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December 25-27, 2016

I wonder how many more people would travel if getting to the destination weren’t so difficult!  We started out on Christmas day in Denver with light snow flurries and cool temperatures, but no weather bad enough to delay our 2pm flight to Houston.  We felt lucky given the havoc the recent weather has played on people.  We also felt like the staff in the Denver, both at Root Down, at the gate, and on the plane were quite nice for having to work on Christmas.  We gave them some chocolates and Starbucks gift cards.

Unfortunately, our luck changed in Houston.  As we boarded, one staffer pulled Suman aside and told her she needed to check her bag as it was too large to fit in the overhead bin on a 787.  Really!?!  We just flew a smaller aircraft to Houston, and she didn’t have a problem.  But the employee wouldn’t budge so Suman ended up with a bag tag after she made specific efforts to consolidate as to not risk losing her bag in delays.

Our Houston flight to Germany boarded slightly late due extra cleaning, but pushed from the gate in time for us to make our connecting flight in Frankfurt to Amman, Jordan.  We were on the runway when the pilot announced, “We don’t have enough fuel on board due to the cleaning delay, thus we need to return to the gate to refuel.”

Puzzled, Suman and I wondered what was really happening.  Neither of us have been about to take off when an airline suddenly realizes they don’t have enough fuel on board.  After being parked at a gate for twenty minutes or so, the captain came on the overhead speaker, “So we had a gentleman ask to leave the aircraft due to a family emergency just as we closed the door.  We let him off, but it couldn’t be determined if he had a bag.  Our agent said he didn’t, but Washington thought otherwise.”

After a few more updates, we got the impression that United felt it was fine to continue to Frankfurt, but the Fed overruled the company, and the checked bags required more scrutiny than the computer system provided.  In the meantime, this frightened other passengers, so all travelers were given the opportunity to deboard the plane.  A few more people did….as a result, more bags needed to be pulled from below.

About 3.5 hours later, we were ready to take off again!  Of course, with only a two hour layover, we missed our Luftansa flight to Amman.  We were on the ground so long, however, that we managed to rebook our flight on Turkish Air.  It added a stop in Istanbul, but if all went well, at least at least we’d be in Amman before sunup on Tuesday at 4am…an overall twelve hour detour.  Of course, now we had the issue of tracking down Suman’s bag.

Merry Christmas! Rebooking our flight after delay in Houston

Merry Christmas! Rebooking our flight after delay in Houston

With a long layover in Frankfurt now, we stopped by a few service desks for help.  Of course each airline punted the problem to the other airline.  This was humorous as they were all members of Star Alliance.  Aren’t they supposed to help each other out?  Eventually someone at Luftansa made a phone call to redirect her bag.  If only my one-day United pass would have worked at the Luftansa lounge.  Instead we ate some German sausages and waited to get a boarding pass for our flight to Istanbul.

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The gentleman at the counter suggested I’d need to check my bag. I asked, “Why.”

“It is too big,” he said.  “This is small aircraft.”

“What type of aircraft are you flying,” I asked.

“An A320,” he responded.

I laughed, “That’s not a small aircraft.  We already flew one of those today.”

Suman backed me up, and he backed off.

But I do have the “Travel Pro” suitcase commissioned to flight attendants years ago.

Good grief!  Suman’s bag was the same size only it appeared larger as the expansion zipper was broken open.

With no further problems except that the bathrooms in the Istanbul airport were absolutely disgusting and out of toilet paper, we joined the masses on the next flight.  It didn’t land until 11:50pm and Ms. Jabber Jaw sat next to me.  She didn’t stop talking to her seat mate for the whole flight.  Speaking of irritating people, the previous flight included a really bored kid behind me who watched videos without headphones and liked to play with his seatbelt, snapping it open and closed loudly.  And our first flight had a whining Chihuahua under our seat with owners who did nothing to calm it.  The final flight at 12:50am, however, was pleasant.  It was nice and quiet with flight attendants (one dressed as chef) that actually wanted to lift our bags for us in the overhead bins!

We finally arrived in Amman.  After changing US dollars for Jordan Dinar, we purchased our Visa for 40JD, wandered through baggage claim and found our driver upon exiting the airport.  At 4:00am there wasn’t any traffic, so we arrived at our hotel with a colorful entrance in less than 30 minutes, checked in, and finally made it to our quaint room with a twin and double bed.  Soon after we rested our head on a pillow, the first call to prayer blared over the loud speaker that sounded like it was right outside our window!  Every time I thought the singing was over, another verse started.

