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Travel Talk Tours Egypt review: Luxor’s ancient ruins! Karnak Temple, Nubian village dinner, Dahab beach resort.

karnak temple luxor egypt tours

“All the old paintings on the tombs
They do the sand dance don’t you know
If they move too quick (oh whey oh)
They’re falling down like a domino…”

Walking like an Egyptian, while in Egypt: goal unlocked, thanks to Travel Talk Tours!

ram headed row sphinx karnak

Yukiro and I were invited to join their Felucca and Red Sea Odyssey tour, which took us to Egypt’s major archaeological sites. In our first review, we saw Giza’s pyramids and the Great Sphinx (the mythological creature with the head of a man, and body of a lion).

On the second day, we encountered more sphinxes… but this time, they had ram-heads and were sitting in a row!

ancient egyptian cult occult weird

At the end of Day 1 in Cairo, we boarded the Travel Talk Tours bus along with about 30 millennial travelers. We drove to Luxor, and spent the night in a nice hotel. The next morning, our tour group got up early to see the magnificent Karnak Temple.

Read on to see this fabulous cult complex dedicated to ancient Egyptian gods. We’ll also take you to a Nubian culture dinner, and hang with Bedouins in the beach town of Dahab.

luxor stone carvings statues

Karnak Temple Complex sits on the east bank of the Nile, in Luxor (the city formerly known as Thebes). This spiritual site was dedicated to the god Amun-Re, but you’ll find tributes to other Egyptian gods and goddesses throughout.

A succession of pharoahs built the temple from the Middle to Late Kingdom (around 2055 BC to 100 AD).

ancient egyptian pillars luxor

There’s so much about Egypt that simply can’t be conveyed in photographs. The immensity of Karnak, for one: I was overwhelmed by the size and scale of these ancient monuments.

I learned from my guide that Karnak is the largest religious site ever constructed, spanning 200 acres. (We didn’t even get to see it in full, as travelers can only access the Precinct of Amun-Ra; the other portions are closed to the public).

egypt ankh carvings hieroglyphs

Thankfully, we had our Travel Talk Tours guide to show us the most fascinating parts of Karnak.

It doesn’t get much Gother than this: a wall of carved Ankhs! The Egyptian hieroglyphic is the symbol of life, and much-loved by Goths.

(I kept my face shaded from the sun with this Tenth Street Hats wide brimmed hat.)

egypt giant statue holding ankhs

This headless mummy-statue is extra Goth, clutching a double-ankh in his arms as he crosses into the land of the dead.

what women wear pack egypt trip travel tour

I felt like I was in a fantasy, standing beneath hieroglyphics and obelisks dating back thousands of years.

The tallest obelisk in Egypt once stood at Karnak, erected to honor Queen Hatshepsut. (My white halter resort dress is by UK Swimwear.)

egypt young group guided tour

There can be quite a lot of tourists at Karnak. We recommend going to the back areas, where there are fewer people and fascinating ruins like these.

hieroglyphic jewelry egypt ring designs

The complex is filled with a diversity of artistic styles and architectural features. Hieroglyphs are carved all over. (Incredible how we didn’t know how to decipher the ancient writing until the discovery of the Rosetta stone.)

I hailed the hieroglyphics with my Alex Streeter Marquise scorpion ring, a design inspired by the Egyptians. My nail art is from Glam Nail Studio.

karnak temple obelisks architecture

Our Travel Talk Tours guide struck a great balance between sharing historical information with us, and then giving everyone free time to explore and take photos. I let my imagination run free as we wandered.

karnak temple complex hieroglyphics stone carvings

These friezes in the Precinct of Amun Re have withstood centuries.

egyptian gods goddesses statues luxor

With primitive tools, the ancient Egyptians had the capacity to build structures that remain impressive today. Karnak features the first pylon, or giant gateway, and a wide variety of sandstone statues, pillars, and bas reliefs.

karnak temple amun ra rams

Feeling tiny next to this row of statues, honoring Pharoah Ramses II as Osiris, god of the underworld.

ancient egypt hieroglyphic art luxor karnak

The song “Walk like an Egyptian” by the Bangles ran through my head, as I admired these carvings (they show people bringing offerings to the gods).

karnak temple ram statues sphinxes

Karnak stands out for its Avenue of Sphinxes, which dates back to the era of Ramses II. This line of ram-headed sphinxes represents the god Amun. Each holds a small pharoah between their paws, symbolizing their protection.

