Egypt and Belgium - Nov 26th - Dec 3rd, 2009

Part 2 - continued

Aegean Cruise - Belgium Extra Days

November 26th - Dec 3rd, 2009

Bob and Debe Canaday
Before I get into the details, photos, etc.. I want to say to those of you that noticed the archives, followers list, profile information, photos, all on Part 1 of this trip missing - well, I was told that on some people's computer (as mine is) it will be at the bottom. This is because of the size of pictures and/or size of the blog. So you can always find the archives, if not to the side of the blog, then by scrolling down past the blog. And remember that those archives contain many fabulous trips we have taken over the years. Hope that clears everything up. Also, just a reminder that you can always click on a small photo to make it larger if you can't see it. But remember not to close the page as you will close the entire blog. You must click on the back arrow to go back to the page. Now on with the trip.

  • Continuing from part 1 - after a day at sea (and a few days for me to rest my fingers and brain for this blog) we are now off to Egypt. Yes, the most exciting part of the cruise for us. We arrived at the port early and had to eat and rush off to make our tour. This tour was organized by Rick (cruise critic person) for the cost of $265 per person. (Company was Nile Blue Tours) That included a security with us for two days, guide for two days, Nile Blue Representative for two days, entry to Sakkara (Saqqara) pyramid, lunch in Cairo, entrance into the Egyptian Museum, light show at the Sphinx and Pyramids, night at the Le Meridian hotel, breakfast at the hotel, and entrance to the famous Giza Pyramids. Oh, and of course our bus and a shopping stop. The ship sold this tour for $795 per person so we were happy to get it for so much less. For an extra charge you could do the Nile Dinner Cruise which was $45 per person - and we did. So, off we go onto the bus, security and guide with us.

  • As our bus left the pier and headed through Port Said, we quickly knew we were in a Third World Country. In the next few pictures you will see just a few of the things we saw leaving the port and on our 3 hour drive to Sakkara (Saqqara). The streets filthy, vehicles were just 3 wheel old timey post office vehicles, people farmed with mule and cart, and fruits were filled to the brim of trucks as they were tranported to the city.

    Once in Cairo, it didn't get much better. In the below photo you will see a cemetery that held over 50 million people and ran for miles and miles. Not much like our cemeteries as you can see in another photo - people lived in these cemeteries. Matter fact - over 3 million. It was very sad to know that people in this world lived so poorly. Many buildings were not finished in Cairo because once completed, taxes would have to be paid so they just kept them unfinished.

    After passing alot of poverty and canals filled with children swimming, people fishing, while at the same time you could see dead animals floating and trash everywhere - we arrived at Sakkara (Saqqara). Sakkara was the cemetery for Memphis and the capital of Ancient Egypt. The Step pyramid in the below photo was the tomb of King Zoser and is the oldest stone structure in the world. Sakkara is also the site of many tombs from the 1st and 2nd Dynasties. Most are made out of mud bricks, but some tombs are made of limestone.

    Below Bob comes up from the Tomb of Titi. Our guide decided for us to visit this tomb since there were less people here than it would be in Giza at the main pyramids. This tomb would not be as hot and more air to breathe. You do have to duck while going down into the tomb and while walking around inside with only a couple small places to raise up. Not fun. lol

    As we drove from Sakkara to the city of Giza/Cairo, you saw alot of animals being tranported by vehiles or on the sides of the roads. We later found out that tomorrow began the first day of a four day holiday. The first day is sacrifice day. Yes, one of the five acts of obedience of Muslims is to help the poor and this is one of the ways to do that. I will go into this more later.

    Finally lunchtime. We ate on the Nile (non-moving restaurant) at the Le Pacha 1901. It was great food, very clean and included in our price. I will say that after seeing the floating cow in the canal, people fishing in that same canal, well, we all looked towards chicken to eat. lol But, was it really chicken. lol lol lol

    Next stop - hours at the Egyptian Museum. We have to admit - we would have enjoyed this much more without a guide. The museum items are all labeled and easy to read. Matter fact, we learned more in King Tuts room than in the entire museum because our guide could not go in there. King Tut became King at 11, died at 20, married a half or step sister since he had to be married. He was buried in four coffins that fit inside each other like Russia wooden dolls. And his organs, except his heart, where placed in four smaller coffins. See, we can read. lol (by the way, no cameras allowed in the Museum and you go to security and they check)

    From the museum it was straight to the Nile Maxim boat for our Nile River cruise. I am so glad we did this but once is enough. The food again was great and the entertainment very good. Below you will see photos of the Whirling Dervish (amazing) and the Belly Dancer (I know that got alot of your attention. lol) But if you really want to see a little of the entertainment, check out the short videos I have added of them both.