Alright, just a few hours of sleep please! We rose at 7am for our free breakfast which included falafel, hummus, olives, a hard boiled egg, and za’atar (sesame seeds, spices, and olive oil on pita bread) in a festive restaurant.  The hotel offered us a free shuttle to the Citadel.  We couldn’t understand why they wanted to shuttle us, as based on the map it looked like our hotel was very close.  It didn’t take long to find out.  Amman is quite hilly, and the Citadel was perched atop Jebel al-Qala’a, the highest point (850m) in the city.  It offered lovely views of houses piled atop each other along the hillside.

The Citadel is the site of ancient Rabbath-Ammon and home to many ruins.  We took a leisurely hour stroll around the complex and made a short visit to the museum whose price of admission was included in our ticket for 3JD.  The Temple of Hercules, the Umayyad Palace, and the Byzantine Church were the most interesting structures among several.

The Temple of Hercules was constructed between 162-166 AD and is thought to be the most significant Roman structure in the Amman Citadel.  A few of its columns remained standing.

The Umayyad Palace  was built during the first half of the 8th century during the Umayyad period, and has been partially restored.  The Umayyad Caliphate was the second of four major Arab caliphates established after the death of Muhammed.  A caliphate is an area ruled by a religious successor of Muhammed and a leader of the entire Muslim community.  The Ummayyad family came to power under the third caliph and made many conquests.  At its largest extent, it grew to be one of the largest empires in history comprising 4.3M square miles and ruling 62 million people (29% of the world’s population).

After our short visit, we followed the road down the hill until a gentleman pointed to the right and indicated we could find stairs down to the Roman Theatre that has seating capacity for 6,000 and is still in use today!  The Roman Theatre was located across from our hotel so we enjoyed nice views.

We returned to our hotel, which had a hostel feel and only cost $35.  Their stairwell was covered in writings from thankful travelers.  Signs posted at each landing warned of a variety of things…Don’t ride the donkeys in Petra, be careful at night clubs, the rabbits are pets…we don’t eat them, and the list goes on.  I have to say I reacted to the colored chick sign the most.

We only had a few hours to spend in Amman, as the rest of our group (Syreeta and Margaret) was arriving in the late morning and we planned to meet them at the car rental, Monte Carlo.  We got an Uber back to the airport for less than half of what our driver cost us.  The Monte Carlo car rental didn’t quite live up to the Monte Carlo name.  They had a problem with the GPS we rented and the radio was broken, but eventually we ended up with a wifi hotspot and tunes so we were ready to go once they topped our tank off with gas. They were very friendly and worked hard to accommodate us.

We took the Dessert Highway to Petra.  The bumpy road loaded with trucks led us through the unscenic dessert.  We could have taken a much more scenic route on Kings Highway which winds through the mountains, but we wanted to get to Petra before dark and the sun sets at 4:30.  Along the way, we were waived over for every security check point.  I began to wonder if they could tell we were in a rental car or if they just wanted to say hi to four girls.

At the first stop, the police man asked, “Where are you from?”

“The USA,” we responded.

“What did you say,” he questioned.

“The USA.”

Then he asked, “Where are you going?”

“Petra,” we answered.

With a wry smile on his face he said, “Where?” And then he waived us on.

At the next stop, we rolled down the window and greeted the policeman with a hello and he said, “Just go.”  Apparently, we weren’t suspicious!

After about a 3 hour drive through fog, rain, strong winds and even some snow, we arrived at Rocky Mountain Hotel.  We left the rocky mountains to stay in the Rocky Mountain Hotel…a bit ironic.  We got another quaint room and paid an extra 2JD for a space heater.

Hungry, we took the suggestion of Mohammed and went to Al-Arabi.  On the way, we picked up a girl named Leslie from Scotland that Suman met in a FB group. The restaurant was great.  A man in the window carved chicken from a spit.  We ordered falafel, hummus, shish kabobs, and mixed grill.  We dug in and devoured it all.  It wasn’t even 5pm!  From there we tried our best to go to the Cave Bar, the oldest bar in the world.  Many wrong turns later, we figured out it was in the Petra Guest House, a fancy hotel.  For plush accommodations in Petra, I’d stay here.

I ordered an Araq as I read about this strong Jordanian drink, and I thought I would try something traditional in the 2000 year old Nabatean tomb.  Little did I know that it would  taste like black licorice. I managed two sips.  Suman got a port, Margaret got a glass of wine, and Syreeta ordered a hot chocolate.  The ambience was cozy with fire heaters in several corners of the cave.  Sadly, by the time 7:00pm rolled around, we could hardly keep our eyes open, so we called it a night.

Surprisingly, after we left the bar, our waiter tracked us down because I didn’t finish the Araq.  He was concerned we didn’t enjoy ourselves and wanted to refund my money or give me a beer for the road!  We assured him we were happy, and I just took a risk when ordering the drink.  I’m trying to think who would do that in America!  After a short drive back to the hotel, Suman and I were asleep by 8!  ETB

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