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One of my favorite areas was the Hypostyle Hall in the Precinct of Amun-Re. There are 134 of these gigantic columns, each intricately carved and arranged in a 50,000 square foot hall.

travel talk tours egypt reviews

Yukiro and I took a million photos at Karnak Temple: it was one of the most impressive sites we visited on our journey. It’s not possible to grasp the full experience unless you come here for yourself — and I hope you do!

nile boat cruise tour night

Throughout all of their tours, Travel Talk gives you the opportunity to join optional excursions, which span a variety of interests (food, culture, outdoors). Yukiro and I opted to do most of them, which we recommend. Who knows when you’ll be in Egypt again; best to make the most of it.

When we were in Aswan, we were excited to join a homestyle dinner in a Nubian village. We rode an Egyptian boat to get to Soheil Island, where the community is based.

spooky haunted egypt ghosts

At night, the weather drops — so pack a light jacket and layers for Egypt. We sailed on the Nile and passed this lit-up mound. It’s the Tombs of the Nobles, a burial site in Aswan from the Old and Middle Kingdoms that is still being excavated.

luxor nubian culture village dinner

After walking though the village, we received a warm welcome from the Nubians. They’re descended from the ancient Nubians that lived along the Nile, in what is southern Egypt and Sudan today.

ankh kohl eyes mural

Nubia was one of the oldest civilizations in Africa, and they had an important trading role with the ancient Egyptians.

In the early 1960s, close to 50,000 Nubians suffered displacement due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam. They were forced to leave their traditional villages, which would be flooded, and resettle north.

nubian egypt children kids

However, the Nubians have proudly rebuilt their community here, and hold tight to their heritage. At the dinner, we got to meet the local children, and hear about the village’s lifestyle and traditions.

nubian dinner luxor

As you can see in this house, the Nubian colors, buildings, and handicrafts are distinct from the Egyptians.

nubian food cooking nubia

Everyone eagerly awaited the signal for us to help ourselves to the spread of food, home-cooked by the Nubian family. The harira soup, with lentils a fresh lemon slice, was outstanding. We devoured the mixed rice, vegetable curries with okra and herbs, salads, and mandazi.

egyptian cat cats

The Nubian feast was the best meal we had during our time in Egypt. The village cats certainly agreed, and gathered around in hope of food.

travel talk tours bedouin dinner dahab

At the end of our tour, we joined a Bedouin cultural dining experience. At Dahab, we piled into the back of a four wheel drive, and drove through the desert to an area surrounded by sandy hills and stars.

egypt bedouin culture dinner fire

We sat around the fire, and drank hibiscus tea. Then, we helped ourselves to a spread of food from the back of a truck. The Bedouin people then played music on traditional instruments, and showed us how to play games (such as lying down with a cup of water on your forehead, and standing up without spilling it).

dahab egypt beaches sea

As you can see, we enjoyed a variety of places and activities through Travel Talk Tours. A typical tour simply takes you to the ancient ruins. However, our journey also included a relaxing stop in Dahab, a southern Egyptian beach town.

dahab paradise hotel review pool

After a lot of time on the bus, it was a relief to unwind at Dahab Paradise resort. I had never heard of this part of Egypt, and wouldn’t have made it here without the tour.

I felt like Cleopatra as I lay poolside, with palm trees and looming hills in the distance. (Under multiple layers of mineral sunscreen, a giant hat, and an umbrella of course!)

dahab paradise resort egypt beach hotels

Dahab is known for its excellent diving and snorkeling, especially at Blue Hole. The other members of our tour group took part in optional activities like a Jeep safari, quad biking, camel rides, and snorkeling in the coral reefs. We Goths were to happy to relax at the hotel, and watch 1980s horror movies in our room!

egyptian white wine glass egypt alcohol

Cheers (with a glass of Egyptian wine) to Travel Talk Tours for opening our eyes to the many wonders of Egypt.

travel talk tours review felucca odyssey red sea tour

“Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh
Walk like an Egyptian…”

Did this photo diary make you keen to visit Egypt? More from our journey to come soon, including the Valley of the Kings and Abu Simbel! If you have questions about anything at all, feel free to leave a comment in this post and I’ll let you know my thoughts right away.

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My Grotto Spa getaway! Tigh-Na-Mara beach resort & mineral pools, Parksville BC. Léo et Violette leather backpack.

mineral pools grotto spa parksville bc

Sending out a siren call to you… from the enticing Grotto Spa on Vancouver Island!

This year has been a crazy one so far, with an enormous trip to Beirut, Paris and Egypt, and a freelance contract with Google’s Touring Bird. At this point, I’m ready to kick back and stick to shorter trips.

best spa british columbia canada grotto

A weekend wellness getaway at Tigh-Na-Mara seaside resort was exactly what I needed to get recharged.

Let me take you for a dip in Grotto Spa’s mineral waters (located in Parksville, a 1.5 hour ferry ride from Vancouver). Read on for an exclusive photoshoot and story from what was voted the best spa in Canada!

leo et violette full grain leather luxury bags ubrique

First, I wanted to share my latest find… Le Petit Backpack, by indie Parisian designers Leo et Violette. The creamy, bleu-marine leather even matches the color of my hair. (I decorated the backpack with an ankh from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.)