    From there - still not to our room. It was directly to the Light Show at the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx. Since we missed the English speaking time slot, we would have to wear headsets to translate it from French to English. Most nights there are four shows with each being a different language. Again, check out the photo or check out a short video. I do have to admit, the pryamids are soooooooooo huge that the Sphinx looks minature. lol

    Finally we were checked into the Le Meridian. Very nice but we were so tired, we barely got into the room before totally collapsing. What a full day of activites we had. It was back up the next morning. breakfast and back on the bus for the best of all.

    The Giza Pyramids. Below you will see our entrance tickets along with many photos that hopefully will give you a sense of how big they are. You spend your time at the Great Pyramid of Giza which is the largest, oldest of these three main pyramids. It is also called Pyramid of Khufu and the Pyramid of Cheops

    From the Great Pyramid we headed up the hill where all three pyramids could be seen (along with the smaller pyramids built next to the larger ones for family of the kings). We also came to alot of organized camels instead of negogiated ones. We learned quickly that you could be ripped off easily doing the camel rides on your own (unorganized by the guides) as they would take you off into the plains and not let you down until you gave them more money. Below you will see us with the mighty pyramids of Menkaure, Khafre and Khufu in the background. What an awesome site. And of course, we weren't going to the pyramids and not riding the camels. For an extra fee of $15 per person (single camels - about $25 for a double) we did the camel ride down to the big pyramid on the right of this photo. I know you can't enjoy the photos as much as we enjoyed the ride. In one of the below pictures you will see the three smallers pyramids where the queens were buried.

    After the hightlight of the trip, the camel ride, - it was back to the bus and down to the Sphinx. I can only describe this day in my life as "being in awe of my surroundings!" Now if only I could go to the HOLY LANDS! You can see that the Sphinx needs cosmetic surgery. Well, to be honest, it has had it and that is part of the reason it looks as it does. Back doctor. lol

    After a bathroom break - it was off for our 3 hour drive to the ship. During the night, the ship had left Port Said and moved to Alexandria so off to Alexandria we went. On the drive back, we ask our Nile Blue representative what the large birdhouses where at all the homes across the countryside. We quickly found out that maybe that wasn't chicken we ate. lol lol These large birdhouses are Pigeon houses as they raise them to eat. Well, if that was Pigeon we ate, then maybe I need to build some of these birdhouses at my house also. lol

    Finally we hit Alexandria, Egypt. (large photo below) What a nice clean city. Our bus did take a drive through part of the city. Since it was a holiday, the kids were out of school and could be seen everywhere. And we were able to see two of the famous things in Alexandria. But first, a little history. Alexandria is the second largest city in Egypt. It was founded by Alexandra the Great in 331 BC. Until two earthquakes in the 14th century destroyed it, their lighthouse was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Below you will see photos of the Alexandria Library and the Fortress of Qait Bay. The Alexandria Library (small photo below on left) was a huge international project which costs millions of dollars. The Library contains more than 8 million books and a reading area with two thousand seats. The Fortress in the Bay (small photo below on right) is said to have been built with stones from the lighthouse but no one has been able to prove that.

    And if you remember, I spoke about Sacrifice Day as the first day of a four day holiday for the Muslims. In the below photos, you will see that the city streets of Alexandria, also the streets of Giza/Cairo, were used for this ritual. The many animals where brought to the city to be killed in the streets. Literally making rivers of blood everywhere. The meat is given to the poor for their food and this sacrifice is the Muslims obeying one of their five acts of obedience. This is over and above the six major beliefs they have. So if you have a weak stomach, you might want to scroll pass these two photos.

