Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thursday Day 8, Madrid

Spend the day in Madrid move hotels to the Hilton near the airport to prepare for leaving tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wednesday, Day 7 - Madrid

Woke up at 5 and can´t go back to sleep it is Freezing cold here. I feel back asleep at 9am only to awake again at 12:00.. We took showers and then headed out for the day. We started first by going to the Palacio Real de Madrid it is the royal place of spain, while we were there we got to see the changing of the gaurd, it was pretty cool. Kevin said he had never seen that or even knew they had a gaurd.

We then went to breakfast/lunch we both had pizza, Kevin had Jamon y champiñón or ham and mushroom pizza and I have a combo pizza, one slice was black olive (whole) and one slice with jamon, one slice with champiñón and one slice with anchovies. Now don´t get me wrong I am not an anchovie eater but I had to have it since hey.. when in Madrid.. they are not different here, stinky, salty, hairy looking little fish.

After lunch we headed for Plaza de Cibeles

We didn´t go in or anything just took some pictures and walked over to Museo Nacional Del Prado where we toured the museum and got to see about 40 rembrandts.

We then left to find the elusive Biblioteca madrid..

This is a picture of it.. We spent well over an hour asking people and looking at maps and traveling up and down the streets of Madrid never to find it. So we stopped our search and headed to Retiro Park

It was not hard to find but since it was getting dark Kevin said we should probably stay outside since it is a good place to get drugs or mugged or both.

After the park we headed back to the hotel room to figure out what to eat for dinner. I am not sure if I told you but most people here eat lunch between 2 and 4 and then eat dinner after 9 and sometimes as late as 11pm, heck most restaurants open at 8pm. We decided just to have Tapas, we found a nice little spot somewhere near La Latina Metro station, We had calamari, pemientos de Padrón (Fried peppers with sea salt) and Croquetas de Jamón Serrano.

Keeping with tapas tradition we left and headed to our next Tapas restaurant, We decided to make our own tapas at a Chinese place. I ordered Seafood soup and the house appetizer platter. Kevin ordered Miso soup and some Tuna sushi which turned out to be tuna hand rolls. We then headed home for the night only to be asked about fifty times if we wanted to go to a cabaret show, which me being nieve thought it was just scantly clad dancer girls, well the pictures on the wall were alot less dressed then I remember from the movies more like not dressed would be more like it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday, Day 6 - Cairo, Rome, Madrid - Airplanes, Worlds Oldest Restaurant

Flight Back to Madrid

Woke up at Midnight with a total of about 3 hours sleep, was up 2 hours after laying down and could not get back to sleep for another 2 hours, the energy from the day was still coursing through my body making it impossible to sleep. We had to get up that early to meet the taxi cab drivers brother so he could take us to the airport at 1am for our 4am flight. Took a really interesting shower, the shower curtian was about three inches to short so the water shot all over the bathroom as you showered. I had fun cleaning that mess up. Then we got packed and were ready to roll around 12:45. Got in the elevator which had no side walls, meaning you could see the walls, and elevator doors pass as you speed down to the bottom floor kinda freaky when you are sleep deprived. Met up with cabby and we were on our way out of Cairo. Along the way we saw a obvoius fatal accident one of the small trucks looked as though it had flipped many times and it had crushed the cab of the truck up quite a bit so I am sure he was done. I got two pics I will post when I get back.

Airplanes Galore
Flew Air italia to Rome (by the way, even though the security seems lax in many of the airports abroad they have no problem sending you thought metal detector after metal detector. I tell you no lie in saying that I went through three in the Cairo airport, and three in the Rome airport and at least a hundred in the Streets of Cairo (every store you go in).

Landed in Madrid around 2:40pm and stopped by Kevins place to get some fresh clothes and drop off the junk we collected in Cairo (thanks mom for making me get some dirt the people thought I was a freak).

I took a shower in another mess of a shower, what is wrong with these people and not having doors on the shower? It has a great messager built into the shower shoots streams of water at your back but if you move wrong they shoot right out of the shower, drenching the door in the 150sft bathroom as well.

After the shower Kevin and I left to see the Plaza de Mayor

The Plaza Mayor, built in 1619 by Philip III, is a vast, cobbled, traffic-free chunk of 17th-century Spain, with its centerpiece: a statue is of Philip III. There are nine arched gateways leading into this great square which was the hub of life in Renaissance Madrid. Each side of the square is uniform. Much Spanish history was lived in this center: bullfights, fires, royal pageantry, and the scene of "autos de fe", the public punishments imposed by the Inquisition. Philip V, Ferdinand VI and Charles IV were each proclaimed King there. Relief’s serving as seatback under the lampposts tells the story.

