LIVIN’ AGAIN

Just back from 2 weeks in Egypt and words cannot express how wonderful everything was from the moment we touched down in Cairo until the moment we left Aswan. There were 19 of us fully vaccinated, boostered up and ready to experience all the Land of the Pharaohs had to offer us I’ve been maybe 10 times with my groups combined with my personal trips but there was something magical about this one.

Our Cairo team meets our group in the airport way before the Immigration desk like the other passengers and hands out our Tourist Visas. Mohammed, who Ive been working with for years, is the man that runs things in that airport; no matter if we are arriving or departing He’s bullish and does not play when it comes to handling our group.

On the Nile cruise we had 4 tables in the dining room and so I mingled and moved about a bit. It was a delight getting to know some in our group and the table conversation we had was priceless. It was so interesting hearing Nana & Jack Wilford speak of her father, Nana Kwame Gyebi Ababio, a Ghanian Chief…royalty. She was his 21st child of 22. The Chief had 7 wives and Jack chimed in, ”We won’t talk about his concubines”. Hearing about her life growing up was most fascinating.

This international trip was a first for most in the group after being held hostage for almost 19 months, kept from living our best lives, kept from being with family and friends and from traveling the world. It was something to see how serious others take ”stopping the spread” vs our own countrymen. These other countries put Amerika to shame with the safety protocols they have instituted. Those that served us in all restaurants and on the cruise were always masked up. COVID-19 is here to stay worldwide for awhile and does not seem to be going anywhere. All we can do is be vaccinated, strictly follow the safety protocols in place and stay prayed up. I leave for the Maldive Islands in 3 weeks with a group. Yes, they are at a Level 4 now, the USA is a Level 3. I don’t see much difference. As long as I’m welcome in the other countries; I will follow their requirements/restrictions and enjoy the visit.

Take a look at the new updates on our website Kattraxonline.com and see how we have Kat-a-Pulted to 2023. Colombia, Tuscany, Ghana are filling up fast and now Egypt and Sharm El-Sheikh has been added to 2022.

I continue to say, I’m giving up the travel game but like Jerry Butler sang, ”Giving up is so very hard to do”.



MORE KIBBLES AND BITS

KATTRAX team member, Robin Bates, Founder and Executive Director of MAISON NOIRE AMERICAINE will be hosting a celebration in Paris on November 30th in honor of Josephine Baker’s Pantheon induction. If you plan to be in Paris late November; this is an event not to be missed.

An incredible evening of champagne, amuses bouches, music, door prizes, swag bags, and more!

About this event

Maison Noire Américaine + The Brian Scott Bagley Company + Little Africa + Treize au Jardin have partnered to host JOSEPHINE EN ROSE, a champagne cocktail celebration on November 30, 2021, in honor of Ms. Baker’s induction into the Pantheon in Paris, France.

Baker will be the first Black woman and one of the very few foreign-born figures with a plaque at the monument, recognized alongside other French national icons such as Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Simone Veil.

Join us for an incredible evening of Baker-inspired cocktails and amuses bouches courtesy of TREIZE AU JARDIN and Cordon Bleu-trained CHEF DWAYNE WHITE as well as an illustrious group of speakers and performers at LITTLE AFRICA’S BRAND NEW CONCEPT STORE as we commemorate this historically significant event in veneration of JOSÉPHINE BAKER, the amazing mother, civil rights activist, French Resistance member, entertainer, and global icon whose life has inspired generations around the world.

GUEST SPEAKERS/PERFORMERS INCLUDE: Nicholle Rochelle, of “Searching for Josephine/A la Recherche de Joséphine”; Ricki Stevenson of the award-winning Black Paris Tours; Paris-based creator/songstress Crystal Petit-Knight, and more.

PLEASE BE ADVISED: COVID SAFETY PRECAUTIONS WILL BE STRICTLY UPHELD. MASKS AND PASSE SANITAIRE/PROOF OF VACCINATION ARE REQUIRED FOR ENTRY.

KAT’S KIBBLES AND BITS

Rewind to 1964, picture Kathy Byrd sitting in class at Havenscourt Jr High daydreaming about traveling to far away exotic places. Well I dared to dream and now having traveled to over 64 countries, all 7 continents and sailed the high seas on 89 cruises; all thanks and praises to God I have the most wonderful memories to reflect upon. Its difficult to imagine folks like Lucille Johnson, Marilyn Gainey, and Juanita McVey have individually traveled with me on close to 30 international trips. Notice in my dreams, domestic never entered my mind. Sorry Amerika.. Then there are those like Phillip and Katrina Peoples who have only been with me less than 5 years, never traveled internationally and have now hit 6 continents with Kat with Australia, their 7th on deck

