I started my trip off in Paris. Why you ask? Well, when I was booking my flights I had to fly on particular days to get the best flights, but then it meant extra days, so I decided to spend those in Europe and continue to Egypt from there. I'm sure glad I picked Paris, as I really enjoyed the city.
I wanted to speak only French while I was there. I knew that our French taught in school here in Canada and the French spoken in France was supposed to be different, but I didn't know just how much until I tried using mine there! Luckily most people were actually very patient with me and I did manage to make my way around the city quite well with my rudimentary skills. Even when I got lost on my first night (no cell service on my phone for a map) I still got un-lost in time to meet my host at the apartment with help from a local vendor.
I like to walk a lot when I travel, as it's a great way to really orientate in a new city. The areas I wanted to see in Paris were a bit farther apart than I anticipated though and I ended up taking the Metro a lot on my return trips. So easy to get around that way.
I was in Paris for a week and really wished it could have been more. Just visiting the museums could take a month. And sitting at cafés watching the people go by ended up being a daily thing for me, which took up some time just in itself.
Egypt was a joy and a pain to explore. It was fascinating, but as I was with a group we had a guide everywhere we went. This was helpful in most cases, but very annoying sometimes too. There was very limited time to wander randomly, which is my favourite way to experience new places.
Our guide had degrees with one in Egyptology, which you would think was a good thing, but as he was determined to force feed it at every stop it became irritating. I probably ended up actually learning more about the sights, but I wasn't prepared for the method. Saying this makes me sound ungrateful and I don't mean it that way. It's more that I wasn't expecting it and looked for something else from the visit. It was a learning experience.
I preferred the casual conversations with our guide as those revealed a much clearer impression of the country as it is now and some of the struggles that people face and how their expectations compare to ours.
Visits to the bazaar, a hot air balloon ride in the early morning at Luxor and a couple of days sailing on a Felucca on the Nile were highlights. The Pyramids were every bit as intriguing as I had hoped they would be and Cairo was like nothing I'd ever seen before.
So, I learned that I will never take a guided tour again and that Egypt is an amazing place that was well worth the visit. Even if rioting did break out the day we were to leave and we had to be re-routed as there was concern of kidnapping!
I didn't know much of anything about Jordan before going there. It was part of the itinerary, so I was along for the ride. I ended up being so glad about that as I really liked the country and the people I met there. It has an interesting and complex history and really good food.
Our stops included seeing the Wadi Rum with an overnight stay in a Bedouin camp, several days wandering ancient cities carved out of the mountains (Petra & Little Petra), a stop at an ancient Roman city complete with hippodrome (Jaresh), a visit to a Crusader-era castle (Kerak) and a couple of days in modern Jordanian city (Amman). The contrast between them all were amazing. Our guide on this leg of the trip was much more relaxed, so the flow of information was on tap, not an unstoppable river.
I enjoyed the roadside stops for lunch, with the simple, but delicious foods on offer. Things like hummus, ripe olives, unleavened bread, fresh figs and more. I think it's because I eat a lot of this type of food at home, but I was they only one aside from our guide who didn't ended up with some stomach issues. Or maybe it was the G&Ts I ordered whenever they were available (which was seldom).
Traveling with a group got a bit tiresome at times, even when you like them. Our group varied from 5 to 8 people depending on different legs of the journey. On the felucca there was just myself, one other traveller and the guide. I've stayed loosely in touch with one woman from the tour. It's nice to keep that contact, as she and I did a fair bit of exploring together.
I was the only Canadian, there was a woman from the US, a woman from the UK, one from Sweden, a retired couple from Australia and another younger couple from the UK. A good variety of ages and travel/life experiences so we had lots to chat about. I doubt I'll ever travel with another tour, but feel fortunate that this one worked out so well. Having a guide was essential for this part of the world in my opinion.