During the Inquisition, many were tried here, paraded around the square with signs listing their many sins, and then burned. Some were slowly strangled with a garrote while holding a crucifix as a priest prayed. The square is painted a shade of burgundy, the color selected as the result of a city-wide vote. Three different colors were painted as samples on the walls of this square, and the city voted for its favorite.

It was Freezing cold there so we didn´t stay long but there really was no need to either since it was just a square with some shops at the bottom. We then went to an Irish pub and had a beer waiting for our restaurant to open up.

The Botin
I am not sure what was better the atmosphere or the food, the building on the inside (I have pictures) was made from poorly laid bricks and small passageways to your table either the people back then were short or they didn´t mind ducking to walk down stairs to the next level. I will say it was beautiful.

To start our dinner we had garlic soup and a platter of mushrooms which were both great. Then our main course comes, suckling pig. We could have dined on baby eels or stewed partridge, but how could we pass up the roasted suckling pig with its crispy bronzed skin and luscious meat? It's a huge portion--actually enough for two. The slow cooking has rendered the meat sweet and tender and infused with olive oil, herbs, and garlic. For desert we had Flan which was alright but not needed since we were stuffed as it was but Kevin wanted some so I caved.

After dinner we rushed to the hotel room exausted from lack of sleep and a huge meal we passed out quick to end another day abroad.

Monday, Day 5 Hurghada, Cairo - Pyramids - The Nile - The Cairo Museum

Taxi Cab to Airport
We land in Cairo early in the morning Monday and start to look for a cheap taxi to the Cairo Museum. The first guy who walks up to us asking if we need a cab says he will take us the museum for 60EP (the conversion is 5 to 1) so this is going to cost us 12us to get there sounds pretty cheap to me. We figure if the guy sucks we can just get another cab when we get there. Well surprising to Kevin and I this guy speaks what we consider great english and is super nice. Of course so was the guy in the suit the day before so we are quite skeptical of this guy and are ready to bail at a stop light if need be. As we leave the airport we have to pay the toll to get out an unexpected 10EP(2 us are you with me). Kevin and I give each other the great we are going to get screwed look but again 10EP is nothing. The we come to an armed gaurd who flags us down and then makes me write my name down in a book, he doesnt care about Kevin just me. I ask why and I get a because, again this is discomforting but ohh well I figure if they want to know the name of the people that get kidnapped each year I want to be in that book so I sign away.
The first thing that I want you to know is that driving is Cairo is like nothing else on this planet. People are speeding around driving insane fast and you know the white lines on the road.. yeah they mean nothing to them, nor do stop lights, stop signs, people in the road, break lights, heck most cars in Cairo don't have side mirrors since they have all been scraped off at some point during driving. I have tried to take as many photos of this experiance as possible but I am afraid you cannot fully understand how scarey/insane it really is until you live through it.
So sitting in the back seat white knuckles obvious to our cabbie he asks what are plans are for the day. I figure this is setup of some sort but trying to be honest (ok not that honest he still thinks we are from Canada) I tell him we plan on visiting the museum first, then the pyramids, then hotel for sleep. He tells me my plans are all wrong and he would suggest otherwise since he has live in Cairo his whole life and he knows better.
He tells us to start our day at the pyramids since it is a long drive it will be cheaper since the trip will be shorter. I ask him how much and he replies with how about this. I will drive you around all day, wherever you want to go for 500EP. It takes me a minute to do the math but for 100us having a personal cab that will wait for us everywhere we go sounds too good to be true. I am willing to take the risk since he seems so friendly. As we drive towards the pyramids he shows all kinds of buildings (which we can barely see through the smog), he shows us bediwins(sp?) right in the middle of the city (nomad sheep herders). We see so many amazing sites and such bad driving that I was willing to pay 500EP just for that ride. It was awesome.
First thing he does to win my confidence was to ask if we would like to get a water in town since it will be half price at the pyramids (good thinking!). So we pull over (traffic is now having to drive into on coming traffic to get around us but this seem to matter very little to the driver and heck to the people passing us, he asks if we like a large water or small. I am thinking Kevin and I share one so I say get me the large. Kevin being a germaphobe(I forgot about that) says that he would like a seperate water. The cab driver laughs to himself (since he knows what a large waters is and orders it up in Arabic to the vendor and makes some arabic joke about how many times we are going to have to go to the bathroom. They both get a good laugh out of it and we continue on down the road.
I would like to point out one more thing that happened before I get to the prymids, while we are driving in the worst traffic ever on a two lane road Kevin about jumps our of his seat and I look up to see what appears to be a car in our RIGHT hand side of the road diving the wrong way against the flow of traffic, the look of shock and horror on our faces again makes the cab driver laugh audibly. He asks Kevin if he would mind driving for bit he is getting tired again laughing to out loud at us and our expressions of fear.
Please let me explain something, as int the previous post I cannot emphizise enough how dirty/backwards/third world this place is. We pull into some back streets and hop out. The driver introduces us to a man who rents Horses and Camels and then guides you up to see the pyramids, the man has Kevin up on the Camel and me on the horse before he is willing to tell me the price. Once up on the back of the horse your ability to barter is somewhat taken away from you. So he says would you like the short ride or the long ride and I ask about price, he says 250each for the short ride about 30 minutes or 350each for the long ride about 1.5 hours. I know that I only have 600 in my pocket so I tell him I can only afford the short ride and he and my cab driver both tell me I really need to take the long one am I sure that I want to take the short one. The Cab driver then starts talking Arabic and tells the guy to give a break and give us the long trip for the price of the short one. When the camel driver tells me this he does so with a (since he is your friend and mine I am going to give you a discount) then the second we get out side of the cabbies view he says.. you know, my tip should be really high since I gave you such a break on the price.

