hours later, you exit to a different life.

So as we get ready to make the move, I want to thank you all for supporting me and my family!

I can’t wait to begin sharing our Egyptian adventures with you as soon as we:

  • finish Canadian check list ( I can always hope, right?)
  • drag our 5 bags and 2 of the heaviest carry-ons the world has ever seen to the Toronto airport
  • find (hopefully) our 5 bags on the Cairo carousel happily waiting for us to retrieve them
  • drag said baggage to our furnished (thank goodness) flat in the heat wave
  • unpack baggage, sleep, and try to find something to eat and drink with their currency
  • begin to make the new Egyptian check list which (from what I have read) will be never ending!
  • and when I accomplish my first task (Internet), you will be certain to hear from me from Egypt!

So until then, have a great rest of the summer and be happy and healthy 🙂

Talk to you later from Cairo,

Cheryl

(PS. A special thanks to my husband for the going away gift. He grew the sunflower for me. It looks like he has successfully replaced me after all!)

When I Am Not Travelling, The Next Best Thing Is…

Seeing someone else experience travel overseas for the first time!

Nothing could have made me happier 🙂 than to hear my in-laws (in their 70s) fell in love with their first trip outside of North America.

Hesitant to travel for some time, they bit the travel bullet and hit the jackpot with an outstanding trip to Scotland. A tour full of like-minded travellers and a guide who was priceless made the perfect trip for Eunice and Blake.

I am so proud of them for “going for it” and discovering that travel can be fun, rewarding and informative.

And of course, I hold my breath hoping that another trip is in the plans. Yes, I know. I am travel obsessed. I can’t help myself.

Uhmm… I Have A Few Bags To Check

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Today is official unpack and repack day since the whole packing thing is not going so well.

I am wondering if Egypt Air would notice if I showed up with a few extra inches and a few extra pounds here and there. I wish there was a way to distract Mr.or Mrs. Egypt Air so they didn’t notice.

Any ideas on how to get away with the above? If so, please let me know pronto. 🙂

My A to Z On Travelling

Age of 1st International Trip

My first international trip was a school trip to West Germany, Switzerland and Austria. I was 15 and stayed awake all night before I flew. I tried to imagine what cobbled stone streets would look like, what people would be wearing, what food I would be eating and these questions kept me wired until I landed. Once I stepped foot outside the airport, I was hooked!

Best Drink

My younger version would say the beer at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany simply for the fact that I was drinking under age! My older version would say the homemade lemonade in Cuzco that I drank by the gallon last summer.

Cuisine (Favourite and Least Favourite)

My favourite cuisine was in India but even then, at the end of the trip, I was eyeballing the pizzas coming out of Domino’s. Yes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing! My least favourite was in South Korea. There is only so much red pepper paste and kimchi a person can handle and I had a year of it!

Destination (Favourite and Least Favourite)

This is impossible for favourites. I would go out on the travel limb and say Cambodia, Guatemala, India and Morocco. This will probably change but who knows? My least favourite is South Korea.

Event (most exciting/interesting)

I can’t narrow it down to one so it is a toss-up between the sandstorm in the Sahara desert, the ride through the jungle in Guatemala in the early morning on the way to Tikal listening to the howler monkeys, the first time I laid eyes on animals in the wild in South Africa, cycling down a mountain in Peru or hiking the Inca trail in Peru.

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Favourite Mode of Transportation

My absolute favourite mode of transportation is the back of a motorcycle. My mom and I hired motos in Cambodia and saw the country side with the wind whipping through our hair (or what I had left of it from my bout with malaria). My second favourite is the train which I loved in Vietnam and hope to love really soon, once again, in Sri Lanka.

Greatest Travel Feeling

My greatest travel feeling is when I shared with my family their first experience to travel overseas. There is nothing that beats seeing people you love have their eyes opened to what awaits them via travel.

Hottest Place I Have Lived

I have lived in some hot countries but Suriname takes the hot cake on this one! I would wake up very early in the morning and go to work ( a day care for children with physical and mental challenges) and then by noon, return home to fall asleep stuck to the couch. By 5pm, I would wake up and begin the day all over again. Usually I would go out very late in the evening and stay up most of the night with my friends dancing and partying and then begin it all over again the next day.

Incredible Service

I do not feel comfortable staying in fancy hotels where service is expected nor can I afford to do so! So given that, I would say service in restaurants both in Morocco and in India stand out from the rest.

Journey I Won’t Easily Forget

The ride on the camel in the Sahara Desert hurt the most physically (my butt says never again) and a bus ride in Morocco when my daughter needed to desperately use the bathroom and couldn’t might have been one of the most stressful!

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Keepsake

When we got married in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (Canada) one of our daughters, aged 11 at the time, bought us an ornament of a bride and a groom getting married. It will always be very special.

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Let-Down Sight

Fish River Canyon in Namibia was this for me! After hours and hours of driving with little to see, we got there and I said, “This is it?”

Moment I Fell In Love With Travelling

When my parents returned from Central and South America and my dad showed me his blow dart gun from the jungles of Peru and my mom showed me packages of junk food that were written in Spanish. I knew I needed to travel.

