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Snowbound In the Desert- Amman Jordan- January 8-11, 2012

Amman flood zone

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for”   John A. Shedd

Booking tickets around the world using our substantial collection of British Airways points should have been easy, but it wasn’t. We have been collecting miles for more than 14 years, but in the last year BA has re-jigged the game – especially with its OneWorld partners – and the opportunities to travel, especially in Business Class, have diminished to a trickle.

I became frustrated as well as irritated, despite being six months out from our proposed departure date, it seemed there were no tickets to be had. I decided to contract out what appeared to be the impossible dream to award experts.

Miraculously, after much back and forth e-mailing, a round-the-world travel agenda was organized on our behalf: Detroit to Bangkok on Royal Jordanian Airlines, with a 10-hour layover in Amman Jordan. I did the math – 14 hours to Amman (one stop in Montreal to pick up more passengers), a 10-hour layover, and then another 9-hour flight to Bangkok: total travel time was over 34 hours! This was clearly too much even for seasoned global travelers like us to bear.

Clearly, the smart move was to layover in Amman, Jordan, catch a night at the Marriott (a freebie that came with my new loyalty card – Visa Marriott), run down to the fabulous ruins of Petra for two nights, then buzz back to the airport where we would chill in the business class lounge before flying in the front of the plane to Bangkok. It would be an aggressive side trip but undoubtedly well worth it.

When the appointed day finally arrived, Mother Nature had other plans for us. After an excruciating overnight flight from Detroit to Amman in coach, which featured over an hour of bone-jarring turbulence over the Atlantic, we found ourselves in the midst of a torrential downpour en route from the airport to Amman, a distance of some twenty miles that quickly turned into a torturous obstacle course through flooded streets and underpasses dotted with stalled vehicles, which our bus driver skillfully avoided. We had to keep reminding ourselves that yes – we were actually in the middle of a desert.

Stepping off the bus in town to find a taxi, we immediately got soaked. The fun continued as we drove through more watery chaos another 20 minutes to finally arrive at the Marriott, where we were informed that all roads south to Petra were closed as a huge winter storm was bearing down on the region. Elaine was visibly relieved we would not be attempting the 4-hour journey the next day as the thought of a long journey through rain, let alone snow, would have been completely nerve wracking.

Ramping up one’s brain while jet lagged is never an easy feat, but once I was able to hook up to the Internet, I swung into action using Skype phone (what a tremendous tool for travellers) – first to cancel our hotel and desert tour reservations in the Petra/Wadi Rum, and then to find other accommodation in Amman, as the Marriott was at best a marginal hotel for what would cost more than $400 for the next two nights before we could continue to Bangkok, the next leg of our 4-month journey.

Fortunately, I had previously researched and bookmarked lodgings in Amman, and identified what seemed to be a charming B&B called By The Lemon Tree. I Skype phoned Guido, its charming owner and discovered there was indeed room at the inn, and better still, he would come fetch us at the hotel at noon the next day. We settled into the Marriott, ate our complementary fruit platter, swam in the indoor pool, soaked in the hot tub (also a steam for me), dropped a couple of gravols and slept like a log.

Parting the curtains the next day revealed that the snow was indeed coming down in earnest, in a city ill equipped to deal with it (we later learned the last snow storm with any significant accumulation was twenty years ago). Coupled with the fact that Amman is built on seven rather large hills, this was a certain recipe to cripple the entire town.

Thankfully, Guido met us in the lobby at the appointed hour, and we drove in his oversized Ford Van equipped with off road wheels that negotiated the hills like a snowplow. Friendly and slightly bohemian looking with his long silver hair tied in a knot on top of his head, he invited us to join his wife and two-year old daughter for lunch.

Depositing our two small bags (we have learned to travel light) in our bedroom on the third floor of the house- which featured a fabulous lounge and ultra modern kitchen- we were soon ensconced in Guido’s eclectically decorated glass-enclosed dining room facing his eponymous lemon trees. It was a surreal experience to watch snow flakes gently drifting down to settle on a multitude of lush lemons as we dined on bruschetta and home made bread, lamb loin and veal chops in a Dijon mustard cream sauce, mashed potatoes, Jordanian wines, home made cake and house limoncello.

Happy and full, we retired to our accommodations, which became our base for the next two and half days. We got to recharge, enjoy many more wonderful meals, meet some interesting other travelers and expats staying at the B&B, and even walk the neighborhood when the snow melted and the sun finally came out on our last afternoon.

Didn’t get to see Petra, let alone a single camel, but the first leg of our journey was a memorable one, none the less.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Barbara kersey #

    Dear Chris: I am really into this. Keep it coming. I haven’t been to Bangkok in years.Is the Hilton still grand? Barbara

    January 13, 2013
    • admin #

      Hi Barb-

      There is a new Hilton on the river- where was the one you are referring to?

      We are staying in a great little hotel right on the river- what a great place!

      January 13, 2013
  2. Skip Graham #

    glad youlanded safely!
    I see why travelers have to be planners and yet very resilient.
    Take care,

    January 13, 2013
  3. Anne #

    Hi Chris & Elaine:
    Wow! What a start to your current adventure. Very interesting reading. Rich & I will enjoy following your fun from the comfort of our living room each with a content feline on our lap. Take care!
    Anne & Rich

    January 14, 2013
  4. ed agnew #

    After an iffy start it looks like your dream journey will be fabulous and very interesting to you and the followers of your blog. ed

    January 13, 2013

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