Amman (with a van)

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June 3rd 2015
Published: June 26th 2017
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The main attraction that got us cruising is not as you may think free food 24/7 (although this comes mighty close!!) It's not even being waited on hand and foot or even the wall-to-wall trivia. The main lure to this form of holiday for us is that it is always a pleasant experience to wake up somewhere new every day. Even when you spend 5 continuous days at sea on a Transatlantic crossing you wake up somewhere new every day!! Surely waking up to nothing but sea doesn't count and blows my statement out the water (so to speak.) Not so. You may wake up and see nothing but sea but it is a different part of the sea than the previous day. Granted, looking out across the ocean can be flat, bland and samey as far as the eye can see but so is Belgium and we never get tired of visiting this place!!

In 2011 we cruised from Dubai back to Genoa. En route we called at Jordan's only port Aqaba. From there the main excursion was Petra. This is a 2 ½ bus ride from the port and at £170 per person to spend 5 hours on a coach and a few hours at one of the modern wonders of the world we promised that we would come back and do this historic site justice. 4 years later and here we are!!

For those of you who expected a blog on our recent mini cruise to Bruges and Guernsey, I am sorry to disappoint. Before I go on, here is a quick summary: 4 nights on P & O Ventura, smooth crossing, Bruges, strolled around, in-laws took tour, 1 day at sea; won 2 trivias; moaning lady quote: "This would never happen on Cunard"; Good entertainment, Steve Hewlett and Arthur Lager; 4th in Britain's Got Talent final 2013; sat in front row; Steve Hewlett quote: “You there. Bill Oddie. In the front row!” tender to Guernsey; ferry to Sark; no cars allowed only tractors; 1st time I've seen a tractor overtake…anything!! Horse and carriage ride, cream tea, yum! yum! Waitress from Aigburth, Liverpool; godmother lives 400 yards from the Hodgsons, In-laws enjoyed it…so did the Hodgsons, time to say adieu, train back to Runcorn…THE END.

Back to the present. When we mentioned visiting Jordan to most people (prior to coming here), they all asked the same question: Is it a package tour? Which company are you travelling with? When they realise we're hiring a car and driving around unescorted, from the raised semi tone in their voice, they seem astonished exclaiming:What? On your own?!” Jordan is one of the most stable and safest countries in the Middle East. It just happens to be next to one of the most unstable places in the Middle East in Syria!!

Our 7 day trip to Jordan starts at Manchester airport where we take the shuttle down to Heathrow before picking up a BA flight to Amman, the capital of Jordan. After a night at the airport hotel we will pick up our hire car and take the 3 hour journey to Petra. We will stay there 2 days where we intend to visit Petra by day and also, as I'm am assured is a totally different experience, by night. We will then drive the short 10 mile distance to a nearby Bedouin Camp for the night before heading north to a city called Madaba. Thereafter we will drive across Mount Nebo to the Dead Sea where we will stay for 1 night in the Holiday Inn before heading back to the airport, at this stage only 30 miles or so away. So that's the plan. Any questions…???

The flight time from Manchester to London, Heathrow is no more than 50 minutes. We were sat in row 1. As the door to the aircraft was being closed, I overheard the cabin stewards talking:

'Is he not getting on?' asked the 1st steward pointing to a name on a manifest.

‘No, he is not fit to fly', replied the 2nd. I just hope they weren't talking about the captain!!!

As we were so near the front, it took little effort to reach the toilet so I decided to make use of the facilities during this short flight. Unfortunately, the toilet door is adjacent to the cockpit and both doors are the same shape and size. I'm surprised those on the flight deck didn't switch to red alert as the banging on the door must have unnerved them and me shouting “I've got a bomb in my pants and it's about to go off if you don't open this door!” probably didn't help matters either!!! As luck would have it, I only said these words in my head and not out loud!!

The taxiing on the apron. It is never a good idea when crossing a main runway to Stop! But that's exactly what our pilot did. As I looked out of the window I noticed a ‘small' aircraft pointing in our direction, although this is definitely one of those times when size doesn't matter! Both aircrafts had ground to a halt. Both were waiting. I had a sense that they were trying to stare each other out. Luckily our pilot flinched first and soon continued in the direction of its allocated stand!

Landing at T5 we transferred to T1 following the purple signs and eventually taking the shuttle bus provided by the airport. The shuttle firstly took passengers to the newly refurbished T2. T1 is preparing for closure. I have never been in an airport during the day that seemed so empty. The place was deserted, even the departure lounge. There are hoardings around every corner and miles of empty corridors. At least there was no problem is finding a seat!!

