Air travel can be incredibly tedious. Flying with a 10 year old can be fun and it can be one lousy experience. Miss Cranky-pants can rear her ugly head after an 8 hour flight while having a 4 hour layover and life just has no sunshine. Most of the time my daughter is a pretty good traveller. So heading over to Jordan was more fun than not.
We got into Amman late in the evening and were met by a friendly face and welcoming person who got us through all the necessary paperwork before we even landed. One gets a visa to travel in Jordan upon landing rather than dealing with the whole business of applying through the foreign embassy for other countries. We were then handed over to the man who would help make our trip even better than we were thinking it would be – our driver! Audley Travel works with local travel agencies in the countries they work with to create wonderful packages that are geared toward the kind of experiences their clientele want. The agency in Amman gave us, at least in our humble opinions, their best.
Now, we’re people person so we can get on with just about anyone, but over the years we’ve learned from our journeys about those are there just doing what they’ve been told to do and those that really enjoy and care about what they do. Our driver is one of the later. He wanted to know about us as he drove us from airport to hotel, we wanted to know about him. This crucial few moments helped us decide how to proceed – it was like finding an immediate friend in Jordan. He was/is very experienced at what he does. Now that we’re on the other end of things reflecting back, I don’t think we went anywhere where he wasn’t known, recognised, greeted with warmth and affection by peers and managers alike – that told us heaps.
We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel, which has a more traditional feel about it than some of the other options, at least that’s what mum said. Since she’d worked in Amman in 2009/10 we took her word for it and enjoyed. It is a lovely hotel. The staff is gracious and helpful. The room was very clean and very comfortable. The only down side was the view out the window was a cement courtyard that looked like it was used for storage of things and a cement wall. So, it wasn’t the view we might have longed for, but the other aspects of the hotel made up for the lack of view. AEB enjoyed the pool, the breakfast buffet was a nice mix of traditional foods and foods for those with more western tendencies. It was wedding season so we got to see the pool area set up for a reception, it meant the pool closed early which was a bummer, but the glamour of the set-up and the guests almost made up for it in AEB’s mind. In the evening we ate at one of the hotel restaurants, a Mexican one in fact. The food was authentic and the frozen margarita potent and delicious! Our table was outside and had a view of the pool area which was set up for that evening’s wedding reception. As the evening went on and the sun began to set the hookahs were brought out and the smell of fruity tobacco wafted through the air.
Our fist day’s excursion was out to see the ancient ruins of Jerash. Wow! We had a guide take us around and he was really very good. He took his time and really talked to AEB throughout and had her try to imagine how things were in the past. Seeing the Roman ruins reminds one just how expansive the Roman Empire really was. Having grown up with stories of the Bible I heard all this. I studied World History. I’ve taught World Literature and Theatre History. But to go and see is a different experience. To stand among the ruins puts it all in a different perspective than a book, a movie, or a map even could.
I will end with an aside about tipping. In Jordan tipping is part of life – it’s expected. And that’s fine. We knew that it would be something to budget into our planning for travel. We were given a very good tipping guide to follow, at our discretion, while being guided and toured around. We also double checked with our driver who was very helpful with this and very firm about what he thought certain folk should be getting and why. His thoughts were pretty in line with the guide we had been by Audley, which was good to have confirmed. The problem with tipping comes when the expectations for a tip are based on nationality. Americans, apparently, are notorious for over tipping – not so great for a budget conscious family. Brits are known for being tight with the purse strings as are other European nations. It was a bit of a disappointment for some of our guides to realise that our tips were to be along the lines of what were were told were the “norm” for tipping rather than what they hoped to be the big tip from the Americans.