The fun for me began on the top of a horse. I have never ridden a horse before and I am also not great with directions. So when the camel driver guys hands me the reigns and asks if I have ever ridden before and I say no.. Well I guess this means I am going to figure it out real quick, he tells me it is just like a car, you pull right it goes right, left it goes left and front mean go forward and back to stop. Seems easy enough.. So we are slowly click clacking our way down the road towards the main street (yea with cars zooming everywhere) and I decide I am going to try out my new car I mean horse and see how the handling performs.. So I yank on the right side and the horse turns its head and looks at me.. (doesnt go right) I yank on the reins to the left now the horse looks at me out the other side of his head and does not go left. I think this is odd since the instructions I got were left to go left and right to go right. I pull a little harder to the right... maybe my horse didnt get the message. The horse again looks at me from the right (no turning), I yank pretty hard to the left (the horse will understand that I am thinking) and lo and behold the horse does understand.. he thinks I am some idiot flea like creature that he needs to rid himself of and starts to try to buck me off. Quite interesting, I am now on a pissed off horse, heading for a busy road with broken steering and I am trying to be thrown from my seat. The camel driver yells at the horse and since I figued out that yanking pisses the horse off I decide to change my tatics and I only ever so slightly move the reins to the right and away we go to the right. I figured it out and I stayed on the horse I think my next step is going straight for the whispering in his ear but I decide to save that for the next horse I ride.

Along the way to the pyramids we get mauled by people trying to sell us stuff like turbins and drinks and the camel driver is yelling at them in arbic I assume he is saying something along the line of this idiot white folks are mine back off because for the most part they leave quit quickly when he starts yelling at them.
We make it up a large hill to finally turn the corner and see the pyramids in all their splendor and also get to see our camel driver pay off security gaurds to leave us alone and he also pays off some other people and honestly I am not sure why. But we get our pictures, we are asked if we want to go in the pyramids or climb them and we answer no (I had a feeling that cost more). Plus with that many pissed looking arabs around that we kept having to pay off I was afraid for some reason we were already pushing out luck. We pay our tip get out cairo hard rock hat and away we go in our personal taxi for the day, the pyramids we a great experience and we had a great time. I am not sure a second visit would do much for me but I did get to see them and I am very happy for the experience, once in a lifetime.

We get back on the road and since I am broke from the camel ride I try and stop to get some cash and my card doesnt work. I try like fifteen times and finally have to resort to my company card to get some cash. My accountant will love that one.

Cairo Museum
I really was excited to see the Cairo Museum, it is truly amazing all the stuff they have found over the years. They have unreal attention to detail in their work, I think the thing that was most interesting was the models they made, I am not sure if they were toys or what but they were of such great detail. They had made models of everything, the way they fished (little boats with fish on teh decks and little nets) the way they made beer (a full brewery model) the way they made food. it was truly interesting.

We told the driver to pick us up in three hours so that would give him enough time to run some errands and we would have enough time to see the whole museum. He told us to meet him (he would be waiting) on what appeared to be a 4 lane highway with six lanes of traffic running on it all the time. I told Kevin.. I bet we have to wait here cause I am sure he will have to pass a couple of times to be able to pick us up. Well to my surprise he was parked in the middle of the fast lane with his blinkers on the opposite side of the road. We had to dodge a million cars (all driving crazy, honking their horns and generally not abiding any american road saftey laws to get across the street and hop in the car and speed away. Totally insane is all I can really say about that taxi entry but I was getting used to it.. this is Cairo you know.. They do things a little different here.

