breathtakebyways


About breathtakebyways

Ann Williams’ travel articles have appeared in publications all over the country including The Washington Post, Roads to Adventure, and Jack and Jill. Between researching and writing books, she specializes in creative lectures.


Thanks Mom, but…

Mother Nature outdoes herself on so many of the trails we walk: trees, flowers, rock formations, waterfalls, stunning skies, sometimes even snacks. Her gifts warm my heart, but much as they tempt, I generally pass them by. I hope she and her other guests aren’t offended that I’m more comfortable sharing from a distance.


How Safe is Egypt?

I gulped at Mom’s suggested trip to Egypt.  The Middle East?  But many reputable companies were offering tours.  Also, the U.S. travel advisory site noted just a couple areas to avoid, which naturally weren’t on the tours.  Obviously, Egypt and the tour companies are highly motivated to protect us golden geese.  They’d be crazy to encourage visitors if they didn’t believe they could keep us safe.  And who would know better than they whether the situation was safe? “Safe” being a relative term, of course. So how safe was Egypt?  I was surprised at how welcoming the people were.  people […]


Tipping Egyptian Style

The tour company promised to take care of tips for every service they arranged other than the main tour guide.  That sounded wonderful.  No stress over who to tip how much.  …If only. Almost every restroom we used featured someone handing out toilet paper at the door.  The five pounds they expected in return was next-to-nothing, but a pain to keep handy.  Qualms crept in as well.  Shouldn’t the attendant who put herself out to be pleasant and keep the room nice, get more?   (Note:  Even when the five pounds was considered a charge rather than a tip, these generous souls allowed relief to folks lacking fives.) “It’s a tipping culture,” […]


Venturing the Souq

  I was amazed to find that the in-your-face vendors of the Egyptian souq calmed down and become hospitable when I stopped and told them what I wanted.  “Sit down.  Would you like something to drink?  Coke, tea, anything you like.” The first shop tender didn’t have a necklace Mom wanted, so he took us across the street to his brother.  The brother sat us down and brought choice after choice, much  appreciated since our tour’s pace was taking it’s toll.  Mom finally settled on two pendants and chains.  I bargained as best I could, and Mom helped by saying, “maybe we should go” a couple times […]


Psyching Up with Songs

How to keep enthusiasm up for a long-term dream chase? Here are ten songs to rekindle your fire: Uptown Funk–Bruno Mars Can’t Stop Me Now–Rod Stewart This is My Fight Song–Rachel Platten The River–Garth Brooks I Believe I Can Fly–R. Kelly Say Geronimo–Sheppard Firework–Katy Perry Gonna Fly Now–Bill Conti I, Don Quixote–Irving Jacobson and Richard Kiley Good Riddance–Green Day Enjoy, and then go get ’em!


Egyptian Market Mania

Prices are enticing in Egypt, especially since their pound devalued, doubling the power of the U.S. dollar to nearly 18 pounds per dollar.  I looked forward to scoring bunches of bargain Christmas gifts when we visited the souq.  My chance came at last in Luxor, and I ventured out from under our guide’s protective wing for an hour. It was seriously intimidating.  Vendors swarm the path and shout “shirts, scarves, camels, no hassle, just browsing, have a look, everything free, where you from?”  I can not shop with all that going on.  I walked several blocks to the end of the street without daring to stop to look at anything.  On the way back I saw a dress that […]


Tomb Raiders

  I’m about to spill some nefarious doings, so will offer no details that might finger a perp.  When the Egyptian government needs money, they sell exclusive viewings of exquisite tombs.  I was one of only three people in our tour group willing to shell out for this privilege.  The pricey entry fee buys just 10-minutes inside, but strings were pulled to allow us more time.  When another group arrived for a viewing, they were encouraged to visit nearby tombs until the tomb was not “full.” Every inch of every wall and ceiling was decorated, all of it inset into […]


Camel Caravan

When our tour guide asked whether anyone in our group preferred a truck trek in lieu of the planned camel tour, I said: “We came for the camels!” I was so excited I dubbed it “Hump Day,” but the camels didn’t seem as happy. The memory of their grumbling still makes me smile hysterically. The handlers made interesting noises as well. They urged the camels forward with an odd kiss/whistle, and when a rider wanted the camel to kneel, he made a gagging sound. The toughest part of the ride, I was told, is in leaning back and holding tight […]


Egyptian Donkey Ride 4

A donkey ride in the Valley of the Kings helped sell Mom and I on the tour we booked to see Egypt.  We both grew up riding horses on the family ranch, but neither of us has ridden much in the last 40 years or so.  Also, donkeys are small and quick and can easily turn out from under a rider.  Between those issues and that fact that Mom is under doctor’s orders not to re-break the collar-bone she shattered last year, I couldn’t help being leery about this ride. Our bus delivered us to New Gourna Village where we mounted up on the street with traffic passing by.  The donkeys were tall enough that […]


Dam Vendors

Pushy souvenir vendors can be a pain around popular tourist attractions, but on the Nile, they take an entertaining tack.  As our river cruise ship slowed to approach the locks between Aswan and Luxor, a bundle sailed over the heads of passengers sitting on the sun deck and splashed into the swimming pool.  Then a voice from the river, four decks below, shouted, “Hello?  Excuse me…” Peering over the rail, we found two men waiting in a row boat with piles of goods they hoped would tempt us.  More row boats made haste to join the first in bombarding us with tablecloths, towels, and garish gallabiyahs.  The ladies […]