    I would like to say that if you didn't get souvenirs while in Giza/Cairo/Sakkara/Etc - don't worry, Alexandria's port for the ships had the best and funniest shopping I have ever done. Everything is so cheap and some cool stuff. Of course, if you want a cartouche (real one in sterling silver with your name written in Egyptian hieroglyphs), then you won't find it here so order it while in Egypt with the Nile Blue guide. But you can find camels, king tut tombs, among many other stuff. Great Fun!!!
    Back on the ship I found that the Thanksgiving Day display was still out. What alot of hard work by the cooking staff on the ship. Most are made of breads, fruits and veggies. What a talent. We did miss the ships Thanksgiving meal as we had Thanksgiving on the Nile River cruise instead.
    I also found out that I didn't need to do the Nile River dinner to see a Whirling Dervish and Belly Dancer because they brought them right onto the ship in Alexandria to do a show before we sailed away. I watched it also. As the days continued with two more days at sea - we watched the ship shows (Motown City below) and met the Cruise Director. Bob enjoyed the chairs on the deck just reading and relaxing.

    I had been told to watch out for a volcano that spewed ashes as you went by the coastal land of Italy but never knew we were going through the Strait of Messina. What a beautiful area. With one side of the strait being Italy and the other side Sicily - well, was an awesome thing to watch as we went through. In the first photo you can see that we are coming up on the strait with land on both sides that will need to be navigated through.
    In the below photos you will see me in the left photo with the mountains, cliffsides, bridges and lush land of Calabria, Italy. While in the right photo you can see the land of Sicily. What a vast different it was right at the coast. Again in the photos below the ones with me in them - you will see Calabria, Italy in the left photo and Sicily in the right.

    And finally, as the ship passed through the tightest area - you get a view of Italy on the left and Sicily on the right.

    Since I was still watching out for the Stombolli Volcano, (I finally found out the name of it. lol) as i didn't want to miss a thing, finally it came into site. From the back side, we could see a little bit of ashe as it shot into the air but as we rounded the side where the open crater top was - well, only steam. And the sun blarring in our eyes didn't help to make a great photo.
    Sadly, our last night, great dinner and a great night sleep. And we said goodbye to our tablesmates, seen below in the two photos. Top photo: Alan, Mercedes, Ann, Phil, and us. Bottom photo: Linda and Leola (they showed up at the end of the meal). It is always great to meet new people and hear great stories of their lives and travels.
    The cruise came to an end, back in Rome so we were up early for breakfast, then a short walk to the train station and off to catch our plane for some extra time in Brussels. From the airport it was back on another train in Brussels to Central Station and then a taxi to the hotel. A long day and we welcomed the Sheraton Four Points hotel and bed. And free internet of course. lol
    Our first day in Belgium started very early. A taxi ride to the train station and off to Brugge. We had heard alot about this city and even watched "In Brugge" the movie to see what it was like. But to see it was amazing. What a quaint place with alot of history. And its charm was breathtaking. Brugge is often called the "Venice of the North!" as it has many canals. Unfortunately, we were there when the canal boat rides no longer were running. What a site it would be from a boat.
    Once off the train, we headed towards the town. Not knowing where to go, and the sleepy town had not awoke, well, the Belfort tower (1st photo below) was the landmark we followed. This square is called Market Square. It is filled with amazing buildings to go with the Belfort Tower. Bob did climb the 366 stairs up the Belfort Tower but I kept my feet on the ground. Also during the time we were there, the center of the square had been filled with an ice rink surrounded by portable shops. These shops sold anything from trinkets, to clothes, to alcohol, to waffles, to coffee - well, just about everything. lol We did partake in the waffles and coffee/tea. Let me say that you haven't had a waffle until you have had one from Belgium. I do have to learn how to cook them. But waffles and coffee/tea didn't warm my blood in the bitter morning cold so we decided to take the City Tour. You could also take a horse drawn carriage ride but for me - it would have to be a warmer day. The city tour did take us all around Brugge so now we could walk the town to really see the places.