We have not eaten (by orders of our driver who tells us if we eat we will want to sleep) ever since we have arrived in cairo, and if any of you know me I will be the first one to try something native no matter how terrible it sounds (ok I skipped the ox tail in Madrid, but the trip isn't over and maybe I can be convinced). So I tell him to take us to one of his favorite resturants and nothing that is touristy we want Egypt on a plate. He laughs and says I have just the place for you, you want shiska bob.. I say sounds right up my alley, take us there. We park the car in the scummiest neighborhood I have ever, wait wait wait.. Cairo is the scummiest city I have ever been and this neighborhood is no different. We enter what seems to be an upscale (meaning clean) restaurant and are greeted by well dressed egytians and treated to a wonderful meal that included 2 kilos of shiska bob meats, a plate of what looked like dandy lion leaves, a plate of green vegetables with tomatoes, one plate some type of cucumber sauce (like you would get with a gyro) and one place of something a little darker (kevin called it mud mainly because it tasted like mud), we also get a large pile of pita bread which we are told not to eat cause it fills you up and you cannot eat more meat that way (I like how the guy thinks). All in all a great meal, we are all stuffed and it only cost 250EP or roughly 50us. One last thing to note, I was told I would meet lots of poor beggars in Cairo and the little girl that came up to the car after dinner was the only one. I turned away not giving her anything since I am not into beggers but something odd happened. The driver did give her something so of course that made me feel bad but. I got over that quick don't want anyone to think I have a soul or anything, so back in the car and away we go.

We really have nothing to do now and it is still early so he asks if we would like to go the Bazaar, he tells us we want to go and no trip to cairo is complete with out the world clas shopping that can be done here. I am not sure if he has been to fifth avenue but I take his word for it and we get dropped off at the "Bazaar", well let me tell you something, the word Bazaar has a second mean because of this place. This place was PACKED with people, stepping over, on top over and around each other like ants, I honest to god have never experianced anything this wild. We saw,smelled,felt and heard things that were extraordinary without equal anywhere else on the planet. Some of the things that I thought noteworthy.. The guy selling fake euros, the guy selling what appeared to be a windex colored drink out of a backback vending device, a cooked goat head hanging in a window I am guessing for purchase, fake rolexs, a man selling pastries off the top of his head, a man selling billfolds with one of his arms stuffed in his shirt and down his pant leg so he looked armless. The list goes on and on.. I remember getting lost in the bowels of this "Bazaar" place and telling Kevin that NOW would be a good time for us to walk faster and finally, everyone seeing that we were white would try to speak to us in english, with catch phrases like "hey you come into my shop", "buy here its cheap", "what can I help you find", "come here my friend", "whats your name my friend" and finally my favorite, "How can I take your money". We didn't buy anything at the Bazaar but we has a great time getting lost in the maze of shops and see such incredible sites.

Pictures of the Nile
On our way back to get something from the Hilton gift shop Kevin made a motion to take a picture of the Nile. The cab driver leans over the seat and says.. you want picture of you with and the Nile.. I can do that. So in the middle of the bridge, with thousands of crazy ass drivers zipping everywhere he pulls over and we all get out and start taking pictures on top of the bridge. The guy was great, and again something like is unforgetable.

We finally end our day kinda early (we had to be back to the airport by 2am) so we checked into our hotel around 6 and even though we had not slept well in days the energy of the city kept us awake for a couple of hours but we were able to get some sleep and at 2am say goodbye to by far the craziest city I have ever been in. I would recommend if you ever get the chance to go.. do.. you will not be sorry. If you need company I would be happy to return. I just hope I can find our great driver again, he made the whole trip worth it.

