Archive for July, 2008

Go See Hellboy II: The Golden Army!

In case you haven’t noticed (we hear there’s quite the publicity campaign going on), Hellboy II is now out in theaters. Of course we think it’s great — Evan worked as the first assistant editor — but we’re happy to see that lots of critics have agreed, too. So take a couple hours to go check it out, and let us know what you think!

‘Happy Bearthday’ in Petra

happy bearthday
Yup, that sand-bottle says “Happy Bearthday”

July 7 we drove down to Petra on the windy, hilly and at times very scenic King’s Highway to stay at the Movenpick resort and celebrate our joint birthdays July 8 (yup, we share the day… Evan’s 5 hours older than me).

We got up early on the 8th to try to beat the heat a bit, but had to do a few things, like get more cash in town, before we could get to the main event of the day — exploring Petra. When we finally got our tickets, it was already quite warm, but much of the path down to the site was in shady canyons, so we felt like we were doing fine. We walked past carvings in the gorge, and got more and more excited to get to finally see Petra’s famed Treasury as we continued our descent. Finally, we reached the end of the narrow canyon and lo and behold, the Treasury was right in front of us — a giant, pillared building hewn out of the pink rock.

the treasury at Petra
The Treasury at Petra (look familiar from Indiana Jones?)

We walked on further, past elaborate tombs, an amphitheater and other grand structures carved into the sandstone. We made it all the way to the center of the ancient Nabataean town before I started feeling ill. I hadn’t been able to eat much since my stomach troubles the day we went to the dead sea, and though I was trying to drink plenty of water and electrolyte drinks, they didn’t seem to be enough.

We started the long walk back in the midday sun, trying to find any shade we could, and finally got a horse carriage to take us up the last long, completely exposed stretch. When we got back to the hotel, Evan called a doctor, who insisted on taking me to his clinic to get IV fluids and antibiotics since my blood pressure was very low. He struggled to get the IV in, which was quite painful, and the doctors weren’t explaining everything they were doing as I lay on the bed in their un-air-conditioned clinic, which made me a bit anxious.

Evan sat by my side, held my hand and read me stories from the Neil Gaiman book we brought along (Smoke and Mirrors, which is really good, by the way) and I was sent back to the hotel about four hours later, IV setup still in my hand because I still needed another dose that evening.

Somehow, I also managed to lose my sunglasses somewhere between the security checkpoint and our room on the way in from Petra… we looked everywhere trying to find them, but to no avail. I bought a new pair in Aqaba.

We had a quiet birthday dinner courtesy of room service, and Evan even had a cake made for us — it was strawberry shortcake decorated with an assortment of fruit. The doctor came to see me shortly before midnight to give me another dose of IV antibiotics, and he brought me a birthday present, a decorative sand jar that had my name and camels on one side and “Happy Bearthday” on the other.

petra by night
Petra by night

The next day, I felt much better and we took it easy, taking a small drive to “Little Petra,” another gorge with carved-out structures. We made it back into Petra at night to experience the walk down to the treasury by candlelight, which was really nice. It was still warm, but not too hot, and the candles glowing amber in paper bags lined with sand gave a wonderful ambiance to the place. Evan and I even saw a shooting star on our walk out.

On the 10th, we got up early to get to Petra before the sun — when it opened at 6 a.m. We had the place to ourselves. Even the shopkeepers and donkey and camel guides were still asleep (many of them just sleep right there in Petra, on cots or mats outside or in caves). We explored the East Cliff and took the staircase hike up to the High Place of Sacrifice, which gave us some great views.

That afternoon we went down to Aqaba, on the Red Sea, which is probably Jordan’s most beautiful and scenic town, but with the temperatures soaring well over 100 degrees, it was too hot to do much of anything, and we headed back up to Madaba on the 11th to relax before we head off to Istanbul.

We didn’t make it to Wadi Rum to go camping in the desert because I’m still not feeling 100% better, but Jordan has been an amazing place to travel and I’d love to come back to spend more time here.

You can see all our photos of Petra in Evan’s Facebook gallery.

Hammamat Ma’in and the Dead Sea

July 6, we went to Hammamat Ma’in and the Dead Sea.

hammamat ma\'in hot waterfall
Going under the hot waterfall at Hammamat Ma’in

Hammamat Ma’in is a hot spring complex off a windy road with views of the Dead Sea. We got past the gates, where there’s a hotel and spa (which are both closed and apparently everything by them is off limits), parked, and were directed to the main attraction — a hot waterfall.

