Monday, November 30, 2015

‘Oh there’s no place like. . .’ Cairo for Christmas

Sub-title: ‘Twas just days Before the World Went Willy-Wonkers again…

Timing is everything when it comes to travel. Our mantra, as regulars here know, has been ‘research, wait, watch and research some more’ before making any travel commitments. We like flexibility and options.

For that reason we arrived in Greece back in October without a return ticket to the States.*

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Emirates has non-stop flights between Dubai and Seattle

Because there are no non-stop Seattle – Athens flights, we must have a connecting city somewhere between the two. We wanted to pick and choose our return routing from the myriad of possibilities that Europe affords. We also wanted a reasonably good airfare – often times the departure city does make a difference when seeking deals. So The Scout went to work and over the course of several weeks and several options, it seemed he’d found us both an interesting routing and at a good price.

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Business class seats British Air

Again, you long-time regulars know that a plus for having a home base in Greece is that it we have a launch pad to explore more places on this side of the Atlantic Ocean without a 20+ hour trip to do so.

Europe’s low-cost regional airlines offer such enticingly low fares that we’ve felt like kids in a candy store when pondering the many possibilities The Scout found for our return. In the last few weeks we’ve considered:

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Gift shop display in the Dubai airport

*Flying to Dubai, taking a round-trip 7-day Royal Caribbean cruise around the Saudi Arabian peninsula and returning to Seattle from Dubai on Emirates Airline (which has non-stop service between the two cities). Starting price for a balcony cabin, $524, with a ship board credit of $350 on select balconies.

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Airbus 380 has two levels of passenger seating

* Flying to Istanbul and spending a few nights there. Various prices and places to stay and airfare of about $100 to get there for each of us.

* Or heading to Budapest for a few nights and returning from there.

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Night time in the Middle East aboard the Oceania Nautica

*Flying to London, taking the Queen Mary across the Atlantic (rooms begin at $599 for a seven night crossing) and flying to Seattle from New York.

While the two cruise options were enticing we really don’t have clothes in Greece that are appropriate ‘cruise attire’.  Blue jeans and flannel shirts, shorts and tee shirts make up our wardrobe. So, I voted against the cruise options.  Budapest almost got the nod but then we checked December temperatures and with an average high of 28F-degrees, decided we didn’t have enough winter travel clothes to handle it.

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So we decided on Cairo, Egypt. It is a long-time, high-ranking destination on our ‘must-see’ list. Friends who’ve been there rave about their experiences. Two tickets on Aegean Air: $350. We are using Marriott hotel points for our stay in this fabled city. And we found a good business class airfare flying Air France from Cairo to Paris, then connecting with with Delta, arriving back in Seattle on Christmas Day.

We booked the stay and the airline tickets.

Two days later the world went willy-wonkers again: 

First, the Paris attacks. Then news of New York City on ‘heightened terrorist alert’. A few days later Brussels was shut down. If you read travel news headlines, as we do, you've seen travel warnings are all encompassing. Literally, the US State department has issued a world-wide travel alert reminding Americans to be vigilant no matter where they are – home or abroad.

edited_20151114_093933So what do travelers do? 

In our case, we are going ahead with our plans to visit Egypt – our tickets can’t be changed or cancelled without great penalty. Christmas Eve in Cairo sounds pretty exotic. Hopefully the time for connecting flights in Paris in light of heightened security there will be sufficient or we might find ourselves spending Christmas in Paris.

We will continue to monitor world events – just like all of you.

A person could reason that sitting here in The Stone House on the Hill for the rest of our lives might be the safest option. But just the other day a woman was killed in her home when an earthquake in the northern Greece caused one of her stone walls to tumble on her. 




Note:  We do take safety and security seriously and for that reason – for the first time ever – I have enrolled in The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, STEP, a service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, US State Department. I’ve submitted our dates of stay in Cairo, location of stay, and emergency contact information for us while there and our designated emergency contact friend in the United States.

[If you are a U.S. citizen planning to travel abroad here’s where to find more information and enroll in STEP: https://step.state.gov/step/]

The information I provided has been sent to the Consulate in Cairo. Staff there will know where we are supposed to be and how to find us. By enrolling in this program we will receive email advisories and any security alerts both by email and phone. Currently, there are no alerts or advisories about Cairo for Americans. . .other than that world-wide alert I mentioned above.

