Down the Nile in style!

For years we talked of taking a trip to Egypt – it’s been on the list for ages, you know the “let’s write down all the places that we want to visit and see how many we get to”  list.  It had to include a trip down the Nile though, to fulfill all those childhood tales of pharohs and pyramids, of desert and mystery!

After reading lots of brochures, talking to friends who had done similar trips and hearing their tales of things that had gone wrong, we decided to push the boat out (no pun intended) and we booked a holiday with Cox and Kings. We flew to Cairo and had two nights at the Mena House Oberoi hotel in Giza, I was told that I would be able to see the pyramids from there and was disappointed when we arrived to find I couldn’t see anything. “Wait till morning ma’am” said Mohammed our guide,” you’ll see pyramid”.  As you will see from the photos, he was right and then some!

The Mena House is a fabulous hotel, standing in 40 acres of beautifully tended gardens, in the shadow of the great pyramids.  I was proudly told by the duty manager that the hotel had entertained countless heads of state and many, many film stars and, looking around me, I could quite believe him.  I had hoped that we would have a room in the old part of the hotel, but our garden wing room was just lovely.  The staff were kind, courteous and very friendly and were delighted when they saw how pleased we were with everything.

We had a trip to the pyramids and learnt again all the things about them that we thought we already knew; the Museum in Cairo was unbelieveable.  They have more artefacts stored in cupboards, cellars, spare rooms and under benches than they have officially on display. I have never seen so many ancient, beautiful treasures anywhere before. There is no air conditioning, or if there is it wasn’t working the day we visited and because of all the hundreds of people milling around, the place gets very, very hot.  Then on the The Citadel. Standing on top of a limestone crag, looking out over the city of Cairo, the building takes your breath away. It was a governor’s pavillion many centuries ago, built to take adavantage of the cooling breezes that wafted round the hilltop; then Saladdin fortified it to prevent attacks by the Crusaders. Today, it houses many museums and is home to the Mohammed Ali Mosque.  The views from the walls are quite spectacular.

Leaving Cairo behind, we flew to Luxor to join our boat the Oberoi Zahra . We were told that we would cruise the Nile in luxury and we did! The cabins were amazing and so was the freshly prepared food.  There is a spa on board and a swimming pool on the top deck. There are just 25 cabins and 2 suites all with panoramic views of the Nile, the service was outstanding.  An Egyptologist travelled with us and he led the daily excursions to the Temples of Luxor, Karnak, Dendara, and the Valley of the Kings.  For seven wonderful days, we cruised from Luxor to Aswan, before flying back to Cairo for one night and then home. It is one of the best holidays I have ever had, that I would go again tomorrow says it all I think. 

Pyramid from gardens of Mena House hotel

The Citadel, Cairo

View from the sun deck of Oberoi Zahra


Row of Sphinx at Luxor Temple


View of the Nile


Street market Luxor


Street market Luxor


The Shambles in York wins Google Street View Award

I am very happy that The Shambles in York won the Google Street View Awards! My relatives came from Yorkshire and I spent many school holidays visiting the city.

York is an ancient city, the Romans invaded in 71AD, when 5,o00 men marched from Lincoln and set up camp at a place they called “Eboracum”.

Next came the Vikings, invading on 1st November 866 when all the leaders were in the cathedral celebrating All Saints Day,

William the Conquerer also set his sights on York after the invasion, marching there in 1068 when York was still a Viking city.

The Black Death came to York in 1190 and stayed for almost a year, by the time it was over, more than 5,000 people had died

Henry VII defeated York’s favourite Richard III to win the crown in 1485 and visited the city a year later, when the citizens were determined to put on a good impression for the first of the Tudor monarchs.

The Shambles was a street even then, lined with butcher shops with the meat laid out on what now are the window sills.  At some points, if you stretch out your arms you can touch both sides of the street!

There is loads more to the story of York and you can read all about it at

Or better still, pay a visit……………

Know your beans!!

I am trying to follow a health eating plan in an attempt to lower my cholesterol. I have swapped any meat with visible fat for a leaner meat such as chicken or turkey, which hasn’t been at all difficulty really. I have also included more oily fish in my diet, but have avoided mackerel as I find it too strong. I have coupled this with also being careful about how many carbs I eat as bread could be my downfall, especially as it cries out for butter! So my eating plan goes something like this:

Breakfast – either porridge oats with skimmed milk, topped with berries, or granola mixed with low fat yoghurt instead of milk, coffee with skimmed milk and no sugar

Mid morning – handful of almonds and walnuts which are good at lowering cholesterol                                     

Lunch – salad sandwich with no butter or tuna salad, using tuna canned in brine, followed by a low fat yoghurt and a large glass of water

Mid afternoon – apple and a handful of my own dried fruit and nut mixture                    

Dinner – salmon and steamed vegetables, or chicken with a huge salad (no dressing just black pepper and a sqeeze of lemon juice) low fat yoghurt and occasionally a glass of wine.

I am also trying to drink more water than I did previously and I also take a good multivitamin tablet at lunchtime to make sure I am not missing anything. I have also been making a few stews using beans and lentils which are a healthy source of fibre and a rich source of protein.  I was amazed when I started finding out about eating more healthily, just how many beans there are.

There are black beans a favourite in Caribbean food; creamy coloured borlotti beans, used in many Italian stews and soups; cannellini beans lovely in a tuna salad; butter beans flat whitish beans with a great buttery flavour; pinto beans a bit like borlotti beans but darker, they are used a lot in Mexican cooking; flageolet beans pale green beans used a lot in French regional cooking; haricot beans used mainly in slow cooking, one-pot type dishes and are great added to soups –  and I’m sure there are many more that I haven’t come across yet.

Loving Indian food

I like eating Indian food but as my OH was not too keen, the only time I would get to go out to an Indian restaurant was with my girlfriends which is about once every three months or so. 

I started to try a few recipes from various cookery books and found that, with the help of some very good  sauces I can make authentic tasting Indian meals at home!  I particularly like the Balti pastes and have developed my own chicken balti dish, which even the OH likes eating!

After watching several cookery programmes I wanted to buy a “masala dabba” or Indian spice box as they look so lovely full of the colourful spices used in Indian cookery. I eventually found one on amazon of all places. Then I wanted the spices to go in it and found them all  at spices of India. I expect I could get them in a supermarket, but I thought I would be authentic the first time round!

Whilst I still have the occasional problems cooking rice,  I love being able to eat Indian food at home and even my OH now has his own favourites.