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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Visit to the Garden

We brought wonderful warm weather home from Egypt to Minnesota. You might not believe it based on the post right below this one, but temperatures have reached 50 or more on all but three days in the past two and a half weeks. Yesterday and today were both in the 70s.

Naturally, that prompts one to take a walk through the garden. Now, in the summer months, our backyard garden looks like this:

But autumn and winter transform that into a much bleaker landscape:

It's always amazing to watch the transformation once the snow is gone and the plants begin to spring up out of the ground.

Now, what's this?

Yes, there's a little speck of purple next to the sidewalk. Let's take a closer look.

Spring has sprung! While the tulips are barely getting their leaves out of the ground, this lone crocus has bravely poked its whole head out to celebrate.

Other signs of spring abound. Men in shorts and sandals!

But is this normal - or some weather extreme? Monday afternoon I was at the University of Minnesota on my regular weekly trip to the Charles Babbage Institute rummaging through historic computer documents. As I left the parking lot, I commented to the attendant, "What a beautiful day!"

She replied, "Yes, and when has it ever been in the 70s in March in Minnesota?"

"I remember 83 degrees on March 30," I said. "The year was 1968."

I remember the date and temperature like it was yesterday (well, it was March 30 yesterday.) That was at the end of my first winter in Minnesota. After struggling through the long winter, suffering from frozen feet on the twin cities buses, living with a 1956 Dodge that refused to start when it was more than ten below zero, winter had ended. I was driving down Franklin Street, stopped at the traffic signal at Chicago Avenue when I heard the temperature on the car radio (WCCO, of course).

Maybe this wasn't such a bad place to live, after all. When the end of March arrived, all was pleasant again.

One year later, March 29 of 1969 brought a brisk low temp of minus 5.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Back Home Again

The trip home from Amsterdam was uneventful. The weather we brought back from Cairo was very pleasant. We've been home for over 24 hours, much of which was spent sleeping. I headed out to the grocery store in the early afternoon. I saw my first sign of spring here, a Minnesotan in shorts.

Well, with this temperature, why not.

Of course, there are still a few traces of snow on the ground.

But compare that to a couple of days before we left for Egypt:

It might not look a lot better to people who don't live here, but there is a 60 degree difference in the temperature! I still can't take the Christmas candles in since their cords are still buried in the ice but maybe tomorrow?

I've spent most the afternoon going through the mail.

And those warm temperatures have now resulted in this banner at the top of the weather page:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Blogging from Beanos

We made it to the airport at about midnight for our 4:10 a.m. departure to Amsterdam with KLM. Since we had a friend driving, we didn't have the usual mixup about Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Almost all international flights to Europe leave from Terminal 2 (the new terminal) but KLM flies out of Terminal 1.

After minor run-arounds like, "You have to wait until 1:00," "Not until 1:30, then go through entrance 3." and the like, we finally made it to the KLM counter. Then past Passport Control manned by someone who really doesn't seem to like his job.

This year they have someone directing people to the third floor waiting area where all the modern coffee shops are located. A good idea and there are quite a few more people here.

Choosing from Cinnabon, Starbucks, Beano's, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and McDonald's was easy. Beanos has the most comfortable seating.

Of course the line is over at McDonald's. I hear someone behind me in a loud voice saying, "Do you take dollars?" at Starbucks. No. You have to plan carefully to have just enough Egyptian pounds left for your food in these places, or plan to return to Egypt. Pounds are not good outside of Egypt and nothing else works at this Starbucks.

Linda's spicy Mexican Wrap has arrived. I think I'll have her take a picture and make this my last Egypt post.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fateer on Faisal

We had dinner on Faisal Street tonight and then took a walk for a few blocks. Since it was Thursday night, the start of the weekend, there were lots of people out. It had been a warm day. The report from the Cairo airport indicated 102 although we didn't record anything over 87. Go figure.

Faisal street and the surrounding side streets had cafes, coffee houses and smoking establishments with tables on the sidewalks and out in the street.

We stopped for desert at a Fateer shop. I mentioned this "Egyptian Pancake" treat at the end of the Khan el-Khalili post. There are many small Fateer stands in neighborhood areas and along the main commercial streets.

We headed into this one.

Fateers come in two basic types. Savory or sweet. The savory type have meat and peppers. The sweet have honey, nuts and raisins. We were looking for sweet. The crust is a bit like filo dough. A bottom crust is spun, the filling is added and a second crust is placed on top. Into the oven and in a few minutes it is ready.

Here the owner is working on some dough before taking it for a spin.

When ready, they look like this.

This was my first one and it was very good.

Cruising the Nile from Luxor to Aswan - Part 3

(Think you may have missed something? Blogger and I limit the size of this blog when you enter it at the top. Since the next several posts have lot of pictures, you probably will only see about five posts in total. Click on the BLOG ARCHIVE in the left column to find previous posts.)

In addition to watching the people, there is plenty of other scenery between Luxor and Aswan.

The buildings in the passing villages provide interesting views.

The contrast between the green area next to the Nile and the desert, not far away, demonstrates the importance of water in this part of the world.

Some animals are hard at work moving some of that water.

With a little water, these banana trees grow well here.

On a previous trip, I had photographed the Wadi El-Rayan waterfall near Fayoum. That is reported to be the tallest waterfall in Egypt. I had the chance to capture another waterfall here. (That is the Wadi El-Rayan waterfall on the right.)

You know the cruise is about finished as you glimpse this modern lighted bridge in the distance. It marks your arrival at Aswan.

Cruising the Nile from Luxor to Aswan - Part 2

People Watching

From the cruise ship there is the opportunity to watch people. Working, having fun, or just living.

All along the cruise there were local fishermen at work. Some used nets. Others, hook and line.

There were farmers at work.

And farmers on the move.

And there were lots of children. The kids always smile and wave at the passing ships.

And even when kids grow up, they still like to show off a bit.

Cruising the Nile from Luxor to Aswan - Part 1

A few weeks back, we traveled down to Luxor to begin a cruise along the Nile. The section of the Nile between Luxor and Aswan is heavily traveled by cruise ships.

Linda had chosen the M. S. Royal Ruby for us based on previous good experience on board. Here it is in port. You will note that there are many many ships cruising together.

The cruise experience is much different from walking the streets of Cairo. Here is the interior of the ship. On the right is a shot of the dining room. It was decorated for the "Egyptian Dinner" so has lots of color.

The rooms are very nice and the staff both friendly and attentive. Each day brings a new surprise as they fold the towels into decorations and place them on the bed.

Be careful when you exit at any port. Here you will notice that only one door is open and it leads directly to the river, not to the gang plank! Of course the seated guard will keep you from falling in. And, I suppose the guard on shore will fish you out if you do fall.

The ships sometimes have no more separation when underway than the cars in the Cairo traffic.

There are a couple of other ways you could travel this stretch of the river. You might go by train.

Or by a smaller cruise boat. We understand that these are very expensive and don't go the full length of the Aswan-Luxor route. We will have to check into that.

I, of course, spent most of the cruise looking through the viewfinder of the camera. I'll share some of those pictures in the next two posts.