We've got a few more weeks left in Greece so will show you more of The Mani next week. And if any of you have recommendations or links to articles on Cairo that you’d care to share, we’d love to see them.  As always, thanks for the time you’ve spent with us ~ hope you’ll come back often.

Until then, safe travels to you and yours~

Linking up this week:
Photo Friday
Travel Photo Thursday
Wordless Wednesday
Our World Tuesday
Mosaic MondayThrough My Lens






* As Americans traveling on tourist visas, we can be only so flexible because Greece is among those participating in the Schengen Border Agreement, an agreement among 26 European countries that basically opens up travel between them without border checks. For those of us outside the EU it also means our tourist visa is good for a 90 day stay within each six month period in the Schengen zone. (Longer stays require a different visa).

43 comments:

  1. Well that sounds quite exciting and different spending Xmas eve there, hope you get to enjoy the holiday back on the west coast in time.

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    1. I suspect we'll be ready to fall into bed without any visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads, Noel. It did occur to me that stores will be closed by the time we arrive home so hope we've left some crackers in a cupboard somewhere!

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  2. I'd definitely be going to Cairo for Christmas if I had those tickets. Glad to hear you mention registering with the State side Safe Traveler program. I look forward to hearing about your trip!

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    1. It will be interesting to see if we hear from the state department at all during our trip - no news, I guess, might be good news!

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  3. I'm so excited about your Christmas plans! How fun to spend it in Cairo. It reminds me of the Amelia Peabody mysteries. :-)

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    1. Hopefully it won't end up being a murder mystery, Krista, hopefully just a great adventure! ;-)

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  4. How exciting!!!! Awesome choice and safety precautions.

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    1. We've heard both good and bad reports about Cairo so hope I will be singing its praises next month at this time! Thanks for stopping by Gaelyn!

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  5. Sounds incredibly exciting! Glad you are getting to cross a new place off your bucket list. Thank you for the info STEP. Scary, that things have come to that. Enjoy the rest of your time in Greece, and travel safely, Jackie and Joel!

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    1. Thanks for the good wishes, Amy. I am savoring each moment I have left in Greece! Happy holidays!!

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  6. Sounds like an exciting trip! The info on the STEP is nice to know. Wishing you safe travels and a great trip! ENJOY! Have a happy week!

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    1. Thanks so much for the good wishes Eileen! See you soon at 'your place' in the blogosphere!

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  7. Sounds exciting! Have a safe and great trip.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Karen! Hope you'll be a regular here.

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  8. Christmas in Cairo does sound exotic and different! With all the troubling times around the world I think I would have been content to sit in my stone house on the hill and look at the views. But it sounds like you have taken some good steps to ensure your safety while you away. Have a wonderful trip. I will look forward to seeing your blog posts when you return.

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    1. It is a thought, Jill, but Schengen keeps us from staying much longer than we already are and with today's headlines of another mass shooting in the US, I am not so sure any place could be called safe these days!

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  9. Good plan! BTW, we've registered with STEP; it's a good idea whenever you are out of your normal turf, I think. We were in Cairo last January and have a guide we'd recommend. Message me if you'd like more info.

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    1. Thanks Kristin, appreciate all the information and putting us in contact with Mina!

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  10. Oh dearest friends, how wonderful is to accumulate all those experiences after having traveled around the world! You are really blessed to do so and I'm wishing you a safe stay and return.
    Olympia

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    1. Olympia, it will be very difficult to leave Greece this time. With each stay we become more enchanted with your wonderful country! We'll be returning in March!!!! :-)

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  11. Cairo is worth a visit to see the pyramids and the museum, but I didn't find it a pleasant place to be in general. I'd recommend traveling down the Nile. You can take a three or four-day cruise that stops along the way at ancient temples, etc. It's a beautiful, relaxed way to see the countryside slide by. Then take a train back, or vice-versa.

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    1. So Rachel do you have a cruise line you'd recommend? We've heard varying reports on Cairo - some have just loved it and others didn't. It will be interesting to see how it strikes us!

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  12. Safe travels! One advantage to your timing is that it is less likely that you'll run into hoards of tourists!