Sunday, Day 4 - Hurghada - Diving

Airport pickup guy
After we get off the plane from Cairo we took a short bus ride to the terminal where we tried to wait for our driver to pick us up. We were told that we could not wait in the terminal and we had to wait outside on our wait we saw the guy who was to pick us up standing outside an hour earlier then we were told he would be there and mad we were happy since we didnt have to wait outside in the cold. The driver that picked us up however did not speak english at all so we just had to trust and believe we were going to the right place.
So off we go in his van/taxi towards what looks like a resort area.. however the closer we get the more war torn the area looks, there are 100s of half built beautiful buildings that all look like someone just ran out of money and stopped building them, very odd area, the streets are extemely dirty, there are ferrel dogs running wild in the streets and muslims scattered throughout the entry ways to the various shops and businesses.
As we are taking in the scenery the driver pulls off the road at some building and says.. Coffee shop? Kevin and I just look at each other and say to the guy no.. No thanks feeling that we would be much safer being at the dive shop or with someone who spoke english. Well the question of if we wanted to go to the coffee shops was not really a question, it was more like get out of my Van and go to the coffee shop. Well a coffee shop in Egypt is not really what you think of a typical coffee shop. First it is all on a patio, it 30 year old lawn chairs with two machines outside with coke in Arabic writing on the cans so we point at a can of coke and sit at a table in front of a TV that has an english show on (arabic subtitles), the show made the whole scene even more sureal that it already was. The show was some horror movie with a strange monster that reminded me of a combo of Saw and Hell Raiser merged together.
So there we sit just after dawn in a run down coffee shop drinking a coke, watching a horror movie with a bunch of Arabs all around, wild dogs digging through the trash across the street, freezing cold in a town that looks like it is fresh out of a war, all the while being sleep deprived. Seriously one of the strangest/scariest mornings of my life. I have figured out that not being able to speak to ANYONE who knows what is going on is quite discomforting.
Once our driver is done with his Shiska and coffee we get back in the Van and drive down the main street again towards what I assume is going to be the dive shop. We pass many odd things on the way. We see at least 4 various people with AK47s, we see again what looks like half built million dollar hotels that have never been completed 100s of them.
We make it to the dive shop and are told by the drive to wait, we know that the dive shop will not open for at least another hour so we have to wait outside. I am just happy to have made it.
Once we check in with the dive shop we head out on the boat, the water is beautiful. The visibilty has to be near 70 to 90 feet. The weather was great and the staff on the boat was the best I have ever experianced. They very organized and took very good care of us.
The dives were great, the first dive we got to see some Morays, a big shark and a lion fish. The second dive was called the aquarium and I would have to agree with the person who come up with that name since I have never seen that many tropical fish in one area in my life. Truely beautiful and well worth the hassle.
After the dives we get to ride on the dive shop bus who drops us off at the hotel.
We decide to walk down what seems to be a safe looking street (lots of white tourists around and every block has an armed policeman on the corner). There are gift shops all up and down the street and since Kevin has to get a Hard Rock hat we had to travel a couple of blocks to get it. As we pass the gift shops the propritors run out and try to drag us inside. I tell Kevin to keep walking and don´t talk to them. We get the hat and head back and decide to stop for something to eat, we get some awesome shiska-bobs with the coolest decorations on the plate. What they did was hollow out a tomatoe and stack a ring of an onion on top, place a candle in the bottm and make a really cool lamp.
We head back to the hotel and for some reason I decide that I want to stop and get a gift for myself, I really wanted to get a Small statue of Horus, so I walk in to a shop and the owner immediatly starts harassing me and will not let me leave I ask him for Horus and he has no idea what I am talking about and asks me to point to what I am looking for I point to a statue of Anubis and so he grabs it and stuffs it into my hand and shows me his calculator with 250 on the screen. Which equates to about 50us. I know this piece of junk comes from china so I am not about to pay that much for the WRONG statue. He asks how much I would pay and well needless to say somehow I end up an Anubis statue for 110 which is about 21us. We rush back to the hotel not talking to anyone anymore. When we get back to the hotel we realize the hotel has quite a few shops of its own so we get some gifts and stop at a tent in the back of teh hotel where an africa show is about to start so Kevin and I get another shiska-bob and a shiska(hooka pipe) and try to stay awake for the show but decide to get off to bed instead (we have to catch our cab at 4am)

Saturday, Day 3 - Madrid , Rome, Cairo, Hurghada

Kevin and I wake up and for some reason he wants to go to the airport and wait till 5 to catch our plane to Egypt. I am thinking how boring it sounds to sit around that long so I convince him to see one of the things on my must see list that I made back at home. So we figure out that we can see Plaza de Castillo and make it back to the airport with plenty of time to spare. We got some great pics like the one above ( I will post more when I can hook up my camera) we then stopped for a Churro (it was awesome covered in chocolate) and we headed over to a deli for lunch. Well after we figued out what Jamon was and I remembered the Zimmerman show about Madrid I ordered the jamon Sandwich, and while I can´t rightly remembered how he described it I will give you my description.

The Jamon Sandwich

This meat is served on a rather hard chewy roll which if you let it over powers the meat, I actually ripped the bottom half off the roll and used that as my bread since the top of the roll was too big and hard for my tastes. While the sandwhich was a good combination of meat and bread the meat by itself was a little umm odd. I took a piece of the meat out and chewed it alone, while the meat tastes like bacon there is a ton of fat on the meat and when you eat it by its self it tends to turn to liquid fat that runs down the back of your throat for an oddly discomforting feeling that you may immediatly have a heart attack and not make it to you next bite let alone out of the store. All in all even with my seemingly bad review I would recommend that you try it. It did have amazing flavor and when eaten with bread it was excellent.

After lunch we roamed around the streets near the Plaza De Castillo and found a dollar store for Monica (insert picture). We went in hoping to find the illusive cheap watch in Madrid only to be disappointed again. With our roaming done we headed back to the airport to wait for our flight.

Our first flight landed in Rome for a 2 hour layover and while there we decided to have a small meal so I tried a Crasso sandwhich which is something like baloney with I don´t know either fat or cheese pressed in the meat on something like panini bread, It was good but nothing to jump up and down about.

