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Egypt and the Pyramids

Egypt and the Pyramids
Egypt and the Pyramids
via Air France La Première
November 2021

Off to Egypt

Saturday morning and my MSP dentist buddy (Flyertalker batmandds) and I are off today for a quick Flying Blue Platinum mileage run trip to Egypt.  Egypt requires a 96 hour prior to arrival PCR test which I took on Thursday.  As a precaution, I stopped at my nearby AFC Urgent Care Center for an antigen test just in case we needed it to return to the US early.  

With a negative test in hand, I bid adieu to Mrs. SFO777 and Uber'd to DIA.  Saturday morning is the time to depart DEN as the north PreCheck line was completely empty.

I had time to stop into the Delta Sky Club.

Not gourmet by any means, but Delta has better lounge "food" offerings then United or American.

At T-45, I head down to the concourse and Gate A28.

Denver to Los Angeles
Delta 4171
November 6, 2021

Delta is much better than American or United when it comes to boarding, as Delta First Class passengers are actually boarded in the first group, although after handicapped and families with small kids.

Beautiful Colorado scenery on the climb and route to LAX.

United serves a hot meal on this route but I wanted a longer connect cushion so I'm stuck with Delta's health lunch.  My G&T was poured in the galley in lovely DL crystal glassware. 

Descending into LAX on a very smoggy day.

AQI of 154.  Yeah, that looks about right.

With T-3 still under construction, we parked at nearby bus gate, where it is was a short bus ride to T-2.

My first stop was the Delta Sky Club to wait for batmandds' MSP-LAX flight arrive.

The lounge was packed, and since it was LA, lots of interesting guests.   Nice to see another LA father-daughter trip.

I'm thinking why bother, maybe just stay home.... for the rest of your life.

Lots of "food" optons. 

The pork carnitas was actually quite tasty.

While I had my just-in-case-72-hour-anitgen Covid test this morning in Denver, batmandds opted to do it at LAX.  We trekked over to T6 and the very efficient Clarity test facility.  Oddly, it would not be his last visit today.

Then another trek to the Bradley Terminal, which was packed... at least at the south check-in counters.

 Much more civlized at Air France.

And the La Première lane which was oddly roped off.   Our doc check went well until we got to the Covid PCR test part.  While we both has current negative PCR results, neither of us had a test result with a QR code, an apparent requirement for Americans to enter Egypt.  I got off easy when I showed the agent and supervisor my French-issued Pass Sanitaire and its QR code.  The Pass Sanitaire is magic as they told me that I was good to go and didn't even need PCR test to enter Egypt.  batmandds, not so much.  He did not have a QR code so he needed a new PCR test stat.  The AF supervisor said that batmandds didn't need the results by boarding time.  All they needed to let him board was for him to have taken the test.  So off he went back to T6 for round 2...

....while my La Première Personal Assistant escorted me thru security to the TBIT concourse... 

... and Vino Volo, the temporary La Premiere Lounge since The Qantas First Class Lounge is still closed and AF's new lounge is under construction.

Air France gives each La Première passengers a $115 tab allowance, apparently a change after a few expensive 4 figure "open tab" experiences.   I started with a Napa Cab wine sampler while I waited for batmandds to return.

The warm brie plate was delicous.

Our 77W arriving across the tarmac.

Once batmandds arrived, we celebrated with a bottle of Opus One, only $85 net after our La Première allowance.

At around T-40, our two Air France La Première PAs came to retrieve and escort us to our plane.

Vino Volo was a perfectly adequate alternative to a lounge.  My PA told me that she anticipate that the new Air France LAX lounge should be open by April.  And it will include a La Premiere section with full La Premiere dining.  

Los Angeles to Paris
Air France 069
777-300ER (77W)
7:25p-2:15p +1
November 6, 2021
Departed 2/4

Our La Premiere Personal Assistants escorted us on board and introduced us to our cabin crew including our wonderful La Premiere attendant Suzanne, who doted on us with flawless service all the way to Paris.

So happy to be back home in one of the most gorgeous cabins in the sky.  And tonight it was our private cabin with just the two of us up front.

And a lovely way to start the evening.

Tonight's menu...

Tonight's amuse bouche, with a glass of Bellevoye Rouge, which Suzanne claimed was Macron's favorite.  Yikes, one sip was enough as it burned its way down.   Back to the 2007 Taittenger Comte de Champagne.

Showtime, La Première style...

For my starter, I opted for one of the mains...

.... The Ravioli with white truffle.

Fabulous, with tomato confit and zucchini.

