Wednesday, 29 August 2012

What We Love Wednesday - Paralympics London 2012

It's been awhile since our last What We Love Wednesday- in fact it's been awhile since our last post but we are back and trying to get back in the habit of sharing our inner most thoughts via the medium of blogging. We miss it when we don't do it and yet the longer the gap the harder it is to get back to it! To the post.....

This week we are getting back into the spirit of the Olympics, or should that be Paralympics. It's been 3 wet weeks since the closing ceremony that signaled the end of Britain's most successful Olympics and in that time the country and especially London has felt a sense of bereavement. Getting to work on Monday morning after the ceremony there was a somber feeling and no-one was quite ready to say goodbye. Living in London has its upsides though, as one event finishes we have just enough time to catch our breath before we have the chance to get all excited again.

Laura and I were lucky enough to get tickets for paralympics- we will be witnessing Athletic finals at the Olympic Stadium on the 7th of September and we CAN'T WAIT!!!

The adverts around London have been helping to build the anticipation, we can only imagine the effort that the athletes put in to compete in the Olympics, but David Cameron, Britain's Prime Minister, put it best 'the Olympic athletes did extraordinary things, but the Paralympic athletes overcome disadvantages and then go on to do really amazing things'. As Channel 4 have been saying, they are indeed 'SUPERHUMANS'!

We love being part of the city that is welcoming these superhumans, not just because it is changing perceptions of what people are capable of, but because it is also highlighting that being different is not a bad thing. Of course at this point we could say that helps the LGBT cause that is so relevant for us, but we do think any opportunity to increase tolerance and learn more about others is a good thing. We feel touched by the stories, in awe of the individuals who not only found ways to deal with their disabilities but overcome them and in the process make us feel like we want to join in. Wheelchair basketball looks AWESOME & there are no surprises that it is one of the most popular events to get tickets to.

While the modern Olympics were launched back in 1894 the Paralympics are a fairly new addition starting in 1948 but called the 'International Wheelchair games'. It wasn't until Seoul in 1988 that the games were officially termed 'paralympics'. The title 'paralympic' being derived from the Greek for 'beside' or 'alongside' referring to the fact that they are held in parallel to the Olympic games - in case you were wondering :) We had discussed our theory on where the name came from and thought it may be something to do with 'paraplegic' or 'paralysed', which in hindsight doesn't make to much sense so this research was as much for us!! :)

This year is by far the biggest Paralympics in history - not only has the Opening Ceremony sold all 90,000 tickets but almost all events are sold out - a first! We discovered just how lucky we were to get tickets when we came from holiday to this front page:

The motto of the Paralympics is 'Spirit in Motion' and the flag has 3 colours - red, blue and green - which are the colours most commonly used in the flags of the nations competing. The shapes are each in the shape of an Agito (which is Latin for "I move"). The three Agitos circle a central point, which is a symbol for the athletes congregating from all points of the globe. - thank you wikipedia!!!

We will keep you updated with what we seeing going on and what's happening around London - the flags are stilling flying, the motto 'inspire a generation' is still up in every station and on prominent roads the locations- let the party continue!!! After all WE LOVE LONDON!!!

Love always
Sarah & Laura

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

x Koh Samui, Our Thai Paradise!

Our guide to Thailand could go on for pages, so we decided to pick our highlights and focus on them instead! It'll also mean you're not spending time reading through what was an eventful week in our life :) But as we have your attention, sit back, relax and enjoy our guide to Koh Samui!

Let's start with the FOOD because we guarantee you'll eat A LOT. We ate out for every meal and the whole time, didn't have a bad meal. In fact we had some of the best food we've ever had! The food isn't exactly 'foreign' in the sense that you can look at a menu and know what you will get and in a way that meant we could be more adventurous. There are items you find on a Chinese takeaway menu, but it's fresh and far tastier than we've ever found in the UK.

Combined with the new and exciting tastes we found on every menu we also found Koh Samui offered a wide variety of western foods - you could get chips almost everywhere! And here's a confession -Sarah didn't have chips once - and for someone who NEVER resists a potato, that says a lot about the food on offer!

