Walk Like an Egyptian - Egypt

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Contributor:
Cat

Nationality:
USA

Social Links:
Instagram: @flatworldtravel
Website: www.travel.flatworldonline.com

Age Group:
30-40 years

Gender:
Female

Travel Style:
Couple

 

Destination: Egypt. April/May 2018, 10 days

Inspiration:

A professional friend owns a small travel company and was planning a group trip to Egypt. Since this was somewhere we really wanted to go we reached out to her and her business partner about working with them and creating content for them to use on their website and social media. since thats what we do- create photo and video content it was a win win for everyone! The group ended up with 8 of us total which was perfect to capture and travel around easily.

Getting There:

We flew from JFK airport into Cairo on Egypt Air. Then once there we had an organized tour with a driver and 2 different tour guides.

Local Knowledge:

Besides the pyramids which I will talk about later the whole area is just cool. It is so different from the US and Europe. The culture is very prominent and so is the Muslim Religion. We loved hearing the Call to Prayers everywhere. But not everyone is Muslim and it didn't appear to be overly strict. The people (not the vendors at tourist places) were super nice and just enjoyed talking with us. They don't see as many Americans and they all wanted to talk to us about what is happening here. 
The vendors however can be Very aggressive. We decided we had to take a "hard politeness" approach. A term I made up to describe it. We always to to be respectful to people especially when traveling, but this was Intense and really started to get us down. We understand that some of the places in Egypt we were are very poor and we understand the hustle. Go with an openness and try to be firm and polite. 
The over attention from men even while walking with my 6'2 black husband was a bit much. Again I just tried to be polite or ignore it. Al could have earned a lot of camels for me lol!!
 People ask me if I would  have felt safe being a woman there by myself. I can't really answer that for everyone since their experiences are all different. But I would honestly say I would not go back there on MY own. I never felt unsafe, as a matter of fact we hung out with a local man and visited his house. We joked and said we are either being kidnapped or in for a great night. Probably not the smartest thing to have done- but it was a blast. But I never would have done that if it was just me!

Where To Stay:

For our time in Giza we stayed at the Marriott Mena House in Cairo and Loved it. I mean whats not to Love? Step out on the balcony and see an Amazing pyramid right there! So freaking cool. The rooms were really nice, the pool perfect, and the food was really good. 

We then stayed on a Nile River cruise for 4 nights. Having done 2 cruises with Ama Waterways (The Mekong River one we worked with them creating content) this never compared. But of course not as Egyptian River Cruises are less fancy. This one was pretty basic and the food not something I could really enjoy. As a pescartain most meals were very heavy meat based. And not wanting to eating the salad since I knew it had to be washed, there wasn't much for me to eat. My husband didn't have any problems but even he said the food was "just alright!"

When we returned back to Cairo we stayed in the Kempinski Nile. It was really nice and we could even walk to Taahir Square from there. Their breakfast buffet was my favorite!! They also have a great jazz bar but it was way too smokey to stay long. Being from the US we aren't used to people smoking indoors anymore. 

What To Do:

Where to being! I mean after all you are talking about the EGYPT! The ancient land of the Pharaohs, King Tut, Cleopatra, the Nile River and Gods and Goddesses! It is all great. The Valley of the Kings to see Tutankhamen's (and others) tomb. and later going to the The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, known commonly as the Egyptian Museum or Museum of Cairo and seeing things that were in the tomb. 4000 year old cheese and the Great Pyramid of Giza. Luxor Temple was super cool and so was just walking around Luxor and Aswan. One of my favorite temples was the Temple of Horus at Edfu, dedicated to the falcon-headed god of the sky as well as mummified crocodiles in Kom Ombo . One of my favorite activies was a early morning hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings. It was just incredible!

Eating:

Overall we aren't too impressed with food in Egypt. As I mentioned I dont eat meat and most meals were pretty basic. Of course most of them were included in our tour so we didn't really get to venture out on our own as much as we normally would. But the fresh squeezed OJ from the street vendors is the BEST!!!! OMG! you have to try it. Especially when it is hot and dusty. They also had some really interesting snacks. All kinds of different flavors like chicken or kabob flavored Doritos. And I haven't eaten a Twinkie in over 30 years Im sure- but they were are snack on the hot air balloon ride! I did have some great hummus the first day at a place Al and I wandered into- but after that the hummus was mediocre and buy the end I was so sick of it I just couldn't eat it anymore. As mentioned we did Love the breakfast buffet at the Kempinski and actually at Mena House too.

