April 6, 2014 – Ethiopia & Rome
Posted on April 15th, 2014
After a smooth two-hour flight from Entebbe to Addis Ababa, we were greeted as we disembarked by an energetic group of Ethiopian singers and dancers. It was a joyful welcome followed a VIP ride to our hotel accompanied by a police escort. That evening we dined la carte at a choice of several restaurants located on the grounds of our hotel.
The next morning we boarded a private local charter flight, heading north to Lalibela, ancient capital of Ethiopia. Splitting into four smaller groups, we toured its famous rock-hewn churches. Built between 800 and 1,000 years ago, several are still in active use. In one of the earliest cradles of Christianity, it was moving to walk among the monolithic structures that were carved with great skill directly from the pink granite.
For lunch, we gathered at the nearby Mountain View Hotel, taking in the sweeping views and enjoying a colorful dance and singing performance by local youth group.
That evening we shared a cocktail reception around the dancing fountains at the Sheraton Addis, which brought to mind those at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Among the Ethiopian dignitaries who came out to bid us farewell were the State Minister of Tourism and the State Minister of Foreign Affairs. It was a relaxing and joyful occasion to mark our final night in Africa.
During our flight to Rome the next day, we celebrated the birthdays of two guests, sharing plenty of birthday cake and Dom Pérignon champagne. We also enjoyed a delicious “Captain’s Lunch” that included pan-fried Nile Perch and roasted beef sirloin, with crème brûlée and a selection of cheeses.
We touched down In Rome on a beautifully sunny afternoon and transferred to the historic and elegant Hotel de Russie, close to the Spanish Steps. That evening after time to refresh and relax, we gathered for a farewell dinner atop the hill at Casina Valadier.
We first sat in the garden at sunset, looking out over the city to the Vatican, sipping cocktails and recounting our favorite memories from the past 18 days. We then enjoyed a gourmet dinner inside this grand villa, enjoying magnificent views across Rome by night.
The wonderful evening finished with closing comments from Tour Director John Webley about our extraordinary journey “Across a Continent” as well as with expressions of appreciation from a number of guests.