Before we headed to Koh Samui there were two things that people told us about; one was the food and the other was the beaches. We are both fans of the beach - maybe more for the significance that it means you really are on holiday than because we like finding sand in places it shouldn't be, but the beaches in Thailand really are beautiful. Our location had a stunning beach stretching as far as the eye could see in both directions - it was as if the entire island was surround by the perfect definition of a beach!

The other thing about the beaches in Thailand is the fact that they are an extension of the streets: not in the hustle and bustle way, but in the sense that if you wanted a massage you wouldn't have to walk too far to find a canopied bed with masseuse or someone providing a pedicure and manicure. There were all types of sellers - including an ice-cream man - but the nice thing was a simple head-shake would mean that they moved on.

The location we had chosen was Bophut, partly because it wasn't in a 'party zone' and partly because it was fairly easy to get everywhere from. It also had plenty of reasonably priced accommodation - ours was £20 a night! Bargain! The really nice thing about out hotel, Cocooning Hotel & Tapas Bar, was the fact we were at the top of the street and therefore away from the bars but within a 3 minute walk we were back in the centre. It meant we could stroll in to have dinner and 'be part of it all' and stroll out to have a quiet drink at our hotel. For us it meant we could mix up our evening and it suited us perfectly. It also helped that the tapas food at our hotel was delicious!

Bophut is actually a fisherman village, but in recent years has seen an increase of European business owners, it seems a lot of Frenchmen who marry Thai girls have settled here, and in a weird way this has created a very Frenchified (if that's a word) atmosphere. You can walk the streets without being hassled into shops, you can browse at leisure - bless Thai people they can be a little pushy at times - and most of all you can relax. It's no Chaweng - which is less than 20 minutes away, but is hectic and noisy and full of western style bars....the Thailand we really didn't want to end up in!

We may have mentioned that the reason we actually choice Thailand as our holiday destination was because our good friends Blakeley and Sam were getting married there. We have both known Blakeley separately as we all worked together way back when at the job we met at and it just so happened that we realised we have a lot of fun hanging out. When we met her now husband, Sam, we knew we had friends for life and it definitely helped that they were AMAZING cooks! We had a rollercoaster friendship finding a flat 5 minutes walk away from each other on our return from Australia, finding out they had gotten engaged and then finding out they were moving back to Sam's hometown in Adelaide, Australia. The last time we had seen Blakeley we had organised an impromtu hen party to Blackpool! The wedding was on the Thursday but as a warm-up we had a Bacherolette party in Chaweng on the Tuesday- this involved dinner on the beach and a LADY BOY SHOW! A cabaret show that included hits from Moulin Rouge, Cabaret, Beyonce and Whitney....brilliant entertainment!

Pre-wedding, on the Wednesday night we had a cocktail evening at the wedding resort so that everyone could meet and admire the beautiful location. It was a nice, relaxed, informal evening that had everyone buzzing about the impending wedding.....

Thursday morning saw us visit the Grandfather and Grandmother rocks and then return to our hotel to primp and prep and get into our dresses for the wedding. The wedding started at 4pm with a cocktail hour and we arrived early enough to have a tour round the resort on a golfcart - so funny! - before joining everyone. After cocktails - banana daiquiris and champagne - we were guided through tropical gardens towards the beach. We removed our shoes and made our way along the silk walkway to our spaces. The ceremony took place on the beach with the sea as the backdrop and it was beautiful and so uniquely Sam and Blakeley, from mixing wines to being able to be barefoot and have it as an intimate as it was- it was perfect!

From the ceremony we headed to the pavilion for dinner and enjoyed Thai food for every course- it lead to some interesting dessert taste tests :) the speeches were heartfelt and well timed and everyone we met was so happy to be there! In a way it made us miss Oz and the friendliness we experienced there. Sam's mum and Aunt were so nice chatting to us and reminding us how great Adelaide was and we made a new friend in Nyssa who reminded us of our dear friend Kate from Sydney. It was sooooooo great to feel like we were with people we'd known for ages. We danced the night away until fireworks were set off on the beach to end what was a truly wonderful day.