A Paris-based couple started Léo et Violette to create handbags and leather goods with an innovative approach. The designs are handmade in small batches, using the finest full grain calf leather. However, they are able to offer remarkably fair prices, considering the luxurious materials and craftsmanship. That’s because Léo et Violette sells only through their site (there’s no middleman or traditional advertising costs). 

jawbreaker clothing moon dress 90s goth girl

It appears I’ve never left the 1990s… I styled my new backpack with this Tidal Moon Phases dress from Jawbreaker Clothing. It features an original moon print, pointed Peter Pan collar and chiffon overlay.

My red platform heels are from Lola Ramona, and my round sunglasses are Edwardson Eyewear. My hair is by Chad Evans at Kore Salon in Vancouver.

leo violette le petit backpack leather goods

Leo et Violette’s baby backpack comes in three colors, and is handcrafted in their Naples workshop. The body is a smooth Italian calfskin, while the top flap is a full-grain leather suede.

On their website, you can see that they sell a wide variety of sleek, timeless, minimalist leather goods for both men and women. In addition to backpacks, Leo et Violette offer bucket bags, messenger bags, crossbody pouches, and small leather goods like wallets, card holders, and laptop pouches.

Léo et Violette purses review, french sacs bags

These photos speak for themselves: you can see the fine hand-stitching and  depth of the full grain leather. Leo et Violette’s leather goods are made in small lots in Naples or Ubrique, Spain (where Hermes, Chanel and others base their productions, but with far higher price-tags).

leo et violette leather backpacks fashion blogger

As you know, I’m all about supporting independent designers with fair practices — so I’m thrilled with this mini backpack from Leo et Violette. You’ll be seeing many more photos soon, as it is my new go-to bag!

1990s gothic long maxi dress

Continuing with my 90s Goth outfit vibes… I think I’m channeling Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice.

edwardson eyewear round sunglasses, white half moon clutch

This summer, you won’t see me without this sunhat by Tenth Street Hats. The Scala New Port has a large brim and comes in many colors, but I chose black for a witchy “lewk.”

I’m holding a half moon bamboo bag from Lola Ramona. The vintage-inspired ark shaped purse is perfect for a beach day. My Ivy Sun glasses are from Edwardson Eyewear.

half moon ark bamboo bag, half circle purse

This Ethereal Nature Maxi Dress is by Jawbreaker Clothing. The intricate Gothic print stems from the third eye motif, and the collar has a marvelous choker style detail.

tenth street hats black sunhat scala new port

Living the vampire lifestyle in my Tenth Street Hat. The Newport is packable, and has a 5 inch brim and UPF 50 rating to protect me from the sun.

white cult gaia ark bag lola ramona

Adding a pop of color with my red sandals by Lola Ramona. Their ark / half-moon bag comes in several colors and materials, if you want to nab one like mine.

grotto spa tigh na mara vancouver island

Now, let’s unwind at Grotto Spa at Tigh-Na-Mara! The resort is easy to reach from Vancouver, making it an ideal weekend escape.

I recommend reserving the ferry in advance; the ride takes 1 hour 35 minutes, from Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) to Nanaimo (Departure Bay). Then, it’s an easy 35 minute drive to the hotel and spa.

Dress by Jawbreaker Clothing, star platform shoes Rocketdog Footwear, leggings Charli Cohen, Dolce sun hat Lack of Color 

tigh na mara seaside spa resort cabins

This is as close as I’ll get to camping… The suites have a log cabin feeling and are surrounded by nature. However, they’re equipped with 5-star amenities like a giant jet bathtub.

The name Tigh-Na-Mara is Gaelic for “House By The Sea.” Starting as a single tent in 1946, the property has evolved into a 22-acre destination resort, featuring luxury cabins under towering trees.

tighnamara hotel beach resort

Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort includes three kilometres of Pacific Northwest beaches, which are brimming with sea life. Keep reading to see the creatures we encountered on the sand…

mineral pool waterfall grotto tigh-na-mara

But first, I’m ready for a soak in Grotto Spa‘s award winning mineral pool!

(Photos by Daniel K. Spinal skirt by Lip Service, red halter top by Charli Cohen,)

swimming mineral waters hot tub grotto spa

The indoor space is designed to emulate a natural stone grotto. The large pool is filled with warm water, which is rich with minerals.

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As you can see from this Insta video, it’s a joy to wade through the mineral pools. You can perch on the sides and enjoy the jets, or go under the two story waterfall.

charli cohen red sports bra top

Grotto Spa suggests that you take three 15-minute soaks in the mineral pools. In between, you can wake up your senses under the icy cold cascade, or heat up in the non-mineralized whirlpool.