Must Do:

Get out of the tourist attractions and walk around Cairo and the other smaller places you visit. While all the attractions are AMAZING and of course you have to see it all- make sure you are seeing what Egypt today is all about. Get out there and enjoy the locals. Talk with people or jsut smile and say "hi!"

Must See:

OMG! this one is the hardest Always!! But especially with Egypt. Every trip we make one 12x18 metal print of what symbolizes that location. This one everyone thought it would be a pyramid. While Yes- that is soooo Very Egypt, that is just one part. We chose a scene that I took while cruising along the Nile River. A glimpse into what life is like living along the Nile River.

Number 1 Travel Tip:

I wrote a whole blog post on travel tips to Egypt. But my #1 thing- KNOW that vendors are going to approach you, follow you, and not take no for an answer at Least the first 4 times! If you know that, you can be prepared. And really there is no need to get ugly or threaten them Its not going to change things and they are just trying to make a living. Tourism is down and they see especially Americans as rich. And to them you are. You can afford the luxury of traveling far to visit their beautiful country, stay in nice hotels, take river boat cruises, and eat out! Being respectful goes a long way and earns you way more Good Karma points than being rude and nasty!

5 Word Travel:

bucketlist
ancient
different
incredible
blessed

Excess Baggage:

So being a Huge rescue dog and cat advocate I had a really hard time with all the homeless dogs and cats. There were more than in any other trip we have taken. We like to check out a local shelter if we can. And if not we look up ones who helps with these issues and make a donation when we get home. We made our donation to Chance Animal rescue All- the horses, donkeys, and camels just don't look that great and don't seem to be treated too nicely. We did a camel ride at the pyramids in Giza. I really tried to enjoy it (and I even asked the travel agent ahead of time what she knew about the conditions, etc). But it really made me sad. Its a catch 22. The animals help them make money and often get food before they do I was told by our local guide. (maybe I just want to believe that) Without them income would be even more scarce. But even knowing these things- it still made me sad and I would never do it again.

The Apple Isle - Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

 
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Contributor:
Amanda

Nationality:
Australian

Social Links:
Instagram: @missamr
Twitter: @missamr

Age Group:
30-40 years

Gender:
Female

Travel Style:
Planned & organised

 

Destination: Hobart, Tasmania - Australia. Early February for 5 days

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Inspiration:

This was only one of two Australian States I was yet to cover. I was here for a sporting event but spent sometime checking out what Hobart had to offer. Everyone was telling me how pretty and scenic Tasmania is so I had to see it for myself.

Getting There:

Flew to Hobart and then hired a car to travel around Hobart.

Local Knowledge:

Take the Top Decker tour and the driver will go through all of historical past of Tasmania.

Where To Stay:

We stayed in West Hobart at Fountainside Apartments and I would give it 10/10. Great location, easily fit 10 people in our apartment and was in walking distance to central Hobart, Constitution Dock and the Salamanca Markets

What To Do:

While I was there we drove to Mt Nelson, out to what was the Cadbury Factory (which you can no longer tour), walked to the Salamanca Markets. The highlight would have been the Salamanca Markets. If there is a Cruise ship docked, go to the Cenotaph to get a great view of the dock and the boat. We also bought a ticket for the Top Decker Bus that did a loop around the Hobart District and it took me to all of the main areas of Hobart and was a great way to see what Hobart had to offer. Take the Top Decker Bus out to Cascade Brewery and have lunch and a beverage as the gardens are beautiful.

Eating:

Tasmania is renowned for their seafood and it is every where in Hobart. From Oyster Bars to Seafood Punts along Constitution Dock. Hobart has a very strong food scene however, most places are packed out on weekends or any time a cruise ship (or two) is docked. It is more expensive than the main land for seafood but all other food prices are comparable to the main land. From asking a local we found this amazing burger place called The Standard and it was one of the best meals I had while in Hobart.

Must Do:

If you are only in Hobart for the Weekend, you must go to the Salamanca Markets as it has a great taste of Hobart and Tasmania all in a 1km area. From fresh truffles to Fresh Oysters. Give your self time to walk through the markets but go early as it becomes very busy.

Must See:

My must see part of my time spent in Hobart was the Cascade Brewery.

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Number 1 Travel Tip:

If you travel here, take layers as it can go from 30 degrees to 16 degrees over night. I would also take notice of any traffic signs as they are very different to main land.

5 Word Travel:

Amazing Scenery with friendly locals.

Excess Baggage:

Hire a car if you can and spend more than 4 days in Hobart/Tasmania. We didn't get to see any more than the central part of Hobart and wish I had more time there. It is only 2 hours from the top to the bottom of island but it takes you days to explore everything Tasmania has to offer.