One think we should mention about Thailand is that there is no shortage of transport options- whether you want the luxury of air conditioned taxis, or the slightly thrilling tuk-tuks (also known as sitting on the back of a converted truck), or maybe you'd prefer the trams with no sides that are favoured at the airport or if you're like us, or in fact if you are a Thai native or tourist or just looking for cheap transport you'll end up on a moped (at £6 a day and 80p fotr a tank of petrol it's CHEAP). We had heard the horror stories - burns, grazes, lack of brakes, dodgy roads etc and we're sure if you are a reckless driver it would be very easy to damage yourself but with Laura driving we took it SLOW, incredibly SLOW! And we couldn't fall off on corners because we turned off the moped, and GOT OFF the bike to turn corners!!! Lets just say Laura treasures our health, and Sarah was just glad to ONLY have the dog bite as an injury. On our moped we saw the big Budda(s) and various other statues, made it to Lamai to see the grandparent rocks and generally had a great time driving the coast road.

Although the highlight had to be pulling up to the amazing Melati resort on our moped in cocktail attire (of sorts) and walking into the impressive reception looking pretty much like we'd just stepped of a moped- that is how we enter a party! Blakeley and Sam's parents were probably hoping we'd wandered into the wrong party! The drive home was brilliant though with stars above us, the sea gently lapping and the road pretty much just to us we thought we could  retire there easy enough!

To finish our week we were treated to the highlight of Bophut's week - the Friday night Walking Market. The quiet street that we were used to enjoying a relaxing stroll suddenly became packed. Both sides had stalls selling food (any meat on a stick is available), jewelley - Tiffany's or Pandora replica's being particular favourites, clothes, hats, sunglasses, souvenirs, remedies - you name it, it was on sale and cheap - really cheap! We had found a market earlier in the week that was clearly local - we could tell as were taller than EVERYONE and really the only white people. That had opened our eyes to the Thai culture and the delight available and to have it brought to our doorstep was incredible.

We could hear the music from our balcony as we sat and watched tourists and Thai people alike negotiating and shopping and it was a truly wonderful final evening.

We finished our week with the one thing we had been dying to do all week - lie on the beach. With 3 doctors/hospital trips in 5 days, the one thing our Thailand holiday had missed was relaxing beach time so when we hit it we hit it hard! Sarah only woke up to get her Thai massage - pulled and stretched in ALL kinds of way, creating inappropriate looking positions - it meant that on our last walk back to our hotel we could say that we truly experienced Koh Sumai and LOVED IT!!!

Have you been to Koh Samui? What was your experience of it?

Love always, 
Sarah & Laura xo

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

x The Day Laura Got Bitten By A Dog

You have probably heard us mention (in real life or another social media outlet) that I was bitten by a dog while we were in Thailand. We thought we should tell you all the full story!

Moments before getting bitten by a dog - do you see why I wanted to get in that water so badly?
It was our first full day in Thailand (after we'd spent a day recovering from Egypt and the Full Moon Party) - we wandered down to a beautiful little cafe, Karma Sutra, for breakfast, and afterwards decided to find a nice spot on the stunning Bophut beach to sunbathe and take our first (and much anticipated) swim in the sea.

As we wandered down the beach looking for the perfect spot of sand, out of a nearby apartment complex came bounding out a black lab, barking aggressively and baring his teeth. We are both dog people and knew he probably thought he was protecting his territory, so we calmly kept walking away from him and his property. Sarah was a few steps ahead of me, and before I knew it, I felt a searing pain on both sides of my right ankle.

It took me a few moments to register what the pain was - and I remember even before I knew what had happened, screaming 'IT BIT ME!!! THE DOG BIT ME!! SARAH HELP!!!' over and over at the top of my lungs. Sarah began yelling at me to get into the ocean 'GO INTO THE SEA, LAURA!! JUST GET IN THE SEA AND DON'T COME OUT UNTIL HE IS GONE!!' and the dog slinked away, probably because of the noise we were making, and I think it too was shocked at what it had done.

I don't remember what happened very clearly,  but I know that I saw a woman standing in her hut in the same complex the dog came from. She could have been the owner, or I suppose could have wanted to see what all the noise was about. At the time I was too traumatised to ask her if she was the owner, and Sarah didn't see her, but I hope she didn't know the dog - it is horrible to think that the owner could have watched her dog bite someone and not wanted to see if that person was okay. 

Anyway, back to the scene. I'm standing in the ocean muttering to myself 'I can't believe I just got bitten by a dog. I love dogs. It bit me. I don't want to be scared of dogs. (Continuous string of dog-related thoughts)' and after working so hard to get me into the water, Sarah changed her tune, and wanted me out of there, so she could get me to the pharmacy. Well I didn't seem to want to leave the water, because she ended up full on dragging me out and up the beach, onto the road.

