Snowbound in the Desert - 2013
Updated: Jan 4
“When life hands you lemons, come sit by the lemon tree!"
Booking tickets around the world using our substantial stash of British Airways points should have been easy. We'd been collecting airmiles for over14 years, but then BA re-jigged the game – especially with its OneWorld partners – and our opportunities to travel on points,
especially in Business Class, diminished.
I was irritated, despite being six months out from our proposed departure date, it seemed no tickets to Thailand could had. I contracted out what appeared to be the impossible dream to upgrd.com award experts.
Miraculously, after much back and forth, 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 passengers), 10-hour layover, and then another 9-hour flight to Bangkok: total travel time, 34 hours!
This was clearly too much to bear.
Clearly, the smart move was to layover in Amman, Jordan, catch a night at the Marriott (a freebie with my Visa Marriott card), shoot down to the fabulous ruins of Petra for two nights (a bucket list item), then hustle back to the airport where we'd chill in the business class lounge before flying to Bangkok. We reworked the itinerary and were go to go.
It would be an ambitious side trip but hey- what could go wrong?
After an exhausting overnight flight from Detroit to Amman in coach, which included bone-jarring turbulence over the Atlantic, we arrived at night in the midst of a torrential downpour. Twenty miles in from the airport to Amman, the road turned into a torturous obstacle course: flooded streets and underpasses dotted with stalled vehicles; thankfully, our bus driver skillfully avoided any incidents.
We had to keep reminding ourselves that yes – we were actually in the desert.
Stepping off the bus in town to find a taxi to the hotel, we got drenched. The fun continued as we drove through more watery chaos another 20 minutes, finally arriving at the Marriott, where we were informed 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, was nerve wracking.
Going into crisis mode while jet lagged is an easy, but once I was able to hook up to the Internet, I swung into action using Skype phone (in 2013, a tremendous tool for travellers). First cancel our hotel and desert tour reservations in the Petra/Wadi Rum, and then find accommodation options in Amman; the Marriott was at best marginal for $400 for the next two nights before we connected to Bangkok, the next leg of our 4-month journey.
Fortunately, I had previously researched and bookmarked lodgings in Amman, and identified a charming B&B, By The Lemon Tree. I Skype phoned Guido, the charming Italian owner and discovered there was indeed room at the inn, and better still, he would fetch us at the hotel by noon the next day.
We settled into the Marriott, chewed 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.
In the morning, we parted the curtains, which revealed the snow had indeed arrived in Amman, a city ill equipped to deal with it (we later learned the last snow storm with any significant accumulation was twenty years previous). Factor in Amman is built on seven rather large hills, the entire town came to a standstill. Sort of.
Guido met us in the lobby at the appointed hour, and we drove in his oversized Ford Van equipped with off road wheels, negotiating 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 in our bedroom on the third floor of the house (we have learned to travel light), which included 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 as we watched snow flakes gently drifting down to settle on a multitude of lush lemons, even 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 suffonsified, we retired to our room, which became our base for the next two and half days. We recharged, enjoy many more wonderful meals, met some interesting travelers and expats staying at the B&B, and even got walk the neighborhood when the snow finally melted as the sun 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.