We then boarded the next plane for Cairo and they served the worst thing I think I have ever eaten (again not that I was especially hungry I was just thinking hey its free). I guess here in Europe you can actally get loaves of bread witht he crust cut off. I am not sure why we don´t do that in the US but here is it is common place, anyway the sandwhich they served on the plane (labeled in italian) was three slices of white bread no crust, with white cheese and green olive pate.. absolutely horrible, needless to say I didn´t get it on the flight back.

Cairo is really where this story begins well at least the interesting part that is..

When I boarded the plane to Cairo I felt a little odd I realized that we were the only Americans on the flight and it really didn´t dawn on me until that time that perhaps where I was going was a little bit dangerous. And it REALLY didn´t dawn on me until I got off the plane in Cairo. The place was a disaster, I mean I have been in some dirty places but this, this was unreal. Everything was a mess, Everything covered in dirt and grime the like of which I cannot decribe to you, I hope the pictures show it well.

After we got through customs (15 dollar visa) we were immediatly stopped by a pleasent looking man in a suit who asked us where we headed (and since he was dressed ten times better then the rest of the population) I answered that I needed to get to terminal 1 for our connecting flight. So me thinking the guy works for the airport follow him out past the armed gaurds past the hugh crowd of chanting (beggers, taxi cab drivers and people meeting people at the airport) and into a little office, again I am thinking hey this guy is legit he works for the airport. Well it turns out that is kinda like a taxi broker. We pay him 20us to get us over to the other terminal (which before the ride I was thinking hey.. you can´t charge to show us how to get to the next terminal) he introduces us to a guy he calls our driver, well he speaks to him in arabic and obvoiusly he doesn´t want our fare so he says wait, this is your driver and he introduces us to another guy who we start to follow and then he says wait.. You need this boy to come with you, mohammad follow them and their driver so.. A young boy who happens to speak some english is now along for the ride. We start to walk down the sidewalk around a bend and then across a street when the "our driver" takes off and goes to the left while we are being hurded down a dark flight of stairs and are joined by another man who starts talking to our boy. At the bottom of the nearly pitch black flight of stairs an Armed Police man gruffly asks the boy "Where are you taking them.." in which the boy replies in Arabic something.. I am assuming he tells him "to kill them over there near that pile of garbage".

Let me break the story for a minute to describe the scene.. First it is the middle of the night, I am in a country that is Muslim and not really kind to white christians especially from the US, did I mention it was dark not well lit? and there are hardly words to describe the area that we were in, it was what I guess you could refer to as a parking lot, there were lots of beat up cars that they call taxis but the area around the cars was like right out of a war movie it looked like we were in a war zone, there were destroyed parts of buildings debris everywhere, garbage everywhere, really the only words that come to my mind is freshly bombed.

Needless to say I was scared, I had no idea why I had to be lead outside to "terminal 1" I had no idea why I needed a freaking driver or an assitant and I especially had no idea why a big armed police man was concerned where this kid was taking me. So follow the kid to the first beatup car/van thing and the kid asks the man standing outside something in arbic and the guy points to the two asians that he has near the rear of the car and then we walk a little further past more beatup cars to a white van with curtians over the windows. They take our packs throw them in the trunk and the kid hands the driver a piece of paper (again which I assume says kill them and dump the bodies in the Nile) then the kid asks for a tip.. so feeling suckered I give him 2us and then he says.. what about my friend.. so I give him two bucks I am not really sure what he did for me but oh well I want to keep them smiling... At this poing I am a little less worried because well I still have my wallet and I am only out so far 24 dollars and I since I am not dead yet it is a good thing. The kid slams the door shut, Kevin obviously not as comfortable as I with the whole "happy just to be alive feeling" screams with a somewhat paniced voice hey... "are we going to terminal one?" "hey wait... Terminal 1, Terminal 1???" the panic was growing in him you could tell so he turns to the driver, "Terminal 1???" again "Terminal 1??" at this point I am seeing that he is getting scared so I say, Kevin he doesn´t know what you are saying, just relax he has the paper from the office (the one the guy in the suit wrote) so I think he knows where to go.
(In the back of my mind I was wondering if what was written on the peice of paper was "take these american fools around the airport a couple of times then drop them back off at the door and tell them they are at terminal one" or "Take these to Infadels to the local leader of radical muslim sect who will take them to the desert and behead them" but I have to hope for the best and just believe that we are going to terminal one.

As we pull out of the war zone parking lot we pass loads of police and security and all the time I thinking hey just jump now they can help you.. but I couldn´t leave Kevin... Anyway we drive through 3 or 4 security check points (in less then 1/2 mile) all along the way Kevin is freaking out, when we pass a sign in english that says terminal 1 pointing in the opposite direction of the way we are going again Kevin really starts freaking out.. But luckily for us we see another sign that also says terminal 1 and it just happens to be pointing in the direction we are heading so at this point I start to calm down and just go with it. We go through another security check point and the gaurd looks in the back seat and speaks to the driver in arabic something and smiles, I get a little worried but I think I am starting to understand a little better what is happening.. We are being scammed for what ends up being 30us to be driven across the parking lot (less travel then the 6 euros to cross the street in Madrid the day before) so we get to the front of a building that says clearly terminal 1 and before the guy stops Kevin and I are out of the van on the sidewalk ready to leave our bags in the back of the car. The driver is happy with the tip and I am Happy to be alive.