We walked, both sobbing, and me bleeding, to the pharmacy in Bophut. The pharmacist wasted no time in calling a cab, and I sat in the back while Sarah got me some water. 'Accident?' the cab driver asked sympathetically, so I told her I got bitten by a dog, and still I'm not 100% sure she knew what I had said. But she drove us to the hospital anyway, and even offered to wait until we needed a ride back to our hotel. Poor lady, I don't think she knew quite how long she'd be hanging out at the hospital!

The people in the centre were lovely - I was seen right away, and the doctor cleaned my wounds and gave me my first rabies shot. The dog broke my skin in five places when it wrapped it's jaw around my ankle - 4 cuts were 1cm deep, and 1 is a whole 2cm deep! It's was, and still is, a big hole in my leg! There was also bruising around the back of the ankle where his jaw slid off.

While I was flat out on the doctor's table, Sarah got stuck with the bill - 6000 bhat, and they only took cash. We didn't have that much cash!! So she was whisked off on the back of the doctor's assistant's moped to the nearest ATM! Very funny, because she said on the way there, she didn't realise there were foot pedals on the back of the bike, so she was holding onto him with sheer thigh strength - talk about thighs of steel, the poor guy in front!! 

The front desk person told me that she liked my skin colour because it is nice and pale - haha she was so lovely, but pale was NOT the skin shade I was going for!!

On the way out, our very patient cab driver agreed to take this ridiculous photo of me documenting every part of our holiday.

Do you know what the heartbreaking bit of this is? No swimming for a week! My dreams of the warm Thai water were crushed!! So close, but yet so far.

I walked around Bophut in a maxi dress, but somehow my giant white bandages still stood out - three Thai locals stopped me to ask me if I was okay over the next few days! I couldn't fault the Thai people, they are friendly, caring and helpful, even when we don't speak more than a few words of the same language.

Two days later, I went back for a check up and my second rabies shot. The Doctor said the wounds were healing alright (though they still hurt terribly, and I hated changing the dressing every day SO much because of it), and he laughed at Sarah's attempt of pretty-ing up my bandages. After a little haggling, he said I could go in the ocean - on Friday, the day before we were leaving to go home!!! I could have hugged him, I was so happy!

The next day was our friend Blakeley & Sam's gorgeous wedding - by two hours in, I was known to the entire 60+ people as 'the girl who got bitten by a dog' or 'dog bite girl' or 'oh, you're THAT girl' haha - poor Sarah I'm sure was pretty tired of re-living the story, but she was a good sport, and it gave us a talking point!

Friday morning we called my (very worried) Mum before heading to the beach for my first swim. My excitement was very short-lived, as Mum had spoken to the people at the World Health Organisation, who had said it was absolutely necessary for me to get another injection - HRIG. Another day at the hospital??

We took a tuk-tuk to Bangkok Samui Hospital (it was funny because they usually stop on the road, but the guy drove us right up to the entrance!) and we went inside. The doctor took one look at my red and swollen bites, and said I needed HRIG (human rabies immunoglobulin, fools) - and that I should have gotten it a few days earlier! This injection sparks your immune system to produce antibodies to the rabies virus so if/when rabies kicks in, it's already prepared to fight it off. Something like that.

In this picture, I'm obviously bringing sexy back
So I was lying in the hospital bed while they filled up the single biggest needle I've EVER seen, for what seemed like half an hour. Sarah and I took turns crying, and consoling one another. The nurse kept asking if Sarah was okay. I tried to explain that she doesn't like seeing me in pain, but it got a little lost in translation. Then, they (and if you are squeamish, you may want to skip to the next paragraph here) injected the stuff straight into my 2cm deep cut. It was about 25 loooooong seconds of the single worst pain I can remember feeling. Ever. Thank god Sarah was holding me, and talking continuously in an attempt to distract me 'What do you want for dinner? Okay, you don't know, lets count down from 25. 25, the age I was when I met you. 24, the age you are in October. 23, the age you are now. Do you want to count with me? No? 22, my lucky number. 21, we went to Vegas....' etc.

