10 Things I am Happy to be Lugging Around

1. Wet wipes. Along with TP, these are invaluable. INVALUABLE. In case you don't realize, they don't supply TP or napkins usually. Enough said.

2. Sarong. Yes, it is a wrap, a skirt, a towel...whatever you need it to be. Even boys should have one.

3. DEET. The stronger the better. Mosquitos are everywhere! I hate them. And don't want malaria. 

4. Reef Sandals. Many people go with Havianas. Any sandal will do. I will be wearing these 99 percent of the time. Buy them in black and they can even pass as a dress shoe. Well not really but it's worth a shot.

5. Sunscreen. I already broke open my second bottle. What can I say, I am white...My traveling partner thinks he is invincible but has already been burnt twice while I have not. So there.

6. My penguin. You may remember Papa P. Well the whole family couldn't come, but the teenaged daughter is taking a gap year with me.

7. The Lonely Planet, aka The Bible of Travel. I have three. They each weigh about 10 lbs, literally, so the Africa one is going in the swap bin ASAP.

8. Camera. Charger. Extra batttery for camera. Adapter for charger. Extra memory card. Jump drive. Another extra memory card just in case. And I am still not sure I am going to have enough memory.

9. Journal. I have not been very good at keeping up with it, but I always like to look back at them and see what I thought, where I stayed etc. Memories are good.

10. (last but not least) - Zip-off pants. I think I spoke of these earlier, or maybe not. Dorky, maybe. But useful, yes. They are pants! They are shorts! They dry in a jiff. They barely weigh a thing. They are a backpackers dream.

City vs. Sea, Earth vs. Water

Cairo leaves a dirty taste in my mouth. Literally. There are cars and people and dust and fumes and smoke and smog and dirt. You can't breathe. You can't see. I have wanted to see the pyramids for ever but the rest of the city is pretty much null in my book. According to our first taxi driver, there are 18 million people in the city; according to the next, there are 25 million. Either way, that is a LOT of people. Most of them are poor; they live in dirt (kind of like adobe) apartment complexes and wash in the Nile (yes, I actually saw this). They look at me like a piece of meat, ripe for the taking. They hiss and leer and make kissy noises. You know they are ripping you off but can't really do much about it. I am all for letting the "journey not the destination" be the fun part, and it is, but sometimes you just groan and say, "enough".

Needless to say, after seeing the Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum, we got out of there fast. We headed to the Red Sea for some diving and relaxing. The Red Sea dive was fantastic. The water is so clear, the coral is multicolored, there are tons of fish, and I even saw an OCTOPUS. Two of them to be exact! That was cool. I have never seen an octopus before.

The last couple days have been very relaxing. We went to Nuweiba, which is a small town where you just relax on the beach and snorkle. We are now in Dahab, which is a bit bigger (Nuweiba didn't even have electricity or Internet or anything, just beach). We have been relaxing, enjoying the area, looking at many camels (they don't charge you to take picture of them here!) diving, swimming and snorkeling. It has been great.

Tomorrow we move on. The next stop is Athens and after that...the world! Egypt has been great but we have so many more journeys and destinations to experience!


A Small Flickr

Oh. I finally got flickr to work, so I put a couple more photos up, but I am on a public computer and the next guy in line is eyeballing me, so really I only uploaded about 6. They are here. More to come later!

Photos of Camels are Not Cheap

So, we made it to Egypt.

Oh, before I start, I have to apologize, I am only putting a few photos in each blog because the flickr doesn't always work on these public computers (and is not working now -- grrrr). I had some people ask me if I was: taking the big camera, taking a computer, taking a suitcase... The answer to all of these questions is: NO. No big camera - I am too scared of theft and HEFT!! No computer -- what I do usually is just log on to a public computer. In most countries, there are plenty of internet "cafes" where you can check your email etc for a fee. Unfortunately that fee is pretty hefty in some cases (in Southern Africa, I have heard it can be up to 10 dollars an hour! You won't be hearing from me much while I am there!). So, I have to put up with whatever the cafes have, which sometimes is not much. The hardest thing is uploading pictures too, as it takes a while even with a good connection, and most of the connections in these places are not good.