Australia… we’ve been waiting for her to open her borders Professor Michael Stacks with his crew of Cynthia & Marcia patiently awaiting their 2nd visit to the Land Down Under with me along with several others. It looks like now it will be June 2022 and ours is fully booked. It does my heart good to hear from past travelers with comments on how I made their trip special. Delta Soror Diva McPherson of Gainesville, sent a funny the other day. It seems like only yesterday she started traveling with me to South Africa, Colombia, Egypt, Vietnam, Antarctica and Australia She wrote: Good morning 636, you don’t remember this incident because you are always performing acts if kindness. We were having breakfast the first morning at the Intercontinental in Sydney. I was bitchin about the limp, see-thru bacon and you as usual, were yammering on about the only way to eat bacon was soft. The next morning, I shuffled thru the breakfast line with my face twisted ready to fuss about the bacon…BOOM ! There it was… crisp bacon with a little sign to identify it for non-American and non-colored people. I “borrowed” the sign and keep it displayed with my special stuff. Every once in awhile when I cook myself up some crisp bacon, I remember your kindness AND your outrageous behavior. Can’t wait til I explore the world with you again. I want to take my granddaughter so she will know that I am not the only #extra person in the world who thinks my shit is normal. Stay safe and well! 636 (the sane one).

Egypt these past 2 weeks was phenomenal. In another month a group of us will be off to The Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean enjoying our over the water bungalows…Straight relaxation. You would be amazed at the safety protocols these other countries have in place. I dared to dream all those years ago Get out the box, dare to travel.

Simply The Best

Well my friends, its about over. The last couple days have been utterly amazing. It looks like my Egyptian family has so totally captivated me that I will return. My connection with those here that have been taking care of me and my groups for years runs deeper than deep. The pain I feel when I see the look on their faces when tell them I won’t be back; is a feeling I cannot describe So the jury has returned and I will be back Nov 2022. Sometimes I’m asked where haven’t I been that I would like to go. Well its Sharm El Sheikh, a resort town on the Red Sea. There will be a 3 night extension to the normal tour we do.

2 days ago the group had dinner at OunatyKa, a Nubian restaurant located at the west bank of the Nile, to the right of the Aswan reservoir . Its a Nubian house on a high hill, 10 meters from the Nile. They dined al fresco enjoying the Nubian weather. The food…they are still talking about the seasoned rice, the chicken and how they enjoyed sopping Yes, soppin’.

Yesterday, Dr Ahmed came to our hotel and performed our PCR tests. The digital results are in and we will have our hard copies in the morning. Thank God we are all negative. I cant emphasize enough the importance these people place on stopping the spread. 1000 times better than some of our southern states.

We had a smooth check in for our short flight from Aswan to Cairo. Team member Mohamed met us and escorted us through the domestic terminal to our waiting motorcoach. Our 5 star Le Meridien Hotel is connected to Terminal 3 so we were in like Flynn in a matter of minutes. Even though its an airport hotel I could easily relax here a few days. Its absolutely gorgeous. Egyptians are serious about their weddings and one was going on and yes on a Monday night

Goodbye Mama Egypt, Until we meet again…Insh ’Allah

Ahh-mazing Aswan

Here we are in beautiful Aswan. I cannot tell you the feeling I get whenever I’m in a town surrounded by people that look like me; from little children to the elderly. They are all my family. It’s been 11 wonderful days with 2 more to go.

Today began with part of the group jet-setting to Abu Simbel to see the unbelievable statues of Ramses II and his chief Queen, Nefertari, of Nubian origin. Its a 30 minute flight from Aswan with an unforgettable tour. They were back in time for the Felucca boat ride around Elephantine Island. It was perfect; the sun was going down with a slight breeze as we sailed the calm Nile river. Our guide, Romani, made it fun by giving a pop quiz on facts they’ve learned on the tour.

I must say that I’m quite impressed with the Covid-19 safety protocols Egypt’s tourism has in place. Just as I discovered a couple months ago in Jamaica; these folks aren’t playing snd take it very seriously. The “demic” put on the brakes for most of us, putting gatherings and celebrations on indefinite hold. I’m glad the 18 in this group, got double and some triple vaccinated and forged ahead to enjoy this incredible travel experience. To top off this day, a few of us celebrated my road dawg of 25 yrs, my fellow foodie, Robbie Bell’s belated birthday for dinner in the Panorama Restaurant where the 360 degree view is killer.

The time has come to soon say goodbye to all our family old and newly made friends As we leave, we’ll take with us precious memories of Egypt that we’ll forever hold near and dear.

Nights Over Egypt

The group has toured in Edfu, tomorrow will be Kom Ombo and then in Aswan on to the Nubian Museum. While they have enjoyed the touring, I have thoroughly enjoyed full body massages as well as the anti stress massage. Tonight was Egyptian Night in the restaurant with lots of Egyptian specialties of which they are so proud of but did someone say, ”Duck”? OMG, it was heavenly.