For my 2nd main...

The Lamb Tenderloin was excellent, with mixed grains and Vadouvan-flavored artichokes.

Cheese plate...

And to finish, the decadent Tiramisu.

Suzanne made my bed across the cabin in 1A, where I slept for a solid 4 hours.

Approaching CDG.

As we pulled into our gate, our La Première limo was waiting for us.

Another marvelous La Première flight with outstanding service.  Merci Suzanne.

Air France La Première Lounge at CDG

Our La Première PA Angelique meet us in the jetbridge as door 1L opened, and escorted us downstairs... 

... to our BMW for the ride to the Lounge.

Off for a shower before lunch.

Time for an Alain Ducasse lunch.

Oh yeah.

We both started with the fabulous croque-volaille/comté/truffe noire.

Followed by the amazing Coquillettes jambon/truffe noire with more comté.

Wonderful and so tempting dessert options.

At about T-30, Angelique stopped by to escort us to our Cairo fliight.   One last view.  See you in 3 days.

Paris to Cairo
Air France 570
777-300ER (77W)
6:40pm-12:05a +1
November 7, 2012
Business Class
Seats 6E and 6G
Departed 35/36

Since our flight departed from a nearby gate virtually adjacent to the lounge, we decided to walk. Down the elevator to the concourse and a minute later we were at Gate K47.  

After a final doc check, Angelique escorted to the plane and introduced us to our crew.   Sadly, this 77W was an old crock of a plane with no La Première cabin... and terrible 2-3-2 angled flat seats.  We opted for the last middle and lucked out as we had to only empty Business Class seat between us. 

Tonight's dinner menu

Pretty impressive for a 4 hour Business Class flight.

Pre departure beverage options of champagne, orange juice or water. 

After take-off, it looked like we were served drinks before the rest of the cabin.

Our excellent starter tray setting.

For my main, I went with the Beef Tournedos, with macaire potato patties, roasted beets and smoked jus.

This was really good.

Dessert was a wow... Yuzu macaron by Philippe Urraca, Opera cake, Paris-Brest cake, with a bonus sorbet cup.

Sadly, no La Première escort on arrival, so we were on our own.

In line for our $25 Visa on Arrival.

Five minutes later, we were thru customs.

Since non-passengers are not permitted in the terminal, everyone waits behind the fence across the street, where we met Assen, our driver for the next 48 hours. 

The Nile Ritz-Carlton Cairo

After a quick 25 minute middle of the night drive from the airport, we arrived at the Ritz-Carlton just before 2am local time.

Photo: ritzcarlton.com

Photo: ritzcarlton.com

My Bonvoy Platinum status got me an upgrade to a nice Nile River view room on the Club level.

The daytime view from my room.

Breakfast at Cucina.

Photo: ritzcarlton.com
Photo: ritzcarlton.com

Cairo and the Pyramids

Our driver Assem and our guide arrived a little after 9am and we started our tour at the nearby Egyptian Museum aka The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. 

After an hour at the museum, we headed out for the 13 mile drive to Giza and the Pyramids.  Although I've been in a lot of cities with congested and bad traffic, Cairo wins my vote for the most chaotic traffic anywhere.  Way too many cars, bumper to bumper traffic, frequent lane changes, horn honking.  Add to this virtually no lane markers and thousands of pedestrians that cross the streets and even highways, weave their way around and between cars and its a surreal experience. 

We didn't see car or van in Cairo that wasn't dented, scratched or mutilated.   Yeah, I wouldn't drive a nice car here either.

And finally...

OMG, spectacular... even with the sun on the wrong side for good picture taking at the beginning.

Next, the short drive to the massive Sphinx.

After 90 minutes or so, it was time to head back to Cairo.

This is pretty much typical of daytime traffic in Cairo.

By this time, we'd seen enough of old Cairo that we opted for an afternoon at the Ritz-Carlton.

Nice pool and excellent poolside service with the honking of horns from over the wall the only reminder of the chaos just a few feet away. 

Yeah, that doesn't quite look like the Stella I know.  

After a few hours at the pool, we headed up to our rooms to wait for our 5pm Covid test appointments.   Great views as sunset approaches.

After our tests, time for a drink in the lobby bar.

Photo: ritzcarlton.com
And then dinner at Bab El-Sharq.

Excellent Arabic cuisine.

And live music... unfortunately.  LOL.

Please, we'll pay you to go away.

Very nice Egyptian Merlot.

Then back up to our rooms for an early evening, as Assem will be back at 4:45am for the drive to the airport.