Then, when I thought the worst was over, something almost equally bad (okay, you squeamish may want to move on again... on second thought, why did you open a post you probably knew would be about wounds/blood/hospitals? Hahaha I promise not too much longer now) happened - they took... a scalpal? Or a tiny melon-baller - and scraped out the entire scab that was forming in my deepest cut, where they had just put the medicine. Ouch. Awful. Horrible. They then proceeded to wrap my whole leg in an even more dramatic bandage than it was in before, and left us there to recover.

Giant needles and the fastest wrapping nurse in the world
An hour later and we were about to get up to pay, and the nurse comes in with another needle. 'Bum?' she said. I have to get more injections?? Yes, yes I did. In my bum. 

After we paid the 68,000 bhat (that made our initial payout seem like pennies and is about US$2,200 or £1,400) we hobbled down to the main road, with instructions that I was not allowed to walk that day, and.... no swimming. *Sob*

We hitched a ride in a random guy's van home, and rested.

Since we've returned, my life has been one long string of injections. In total I've now gotten 5 in my left arm, 1 in my right (look out for the GIANT bruise on it in my holiday photos), 1 in my bum, and 1 in my dog bite. I have two more rabies injections to get over the next month. I have visited two Thai hospitals, three times, the London Hospital for Tropical Diseases, and my GP.

The good news is, I was told this morning that we did everything right, it is healing well, and I can finally have a shower without covering my leg in a plastic bag to not get it wet.

Despite this giant saga, we had an incredible holiday, and did lots of fun, non-water-related things. It was a big part of the trip of course, but didn't eclipse all the fun we had.
Biggest. Pill. Ever.
I honestly can say that I couldn't have done any of it without Sarah. She got me to the hospital, made sure I didn't forget my medications, changing the dressings, etc. On top of that, she completely spoiled me (more than she usually does!!) - everything I needed, she did or helped me with, and she was so wonderful. She still gets teary when remembering our time in hospital, or when I talk about the dog bite - she says she's never hated something as much as seeing me in such pain. I really am the luckiest girl in the world. On top of that we have the funny memories of balancing my leg on water bottles to stop it getting wet, going all Macgyver and creating leg bandages tied with string from our overnight bags provided by Egypt air and generally finding ridiculous ways to make it stay dry.

Now all I have to do is get out in the sun to get rid of this awesome square bandage tan!!

Love always,

Laura xo

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

x Full Moon Party 2012!!

When you left us, we were walking like Egyptians in... well, Egypt!

We arrived in Koh Samui around 6pm, so we headed straight to the hotel to get some much needed sleep. On arrival at our hotel - Cocooning Hotel & Tapas bar - Laura organised the check-in and Sarah started looking through the 'to-do' wall and spotted a leaflet for the FULL MOON PARTY!

It was something we had planned to attend as we knew we were arriving on the night it was happening, but we were unsure on timing and exactly how we would get across to another island, Koh Phangan, to the party. Thankfully, the leaflet answered all our questions - we could be picked up by a mini van, taken to a beach side bar and then get a speed boat across to the party. So that's just what we did!

After 2 hours sleep we were up, showered and ready to go. As we had known friends and family who had been before, we knew that there was no need to dress up so we wore cropped trousers and vest tops and were ready just as the taxi driver knocked on the door.

The drive was all of 15 minutes and as we bundled out we were greeted by a packed bar! We signed in, received our badges and made our way towards the beach. Alongside the bar was a table with 4 people painting any willing participant in luminous body paint! Sarah stepped up first and had her right arm and face decorated in Thai flowers. Laura opted for flowers on her chest and dots around one eye. We looked awesome, and we were ready!

To get to the speedboat we had to wade out into the sea before climbing aboard and getting our life jackets. The speed the boat took off was not something we were expecting - lets just say we were glad we hadn't spent ages on our hair! We were holding on for dear life, and laughing about how hanging on the back of a boat would NOT be legal at home (health and safety, you know) but LOVING IT and it certainly woke us up. The darkness of the night meant all we could see were the lights oh Koh Phangan getting closer on the far shore.

30 minutes later our boat pulled into port and we jumped back on to dry land. After flashing our badges, we walked past the gates and into the town. The whole island had been transformed into a party, everywhere you looked had stalls selling 'buckets', body paint, food (mostly on sticks), clothes and all kinds of party essentials. Buckets are literally that - small buckets filled with the alcohol of your choice with a mixer and a bottle of Red Bull! We had to get one - vodka, 7up and Red Bull!

