Sharm el Sheikh relaxing & chillaxing

My absolute favourite blogs to write are travel blogs – maybe because I kept one going for so long and it reminds me of my gap year (if you haven’t seen that blog, it’s still archived over on http://amytravels.wordpress.com). This holiday was much more of the ‘relax’ variety rather than the ‘adventure’ one, and ended up being the perfect antidote to the freezing cold winter weather we’ve been having in the UK right now. It also had the added benefit of kickstarting my writing routine and I wrote well over 12,000 words – clearly I need the occasional week in the sun to keep me productive!

We stayed at the Hilton Waterfalls all-inclusive in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, getting a great last-minute deal. Luckily Lofty had researched the hotels pretty thoroughly so we knew we’d be getting a decent place to stay. We both fell in love with Egypt on our trip there last year (check the Egypt tag for more trip reports) and the combination of decent price with guaranteed sunshine made it a good bet!

The hotel was lovely – but even better, it had its own funicular! So when we got a bit tired of all the walking… we could just hop in the glass elevator.

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Both L & I are keen divers (we did our Advanced PADIs in Dahab last year), so our first port of call was the diving school at the hotel. Unfortunately they were asking ludicrous amounts (clearly Hilton Hotel Guest prices) for four dives, and we left feeling very disappointed. We weren’t about to drop around £200 each for four dives when we’d expected to pay less than half that. Luckily, our holiday rep used a different dive company, which was much more reasonable. We went out to the local reef for our refresher dives, which was pretty interesting in itself, but then the next day ventured out to Tiran Island, which had some pretty amazing coral gardens. We saw lots of blue-spotted stingrays, lionfish, napoleon wrasse, grouper, Nemos and brightly coloured coral. The only downside was that it was very busy on the reef – lots of boats, lots of divers, lots of snorkelers. I know it is Easter hols, but Egypt is hardly at the height of tourism at the moment… so I can’t imagine what it would be like when it was really packed!

One of the things we loved most about Dahab was the relaxed vibe – just chilling out on cushions under fairy lights… and I was worried that we wouldn’t really feel that in Sharm el Sheikh. And while it’s true that it was definitely much more of a Tourist (capital T) destination – filled with Brits, but mostly Russians! – our hotel had one little spot on the roof which fulfilled our bohemian traveller dreams – Shish Bish, a little shisha bar out under the stars. Suffice to say that most evenings were spent with some mint tea and a shisha pipe and a brightly coloured blanket to ward away the pesky mosquitos! It was a very relaxing way to end our days.

We didn’t spend every night cooped up in our hotel though, and we ventured out into Old Sharm to dine on some delicious seafood. We’d had a recommendation from a French family to head to Fares – which was definitely a good call. For around £20 for the two of us, we gorged on seafood soup, lobster, crab, grouper, calamari, shrimp… the works. It was delish! We then wandered around the market for a bit, stopping at El Mawardy – a cafe which had been recommended to us by our waiter at Fares. The owner was lovely, even if I was the only woman in the entire place… naturally they positioned us out front, probably to try to attract more tourists! That being said, pretty much every Egyptian I met assumed that I was Egyptian… but then no one can EVER guess my background so I can’t really blame them. (Spot the odd one out in the picture below…)

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Ultimately though, the trip was an opportunity for me to get some writing done, which I thankfully managed to squeeze in between the sunbathing and the eating and the swimming and the diving and the shisha… but before you all think I had TOO much of a good time, I did end the trip with a not-so-pleasant case of Egypt Belly. And we were so good with the bottled water!

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We’re back home now, and there’s been lots of exciting writing stuff happening, but that’s a blog for another time! Bye Egypt, I’m sure we’ll see you again soon…

 

 

Inspiration vlogs: Abu Simbel, Egypt

It’s no secret that while writing The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, I took inspiration from numerous gorgeous settings around the world (take a look at my inspiration page if you want to see more). Mongolia, China, Thailand, Egypt, Jordan, Namibia, Zimbabwe… no place has truly been safe from my imagination’s safety (one-day-I-might-use-this) deposit box!

So while I was out in the Middle East, I thought it’d be a great opportunity to shoot a few vlogs in some pretty fantastic locations – and explain why these places have such an influence on me as a writer, and in particular on The Oathbreaker’s Shadow.

The first in my ‘Inspiration series’ of vlogs is from Abu Simbel, Egypt…

I hope you enjoy!

Travel round-up… and all that fantasy authors have to live up to.