We walked up the steps to the caves behind the waterfall and found two men sitting in the steam who told us that the water up there is too hot to go in. On the lower tiers, under the falling water, the temperature was a bit cooler, but not much. We were only able to stay in the water for a few minutes before getting too hot.

I went in wearing my shirt and Evan’s shorts since there were some families also in the water, and the women were just going in wearing all their clothing, veils included.

There was also another waterfall we had access to, but nobody was swimming in it because it was even hotter than the one we went in. Our guidebook promised nice walks through the gorge, which we were hoping to do, but we were turned back by guards every time we tried to explore farther than the main waterfall, which was a bit disappointing.

Evan by the Dead Sea
Evan covered in Dead Sea mud

After the hot springs, we drove on a winding road down to the lowest place on earth — the Dead Sea. We got day passes to the Marriott resort, and went down to the beach to slather ourselves in dead sea mud, bake in the heat, and float around in the seriously salty water, which didn’t feel as slimy as I remembered from my trip to Israel 10 years ago.

When we were done by the sea, we had some lunch at a Champion’s sports bar, which felt eerily like being back in the U.S., then hung out by one of the three pools.

If you’ve been following my Twitter or Facebook updates, you should know that this is the day that my dehydration problems started — a rather uncomfortable combo of a stomach bug and not being able to absorb enough water, which resulted in spending the afternoon in a clinic getting IV fluids and antibiotics two days later… on both Evan’s and my birthday. More on that soon.

To check out more photos of us at Hammamat Ma’in and the Dead Sea, check out Evan’s Facebook gallery.

2 Days in Jordan: Madaba, Jerash and Ajloun

Flying to Jordan on Royal Jordanian (very nice!)

We arrived in Jordan yesterday afternoon and immediately felt more at home than in Cairo. The visa process was a snap, the passport control lines were short and we had our bags and a rental car pretty quickly. Our hotel in Madaba, a small town not far from the capital, Amman, was easy to find, even when using a map without many street names labeled. Actually, it’s been easy to get around everywhere, since the exits are clearly marked and the roads are well maintained.

Mosaic map of the Holy Land in Madaba

We spent the afternoon exploring Madaba, which is known for its Byzantine mosaics. We visited the Church of St. George to see the mosaic floor map of the Holy Land from the 6th century A.D. (I think), then went to another site nearby to see a collection of very detailed mosaics from other ancient churches and homes, many of which were incredibly large, intact and vibrant.

The mosque in Madaba

We also visited the town mosque — a new pretty building with a gold dome from the outside that’s actually painted a pale pink on the inside. It also had some impressively large chandeliers.

The North Theater, Jerash

Today we headed north to see the Roman ruins at Jerash and the crusades-era castle at Ajloun. Jerash was absolutely amazing — it’s been restored so that many of the main public areas in the town are intact, and there’s plenty to see on the huge site, including triple-arched gates, a hippodrome, two theaters (which they still use for concerts), 8 ruined churches and temples, and impressive oval courtyard surrounded by columns, and a long main road, the cardo, also lined with columns.

Ajloun Castle

After Jerash, we headed west through the mountains to Ajloun, where a castle sits atop a high peak. We explored the vast rooms, saw some great views from the top of the towers and had fun exploring the many hallways, doorways and other areas open to visitors.

See more pictures in Evan’s Facebook Gallery.

We’ve Finally Posted Some Photos!

Thanks for being patient with us — it’s taken a while to get a decent combination of USB ports and internet access for us to upload our photos. Evan put most of our Egypt ones up on Facebook, and he’ll be uploading them on his site soon, too, when he can. You may have also noticed that I updated my previous trip posts to include a few photos.

Check out our photos:

2 Days in Alexandria and a Little More of Cairo

Sunset over Cairo from the Nile Hilton

Where we left off, June 30, Evan and I had a bit of a rough day in Cairo. It took us a long time to hail a taxi into the city from near our hotel, which was in the suburb of Mohandisseen, and about 10 minutes into our ride our cab was rear-ended. Being hit from behind, while we were stopped, forced us into the car in front of us, and then we were hit again from behind, most likely because the car that hit us first got hit again. It was quite a shock, but nobody got hurt, thankfully. It did, however, put a damper on our day.