Speaking of photos, this is one of those things I wondered how I would handle. Does anyone have any advice? When you are traveling, what do you do with all the photos? My card (damn xD!!) is only a 2 gig; that is the max that xD has. I bought a 16G thumb that I plan to use as backup, but I am afraid I may fill it up. And what about ANOTHER back up? If I lost all my photos, especially toward the end, I would be heartbroken. So, any tips?

So..... we made it to Egypt!!! We spent today exploring the pyramids and THEY. ARE. COOL!!! I really don't have many words...I will add more once we get more into the country (we arrived at 1 am last night) so for now, I will just put a few photos...

I hope everyone is doing GREAT back home. Rick, do you think the Canadiens will pull it out? 

OH!!! A sidenote really quickly before I add the photos. I have had two friends whose emails have been compromised and the hacker has sent out an email using my friend's addresses saying something along the lines of "Urgent, Please help me. I am in ____ (fill in foreign country) and got mugged and need you to wire me _____ (fill in exorbitant amount of money here -- 3000 dollars etc!!) immediately". I just want everyone to know that if you get an email like that from me -- IGNORE IT.  It is NOT me! I am NOT in financial trouble! Do not reply. It may add your email into the spam trap. I just wanted to say that, since I am traveling and I know some of you are worried. I have additional email addresses. Email me on one of those. Or email my other half. You know who he is.

Whew. Enough about that. Pyramids and Camels and DUST!! PS the camel photo is illegal -- If they catch you taking it, you have to pay like 30 bucks! They call it a baksheesh, a tip, but I call it extortion.

Tapas and Futbol

When we planned our trip, we made a tiny mistake.... Mr L loves soccer. The original plan, like I have mentioned, was to go to the World Cup in South Africa. Once we realized it would be too expensive and a pain to get around during, we decided to do the next best thing, which was to be in Portugal during the Portugal v. Brazil game. Which we are still planning on doing. However, when we booked the first couple of flights, we planned to go into Madrid on the 19th, then fly to Egypt on the 21st. What we didn't know then was that the UAEFA finals were IN MADRID on the 22nd. It would have been fun to be there during the game, however, we were there the couple of days prior and that city was HOPPING!! In fact, our hotel that we stayed at was the headquarters for all the activities, reporters etc that were there for the game. Oh well.

We were pretty tired when we arrived at 10 am, but were determined to stay up all day so we would get into the rhythm of being in this time zone (Madrid is 9 hours ahead of California). We did alright...but it is hard when it is hot and you have a beer and some food. The streets were buzzing with people and we just sat in the shade in a plaza in the middle of the city and ate peanuts and had a coffee, in the true nature of the locals. In fact, my Spanish picked itself up off the ground and presented itself fairly nicely once it brushed off the rust a little.  I made it to about 9 pm, then passed out.

We made a little plan regarding lodging which I like so far, but I have to say, I have been royally spoiled! I usually stay in hostels the whole time, share a bathroom and can't really spread out or really dig into my backpack without making a total mess. BUT. Since we work away from home all the time normally, and stay in hotels, we have accumulated some hotel points. Our plan is to use them for Europe, where the hostels are about 30 dollars each per person. Once we get to Africa, they will be more along the lines of 5 dollars per person (or less sometimes!) so then it will be no problem. Otherwise we will be out of money in a month!

So, in Madrid we were in the Westin and our room was AMAZING!!! A junior suite in a 400 year old building with a sitting area and FREE FRUIT (okay I was pretty excited about the free fruit). Oh and did I mention free bottled water? Ha. We saved about 3 dollars by staying here! Anyway, it was a beautiful hotel and it was kind of nice to "ease" into the traveling experience instead of jumping right from niceties to dirty shared bathrooms. Don't get me wrong, I actually LIKE staying in hostels -- you meet a lot of great people who give you great travel tips for the next destination and oftentimes you end up traveling with them as well. But man it is nice to be able to take a long hot shower and then walk around naked in your air conditioned room. Okay, maybe that was too much information. Suffice to say, the Westin Palace Hotel Madrid ROCKS. Here's the crown molding. Made out of plaster!

