San Diego… the start of our next adventure…

Arriving after sunset our short journey from the airport to our shorefront hotel gave us an introduction to the sparkling lights of the city. As we entered, the view from our 27th floor room over the harbour and city was magical. Not much time to really enjoy it as the 18 hours of travelling took its toll and we hit the soft pillows and comfy mattress!

Waking up before sunrise we sat and watched as the light behind the mountains became brighter until the sun rose in all its glory, exposing the beautiful harbour and city of San Diego. Eager to explore we contained ourselves until the restaurant we had identified for breakfast opened at 7am!! A short walk from the hotel and we found Cafe 222, marketed as a ‘retro diner’ we were welcomed into the small cafe, swiftly served with gallons of coffee and enormous servings of breakfast.

Well fed and watered we set off to explore the waterside as the sun started warming us up. One thing we noticed is the large number of homeless people (bit upmarket as they have their possessions in shopping trolleys as opposed to the usual bags) around the town.

Walking along the boardwalk we found the pier we will sail from on Saturday, and just generally enjoyed the sights along the way.

Beautiful brown pelicans were either serenely floating on the water, or majestically taking flight. A large sea lion was ducking and diving in the water. A beautiful hummingbird tantalised us by flying right above us until I grabbed the camera and it then played a game of ‘catch me if you can’, needless to say the bird won!!

After a short rest we headed out again, this time in the opposite direction and then into the ancient Gaslight District of town with its old buildings, multitudinous restaurants and buoyant atmosphere.

After purchasing a few supplies we headed back to the harbour side for an early seafood dinner watching as the sun set and the last post sounded over the water from the navy ships.


Alexandria… Pearl of the Mediterranean 

Well this pearl may have lost its’ lustre over the years, the buildings along the Corniche past their heyday and slowly crumbling. Listed buildings with owners waiting till they fall so they can sell up and huge skyscrapers can replace their previously elegant beauty, blocking the views and even sunshine from the rows of buildings behind. Even the famous theatre which hosted so many famous singers, now knocked down and currently being replaced by huge complexes.
That said, the sun still shines, the sea still sparkles (so little no as you don’t look too close!). The fishing boats still bob about in the sunshine, Alexandrians still gather along the Corniche and the street food sellers increase during the warm weather to sell their wares.

At the eastern end of the city lie the Montaza Gardens. Previously the summer residence of King Farouk, the beautiful gardens and the elegant palms can now be enjoyed by the general public, for a small entrance fee.  There are many restaurants as well as chalets and beaches to be enjoyed.

  The Palace dominates the skyline with its extravagant but elegant design, now empty but well  guarded.  The Salamlek currently undergoing restoration.

The Royal Jewellery Museum is in the newly restored Palace of Princess Fawzia and displays many exotic pieces, giving an insight into the extravagances of the royal family.

Behind the Corniche and beyond the traditional shopping areas of the city centre, adventuring further into the ancient, and poorer, districts gems of history still lurk, awaiting modern visitors to wonder at their secrets and take their selfies.

The Catacombs of Kim el Shoqafa, surrounded by residential buildings towering over it were rediscovered as a man and his cart passed over and the donkey fell down the shaft, so the story goes. Down the circular stairway (they say 99 steps but I didn’t count!) the complex of pharaonic and roman burial chambers are revealed. Sadly the water table is now seeping into the lower levels restricting viewing, oh what tales the walls could tell… and to be honest, what tales some of the guides we heard were telling too! There are no cameras allowed, (other than videos which seems rather odd), and to be fair the numerous guides were remonstrating with those who tried, but I still managed a few sneaky ones when no one was around! The purpose of course is to compare them to those taken (legitimately) some 25 years ago, before they were part of the tourist trail! On the subject of tourists, we were amazed at the number of tourists we encountered, not just here but everywhere in Alexandria, most unusual over the last few years.