A City In a City - The Vatican

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Contributor:
Aadam

Nationality:
South African

Social Links:
Instagram: @teaandtravels1922

Age Group:
 

Gender:
Male

Travel Style:
Couple travel

 

Destination: Vatican City

What do we say about this country within a city? What words can we use to justly describe this place? 

The Vatican is a city state surrounded by Rome, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church and I have to admit that when we planned our trip to Italy, the Vatican wasn’t high up on my list of must sees, mainly due to people telling us that crowds inside are crazy all the time and you get pushed and shoved through without being able to admire much. 

So imagine our surprise when we get there to discover that it was the total opposite, we were the last group for the day so other than us it was empty, like literally, they were closing doors behind us once we’d taken our time to view the majesty of each room, every turn more awe inspiring than the last!

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From tapestries entwined with gold, to life like sculptures and not forgetting the masterpiece that is the Sistine Chapel, housing frescos done by Perugino, Ghirlandaio & Botticelli as well as the ceiling Frescos depicting the last judgement by Michelangelo.

My advice for anyone visiting the Vatican is to go with a tour guide. There are hundreds of guides offering tours in a vast number of languages and they’re a fountain of knowledge for you to quench your thirst at. 

What we did intend to do and sadly missed out on was to climb up the spiral staircase inside St Peters Basilica, the architecture and views are supposed to leave one stunned. So please do give it a go if you’re heading there and we can read your travel hub reviews on it.

 

 

Leon, Nicaragua - Why you should plan a Nicaragua visit

 
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Content creators and travel bloggers, Cathie & Al from Flat World Travel give us an amazing insight into one of the favourite cities they visited during a recent trip to Nicaragua/ Read all about Leon here and follow the links to their blog for more on travel in Nicaragua.

 

Contributor:
Cathie

Nationality:
USA

Social Links:
Website: http://travel.flatworldonline.com
Instagram: @flatworldtravel

Age Group:
 

Gender:
Couple

Travel Style:
Couple travel
Adventure

 

Destination: Leon, Nicaragua, November 2017

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Inspiration:

We were hired to do photos and video for a destination wedding in Cancun in November. We decided to add on to the trip and go to Nicaragua. This was the perfect destination. We found one of our favorite cities on the trip was Leon.  We were looking for somewhere warm to go after the wedding.  And through Instagram and travel blogs we had seen some beautiful photos from Nicaragua. I always had an interest in this country. We started researching it and fell in love with it’s mixture of colonial historical cities that we love to explore as well as beautiful nature to be adventurous in. Nicaragua really does have it all. While we didn’t spend anytime in the major city of Managua we did enjoy Leon. You can get a real feel for city life of the people and not be far from nature and adventure at the same time. And who could pass up the opportunity to go to volcano boarding down an active volcano.!!!

Getting There:

We flew from Cancun to Nicaragua since we already had our flights arranged from Philadelphia to Cancun. Once we arrived in Nicaragua and for our travel around the country we hired private drivers through our various boutique hotels. Because we were traveling with a lot of photo and video gear, more than we normally do since we were coming from a wedding, we wanted to always make sure we traveled in the safest way possible. Even if that meant spending extra. It was also nice to always be in air conditioning and to  talk with the drivers. Well at least try since our Spanish is very limited. Our driver dropped us right off at teh place we were staying in Leon.

Local Knowledge:

Leon is known for being even the most artistic and progressive city in Nicaragua. The people of Leon were the first to support the Sandanistas in the 1960’s and ’70s. As a result, the city and its people suffered some of the worst attacks during Somoza’s crackdown. Their central market was torched, different parts of the city were bombed, and anyone suspected of sympathizing with the Sandanistas was often tortured or executed. And the United States flip flopped on who they supported, all to the detriment of the people of Nicaragua.
And you can see minutes of resistance throughout the city. From graffiti to beautifully painted murals. Definitely worth visiting is the Museum of Revolution

Leon is also known for its beautiful churches with sweeping vistas of the city, a lively Center Plaza, bustling commerce, and amazingly beautiful volcanoes.

Where To Stay:

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We stayed at the Hotel Azul for $72 a night. I would consider that a little high for most places in Leon but it had great rooms, a pool, a restaurant and breakfast included. Hotel Azul is a great spot and the location being so close to the main plaza was perfect. We would Totally stay there again!