Egyptair to Luxor

Once again, the secret to driving in Cairo is... to travel in the middle of the night.   Not a lot of passengers at the airport either.

Since the Egyptair app is pretty much useless, neither of us could not get a digital boarding pass as the app froze every time we click "display boarding pass".  On the other hand, the old fashioned airport kiosks worked and spit out our paper BPs.

Our first security check of the morning got us to the check-in counters.

Not a lot of morning domestic departures.

Let's check out the Egyptair Business Class Lounge.

Meh.  Not very exciting, to say the least.

Carbs much?

Time to head to our gate.

OK, this makes a lot of sense.  A 2nd security check.

Cairo to Luxor
Eqyptair 62
November 9, 2021
Business Class

More security equipment at the gate, but not is use today.

Nice new plane but terrible 2-3 all Economy seating with the first three rows comically designated as Euro-fraud style Business Class. 

We lucked out with a middle seat in our third row, oddly numbered row 22.  Huh?

More carbs for "breakfast".

On the other hand, our Egyptair A220 had Wifi and it worked.  Gotta love the price and my receipt for $0.00. 

Beautiful scenery as we approach Luxor.

And such a contrast from the lush greenery around the Nile River.

Not a lot of action this morning at Luxor "International" which has no jet bridges and where all planes park far, far away on the tarmac and use buses to transport passengers to the terminal.

Kudos to Egyptair for a separate bus for Business Class passengers.

But the terminal was a mile from our plane's parking area.  Seriously?  You couldn't park any closer??

Five minutes later, we are outside in Luxor where we met Nermeen, our wonderful guide for the day.    Cute local kids.

And Luxor's pretty new-ish terminal.

Our Day in Luxor

The main historical sightseeing area is close to Luxor but a 45 minute drive from airport since bridges across the Nile here are few and far between.

Our first stop is the Valley of the Kings, a series of tombs for ancient Egyptian pharaohs from some 5,000 years ago.


Our wonderful guide, Nermeen.

Some of the stunning ancient tombs with artwork that has survived thousands of years.

Back on the road...

... to the inevitable tourist stop, a nearby Alabaster factory and shop.  Usually these places are annoying and overpriced.  But this one was really fun and entertaining as they have this schtick down to an art form.

Inside the shop, where we haggled and negotiated on a few souvenirs.   

And the special "just for you" museum room.  LOL.  Pretty sure that the owners' Mercedes were parked out-of-sight behind the factory.

Only a few miles away was the stunning Temple of Hapshepsut. Hatshepsut was the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt and only the second historically confirmed female pharaoh.

Exiting with lots of local merchants peddling souvenirs.

Tiime for lunch just across the river from Luxor.

We headed for a nearby water taxi dock, while our driver had taken the long 45 minute drive to the other side.

LOL, someone has a sense of humor.

Five minutes later, we are back in beautiful Luxor.

A few minutes later, we stopped at historic Karnac Temples.

From Karnak, it was a short 10 minute drive to the airport, where Nermeen and our driver dropped us off at exactly our requested 2:15pm.  What a delightful day in Luxor with one of the best guides I've ever had the pleasure to meet.  

Egyptair Back to Cairo

We bid adieu to our wonderful guide Nermeen and headed into Luxor International.

Once again, not one but two security checks, one to get to the check-in counters...

... and another to get to the departure gate area...

Three VIP Lounges?  Someone here is very optimistic.

Luxor to Cairo
Egyptair 75
November 9, 2021
Economy Exit Row

On our return, Business Class on this flight was sold out when we booked.  After our morning flight down, this turned out to be a blessing.  We paid only $60 and got the best seats on the plane, for free, when Egyptair opened exit row seating for free at T-72.  Even better as my Star Alliance Gold status allowed me to board the empty priority Business Class bus to our plane.

Whoa.  Why buy a Business Class ticket when this is available for half price?

Complimentary water once in the air.

Back in Cairo, we headed out to meet our driver Assem.

Traffic back to the Ritz was miserable.  Even worse as we spent some 20 bumper-to-bumper minutes in a poorly ventilated mile long tunnel.  OMG, so this is what running a car in a closed garage feels like.   About 1/2 mile from the Ritz, traffic simply stopped.  After 5 minutes, we decided to get out and just walk, hoping that Assem would escape and be able to pick us up four hours later.

After a quick trip to the room, back to the lobby bar for a couple of drinks.

And then up to the roof for dinner at Nox.  Nice nightime views of Cairo and The Nile.

Photo from ritzcarlton.com

Perfect night for dinner outside on the terrace.