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The staff asks guests to “unplug” during the visit, meaning that you can’t use cell phones or cameras inside. In this plugged-in age, it’s a relief to simply focus on the moment. (We had special permission to shoot images before the spa opened for the day, so that we could share the experience with you).

The Grotto Spa At Tigh-Na-Mara resort

Grotto Spa has a limited number of pool passes per time slot, which ensures that the waters are never crowded. From these images, you can see why this was named the top spa in Canada by Spas of America.

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It’s fun to move around and float in this therapeutic pool. The minerals in the warm water help boost your circulation, reduce stress, and nourish the skin.

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I took three soaks as they suggested, with hydration breaks in between. At the end, my muscles felt soothed, and my mind was calm.

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Guests can also hang out in the Relaxation Lounge located on the 3rd floor. You can sit in front of one of the four fireplaces, and fuel up on unlimited fruit, specialty teas and coffee.

grotto spa wellness facials massages baths

While at the Grotto Spa, it’s worth splurging on a spa treatment or package. The menu includes facials, body wraps, massages, manicures and pedicures, with a focus on soothing West Coast ingredients.

spa menu grotto tigh na mara

You can take part in a couple’s massage, which begins with a private soak in the copper tub along with fruit and bubbly. Or try a massage with soothing stones, or something geared to your needs (such as expectant mothers).

I had an outstanding one-hour massage by a trained massage therapist: Shari knew exactly which buttons to press! I felt the difference in having her work on me, as she has a scientific understanding of the muscles and nerve points. My masseuse incorporated a stimulating eucalyptus mist throughout the session, and worked out kinks that I didn’t even know I had.

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I ended the day with a warm cup of jasmine tea in the lounge. As the Grotto Spa puts it: “With 20,000 square feet of spa bliss, we give relaxation a whole new meaning!”

parksville beach low tide

Anyone who stays at Tigh-Na-Mara has access to an expansive, private beach. The water is relatively warm, and at low tide, the shallow sand expands by about 1 km! I’ve never seen a beach spread out as far to the ocean as this one.

black sand dollar shell

As you take the long walk to the water, you’ll encounter fascinating creatures in the shallow pools and wet sand. These black sand dollars have a rather Gothic look. The dark ones are still alive, while white ones are dead and bleached by the sun. (We put this guy back after the photo).

lack of color sun hat wide brim hats

Pacific Northwest beaches tend to have a feeling of drama. (My sun hat by Lack of Color had a long strap that I could tie around my chin, to prevent the wind from carrying it off. This Line Friends Brown bear jacket is from Hong Kong’s Chocoolate shop.)

vancouver island beach sea life shells

Look down, and be amazed by the diversity of critters. Tiny crabs scuttle between the shells and seaweed. You might even be surprised by a large red crab.

travel blogger yoga pose beach

Low tide creates shallow pools, which might soak your shoes as you walk through them. My Rocketdog disco platforms turned out to be appropriate footwear, as they kept me elevated above the water!

tigh na mara spa bungalow cabin

Time to relax inside my Spa Bungalow. Tigh-Na-Mara’s luxury log rooms are named after various BC Gulf Islands. The resort also has rustic cottages and oceanview suites, to suit all travel styles.

suite room bedroom tighnamara

The bungalow has a back-to-nature rustic charm, while being outfitted with modern amenities (two sinks, two TVs, a kitchenette, private patio). At night, we rented a DVD player from front desk and watched a sci-fi movie.

endless tapas menu food grotto spa

We dug into stone-fired pizzas from Cedars Restaurant and Lounge, which paired perfectly with a red Catalunya wine. The restaurant features a seasonal, local menu. You can customize the pizzas with goat cheese from nearby farms, and take them out to enjoy in your room.

cedars restaurant parksville tigh na mara

In the morning, we enjoyed a West Coast breakfast a-la-carte at Cedars restaurant. Eggs Benedict with avocado and wild smoked salmon, and waffles with Canadian maple syrup.

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Such a pleasure to take a calming trip to Tighnamara and Grotto Spa. If you’re yearning for a relaxing vacation near Vancouver, then this Parksville spa & resort is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Rathtrevor Beach Park parksville beaches

My 70s shoes reminded me of James Brown: “Whoa! I feel good, I knew that I would. Now I feel good, I knew that I would, now. So good!”

Have you ever done a spa getaway? What was your experience like?

PS: Thanks for your fab feedback on Google’s Touring Bird so far! I wrote 15 local tips about Vancouver for the site (along with articles for dozens of other cities). If you’re looking for alternative, local things to do in Vancouver BC, I hope you’ll find my TouringBird suggestions helpful.

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