Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Redux: Dream Vacation

The following first popped up on June 1, 2009

Now, three years later, Mr. Muscato and I are getting ready for some rather more real travel - a month on the road, in fact, encompassing thousands of miles, at least two countries, five cities, and several amusing forms of transportation.  The house is a mess, and we are in the midst of the usual round of bag-finding, list-making, clothing-despair, and other appalling forms of pre-travel torment. 

Add to that the rising anxiety of the dogs - for Koko knows what suitcases means, and seems to have communicated thoroughly to Boudi his dissatisfaction - and the well-meaning but thoroughly inefficient bustling-about of Mrs. Gallapatty-da Silva, and it's been a comparative relief to disappear to the office the last couple of days.  There, all seem entirely agog that for anything up to a week or so of this trip, I simply shan't be available via any form of electronic communication ("But you'll be checking your BlackBerry, won't you?" "No." "Can we text you?" "No." [wondering silence]).  Compared to all this, at the moment, time travel seems like a snap.

On top of that, of course, we are terribly worried about Egypt, which seems to be lurching from bad to worse.  Friends are full of metaphors of Tehran in 1979, which isn't really very comforting, or Leningrad in 1917, which is less so.  Now, more than ever, it's tempting to disappear into the past, where things seem (from a comfortable distance) so much easier, so much clearer.
So I've been thinking a lot about travel lately, and I've decided that the problem with real-life vacations is all the planning, and these days all the timing - you have the buy this ticket by this date to get that rate, but you can't confirm that reservation until this date to get that deal... it's enough to drive you mad.

It's all just a big bore, especially compared to the luxurious ease of fantasy travel. I've decided that what I'd really like to do for the coming vacation is go to Cairo. In 1942. Oh, sure the war would be on, but by midsummer it was clear enough the Germans wouldn't get much further in than they had, and besides, we know how it turns out and could just enjoy the energy of so many soldiers at liberty...

Having sailed into Alexandria, we'd take the train south. Couldn't be simpler, and Cairo Central Station is very convenient.

Since it's 1942, we'd have to stay downtown to be in the middle of everything, and besides, the traffic's not so bad and Cairo is, after all, known as one of the tidiest cities in the world - some people say it puts New York or London to shame...

And staying downtown means staying at Shepheard's Hotel. Oh, it may not be quite as first-rate as it was in the 20s, but where else can you be really sure of knowing just what's going on?
Because the terrace, you see, is the city's great place to see and be seen. Ambassadors, actresses, the occasional refugee princess or suspicious plotter - all loiter for hours in the comfortable wicker armchairs overlooking the busy street and the passing parade of ladies shopping, Packards swinging down toward Suleiman Pasha Square, or groups of children, tidy in their school uniforms, on their way to play in the nearby Ezbekia Gardens.

Tiring of the bustling city, we could retire to the secluded garden behind the hotel...

...or rest in the cavernous neo-pharaonic lobby.

As evening falls, we would of course repair to the bar, where American, British, Italian, and Greek bartenders each have their specialities and their own devoted followings.

And then, to finish off a long day of travel, perhaps a quick turn on the garden dancefloor before some well-deserved sleep. Tomorrow, we have so much to do, and that nice attaché on the train said he might be able to get us places for the concert gala at the Opera House; they say the Queen of Iran might be there, and...


  1. Sounds devine. I'm packing an imaginary satchel with my best summer fantasy togs by Balmain at Lelong, hopping on Pan Am out of LaGuardia (when will they finish Idlewild?) and will meet you for drinks on the terrace.

  2. and several amusing forms of transportation...

    uh-oh, i feel a camel's involved.

  3. It sounds like a lovely get away.