The flight to Amman scheduled to depart at 14:40 with boarding to commence at 14:20. The gate was announced as gate 5 at 13:40 so we headed across shortly after this time. At 14:00 an announcement stated that due to air traffic control restrictions to Amman the plane would not take off until 17:00. Delays I can live with but what was that first bit? ‘Due to restrictions?' What restrictions are these? Were they restrictions from the Amman air traffic control or restrictions from the Heathrow tower? It got better! We still had to board the aircraft at the scheduled time, pull back from the stand then wait on the tarmac until our reassigned slot. This is done just in case the take-off time is brought forward and we can be ready immediately. What? In case there is a cancellation??! The captain gave us regular updates. We gained 15 minutes, then half an hour. We finally received clearance for take-off just before 16:00. The flight time was 4hours 50 mins and we touched down in Amman Queen Alia International airport an hour behind schedule at 22:50

Whilst we were laid up on the aircraft, Roisin emailed the hotel to tell them we'd be late. She received an immediate reply stating that someone would be waiting for us outside the aircraft to help us collect our baggage and assist us in getting a visa before being driven to the hotel in a complimentary VIP transport. Now from my experience nothing is complimentary that has VIP in the title!! The very essence of VIP indicates special treatment over their standard service.

We weren't disappointed. Sure enough a well suited young man with a very good grasp of English despite a Middle Eastern accent was there to meet us as soon as we stepped off the plane. He explained that they would take care of everything…for 15 Jordanian Dinar…each!!! (1 JD = £1) Alternatively we could do everything ‘on our own' and he would meet us outside exit number 1. He said he'd bring the VIP van(?) around. This was a no brainer. After saying goodbye to our contact we followed the rest of the disembarking passengers in the direction of the immigration desk.

Tourism has waned somewhat in Jordan since all the trouble flared up inside the neighbouring country of Syria. A tourist visa used to cost 20JD but to compensate for the lack of dollars the west are bringing with them, they have now doubled the cost of an entry visa. There are different levels of visa: tourism, transit, work. We never required a visa both times we visited Aqaba as we were not either transiting or staying at least 1 night in Jordan.

On arriving at the luggage carousel, there were already many unclaimed bags and cases riding around. We waited. Many cases of all shapes, sizes and colours appeared up the travellator and on to the luggage carousel.

And we waited. Another flight, this time from Riyadh, appeared on the notice display board in the centre our carousel.

And we waited. Well packaged boxes passed by and, was that a pair of skis I just spotted? Its 23:25 and 27 degrees C outside. Somebody will be disappointed standing by the corresponding luggage carousel in Zermatt!!!

And we waited. I bet you know what's coming next? WRONG!!! Our luggage finally appeared after 20 minutes waiting!!!

We rushed through the ‘Nothing to Declare' channel before entering the arrivals hall to a few hundred waiting friends and relatives (not ours, by the way!) who were gathered behind a barrier giving those arriving a little breathing space when making their grand entrance. I'm sure most of you know what I mean. In these circumstances I always look around even though I'm not expecting anyone to be waiting. In this case though, we were not sure where ‘our man' had disappeared to so we kept an eye out to ensure he wasn't lurking on the concourse. Pushing our way through the hordes we made it to exit number 1. ‘Our man' with a van was nowhere to be seen but eagle eye Roisin spotted a mini bus just about to leave with Amman Airport Hotel emblazoned on the side. That will do. The driver eagerly took our bags from us and placed them in the boot. We boarded the shuttle and away we went. I'm still not clear on why we were met by a VIP meeter and greeter! And by ‘on your own' did he mean the immigration and luggage or all the way to the hotel? Nevertheless, 15 minutes later we were checking in and a waiting bell-hop took our bags and showed us to our 3rd floor room. His English was impeccable, practically Oxford like, even down to the point of explaining that 1 pound sterling is almost the same as 1 Jordanian dollar. Now whether this was a sarcastic remark due to the 1.5JD I had just slipped in to his hand as a tip, I will never know. He bade us goodnight and closed the door behind him. It was midnight. Jordan is currently 2 hours in front of the UK. The time was 10pm back home. We had been travelling since 7am. We were relieved to see tea/coffee making facilities in the room. It was past midnight. I had one final act to do before retiring for the night. (Boil the kettle!!) Roisin has a long drive ahead of her tomorrow!


4th June 2015

I can't be the only reader slightly dissapointed that you aren't on a boat with dodgy quizzes and even dodgier, on their uppers , 70s entertainers. Also - do you not drive? Is your better half going to drive you everywhere on your hols? I k
now for a fact that Mrs Grovellar wouldn't go for that! truce
5th June 2015

Welcome back - good to hear from you again. Though we noticed that Roisin seemed particularly quiet during your journey - have you two had words ? Best Wishes

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