    One place we had to go back to was the Main Town Square or Burg Square. At this square you could see the medievil buildings with their charm. The building below in the first photo is just part of the entire square's many gothic buildings. It is the City Hall and we spent some time in the entrance where they had alot of history to read.
    But to the right of the City Hall building was a church that we found to have more history. Back to the time of CHRIST's death. It was called the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Legend has it that after the Crucifixion of CHRIST, Joseph of Arimathea wiped blood from his body and preserved the cloth. The relic remained in the Holy Land until the Second Crusade, when the King of Jerusalem Baldwin III gave it to his brother-in-law, Count of Flanders Diederik van de Elzas. The count arrived with it in Brugges on April 7, 1150 and placed it in a chapel he had built on Burg Square. The Holy Blood relic is embedded in a rock-crystal vial, which is placed inside a small glass cylinder capped with a golden crown at each end. On special days this vial is brought out and you can walk up to the person with it and touch it. On this day we were able to do that. I would not want to pass up the chance to touch CHRIST's blood that was shed for me. A colorful Procession of the Holy Blood is held on Ascension Day in the spring. The bishop of Brugges carries the relic through the streets, accompanied by costumed residents acting out biblical scenes. Wouldn't that be awesome to get to see???
    The next church we would visit was the Church of Our Lady. This Church was important as it houses the marble Madonna and Child statue made by Michelangelo. This statue, made in 1504, was the only one of Michelangelo's works to leave Italy in his lifetime and is today one of the few that can be seen outside Italy.
    Eating in Belgium did take a little turn for me. You see, they put french fries on or in everything. You want a sandwich - fries come on it. Literally on the sandwich. And they don't eat them with ketchup but instead - mayo. I had to give them a little American way of eating though. On the side with ketchup. lol Anyway, grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries was lunch in Brugge.

    Some other sites around Brugge were the Windmills. We did not walk back to these but saw them on the City Tour. There were three of them side by side down by the waterway.

    And a little history that many might miss in Brugge is the hinge and stone wall. This hinge in the below left photo is original iron hinge from the old city gate. Just across from it you could also see a square left untouched from the original bldg.

    As you walk around Brugge - the buildings lining the canals are breathtaking. It is said that artists come from all around to sit and paint these magnificent beautiful places.

    Below are three pictures taken at the Minnewater. The Minnewater was built as a Flemish community for women many centuries ago. Since so many of the men had been killed in the all too frequent wars and religious crusades, well, it left alot of single older women who wanted their own community. Though still in use, it has been taken over by the Benedictine order and has been named as a World Heritage Park by UNESCO. It is now low income housing. The waters in front of the place is filled with waterfowl that add to its beauty.
    Since we are not big museum people, well we passed on the Lace Museum, Groeninge Museum, Gruuthuse Museum, Memling Museum, but chose to do the Chocolate Museum. We thought, if we get some Belgium chocolate (so expensive in Belgium) well, maybe it would be worth it. Instead, it was kinda boring and the small piece of chocolate didn't make it worth it. lol
    Well, a walk back to the train with aching feet was tough but I enjoyed the 1 1/2 hours on the train resting. I did love almost everything (not the cold weather) about Brugge from its buildings, to its churches, waffles, and the pedestrian bridges that go across the small canals. After arriving back in Brussels, it was a quick taxi back to our hotel. The next morning it was another early start as we headed (by foot) to the closest Hop on Hop off bus stop. Lets just say it was further than we thought. (or our feet just hurt to much. lol)
    Yes, just peek inside the bus and you will see Bob and I. lol The only ones upstairs. lol
    Where we caught the bus were two monuments (photos below)In the left photo you see the Infantry Memorial: in memory of Belgian foot soldiers On the right is The Anglo-Belgian War Memorial commemorates the heroic Belgian people who helped the British prisoners of war during World War I.

    Below is the bottom of The Congress Column. An eternal flame burns at the foot of the monument, in memory of all the Belgian victims of the two world wars. The column itself holds the grave of an unknown soldier. Every year, on Remembrance Day (November 11), an official ceremony is held at the site.
    Here you can see the Royal Palace. The royal palace harbours a museum called Belle-vue with a collection about the Belgian royal dynasty. The royal palace is now used as the office of the king/queen as they conduct official business and as the residence of the crown prince. When the King/Queen are in town - the flag on the top of the palace is flown. There is a changing of the guard ceremony here each afternoon. The palace, which is furnished in 19th century style, is usually open to the public from late July until the middle of September

    This is the "Chateau de Laeken", or the royal residence. It became the permanent residence of the royal family during the reign of King Leopold III. Look close at the tops on the lights. They are crowns and just below that you can see the two emblems (one on each side) that are the royal emblems. The public is not allowed to enter the palace grounds.

