James Miller - Travel - Egypt

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When I had booked the flights, I'd asked for a gluten-free meal. Mostly I get something acceptable and sometimes it goes missing. But don't bother asking with Olympic, which must be Europe's most disobliging airline. I suspect that they send all their cabin staff to a special training school, where any good habits, common sense and manners are beaten out of them.

So I always travel prepared with a few gluten-free snacks.

With Monarch they were not needed, as I was served early with a perfectly acceptable meal, even if it had been left a bit long in the warming oven, which gave the salmon a rather dry and surreal smell. The roll with a brick-like texture, confirmed my belief that unless gluten-free bread is still hot, it's not worth bothering with, unless you are absolutely starving or need something handy to throw. So I was pleased with the rather good start.

Celia wasn't that happy as her meal was pretty inedible, so she made do with my fruit. It always amazes us, that airlines produce a load of rubbish, when perhaps a smaller but better snack with a nice hot drink, could be produced for the same money. It also seems most people use a lot of alcohol to make the food pallatable.

One thing you can do with Monarch is pay extra for either a Premium seat or one with extra legroom.

We had chosen the latter and it was well worth it.

For Premium, you may get free alcohol, newpapers and a separate cabin at the front, but the seat pitch doesn't appear to be much better. We both stretched our legs out fully and as the third seat in our group was for crew, we had a spare seat as well.

We arrived in Luxor very fresh after a four and a half hour flight.

When we arrived we had to change some sterling into Egyptian Pounds and buy a visa. Not a taxing procedure, especially as each UK Pound is about ten Egyptian, so calculation of prices is easy. After some other formalites and the ineviatble wait for our bags to come off the flight last, we were through customs without any trouble.

If you don't like to bargain, then don't go to Egypt independently as we did!

We knew after asking a Kuoni rep, that it should have cost about thirty Egyptian Pounds to get us to our hotel. In the end we paid about fifty. Later in the holiday, we learnt to bargain harder and would even get out of a taxi and go for another one, but this time we gave in.

I should also say here that the average Egyptian taxi is a clapped Peugeot 404, usually with non-existent shock absorbers, lumpy seats, non-working seat-belts and whining gear-boxes. For the squeamish, they may be best avoided, as they are not the best vehicle to weave through coaches, trucks, horse drawn carriages and the inevitable cart drawn by a pair of donkeys.

Within twenty minutes, after a drive that gave us a taste of some of the amazing sights of Luxor, we were at the Luxor Sheraton.

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