We walk inside and let me tell you the fun is not over. We are confronted by a seemingly disinterested security card who after we get his attention sends our bags through the metal detector and pats us down. We walk into an area about 1000 Sq foot that houses the ticket booths we get our ticket to Hurghada and again have to put our bags in a second metal detector and then the guy looks over our tickets and passports and lets us in to the waiting area for the plane.

At this point Kevin and I both had to go to the bathroom, so we start to walk in and yep you guessed it.. We are followed into the bathroom by a man who looks like a bum so I immediatly assume that we are going to mugged. I am not sure if you know what male bathroom ettiqute is (actually I think it is unwritten law) but when you use a Urinal and there are many of them on the wall and you are first to get there you have to use the urinal that is way in the corner, then the second person comes they use either the one way in the corner or at least many urinals away from the first guy then as more and more people show up you slowly fill in the gaps keeping as many empty urinals inbetween each other as humanly possible.. so you see men really don´t want other men near them when they pee. So back to the bum... While Kevin and I (one empty urinal a part) are peeing the guy walks right up behind us and places a towel on the devider between the urinals (breach of bathroom protocol for sure) and then proceeds to wait for us at the door, so we quick finish, wash and nearly knock the guy over to get out of the bathroom.. I am assuming now looking back that he was not a bum but an employee and he was trying to be nice.. All I can say is.. creepy..

Just when you thought this day would end we did have one more noteworthy experience.. While in the waiting room for the plane we get to sit next to what looks like a a guy who is dressed like a Saudi royal family member and his wife. I would like to say that his wife was beautiful but I am not sure if enough of her face was showing for me to be right in saying that. I will say that she did have amazing henna tattoos all over her hands and feet. And when I say all over, I mean they where covered in an amazing design that must have taken hours to do.. We didn´t really sleep this night but I will say this is the end of day 3.

Friday, Day 2 - Madrid

After I land and get my luggage and walk out of Customs Kevin is waiting for me at the door. So he and trek (This place is huge) to his apartment. Drop off all unneed clothes and pack for Egypt, we then hop back on the subway to find a restaurant that Kevin wants to take me to and on the way we get to meet one of the stinkyest bums I have ever had the displeasure of sitting near on a Subway. I wanted to take a picture but there were too many people about and well it may have been a little rude, (I would have done it otherwise since he was a monument to bumminess).

The restaurant is a small little place that serves a hundred different types of sandwiches, you just get a little card and pick what you want. The card of course is in spainish and while most things I can read or ask Kevin to translate there are somethings that even he cannot read, so of course I pick one that we both had no clue what it was and gave it a try. I also had four other sandwiches with various meats and cheeses all in all pretty good. The mystery turned out to be something Jamon or Ham, and in Madrid (known for its Jamon) everywhere seems to serve Jamon. Actually Anthony Zimmerman talks about it in his Madrid show. Jamon is salt cured pork shoulder, which they sell by the leg and you slice off a piece at time to make in the case a small sandwich. The good legs sell for nearly 1000 Euros, so it is expensive stuff.

After lunch we head back to the Airport and then to the Hilton where I got a great online deal for half price (70 euros) by using a special website that Kevin sent me to. Well it turns out that you have to be a travel agent or airline worker to get the special and they weren´t about to give me that rate so I had to man up and pay the extra 70 euros to sleep for the night.

We then head over to the mall that is next door to the Hotel (across an amazingly busy street) to kill some time. We walk the entire mall where I notice that alot of the items in the mall are actually in English, I don´t mean they are in English because they are translated for us or there for us but more like there for decoration. Some of the songs for the mall are popular american songs and people are walking around the mall wearing shirts with english sayings like good boys need not apply and other oddly phrased sayings (maybe poorly translated) all of which I thought was peculiar since they really don´t like americans too much. While looking for a cheap watch (no way to tell time for our Egypt trip) we were popping through booths looking at different things when I noticed a key chain that B would love it was a cute little skull and cross bones, and when I told Kevin he thought he would get it for her. He asked the lady the price 5 euros Holy crap 5 euros for a small little keychain I immediatly said to him that it was like 7.50us and that it was WAY too much money so he didn´t get it and when we stepped outside he said I should stop doing that, I said stop doing what, converting money it will only depress you. You just need to think about euros as dollars and if you convert all the time you will never buy anything. Writing this a couple of days later I see what he means, it is much easier to just pay the difference.
Later in the mall(insert picture of beer vending machine) we step outside to check out a go cart track and run into an interesting site, a vending machine for beer. Since the drinking age is 18 I guess it doesn´t matter that there is one next to a go cart track but it still seemed odd to me. We fully explore the mall until we get tired and since we ate not to much earlier we sit down and wait for a bit till we are hungry again (never really was hungry again but had to eat anyway).