After dinner, the group made their way to the lounge for music, dancing, cocktails and games. I didnt stay long but long enough to see Harold cut up when the DJ played The Wobble.

Tonight was a very enjoyable evening.

RISE AND SHINE IN LUXOR

Up, up and away over the great Valley of the Kings and Queens where generations of Pharaohs, kings and queens are buried. The eager adventure seekers in the group had a 4:10am departure from the hotel for their hot air balloon ride. As the sun rose I gazed at the Nile river as I showered and then was pleasantly surprised to see the balloons returning to land. The group had a fabulous time and they havent stopped talking about the experience.

After breakfast we had time to chill until our bus arrived to take us to the Royal Lily for our 4 night Nile cruise. Was I surprised as I boarded. There was Farouk, who presented me with a bouquet of flowers, a hug and a “Welcome Home”. This was my 4th time having him as a Captain. It was great to see Arafat, Thommy and Muhamad Ali in the dining room again and they have all made the entire group feel very special. They really aim to please. Farouk made certain I had a router in my suite so I would not have any connectivity issues. Oh, I’m loving the love.

We are docked until tomorrow afternoon when we begin sailing up the Nile towards Aswan, home of the Nubians.

Traveling Towards Upper Egypt

We had an early morning flight from Cairo to Luxor. “Airport Mohamed” escorted us from our hotel to the airport to prepare for our 1 hour flight. He always handles things so seamlessly getting our group through security protocols and check in. We met up with our Egyptologist, Mr Romani later in the airport. He will be with us for the next 10 days .

It was good to be back in Luxor and the hotel has shown me lots of love. Robbie had to stop by and check out the suite. It is very sweet. While I rested, the group enjoyed the afternoon on the East Bank; walking among the pillars of the temple dedicated to the god Am un Ra and along the Avenue of the Sphinxes at Karnak and Luxor temples. Being in Luxor seeing and interacting with my brothers and sisters that look like me make me feel quite at home as we get closer to the Nubians, my cousins of Upper Egypt

Life Goes On…

There are 19 of us in this group, over half repeaters from past international jaunts. We flew Egyptair nonstop to Cairo while Jana, Marcus & Barbara flew in from Morocco.

Each country has its own set of COVID restrictions and requirements They change like the weather sometimes month to month. Its imperative that individuals check for their destination country Egypt was no joke about the negative PCR test result with the QR code. They checked it upon check in, checked again before boarding and yet again after landing. Tests received at a pharmacy that gave no QR code are not accepted by Egypt. I know some in my group may have been sick of my reminders but there is no room for errors.

My road dawg Robbie Bell from Miami signed on a couple of weeks ago. What a surprise! She always brings joy and laughter wherever she goes. We hadn’t kicked it since my birthday party in Mykonos and on the Amalfi Coast a couple years ago. She starts off with want to meet me in the Centurion Lounge? I replied, ”I’d love to but I’m already in Wingtips Lounge with Margaret & Wilemma.

It was a smooth flight and upon landing we were met by Mohammed. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years. This cat defies country customs and gives me a peck left cheek, right check. He gave each of us our visa and sent us to Immigration. When I say he runs things at that airport, he’s the man.

Our longtime guide of 10 years, Mo passed away in July. May he rest in peace. So we have a replacement, Mr Romani, also an Egyptologist, he is knowledgeable and friendly. In the words of Tina Turner, ”I think its gonna work out fine.

We had our armed security on our bus plus a police escort, I love the way they take care of us Still 5 Star; we checked into the Intercontinental Semiramis where everybody gets a Nile River view. That’s the only way to go. Matter of fact they will have a river view in Luxor and Aswan and as they sail 4 days they will have nothing but oceanview.

Day 2 first stop ”The Pyramids”, definitely a sight to behold. Some rode a camel and took photos and others just enjoyed being outdoors. A definite highlight was lunch in the newly opened ”9 Pyramids Lounge” with a panoramic view of the pyramids. After view The Sphinx, the group continued on to Saquarra and Memphis while I took an Uber back to the hotel

INFECTED!!!

“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life” – Michael Palin

What can I say? Except that those words are my sentiments exactly.

My plan was to stop escorting tours after Kenya 2022 but the truth of the matter is I can’t seem to stop. I’m thankful that in 2022 7 International escorted tours are all SOLD OUT with waitlists except Dubai (2 rooms remaining).

Now even though I have visited at least 64 countries including all 7 continents, plus been on 89 cruises; there are still a few places the wanderlust within me has a need to return to. That being said, if anyone has an interest in joining me on any of the following, feel free to inbox me at rivoli98@yahoo.com

Feb 2023 Ghana

March 2023 Colombia

May 2023 Tuscany by Motorcoach