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    1. Actually, we have found that traveling on a holiday instead of before or after often does cut down on the crowds. Guess time will tell if we have made the right decision on this trip! Thanks for the visit - always appreciated.

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  13. Have lots of fun!
    Thanks for linking up at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2015/11/sparkling-crystal.html

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    1. As always, I love the linkup. Thanks for allowing me to be a part of it!

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  14. Well done "Scout" a good job done!
    Well, I've never been to Cairo, it's on my list, I do have one problem though, My husband won;t fly! I can;t say I particularly care for it, but, sometimes, needs must! We are limited to traveling around Europe, as you say, one of the benefits of living in Greece is that all of Europe is on your doorstep!
    We have traveled there so often, I feel I know it better than Greece!
    Enjoy your trip, return safely,
    Susan.x

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    1. I still have a good healthy fear of flying and when we booked the trip to Cairo my question to 'the Scout' was not how safe is the city, but how safe is Air Egypt as that is what we are flying co-share with Aegean to get us there. Thanks for the good wishes! Jackie xx

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  15. That does sound exciting. We can only trust that things will be OK when we're travelling, although registering for STEP sounds like a good idea. I look forward to more on the Mani.

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    1. Hi Jan, I am with you on the trust issue - if we end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, it could happen anywhere so guess we will just have to give it a try. Got more on the Mani coming your way soon!

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  16. Jackie,

    Such an informative and important post today for all travelers, and everyone, in general. You and Scout are always on top of things with regards to your globetrotting adventures, and sharing your discoveries with us is appreciated.

    I can so identify with you; missing my little corner of peace, beauty, and tranquility in the enchanting Cretan countryside!!

    Looking forward to more great posts on your Stone House on the Hill!

    Happy weekend, my friend~

    Hugs,
    Poppy

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    1. Oh, if I could, I don't think I'd leave our little Stone House on the Hill - even the stormy weather can't dampen my love for this place and thankfully the sun has returned. . .still chilly and the clothes don't dry in a day's time as they did on the line, but beautiful all the same. Happy weekend Poppy! Hugs to you, Jackie

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  17. Good idea to register, Jackie. The reality is that these days, sadly, as we have been seeing, things can happen anytime, anywhere and most depressingly, without warning. Be safe, enjoy both Cairo and Paris and your reunion with your family. Enjoy!!
    And btw, I knew prices between European destinations were attractive but the ones you quoted are insane!!

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    1. The prices once you get here, really are incredible Marcia. Too many places from which to choose and next year is already calling us with Berlin, Budapest. . .oh the list goes on. . . Thanks for the visit. xxJ.

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  18. Egypt sound fabulous. I went many years ago, a couple of months after the United States invaded Iraq. Half of the people on that trip cancelled their travel plans. I ended up going and we had a wonderful time. I felt very safe during my stay there.

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    1. Ruth, so glad to hear that report. I am cautiously optimistic that we will have an uneventful time in Egypt, but just had a friend write yesterday that on her visit there in the 90's she was held at gunpoint in her hotel. Go figure. We will just have to give it a try and see what happens!

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  19. I can't even begin to imagine going to the places you and Joel do....how fun that must be. Hope your plans worked and everything was smooth.

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    1. BJ thanks for you good words. We have a few more weeks before we head to Cairo, so I am still enjoying my Stone House on the Hill in Greece a bit longer. Happy weekend to you~ Jackie

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  20. Nice blog, thanks for sharing the information. I will come to look for update. Keep up the good work.

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  21. It's nice to have so many options, isn't it? That's one of the reasons why we enjoyed living in Asia so much. North America seems so homogeneous sometimes that you feel you have to go really, really far to experience a different culture. Cairo sounds like a perfect plan, and I am also one to take clothing into consideration. I spent a ridiculous amount kitting out my growing kids for 1 week of cold weather one year. I've enrolled in the STEP program. They're good about only sending you only the really important info so it doesn't get annoying, and at least for Malaysia, are rather specific about the location of the problem.

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  22. Your opening sentence was good. Obviously, Well begun is half done. As you said, timing is an important factor. It's a good quality travelogue. Keep on showing your potential. Best custom essay writing service

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