Enough about the hotel...ON with the TAPAS! I love tapas. Little plates of heaven! My favorite is these little pickled (I think they are...) sardines. Oh...I have a picture. Its not the best picture, but you have to see these so you know what I am talking about. If you ever, ever go to Spain, make sure to get THESE!!!

Okay so basically right after I ate that plate of fish, we ran to the airport to catch our flight to Cairo... I am very excited about the pyramids, although a bit wary of the people trying to take advantage of me. We shall see. Wish me luck!

Hawaiin Shirts and Naked People

Whoa, what a week!

First I flew home from New Orleans, packed up my stuff, had dinner with my friend Nadine who is pregnant with her first child. A boy! Yay! She is still the same old friend that I have had since...well...forever. She and I have known each other since we were born. I don't have a photo...I did take some but I did it with the big camera....who is now sitting in my mom's closet gathering (yikes, I hope not!) dust.

I visited with my mom, which was great, but too short, and then headed to Sacramento for Uncle Jay's Celebration of life, a Hawaii themed Memorial. It was great. Many good people, drinks were flowing and everyone wore a Hawaiian shirt, just like Jay would've wanted it. Here is a picture of me, my two cousins, and Mr L enjoying the party.

Next we headed to San Francisco for some nakedness in the Bay to Breakers. It was great! We were joined by many friends, including 7 month pregnant K (I see a theme here...) and her new Husband A. The costumes were awesome. I did not dress up this year but had a great time getting ideas for next year. My favorite costume was either a king skipping along with a hunchback following him clacking two coconuts together (clip clop, clip clop -- you guys know that one? that joke is "not dead yet") or the oil spill -- two guys wearing black trash bags, joined by a red pool floaty noodle. Here is a picture of Alamo Square and the dreaded Hayes Street Hill.

Then it was off to Petaluma and the Lagunitas Beer Fest with my brother, who is a beer connoisseur. It was a little strange. The title was the Beer Circus, and it definitely was that! Ladies on stilts, bearded ladies and tightrope walkers mixed with 40 year old heavy metal rock bands and beer. Hmm... It was a great time and I found a penguin who was willing to take a photo with me. I am not sure what a penguin has to do with the circus, but I love Penguins, so I was stoked.

The next day I hit up the dentist one last time before the big trip and then...it was off to Europe. Woo hoo! Here we go....


Ash Cloud and Other Misc Worries

Did you guys see the news yesterday? Just when I thought I was in the clear...along comes the wind and the flights are delayed again. I thought I would be safe, since I am flying into Madrid, which is in the southern part of Europe. But yesterday, there were delays in Lisbon and Madrid airports. Crap!

picture (volcano.si.edu)

So, there are 9 days until my flight and I am a little worried. Not that I can do anything about it, so I am not THAT worried. The worst thing that can happen is that I am stuck in San Francisco...or Atlanta...or in Madrid if I get there but can't get on to Egypt.

The itinerary is slowly taking shape. So far:

May 18: Flight from San Francisco (through Atlanta -- ick) to Madrid, Spain
May 21: Flight from Madrid,  Spain to Cairo, Egypt
May 31: Flight from Cairo, Egypt to Athens, Greece

And that's it so far!

Days left until takeoff: 9
Things left to do until then: 148
Days of work left: 1
Items I will buy at the last minute: 7

I am getting excited! The Euro is down, I have been brushing up on my Lonely Planet reading and there are about 400 countries I would be happy to visit. The Canadiens are doing well right now so the man is in a good mood and my birthday is in 4 days. All in all, many great weeks are in store!

Anybody have any tips? Packing? What countries to visit? What food to try? A good hostel?