Not far from the catacombs are Pompey’s Pillar and the Serapeum. Standing high the pillar and its two guardians look down on the tourists as they arrive. Below them are the remains of the Alexandria Nileometer, sadly not as well preserved as the Cairo one. In the far corner of the complex the underground library can be found, previously housing the rolls of papyrus.

Back into the old central part of the city the Roman Amphitheater complex can be found. Less visitors here meant we could look around at our leisure. The marble floors preserved in the former habitations still show their colours, and we marvelled how creative and clever these ancients dwellers of Egypt were, when today we can’t even get someone to repair a parquet floor properly!

Qait Bey Citadel dominates the skyline from its commanding position at the end of the bay. So popular with the local groups of schoolchildren, teenagers enjoying a break, art students preparing beautiful drawings of the interior of the fort. The fresh sea winds welcome after the heat and humidity of the city. Watching the fisherman from the walls as he cast his line from a very precarious position on the rocks below, and his delight when hooking a small fish, a shy wave as he caught us watching him.

After a very good lunch at the Blue and White restaurant at the Greek Club, overlooking the bay a stroll along the Corniche, past the fishing boats bobbing, the animated Alexandrians enjoying the air, cantering caleches clip-clopping past, watching the sun going down, the wood burning ready for the corn to be grilled, the aromas of sweet potatoes cooking, was just what was needed.

One visit Two aspects of history..

Our destination for the day was the Umm Khalthoum museum. A very famous Egyptian singer who rose from poor roots to international stardom, and a favourite of Amr.

The location at the end of Roda island in Cairo is beautiful with fresh breezes and pretty flowers along the pathway. Although small the museum gives a good idea to her life and the development of music in Egypt. Even her little notebooks recording daily events. 

Coming out of the museum is the Nileometer which dates back to the first century AD. It was used to measure the annual flood of the Nile, and peasants were taxed according to the level of the flood!  

Strangely there are no indications that it is even there, although its existence well known. The entrance is down a set of stairs (I sent Amr down first just in case it was a toilet!). Very clever structure opening sideways to the river at three levels, and designed at the bottom to cause a whirlpool effect to protect it. 

There are markings on the central pillar recording the level of water. A beautiful piece of engineering

A stroll across the bridge to the Corniche gave us chance to view it from a better angle, and get a well earn lemon juice from a riverside boat. (Having seen the open buffet on offer we decided a drink was sufficient and we would go elsewhere for lunch!!)

Wandering Khan el Khalili and around…

Being our ‘second Home’ our regular visits always commence with gatherings of family and friends. Always a treat to catch up with events and see how the next generations are developing and their children thriving, and of course gorge on our favourite foods!
However it’s good to get back out onto the streets and feel the ‘vibe’ of this vibrant city. Earlier than we usually arrive (to fit in with other world travels☺️) the temperatures are still up in the low thirties and with the humidity, rather draining. This has curbed our adventures somewhat, but a visit to Khan el Khalili is usually early in our visit, to get a feel for how the tourist industry is doing, visit the spice man at Khedr el Attar to prepare for home cooking, treat ourselves to breakfast at Naguib Mahfouz cafe…… (these names will be very familiar to anyone who’s visited us here!

The first thing that hit us was the lack of overbearing invitations to view what they have to offer. No fighting through the traders to get along the street, which enabled us to have a look at the shops in comfort. 

This visit there’s a feeling of optimism, the shops and stalls overflowing with traditional wares. This is so refreshing to see after the last few years of tasteless cheap plastic imports from the Far East. 

Reversing our usual route we left El Hussien Square by El Mashhad El Hussieny following the road by El Gamaleia and the local shops and workshops and out of the old city walls at Bab el Nasr.

 Turning left along the walls and back through Bab el Fatouh. By this time the schools in the area must have finished as the streets were full of students enjoying a rest in the shade by El Hakim mosque, or buying snacks at the many street vendors on Moez el Din street.

Passing a man selling baskets full of fresh olives I was trying to get him to tell me what to do with them, sadly he kept his secret well, only offering to sell me a huge jar of them ready pickled!

Stopping at the atmospheric Om Khalsoum cafe along the way for a drink we were subject to many of the students trying to take (no so) sneaky pictures of us as we sat! However I am quite adept at looking the other way so they get the back of my head!
Heading back into Khan el Khalili browsing the shops was more pleasurable than previous visits, despite the financial and political pressures there is a more lighthearted atmosphere. 

Naturally a number of purchases were made before being unable to resist feteer at Egyptian Pancakes, sharing a savoury and a sweet one we left for home replete

Autumn in Egypt….

Arriving in my second home the crazy city of Cairo, the warm sun welcome after the rain of Manchester. The senses aroused from the familiar sights and all too familiar traffic and the musical car horns beeping as we near Heliopolis. The last of the summer bougainvillea fighting against the oncoming seasonal changes, although the heat as the day progresses doesn’t feel like autumn.The smells of the corn cobs grilling in the street, the aroma of coffee being roasted and ground from the coffee sellers, that wonderful vinegary smell of the shawarma shop as we walk down the street. But I know I’m ‘Home’ when I smell the frying of onions and garlic wafting up from the apartments below as housewife’s prepare for lunch.

St Tropez

Arriving early to ensure a parking space in this popular town we still struggled to find a place as the long line of traffic ahead of us snaked into town.

This very touristy town never fails to excite me. Today we had come to the marche, held only twice a week in the main square, where we and hundreds of other vied and jostled for space in the small lanes between the packed stalls.  

Produce of every kind is on offer, and the sounds of the smallholders shouting their wares is enticing you to part with your euros. Taking a breather from the mayhem we stopped at a cafe on the border of the marche and watched the world go by as we sat in peace for a while.

After checking out every stall (or so Amr told me I did!) we headed through the small alleyways of the old town, wondering, window shopping and noses in the air to the delightful smells of moules and other aromatic fish wafting out of restaurants.

As always all roads lead to the sea and we found ourselves on the famous seafront with those gorgeous coloured houses…

We found ourselves climbing upwards to the Citadelle de St Tropez, walking round outside the walls until we found the path ended, so we followed the example of three young guys and jumped over the wall to find ourselves back on the road and headed for the correct entrance to the Citadelle!

The Citadelle was interesting and the story of its history and the St Tropeziens was told as you walked the walls. Inside the castle was a seafaring museum, fascinating to one who has discovered his interest in model shipbuilding! There where lots of local exhibits and stories of local seafarers and was very well presented.

Winding back into the town the aromas got the better of us and we ate a decadent meal in one of the harbour front restaurants watching the life of St Tropez walking by….. locals who belong, Frenchmen and women on holiday, yachties and yacht crew, and those tourists who looked like rabbits in the headlights with it all!

St Paul de Vence Medieval village and artists colony

Having spotted a walled village high on a hill close to our camp in Colle de Loup, but being unsure as to the name of the village we decided to follow our noses and winding upwards we eventually found ourselves at the medieval village of St Paul de Vence.

 At this point I remembered reading about the artists of St Paul. Obviously a popular tourist destination – by the number of tour buses pouring out the French tourists and the very full car small car park. Fortunately finding a space to park we made our way towards the town, passing the boules pitches, with boules just asking to be played, on the way.


The entrance to the village revealed beautifully artistic pavements.”…

We walked around the ramparts, with the rain last night the views were clear of the haze we have had for the last few days, and we could see as far as the sparkling Mediterranean sea and the mountains behind us. 

The walk round the perimeter of the town via the walls was quiet in the main and we marvelled at the views and old houses which held artists galleries of many descriptions, paintings, pottery, sculpture – modern, traditional and all stages between.

Venturing further into the shade of the town and the small alleyways there were lots of small restaurants doing a brisk trade and many different arty shops with only a few typical souvenir shops. 

 Busier now, with all those bus passengers vying to get their souvenirs before heading off to their next stop. 

There were sculptures and statues placed strategically around the town, 

one even looking as though it was about to dive of the walls! 

 All-in-all an interesting visit and despite the number of tourists not overly commercialised.