I can’t recall when my interest in ancient Egypt began. It seems to be such a deep part of my psyche that I wouldn’t be surprised one whit if I had spent several past lives in the Land of the Pharaohs. When I was very young, I would watch documentaries on the pyramids and I’d print hundreds of pages off the Internet that detailed the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. For reasons that I’ve never fully understood, there used to be a shop in Des Moines called Egyptian Treasures. My father would take me there on the weekend and we’d look at all the papyrus scrolls and dusty old books and ushwabti figurines. He’d let me get something each time and I still have all my trinkets from the shop. More fun than the shopping part, though, was talking to the man who ran the place. I wonder what ever became of him? He was from Cairo and would chat with me for hours about his homeland and filled my brain with stories of that cacophonous city and all the history waiting in the sand. I knew then that I had to go to Egypt someday.
Sadly, I was fairly sure that it wouldn’t be anytime soon. Once again, I didn’t budget all that well for Europe, so my funds were at an all time low and the flights across the Mediterranean were a bit much. It cost more to fly from Paris to Cairo than it cost to fly from Minneapolis to London. I thought that was awfully strange.
But I couldn’t get Egypt out of my head. So, I grabbed the thick guidebook that I had brought with me in the off chance that I would get there and headed for the Mosquée de Paris.
This is, undoubtedly, one of my favorite places in all of Paris. If you get the chance to come to this wonderful city, I strongly urge you to spend an afternoon sipping mint tea and nibbling pastries in the shaded marble courtyard. It’s transportive, like taking a vacation on your vacation. I passed through the archway and sat myself down at one of the tiny tiled tables and started to read the guidebook. I ordered one mint tea after the other and I was just absolutely swept away.
The waiter came around after I finished the first glass of scalding hot tea and gave me a pastry. I don’t really know why, but I assume somebody at the mosque, maybe him, was flirting with me. It was a very good pastry too; sickly sweet and wonderful. I don’t know how long I sat there or how many teas I had or how long I attempted to persuade the cat that wondered around with bells on its collar to be my friend. I can usually charm any cat, but this one wasn’t interested in anybody. He let me stroke his chin a few times, but then he went on.
I know so much of the ancient history of Egypt, but I really know nothing of what it’s like today. I’ve seen pictures and I’ve watched videos, but I have no firsthand experience of what it’s like to be there. And that scared me. I only know the slimmest Arabic and I’ve next to no experience with the fine points of haggling. If I could go in 2014 BC, I’d fit right, but 2014 AD…that was something I was unsure about.
With a lot still on my mind, I left the mosque and sat down in the remains of a Roman arena that’s not too far from the mosque. I discovered this a few years ago and it’s so strange to be there where gladiators fought and naval battles were acted out and to now see old men playing pétanque. I took a seat and dug back in the guidebook. Every page made me more and more sure that I had to go. So, I did what any child does when they are desperate. I texted my father.
He spoils me when it comes to travel. He paid for me to stay at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles — a day I’ll not soon forget — and to stay at the Drake in Chicago. He said that he’d see if he could help me out. I didn’t know exactly how much he’d transfer to my account, so I decided to walk once again in the ancient Egyptian galleries of the Louvre.
I did my best to ignore the hoards of tourists and stood gazing for the longest time into the face of a long dead king. I think it was one of the Psusenneses. I wondered what things he had seen? What he could tell us if he could wake from the dead? “Ya-too-bey,” I whispered quietly, but his mummy didn’t burst out of his sarcophagus as it would have had I been in The Mummy.
I was absolutely determined at that moment, so I got on the Métro and hurried back to the apartment. I took out my credit card. I logged onto Expedia. I booked it. I was terrified.
Thankfully, my father was exceptionally generous and his gift more than covered the cost of the flight — it even paid for most of my lodging! I’ll be staying at a highly recommended inn at Cairo and when I go to Luxor, I’ll be staying at the celebrated Winter Palace. Not the original building, though, a modern one beside it for those a bit more budget conscious, but still in the same grounds with the same luxurious gardens. I’m basically going to be Amelia Peabody.
The day wasn’t all that swell, though, even if my childhood dreams were all coming true. When Jessica got home, Winkler went downhill fast. It was a rather remarkable transformation and I’m glad there was an ocean betwixt us so that I didn’t have to witness his degeneration. I like animals more than people and I don’t think I would have been able to handle that at all. It was quicker than expected, but he was put to sleep that afternoon. I’ll miss that little weirdo and his crooked tail and wonky eye.
When I woke up the next morning, it began to dawn on me that I was really going to EGYPT! I had absolutely nothing to wear! I hadn’t packed for a spontaneous trip to the Sahara. So, the only thing to do was go shopping. This wasn’t one of my brightest ideas, I’ll admit. It’s tourist season. It’s the summer sales. It was a Saturday. It was a commercial road. I wanted to kill everybody that crossed my path. I didn’t, though, because I’m a mature adult (haha, no). I thought H&M might be the place to go and it was, but my sweet Beysus. It was jam packed. I had to nearly wrestle with other shoppers to rip things off the racks. I didn’t even bother trying the clothes on. I just hurried to the counter and got the hell out.
I wouldn’t have gone shopping, but when I travel, I have certain fantasies that I have to play out. For instance, last year when I went to Hollywood, I could have gone in a plane. But, I decided that I had to go in a train because that is how all the celebrities of yesteryear arrived, bedecked in furs and acclaim. It was fun going on the train, and I’m glad I went that way. For Egypt, there was no way I was going to be there and not wear khakis and a denim shirt. So the shopping trip was mandatory for my fashionable reveries.
Down on the Seine, the quays are transformed into an imitation of a beach each summer for a few weeks. I decided that some palm trees might cheer me, so I went down and gazed at the people having the time of their life in the imported sand. I’m not sure why they were so enthusiastic about the Paris Plage, it was nice and all, but it wasn’t thrilling. Maybe they’ve never been to an actual beach?
I was exhausted of the people and the really intense heat, so I took myself to a nice café by the Marché aux Fleurs and had a martini. Martinis in France aren’t the martinis we have back home, which I think are atrocious. These are made with a thick liquor and remind me of a Negroni. I happily sipped on that as I watched the people still by. I’ve never gotten into café culture in my past trips, but it’s awfully nice to sit with a drink, eat a nibble, and while away the hours.
I had a lot of research to do, so I got on the train and watched a really rather intense fight. It was very dramatic, I was sure there was going to be blood. There wasn’t.
On my last day in the city, I did all my favorites again for the last time. I went to my favorite bakery, Miss Manon, just to make sure the old woman hadn’t died over the past week. She was alive and well.
I went to the Louvre and admired what I could see. I walked around St. Germain.
And then, when I was fully satisfied with everything I had seen and done, I headed home to get ready for the next day.
It’s not going to be any ordinary day, reader, oh no, I’m off to GREECE. I’ve never thought much about Greece. I adore history and archaeology, but Roman and Grecian history has never been the focus of my interests. It’s always been Egypt. I mean, I appreciate their sculpture and their mythology, but it’s never been a passion of mine. We’ll have to see how my opinions change after I spend the afternoon and morning in Athens. I have an overnight layover in the city and I’m really quite excited to see the Acropolis and the Aegean Sea and to wander the streets. And see palm trees. I really freaking love palm trees.
My mother booked me a hotel for the night as an early birthday gift, and just the start of many, I’m sure. You get loads more gifts when you’re 25, right?
I practiced my Arabic numerals. I was just so freaking excited, but I finally got to sleep.