    Across from the Royal Residence you will find the Monument to Leopold I. It was erected in 1878. In the centre is a statue of Leopold the First, the first Belgian king. The 9 other statues around the outside represent the 9 provinces of Belgium.
    The two photos below show Bob and I standing in the Market Square or Grand Place (or de grote markt). This large square is surrounded by 15th-century guild houses, the impressive Town Hall and Broodhuis (Breadhouse). Everything in gothic style, the place/square is the most popular place for tourists in Brussels.
    En route to find the Manneken Pee you come upon this statue. A legend has it that rubbing the wrist of the figure brings good luck and grant the fulfillment of wishes. I have to admit - most people that walked by rubbed any place on it. As you can see. lol
    Along with many others, you are shocked when you first see the Manneken Pis. My first photo shows why!!! Yes because it is so small you are shocked that it would be so popular to see.
    But this statue of a little boy in a somewhat compromising position has since several centuries been a major tourist attraction in the city. Nobody actually knows why the manneken is there. He is believed to be nothing more than a decoration on top of a fountain, where people in the Middle-Ages came to get fresh water. During the course of the centuries the little manneken has often been hidden to protect him against bombs of invading armies. He has also been stolen several times by plundering soldiers and even by the citizens of Geraardsbergen, a city in Flanders that claims to possess the oldest statue of a peeing boy in Belgium. There are many legends about the Manneken. According to one of them a little boy had watered against the door of a witch who lived where the fountain now stands. The witch was so angry that she turned the little boy into a statue. Another legend says that a man had lost his little son. He found the child after two days near the place where now the fountain of manneken-pis can be seen. When the father spotted his child, the latter was peeing. As a token of gratitude the father had the fountain with a statue of a peeing boy constructed.
    Many people do not know that the manneken-pis is very often dressed. At the moment he has a wardrobe of more than 600 costumes, which are all preserved in the King's House, or City Museum at the Grand-Place, the central market square of the city. He received his first costume on May the 1st 1698. Among the special costumes are for instance: an Elvis Presley outfit & a Mickey Mouse costume. While there, December 2nd, he was dressed for the opening of the Arts & Marges Museum. So the costume was made by the artist at that museum. On Dec 4th he would have been dressed for the fire fighters. That would be cool to see.
    Through the Arch of Triumph (below left) you find the Parc du Cinquantenaire. The arch was not completed until 1905. The statues of 8 women (4 on either side) each represent one of the 8 Belgian provinces. There are buildings on both sides of the arch that contain museums. the Royal Museums of Art and History, Auto World, and the Royal Museum of Army and Military History. On the right is a photo (from a long way off) of one the largest Basilica. In the right photo below you see the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, one of the biggest churches in the world. It was built to remember the 75th anniversary of the Belgian independence. In 1905 king Leopold II laid the first stone. The initial plans to build a gigantic neo-gothic church were stopped at the beginning of World War I. In 1919 the construction continues but with modern plans. The church was finished in the late 1960's.

    The below photos will bring you to some American looks. On the left is the Stock market exchange (for the holiday portable shops are set up) while on the right you can see a busy street as if you are in New York Times Square.

    Below you will find on the left, the Music Museum while in the right photo you can have dinner at the Tea House.

    The Atomium, one of the trademark images of the Belgian capital, was erected as a temporary installation for the 1958 World Exhibition. It is a model of a molecule of an iron crystal, magnified 165 billion Times. It features nine massive spheres, symbolising nine Belgian provinces, connected with a network of corridors and an ultra-fast lift. (a fee to go into it)

    From the first day arriving in Brussels, we needed to find Tram 94 to get from the Train Station to close to the hotel. Finally today we found our Tram. And since it was so cold, well, lets just say we were one happy couple at its site.

    As you can see, part 2 of this trip was fascinating. What great memories we have from the entire trip and all that we have done. From the beginning at Rome, on to Naples, Greece, Turkey, Egypt and of course ending in Belgium. A lifetime experience. We do hope you have enjoyed this very long - so much to see - two part blog. Hope you now understand why it was split into two parts. Just so much to see and do. If you find this trip amazing, add it to your "bucket list" as we did. Thanks again for sharing this amazing trip with us and happy traveling in your future.


    1. I totally enjoyed the blog. I would love to take the camel ride and see the pyramids. I was not able to view the videos, as it told me they were unavailable.

    2. After another attempt, I was finally able to view the videos. Great trip! Diana


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