Let me point something out before I go on to describe our meal, in Spain you do not eat dinner until about 9pm actually it is quite hard to find a restaurant that is even open before 8pm so when we walk into Grandmas Cabinet or Diner or Cafe or whatever (we never really figured out the name of the place because Kevin could not translate the second half of the name) the place is deserted and the waiter is actually cleaning the tables and seems to be setting up for the evening crowd (two hours from then) but we get him to serve us two dishes (tapas style eating) we have something that Kevin enjoys called Patatas Bravas which is fried chunks of potato with a mildly spicy red sauce (they were great) and something else from the menu that Kevin couldn´t translate so we had to try it. Well let me tell you something, sometimes picking the mystery dish is not a good idea and this might have been one of those times. We got what looked like Black Beans and rice stuffed into a hot dog casing and then baked and sliced. The problem with the dish is that there was some funny taste to the beans and rice and it seemed a little meaty so I am afraid to google the name morcilla de burgos ... AHHH I just did it to make the post, Yep that funny taste was blood. See what happens when you order what you cannot read. Other then the funny mystery taste and the fact that we were not really hungry it wasn´t all that bad and if I was not full I would have eaten my half of the dish (not if I had know what it was made of)

After dinner we head back to the hotel by taking a 6 euro Cab ride across the street(it was freezing at this point). Went to sleep and woke up 2 hours later at 21:51(time differences are really messing with my body and sleep seems to lose out alot) so I forced myself back to sleep only to have my reoccuring Manson Dream, yeah you know I am sure you had it too.

The dream goes something like this, I am in a house that is next to the Ocean (Seems like it is my house) and I tell Marlyn Manson that he cannot take my daughter out for the evening (not Becca but some other daughter that perhaps I don´t know about yet) and I am firm in my descision that she cannot go out that night with him (Perhaps another night???) so he gets angry and starts to prank me and some people I am with (was I having a party at my beach front house?) well some of the pranks include making Zombies come out of the sand at the beach scaring all my guests so I have to beat the zombies down and get everyone calmed down again. Then he orders Pizza for the party which seems like a nice things until there are bugs on the pizza so the guests think that I am being too hard and him and he is acutally a nice guy who took the time to order pizza for everyone and I try to tell them about the bugs but they don´t listen. He then calls the cops on the party saying it is too loud and again my guests are upset so I finally ask my daughter kindly ask him to stop and I know that the only way he will stop is if my daughter asks him to sincerly stop so he does stop and I wake up. Does this seem strange to anyone else? I wonder what is more odd, the dream or that I write about it in the blog of my trip.

Well after the dream I wake up and notice that Kevin is also up and we decide to watch TV since we cannot sleep and yep you guessed it, sleeps natural enemy is on. Poker, I cannot fall asleep when Poker is on so I basically stay awake from midnight to 5 am watching poker. At that point I do fall asleep again till 10 so I get some sleep just not quality.

Thursday, Day 1 - Fort Myers, Atlanta - Airplanes - Airplanes - Airplanes

The start of the day was great, I woke up with a smile and plenty of time to spare. I went to breakfast with Nicole and then to the house to pack the last of my stuff for the trip. I started to run out of time, imagine that, James running out of time. I tried to change my forwarded number, voicemail and everything so I could rest assured that Scott would get all my calls. Well that blew up in my face and I started to freak out, especially since my phone started to die before I even left Fort Myers, I started to lose my temper and well just generally started the trip on a bad note.

The Atlanta Airport
I made the first flight to Atlanta with no problems (Flying Stand-By is lots of fun) and since my cell phone was dying I had to buy a Thirty dollar phone charger. I got to the airport really early so I had lots of time to kill and since I knew concourse T is the international terminal so I waited there for the flight to Madrid to show and of course I was waiting in the wrong terminal and had to travel all the way across the airport to the other side to catch the flight to Madrid (where I found a perfect christmas present for someone). Got first class to Madrid (Man was that nice) Had a great steak dinner with fresh fruit and cheese for desert, the waiter looked at me funny when I asked for dessert wine with my meal (I hate anything but sweeter wines) then I took some sleeping pills to put me out and it worked like a charm I woke up as the plane was getting ready to land.

End of Day one..

Intro to the trip

This is a log of day by day happenings for my trip from Fort Myers Florida, to Atlanta to Madrid to Rome to Cairo to Hurghada to Cairo to Rome to Madrid to Atlanta to Fort Myers in that order.