Monday, January 31, 2011

Neighborhood Stroll

I am going through some pictures from the last six months, and it is a daunting task. Man have I been behind on my stories. Granted I did drag my feet on getting the Mediterranean vacation fully documents (and I still have all of South America to write). Anyway, here are some randoms.
About six blocks north of me is an area known as “little Saigon”. Every large city has a Chinatown or little Italy. Chicago is known to be extremely diverse but extremely segregated. Okay that sounds horrible, but I mean every nationality has a little niche in the city. Seriously…Ukrainian village, Korean town, the Pakistani place, etc. The little Saigon area has a beautiful decorative arch and rows of dead ducks in the windows. It also has a bevy of restaurants…and nail salons. Ah ha ha ha. Anyway, here is a sign that does little to deter the stereotype.

Not far from that neighborhood, there is a house on Berwyn that is the most particular (and creepy) I’ve ever seen. It seriously looks like something off a movie set or in a children’s scary novel. The place has several stone busts on pedestals, wrought iron gates and railings, columns made from statues! The pictures don’t do it justice. I imagine it is how Tim Burton’s house looks. The great thing is that the tenant is looking for a roommate. Now in all the “seeking roommate” signs I have seen over the years, this one is by far the most detailed and specific. I half wanted to call just so I could walk through the place and see the chandelier and antiques (10 to 1 there is a suit of armor in there). Criminals beware.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mediterranean Adventures - Part 12 (Cairo Egypt)

Our second day in Egypt and it didn’t get any less hot. We drove into Cairo from the coast. It was exactly what you would expect…sand sand and more sand.

The toll was obviously sponsored by Pepsi because it was an advertising explosion.

Our first stop was the great pyramids of Giza. Count it…our fourth wonder of the world this trip. I was worried because I had built up the expectations in my mind which could end in severe disappointment (like the sex in the city movie). Thankfully the pyramids were everything I imagined and more.

We began on this ridge with a spectacular view of all three. Granted there were plenty of tourists there because it was the perfect photo op, but there was enough view for everyone.

Like Alexandria, the place had its fair share of scammers and harassers. We learned of the “camel scam”. Camel herders would walk around and invite the tourists to ride their camel around the pyramids for a truly authentic experience…all for $10. Well after the camel ride, the herder would stop in the parking lot (where all the tour buses were, and also the only paved area for three square miles). The herder would then demand $50 in order to let the tourist down. Okay that doesn’t sound all that terrifying, but those camels are like 9 feet tall and if you didn’t pay the additional fee, you literally had to jump down. One guy we talked to did the ole heave ho off the camel back and landed on the pavement hard…resulting in a sprained ankle.

The group was allowed some time to explore the pyramids without supervision. For a hefty price, you could enter in the pyramid passage ways but you would forgo seeing the sphinx, exploring, and taking any pictures. Dana and I opted out of it because it crawling through a dark corridor (and not being allowed to even document it) seemed not worth the effort. Dana and I successfully climbed up and around these great feats. In fact, we were so absorbed in taking it in that we almost missed our bus (seriously it was driving away and our seat partners were all “oh the young girls are gone”).

Next stop was the Sphinx. It was impressive…but seemed so much smaller in person (like Tom Cruise).

Driving around in the tour bus, we observed the traffic is crazy. Not India crazy, but pretty damn chaotic with people going every which way turning into traffic without a second look. Seriously, intersections were like playing Russian roulette with no traffic signals (or consciences mind you). I did happen to take a picture of the ONLY STOP SIGN IN EGYPT.

Our lunch was on a river boat cruise up and down the Nile (aka the dirtiest river ever).

Okay yeah most rivers are not crystal clear (hell look how nasty the Mississippi is) but this one may have had a floating dead frog or two. Sadly the boat sailed past some of the shanties and slums along the river.

The entertainment aboard was a male and female belly dancers. Well the girl was a belly dancer. The guy was more of a twirler. Yeah he had this big skirt on (gay or European…you tell me) and he would twirl so fast it spun out horizontally. Then he took off his skirt (family show) and twirled it overhead for a half hour (for tips).

After lunch we visited the Alabaster Mosque of Mohamed Ali (yep I totally thought of the boxer too).

This place is huge and it is flanked by a large castle the Citadel of Saladin.

Again another opportunity for a “jump picture”…and you wonder why foreigners hate Americans.

Speaking of hate, I picked up a local newspaper in Cairo (in English) and man do they hate Israel. Seriously, they are acting like total frienemies being civil to their face and backstabbing once they have left the room. One opinion article in the paper was blaming the bad crop on the Jews. Not kidding.

Our final stop was a papyrus shop where they demonstrated how to make paper. Snooze but it was the only opportunity to shop. Too bad it was so overpriced (we picked up the same stuff in Alexandria for mere pennies) so Dana and I waited in the bus. We spent the next fifteen minutes taking pictures of the interesting cars (or donkey carts…ah ha ha ha) on the street. Some trucks were piled so high with stuff that it was one pothole away from utter catastrophe.

Yes those are crates of live chickens.

I also spied a woman selling blankets to the tourists milling around our bus. She had a good four feet worth of piled blankets balanced on her head. Now that is talent.

Don't worry, it's not meth...just sugar

I think this is apple juice