The sound coming from the beach rumbled through the streets and guided our route. We had glow sticks from home and added them to our outfits which now included t-shirts explicitly stating just where we were - Full Moon Party, baby! At some point in the night we added hearts to our body paint as it was free with a bucket - we were loving it!!!

As we hit the beach and the wall of people, we knew we had arrived. The music was pumping and everyone was dancing and having a great time. As we sat on the beach people were friendly and as we walked from one end of the beach to the other we just saw thousands of people having fun. The body paint was worn by everyone and we weren't alone with our buckets!

At one end there was a huge light-up sign stating that we were at the 'Full Moon Party 2012' and we climbed a huge rock to have our pictures taken only to find it was too dark! Lets just say the buckets may have clouded our judgement!

Our return journey was a fun one - we waited at the docks for an hour and boarded (literally threw ourselves onto, and almost fell in the ocean) the boat at around 5am. As we sped back towards Koh Samui the sun started rising, and on arrival back we looked back and could see the journey we had just taken. The best first sunrise in Thailand, ever!

On the bus back we looked at each other and could not quite believe what had just happened. Less than 12 hours before we had arrived in Thailand, less than 24 hours ago we had stood at the foot of a pyramid and now we were finally heading to bed!

Was the Full Moon Party worth it? ABSOLUTELY! We are so glad we made it and it was the best way to start the holiday. Sarah's sister had said it was a highlight on her world tour and we can see why! If you get a chance - DO IT!

Love always,
Sarah & Laura xo

Monday, 13 August 2012

Egypt in a day!

Egypt has always been on the 'to-do' list - as home to one of the world's 7 wonders - The Pyramids! But boy did we UNDERESTIMATE Cairo and just how impressed we would be.

Cairo was orginally a pitstop before getting a flight to Bangkok, but Laura had the idea to take out the last flight of the day and make our time in Cairo approximately 20 hours. That way we could organise a tour of the city without actually 'staying' in Egypt. When the idea was originally explained, Sarah thought Laura had lost the plot, as did many people we told, but as with most things Laura plans, this trip worked perfectly!!

Our arrival in Cairo was an early one - 4:30am to be precise, and rather than rush out we had 2 hours sleep in the air-conditioned airport before heading out to meet our Memphis Tours guide at 6:30am. The meeting was efficient, Laura's name was held aloft and we were whisked off to the car parked just outside. In the back seat we had ice cold waters waiting and in the front seat, our awesome driver Osama, ready to start our tour!

We picked our guide, Nesreen, up from central Cairo 5 minutes later and the tour began. Informative, friendly and speaking perfect English, Nesreen was a hit instantly. we were SO relieved as she turned around to introduce herself and said we looked like movie stars haha! We were laughing before we arrived at our first stop.

Cairo is a strange combination of modern flats, flash cars and quality roads mixed with donkeys pulling carts, mosques and ancient monuments. The main road is normally so busy it can take hours to travel down, but as our luck had it on a Friday during Ramadan, the road was ours to cruise.

Suddenly, the Pyramids appeared out of nowhere. Because Cairo has gotten so big, the city practically backs onto the pyramids - no more trekking to the middle of the Saharan desert! The 'site' didn't open till 8 but we were first in the line of cars and sat tight in the air-conditioning while Nesreen sorted out the tickets. Her efficiency meant the only people who beat us to the pyramid were the sellers!

The feeling we got staring up at the biggest pyramid, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and our first, was one of amazement - partly as we were standing at the foot of a PYRAMID and partly because of the size and majestic-ness, there really is NOTHING like it. At 8:15am it was already a hot 32 degrees and the haze was appearing so Nesreen suggested we attempted our ascent before it got busier. From a distance the blocks used to creating the pyramids looked small, from up close they are almost as tall as us - the feat of moving them must have been a hard one.

Staring up from the 3rd layer of rocks, the pyramid rose above us and you could see for miles - back towards the centre of Cairo and into the surrounding desert, over the camels that you could hire to go into the desert, and into 1000's of years of history.