Nicest Hotel Stayed In

Oh boy there are many.. the one in Ubud in Bali, the many in Morocco, but the one that has the most memories is in Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala (Posada de Santiago) where we could swim in the pool or soak in the hot tub and look over Lake Atitlan surrounded by volcanoes. Truly gorgeous and breath taking. At night we could step outside our little bungalow and watch it storm over the lake while eating snacks bought in the local town. Perfection.

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Obsession With This

Markets… I just love them. I love to take pics of markets, I love to wander them, and every now and then I even buy something. I enjoy pretending like I live there, imagining my life as a local or at the least, as an expat. I can never have enough markets!

Passport

I have had a lot of them in my life and some have been heavily stamped. I have never lost one or misplaced one… knock on wood!

Quaintest Place

I can’t choose just one. It might be Patzcuaro, Mexico or Bevagna or any town in Umbria in Italy or Ollantaytambo, Peru or Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala or Ubud (a long long time ago) in Bali or Luang Praband (a long long time ago) or Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton

Recommended Country

I highly recommend Guatemala if you live in North America and want an inexpensive shorter distance to travel to and a world of experiences to follow. I highly recommend Morocco if you live in Europe and want an inexpensive and shorter distance to travel to and a world of experiences to follow. And I highly recommend India to anyone who wants to have an experience each and every moment. You will never forget it and you may just fall in love with it!

Splurge

We splurged when we visited Niagara Falls in Ontario and took a helicopter ride over the falls. Best money spent. We also splurged in Morocco on nicer accommodations as the country is known for its beautiful older residences (riads) and this was money well worth spent. We don’t do it often but when we do, it is meaningful.

Touristy

Touristy places can be ruined if “tacky” prevails but sometimes touristy spots are eye-opening such as Alcatraz in San Francisco, Times Square in NYC, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Colosseum in Rome… just to name a few of my personal favourites.

Unforgettable

I will probably never forget my most miserable experiences (malaria, dengue fever, being robbed, Delhi belly, field hospitals, cockroaches) but it is the most exciting ones that keep me researching where to go next. Travel for me is an addiction…but I choose to see it as a healthy one…I never forget that feeling of a new place and am always looking to replicate it elsewhere.

Visa

Visas are a pain. A royal pain in the backpack! So many countries (particularly in Africa) are requiring visas to be obtained ahead of time. If a visa is needed, those given upon arrival at the airport are my favourites. Unfortunately they are becoming fewer and fewer. 😦

Winning At Travel

I used to think the perfect job was to be a professional travel blogger. Having joined a few FB groups, I have learned that this too has its stresses. Competition can creep into anything… even into travel blogging. I am happy to win at travel by doing what I want to do and not having to research constantly 20 Ways You Too Can Get Off The Beaten Path. Or maybe I am just trying to convince myself….

eXcellent View

I have been blessed to have experienced many views over the years but recently seeing Machu Picchu with my family from Sun Gate stands out as one of the great ones.

Years Of Travel 

Uhhmmm….nope not going to go there but I have had my share of years of travel but more importantly, hopefully, many more to come.

Zillion More Places To See

Well, there is maybe not a zillion more to see but at least a lot! As I get ready to move to Cairo, my travel wish list is becoming more of a reality. Sri Lanka, one destination that has been on the list forever, is soon to be checked off in September! I can’t wait 🙂

Anything you would like to share about my A to Z? I would love to hear from you 🙂

The Perfect Day Trip From Toronto

When I travel, I love big cities.

I also love the smaller towns, a day trip away, where a different world awaits.

If you live in or are visiting the Toronto area, then this is one day trip that should be on your list.

Go one hour east of Toronto and you will find two of the quaintest towns ever – Port Hope and Cobourg, side by side.

Port Hope has a charming name and plenty of adorable scenery to match. A main street filled with flowers, cute stores and delicious restaurants combined with a rolling river with a path along side makes this town perfect for strolling and relaxing.This is the kind of place that you search for high and low when you travel. And when you find it, you don’t want to leave.

Port Hope is filled with great restaurants but if you are coming, be sure to check out Olympus Burger, a favourite destination for locals filled with a wide range of burgers with Greek names and the best sweet potato fries ever. Any burger place that also includes 3 veggie burger options is also top-notch in my books!

If you are in the mood for Thai, our favourite is The Bualai Thai restaurant where friendly service and a beautifully designed interior meets amazing food and equals major satisfaction.

For shopping, you must visit a one of a kind store just outside Port Hope called Primitive Designs. This is not just shopping, it is sight-seeing around the world! With an inventory from Buddha statues to Tiki bars to wood carved furniture to even transformers made from recycled parts, it makes shopping a delight for even a non-shopper such as myself!

If you are in the mood to swim, drive a few minutes more to Cobourg where the loveliest beach and harbour await.

Port Hope and Cobourg are 2 towns that look like they walked off a Hollywood movie screen. So charming and adorable to look at that you can’t believe they are real!

When you travel do you like to find smaller places outside larger cities to explore?