Well, the trip is over and I’m finally home after a quick pitstop in Vienna. Already I’ve had one day at work and it hardly feels like I’ve been gone at all! Oh yes, except when I came back after work and sorted through all 1,500 photos (just that many?)… it’s been an unbelievable experience, and I can’t recommend Oasis Overland highly enough. We saw loads but barely had to make a single decision – which made it incredibly relaxing too. The pace was great, and we never felt rushed through a site (or, for that matter, bored of one!)

Highlights?

  • Camel ride to the Pyramids of Giza
  • Abu Simbel
  • Haggling the markets of Aswan
  • Hot-air ballooning over Luxor
  • Tomb of Rameses VI in the Valley of the Kings
  • My quattro stagioni birthday cake in Hurghada
  • Breakfast at Shams in Dahab
  • Night Dive bioluminesence
  • Wadi Rum scenery
  • That first glimpse of the Treasury in Petra

Egypt and Jordan are both destinations that have been high on the ‘to visit’ list for quite some time, but that desire became even more heightened after selling The Oathbreaker’s Shadow. I’ve got a few videos coming up (probably over next week) that will tell you exactly why these far-flung destinations mean so much to the book.

But even more than being just ‘inspiration’, being privileged enough to actually visit these sights and not just stare wistfully at other people’s travel blogs has been a humbling experience. As an avid reader of fantasy, I’m used to being swept away to exotic locations that I can never hope to visit. But the more I travel, the more I’ve come to realize that, as fantasy authors have our work cut out for us trying to imagine anything more weird and wonderful than some of the locations that already exist on this planet.

But boy, do we have fun trying.

Goodbye Egypt, Hello Jordan!

Two days ago, we said goodbye to sunny Dahab, fully relaxed and newly qualified as Advanced divers.

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Yesterday was mostly spent travelling, as we took a circuitous route around the Gulf of Aqaba to avoid a potentially dodgy ferry ride across the Red Sea. That meant we spent a grand total of 15 minutes in Israel, but got us to Jordan without too many delays.

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After a delicious lunch in Aqaba, we had a quick explore of Aqaba castle, a peak at the world’s tallest flagpole and a half hour tour on a glass bottom boat. Lots of young boys were diving precariously into the harbour, dodging speedboats and larger yachts along the way.

From Aqaba it was a short drive to Wadi Rum, the magnificent desert home of the Bedouins. We stayed in a (not so) traditional Bedouin camp (complete with lovely flush toilets and shower facilities!), but the modern luxuries were a welcome sight for the majority of our group who have come down with some kind of Dahab belly. We stayed in goats hair tents and were treated to their traditional music though, which was both unique and magical.

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Up early to watch a misty sunrise, then we were whisked off on a desert safari. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me so far, as the scenery was so dramatic — truly breath taking.

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As if that wasn’t enough, we even got to walk in the path of Crusaders at Shoubak Castle and drink from a spring said to have been created from rock by Moses. We are now in Wadi Musa awaiting a day at Petra… And I for one cannot wait!!

Dahab: ultimate relaxation

How to describe a place like Dahab? A diver’s paradise, seafood galore, meals on pillows surrounded by fairy lights, shisha smoking until dawn… It’s pretty blissful all round!

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Most of the days so far have been spent diving – both Lofty and I are completing our Advanced Divers course. We’ve seen the magnificent Blue Hole and the Canyon, two of the Red Sea’s best dives, with the help of our excellent instructor Ibrahim of Big Blue dive school.

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At night, it’s been seafood all the way. Dahab is a stunning town, with all the restaurants lining the waterfront and shops the other side. Here, unlike in Aswan or Luxor, there is very little hassle. Last night we celebrated the fourth (and final) birthday of the trip! We had the whole restaurant up and dancing, and the fun spilled out over onto the street. It was one of those perfect capsule evenings: great food, pretty lights, lots of dancing…

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And the best part is we get to do it all again tonight.

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An egyptian birthday… Not too shabby

Some birthdays are really special, and this one might top them all! This year in general has been crazy, and so much has happened it’s hard to sit back and take it all in. But a day like today has really capped off an amazing year and jump started a new one. I can’t wait to see what 26 will bring!

So far?

…woke up at 4am to watch the sun rise over the Valley of the Kings from a hot air balloon. Magic.

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…rode in a horse-drawn carriage to Karnak, and explored the biggest temple in Egypt. Amazing.

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…ended up in the luxurious resort town of Hurghada and ate my birthday dinner at the new harbour overlooking the Red Sea… Even better.

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A blessing from Thoth, god of writing… Sounds like a good idea to me!