Our next stop was a vantage point where we could view 3 pyramids for the pharaohs and the smaller 3 pyramids dedicated to their wives. We were driven over in the car - topped up with new ice-cold water and delivered to an area with only a few people. Nesreen got us eating pyramids, holding pyramids in our hands and generally making the most of the photo opportunities.

From the pyramids we were taken to the Sphinx, the half man, half lion statue guarding the pyramids. As we found out EVERYTHING in Egypt has a meaning. From the placement of the pyramids aligning with stars, to the Sphinx facing Cairo and the rising sun. As we walked around this giant monument (made entirely of only one rock!) Nesreen told us about how the Pharaohs were mummified, how the valley of kings became home to the tombs after pyramids became too easy to rob, and how pyramids were only built in months where farming couldn't happen due to the flooding of the Nile - kind of an off-season job, in a way!

Next stop was the Egyptian museum and by far the most interesting part of our day. Nesreen toured us around and was able to tell us about EVERYTHING - there is nothing she didn't know about. From the way statues stand to show power (left foot forward), to how the hand positions dictate the type of ruler they were (a fist for powerful, an open palm for fair), we saw beds that made the Romans attempts look poor and boxes that had traps to scare robbers- those Egyptians were so clever! But the highlight was the perfectly preserved contents of Tutankharmun's tomb. His games, his belongings, his shoes, his jewellery, the famous head piece and all in one room. The ingenuity of securing the tomb was evident with the 4 boxes that fitted within each other - each the size of a room but getting slightly smaller each time was incredible. Each box was covered in heiroglyphics telling the spirits of the afterlife about the king's desires - it was amazing to see and stand in front of such incredible history.

The afternoon was one of such interest that Laura actually stayed engaged the whole time - no small feat, as her attention span is usually quite short! - in the paper museum we learnt how the Egyptians had made the paper you are used to seeing the heiroglyphics on. Made from papyrus plants, the process took about 2 weeks! Our demonstrations took 15 minutes but we were so impressed we bought our own design with the key of life and our name (in hieroglphyics) either side. The key of life entitles the bearer to strength and health in life and safe passage to the afterlife. We want ours to be together (you know if we happen to have an afterlife :) ) so we thought it would be a nice memento.

To refresh us, we were then taken to the Nile and boarded our own private felucca - well us, Nesreen and the 2 guys streering. We criss-crossed the river (the 2nd largest in the world) and it is magnificent. It is so wide and its banks have cafes, shops and offices as well as flats that reach a value of over a million pounds. The boat trip was relaxing and provided a whole new perspective to the city. We were meant to arrive at our lunch destination on the boat but the mast (this boat had no motor!!!) made the boat too tall so we sailed back and drove over the bridge instead.

Lunch was an Egyptian buffet with an English twist of fries! It was delicious and much needed! And our view was the Nile - not bad!!! With baba-ganousch and fired bread we also ate the traditional dishes.

We then had the chance to stretch our legs, and purses, by visiting a few shops - a jewellery outlet and a perfume store. Our limited budget meant we could only really look but Sarah got a key of life necklace and we came out smelling delicious.

We were then given the choice of market or mosque. As it was a nice and hot 40 degrees we opted for the mosque and we were glad we did. We were taken in by Nesreen and watched the prayer before being set upon by local women to create a hijab - Sarah ended up looking more like a wizard in a big green cloak. We learnt about the mosque, the religion and the history - it was eye-opening. Nesreen sealed herself as the most AMAZING guide EVER! Not only was her knowledge incredible but the way she explained everything, including her religion, was inspiring.

Sarah looks like a jedi
As we arrived back at the airport we saw the sun setting and parked ourselves on the pavement to enjoy the last rays of sun and contemplate what an amazing day we had experienced. We learnt so much, we were entertained, engaged, informed but most of all involved. Every question we had was answered and we were just talked at. Our favourite Nesreen phrase was 'and why do you think that was?' only for us to look at each other and before we said something silly she'd get in and say 'well it's because.....'  and every answer she gave was far better than anything we could have come up with!

For Sarah this trip was extra poignant, her parents are moving house and this means clearing out, and in one of the boxes was an old school project completed age 9. The project started 'It's my dream to visit the pyramids, they are wonderful, I will go there and be happy' ah how true that statement was- it only took 20 years! This trip was a dream come true for us both!

Now you've read about it why don't you check out the footage: