Cairo Airport - Tuesday 00:30am: "I am sorry, but we cannot allow on this flight." I thought I had heard wrong. "Your Schengen visa has expired and you will not be allowed to transit through 2 European countries." "But we don't want to stay there; we will only be in transit! Look, here are our connecting flights all the way to London!" "Doesn't matter," he says, "it looks like you are going to Rome from Athens because you are connecting there." "We are going to Rome, but then we are catching another flight after a couple of hours to London - look, it says so right here on our tickets!" "Doesn't matter," he says again. "You'll have to buy another ticket."
So that is how we spent the night at Cairo airport, trying to get to London. Anyone that knows us will know that we have less fond memories of our years in London - which is exactly why we needed to go back. We needed closure on the city that we ran away from. But buying tickets from Cairo to London via Athens and Rome, and then buying another ticket from Cairo to London didn't exactly get us excited - especially as you can understand that taking these flights twice is a) pointless and b) impossible given that they depart from Cairo, Athens and Rome which as it turns out is not where we are. And of course being the cheap skates that we are, all flights are non-refundable and non-rerouteable. Excellent.
Still Cairo Airport - Tuesday 4:00: Various coffees (still Ramadan, still no alcohol allowed) and 12 unsuccessful "cheap flights here!" websites later we decided to go back to what we know: Hong Kong. We called our wonderful Marco Polo frequent flyers club and within 20 minutes the very friendly Bret completely understood our dilemma and issued 2 tickets directly to London from Cairo on the 7:30 flight. What a blessing 3 years of air miles accumulation turned out to be in a pinch - we couldn't believe our luck!
Motspur Park, London - Tuesday 12:00. After no sleep, a hot breakfast and couple of hazy movies, Nelius managed to pick us up despite the sudden change in our schedule. Back at their home we were greeted with by Anelle and a very enthusiastic Eduard who ran to give us biggest hugs ever - he had been prepped with photos for the arrival of Uncle Joey and Auntie Gem - and the loveliest little Miss Karla, the latest edition to the Meiring clan. So at the end of our 30 hour journey from Dahab, we were happily nestled into a normal home with clean rooms, a kitchen and a washing machine - all super luxuries at this stage!
We didn't have a whole lot planned for our time in London: 2 days outings max, 1 to go to all the old haunts and another to do some sites. But pretty soon we realized that spending time with Anelle and the kids during the day and catching up with Nelius once he got home at night was pretty special and that getting out of the house suddenly was not so important to us.
On Saturday all of us went to town so that mom and dad could have a couple of hours to themselves to have a well-deserved massage, and Joey and I would practice parenting with 2-year old Eduard and 4-month old Karla. We were around Portobello Road and decided to just stroll around the market really, maybe grab a coffee and soak up the sun on what turned out to be one of the best weekends this summer. But Eduard had a MUCH different idea of what we should be doing. In our defence, we are amateurs here, and we are also not versed in toddler speak, so mostly we had no idea what the problem was. But then again I suspect with 2 year olds often the problem is that they are 2 years old. "Pick me up!", "let me go!", "blu-we-gou-ahhhhhh-mommy!!!". Who knows?? Luckily Joey is Mr. Incredible and he patiently entertained every whim while smiling slightly hopelessly at the passers-by with their own junior-tantrum-thrower (it seems to be a trend). With a shoulder smeared in snot he carried a sobbing Eduard for the entire 1 ½ hours through the winding streets, at the end of which we managed to not see Portobello Road Market, hastily grabbing a take-away coffee, and loose the car through being distracted. So after a frantic search and making a mad dash for it with buggy-with-baby, handbag, backpack, bottle bag and red-eyed toddler, we were back at the car 1 minute before the meter ran out, one very inconsolable toddler in hand and a giggling Karla in the buggy. Thankfully she seemed to find the entire episode very entertaining; I am not sure that we are equipped to deal with two unhappy children at the same time!
Now you would think that this might have put us off, but over drinks that night with Melanie, we decided that by Tuesday we will not be ready to say goodbye yet, and promptly rescheduled our flight to Kenya so that we could stay another week.
Besides trying to help out Anelle as much as possible with the kids, we are not doing much. We did spend one day going around the old haunts, walking past our apartment and going to Canary Wharf for a pint.
We also had a fantastic day walking around the city and visiting the Tate Modern and the National Gallery, something that we had done a few times before but that remains an amazing privilege. We took photos on Trafalgar Square and crossed the Millenium Bridge over the Thames, just chatting and being tourists. And we finally caught that West End show that we never managed to do - "We Will Rock You" was absolutely awesome and definitely a highlight of the trip.
But most of all, we loved spending time with family, cooking, drinking wine and getting up for Karla's anything-from-3-to-6am-feeding. We are having a great time in London and she has fully redeemed herself in our eyes. Or maybe we had redeemed ourselves. Either way, we feel great having a break from the day-to-day of travelling and are looking forward to embarking on our African Overland Adventure - no more comfy and no more washing machines!
PS: we actaully extended our departure by ANOTHER week - so Africa will have to wait until the 14th!