WHO: Gayle, 60, and Walter Costello, 64, of Norfolk.
WHEN: Two weeks in June.
WHY: "When I was in grammar school we took a field trip to the MFA in Boston, and they have one of finest Egyptology sections in the country," said Walter Costello, speaking of the Museum of Fine Arts. "It just amazed me and captured my imagination. Then when I went to Northeastern [University], the museum was right across the street and at that time it was free so I used to go there a lot."
SAFETY TALK: Although it had long been Costello's dream to visit Egypt, his wife of 40 years was not so enthused. "I would say she went with trepidation," Costello said. "It was reinforced every time we told someone we were going, and they'd ask, 'Are you sure it's safe?' In the end, we always felt safe."
SNEAK PREVIEW: Through a travel agent, Costello booked a bus tour and Nile cruise with Globus. The group of 25 travelers, mostly Americans, met in Cairo. A guard traveled with them. "We decided to go a day early to get over the jet lag," Costello said. They first stayed at the historic and luxurious Mena House Oberoi. "When we were taken to our room, they pulled the curtains back, and we were looking directly at the pyramids. It was magnificent. We just walked right over. It wasn't the high season, so it was not so crowded." They happily returned to the Great Pyramid and Sphinx again with the group.
SKY HIGH: In Memphis, they saw the statue of Ramses II and the alabaster sphinx. "I was surprised how large they were," Costello said. He also was surprised by the enormity of the Step Pyramid in nearby Sakkara, said to be the oldest pyramid, from around 2700 B.C. "I knew about the pyramid, but I didn't anticipate the grounds and structures around it."
DIFFERENT HIGHS: Luxor and Karnak were highlights for both Walter and Gayle, from below and above. "My wife wanted to go on a balloon ride over the temples. She'd never been on one in her life," he said. "She loved it." Costello, meanwhile, wandered through the temples. "For a while I was the only one at Karnak and I'm thinking: I'm in the middle of this 4,000-year-old structure all by myself."
CONTRASTING COLORS: The group boarded a boat for four days and three nights of touring, from Luxor to Aswan. "The Nile is just magnificent. When you get on the Nile, you see a green band of fertile soil that in some cases may not be more than 100 yards, and then there's the brown dunes of the desert right behind it. Down the river you see little island towns and farmers working in the fields. We saw a lot of donkeys, and some camels."
WON OVER: The Costellos enjoyed haggling at the markets and bazaars. "You had to bargain for everything," he said. "We got a papyrus paper with our name in hieroglyphics, which is nice to hang on the wall to look at. Gayle bought scented oils." She also returned with an affection for Egypt, he said. "She even wants to go back."
SEE WHERE THEY ALL WENT