The cab driver did manage to get us to our stop — a metro station only about 2 blocks away from where we were hit — and without much time to recuperate, we headed underground to figure out Cairo’s metro system. There are only two lines, so it was pretty easy, but everyone pushes to buy tickets and get on the train, though nobody seems to rush up and down the escalators like they do in London.

We finally arrived at the Coptic quarter where we relaxed for a bit, then visited the beautiful Coptic Museum, which was housed in an impressive building with ornate carved-wood ceilings and had a nice collection of stone carvings, textiles and books.

We wandered around the walled in Coptic quarter for a bit after we were done with the museum, but weren’t able to see much since it was after 4 — closing time for most of the attractions there.

To unwind from our stressful day, we went up to the rooftop bar at the Nile Hilton to grab a drink and watch the sunset over the Nile, then had a nice dinner at a great Lebanese restaurant, Sabaya, in the Intercontinental.

Alexandria, Egypt

We were feeling a litle overwhelmed in Cairo with all the noise and traffic, so we decided to head to Alexandria July 1. We took the train, which was nice and quick and air conditioned. While we were waiting on the platform, though, we saw something new — trains would come in on further platforms, and tons of passengers would be in such a hurry to get out that they would exit the wrong side, jumping down onto the tracks to scramble over to and climb up on another platform.

In Alexandria, we were happy to be able to walk to the center of town from the train station and found a nice little budget hotel right on the sea. We were 5 floors up and had a balcony with a great view of the coast and an accompanying sea breeze.

Fort Qaitbey

After getting some lunch at a rather touristy pizza shop, we walked west down the coast to Fort Qaitbey, which sits on the site of the old pharos/lighthouse of Alexandria, and was apparently made with some pieces of its ruins. The fort was picturesque and well-preserved, with great views of the city. It looked like a stylized fairy-tale castle and had lots of corridors, walks and rooms open to explore.

We stayed at the fort until closing time, then walked back down the corniche to our hotel where we watched the sunset from our balcony.

Biblioteca Alexandria

The next day, July 2, we visited the catacombs, Pompey’s Pillar and the Biblioteca Alexandria.

At the catacombs, we descended a spiral staircase surrounding a central pit – where bodies were lowered down — and then got to explore the underground world that was started as a family tomb in the 2nd century A.D. There was a room for the family to dine to mourn/celebrate their dead relatives, and there were plenty of crpyts to wander past in the maze of chambers. There were also some carvings and murals of Egyptian, Greek and Roman funerary practices and myths, like Isis and Osiris, and Hades and Persephone.

After our time underground — where we were the only tourists — we headed back up to the sunlight and down the street to see Pompey’s Pillar, the only roman remain left standing and intact in all of Alexandria. The pillar was monumental, but everything around it was in ruins. There was an underground library to explore, which was neat, and there were also some sphinxes brought in from Heliopolis. There was also supposedly a Nilleometer, and though we saw the sign for it, we couldn’t discern anything in the vicinity that could be used to measure the depth of the Nile.

We walked back to town and headed to the east end of the coast and to the library — Biblioteca Alexandria — the iconic disc-shaped building meant to be the modern verson of ancient Alexandria’s famed library, which was completely destroyed. As striking as the building is from the outside, looking like a UFO, the inside proves even grander, with a massive, open floor plan with tiered levels, plenty of computers and many different museum exhibits. We stayed until 7 p.m., closing time, enjoying the quiet, the air conditioning and the beautiful modern surroundings.

Today, July 3, we headed down the corniche once again, this time to seek out a juice bar which our guidebook said has the best mango juice. Ever. Well, I’m no mango juice connoisseur, but the pulpy juice was deliciously sweet and fresh and made a great breakfast. The juice bar was also quite a spectacle, entirely decorated with fruits, outside and in. It smelled fantastic.

We didn’t do much else in Alexandria save for heading to the train station to make our way back to Cairo. We found a nice little hotel downtown called the Hotel Osiris, and we took a sunset felucca ride on the Nile before a nice, relaxing dinner — a great way to spend our last night in town.

Tomorrow we’re off to Jordan to have more adventures… and hopefully we’ll be able to post some photos, too.