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What To Do:

Really our favorite thing to do in Leon was just to wander around. Going to the areas where it's mostly locals. We really didn't see a ton of tourist when we were there. We spent hours just checking out neighborhoods around the city just seeing what it was truly like. We also were lucky to come across an amazingly fun festival in the central plaza one night. It was almost all locals there so we could really get a feel of what celebrations are like in Nicaragua. this one was for the "opening of Christmas " "The Festival of Lights" and it was a total party!

and Do check out the Revolution Museum. One of the highlights of touring around Leon was Museo Historico de la Revolucion the ‘Museum of Revolution”. It is so easy to spot with its anti-Bush graffiti still on the front. Once we paid to get in, we also had a tour guide. Of course he didn’t speak any English and our Spanish is very limited. However, knowing how to put together some words and with the help of Google translate, we felt like we learned a lot. And our tour guide was a very interesting man. He fought with the Sandinistas. You could even see on his shoulder where he’d been shot. And he showed us the spot in the building where it happened, this being the old City Hall building. You can still see blood on the walls and the impacts where the bullet hit.

One of the cool aspects of the tour is getting to go up on the roof. As a photographer and videographer, we always aim to get higher whenever visiting a new location. It’s the best way to get the lay of the land and get some killer views. There’s something so surreal about being up on the roof of the museum. And we had a great view to the white cathedral known as Basilica de la Asuncion (Our Lady of Grace Cathedral).

Eating:

Nicaragua isnt really known for its "culinary delights" but we had some awesome food while there. in Leon we mostly ate at small places that didn't cost a whole lot. I don't eat meat but I am a pescatarian. One lunch place we really enjoyed was Cocinarte. It is a vegetarian place and is located in the oldest house in Leon.  
Another great lunch spot we went to was Pan y Paz French bakery, which was way cheap AND awesome! We didn't expect the sandwich shop to be so good. and there are a couple locations around the city. 
We ate dinner in at Al Carbon, that was pretty cool. Al really wanted some steak and I needed a place with good seafood. We also stopped in at a great rooftop bar at Calle Vicente to take in the local flavor mixed with a few tourists. It’s a great place for having a drink and doing some people watching!

Must Do:

Go Volcano Baording down Cerre Negro. So much fun you will want to hike right back up to do it again. Sadly we were only allowed the 1 time.
You have to do it with an organized tour. The drive was a little more than an hour and you have a chance to go to the bathroom before beginning your climb up (take the opportunity!) Everything I read talked about how easy the climb up was. Of course most articles focus on the fun and safety coming back down the hill on a thin piece of wood. Let me tell you that climb up was not easy. It was hot as hell, even though there was a nice breeze every now and then. It is rocky and straight up for most of it. It’s not the worst hike I’ve done by far, but it certainly is not the easiest either. Plus you are carrying a small cloth bag with your gear and a long thin piece of wood on your back. When you are small like me, it acts like a wind sail!!

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Must See:

Without a dounbt-the rooftop at  Basilica de la Asuncion (Our Lady of Grace Cathedral). The Basilica de la Asuncion took over a 100 years to build and it is one of the largest churches in Central America. And it is Awesome. There are so many different details in the outside of the building. But the best part is certainly its roof. You need to check the schedule for when it is open and it costs 40 Cordobas to get in, this is less than $1.50 . Is really cool up there. You don’t expect It to look like a Greek city. It definitely looks very Grecian with all its white domes. And it offers wonderful vistas of the city. Just be mindful you will have to take your shoes off once you get to the top of the staircase.. 

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Number 1 Travel Tip:

Take the time to at least learn some basic Spanish. And being polite and patience goes a long way. While we knew some Spanish words such common phrases, nouns and verbs we weren’t good at putting them all together. Also make sure to download Google translate on your phone. This will help you when trying to communicate. You can even hover over text and read the translation in English. Very few people speak English there. Often times, you could find at least one person working at the restaurant who may know English a little better and loves to practice their English with you. Bye-bye been able to communicate somewhatYou definitely have your experiences broadened.

And I know it's only supposed to be one tip but if you're a photographer or videographer don't bring your drone. They're not allowed. And it's just not worth the risk. Just honor their restrictions!

5 Word Travel:

Friendly
colorful
beautiful
cultural
Adventurous

Excess Baggage:

You’re not in Kansas anymore… things just aren’t like you might think. Even with all the above we found people just saying Si ‘(Yes) even when yes shouldn’t be the answer. For example, I may say “no come carne” when ordering chips and cheese and just stopped being surprised when still came with meat which I don’t eat. It seems like trying to get anything different than what they have listed just doesn’t translate. Remember this is a Spanish-speaking country!! So some things just won’t translate to be exactly what you mean.

and oh yeah....In Leon don’t be alarmed by the 6am church bells going off. And then at seven there’s a siren that goes off letting everybody know it is time to go to work. It can be quite jarring if nobody warned you in advance LOL!!