map-of-south-africa-largePart 1: NYC To Capetown

Late afternoon on October 23, 2014, we drove in teeming rain to Jamaica, New York where we were staying at the Sleep Inn for the night. Miraculously, we arrived safely and parked our car where it would be staying for the duration of our trip. After squeezing our luggage into our tiny room, we went next door to a Jamaican restaurant. There were mostly men there sitting at the bar drinking and talking and laughing. We joined them and had a delicious, supposedly African dish thinking we’d start getting into the mood of our trip.
Early the next morning, we had an included breakfast, gathered our stuff together and took the complimentary shuttle to the JFK airport. The rain had stopped for the most part.
After checking in and going through security, we went to our gate. I started trying to figure out who might be in our group. Our package included air travel, and most likely almost everyone would be on the same flight. There was a large and noisy group mostly made up of women from Canada. No reflection on Canada, but I was hoping they would not be in our group. And as it turned out, they weren’t.
We had a long wait, and I took a walk to exercise my legs in preparation for our long 14 hour and 55 minute flight to Johannesburg, South Africa.
We finally boarded, and the flight turned out not to be so bad. Between reading, watching a movie, eating several meals, and some sleeping, we arrived safely in Johannesburg on October 24, 2014. On our way off the airplane, we learned that the couple sitting in front of us John and Louisa Yu and the couple in front of them Tony and Chris Pagano, were on our trip. They are all from California.
We had to retrieve our luggage, go through customs and security, and recheck-in our luggage before going to the gate of our connecting 2 hour flight to Cape Town. It was a lot to do and a long way to go making us worried that we might not make the flight. Some young man who acted as if it was his job attached himself to us and led our way. I didn’t have complete faith in him, and I kept looking at the signs to confirm that he was taking us to where we had to go. He was, and he wanted a tip which I gave to him. The Yu’s and other connecting members of our group got similar treatment and demands for higher tips. Well, we made it in time. We joined the growing line and soon boarded the airplane.
At the airport in Cape Town, we met up with the rest of the group, at least the ones who were arriving then. Some came later. Our tour manager Arthur was there to greet us. After everyone who was supposed to arrive did, we went to the waiting bus. It was about 1pm.
On the way to the Protea Hotel Victoria Junction, Arthur talked a little about our itinerary. The rest of the day was on our own. He gave us some ideas for dinner. Our hotel was in a good location, very close to the waterfront and many restaurants. He also pointed out some of the sights such as Table Mountain, the Waterfront, a ferris wheel that cost more than most locals could or would pay, and the hospital named after Dr. Christiaan Barnard, the surgeon who performed the first heart transplant in 1967. We passed by Nobel Square where there are statues of the 4 South African Nobel Peace Laureates: Nkosi Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Former President FW de Klerk, and former President Nelson Mandela.
Cape Town is the oldest port in southern Africa. Located in the far southwestern corner, the city is physically separated from the rest of Africa by a wide range of mountains. A peninsula, it is surrounded by beautiful uncrowded beaches. The weather is Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. It was spring time during our stay and very comfortable. One poll rated Cape Town 5th on the list of “50 Places to See Before You Die.”
After arriving at the hotel, we got our keys and went to our room on the 3rd floor. It was a nice room with an okay view of the street below. No seaview. We would have had to have been higher up to have a view. Our luggage soon arrived. We were to be there for 4 nights, and so we unpacked some of our things. After refreshing ourselves and taking a short rest, we decided on a plan for the rest of the day. Since the weather was mild, we changed into more suitable clothing. We needed to get some money, and we thought we’d then walk to the seaside for an early dinner.
We went downstairs to the lobby and talked to the concierge about the location of an ATM machine and asked for restaurant suggestions. We walked outside in the direction of the suggested ATM. The view was spectacular with the mountains in the background, and it felt great to be outside in the fresh air. We found the ATM easily and got our money. The South African, (SA) money is the rand. One rand equals roughly 10 US dollars. So it was easy to figure out the cost of everything in US dollars. We wandered into an upscale mall and looked around.
Then we walked back towards our hotel on the way to the waterfront. Tony decided that we should take a taxi. I didn’t complain. We crossed the street to the front of our hotel where there were taxis standing. We negotiated on a price and hopped in. Arthur had said that the popular fish of the area is a kingclip. The concierge had suggested a seafood restaurant for that dish in the Victoria Junction Mall at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, or the Waterfront. Our driver found the Mall and with some help we found the restaurant. It turned out that the suggested restaurant wasn’t open yet, but a sister restaurant was. The setting was beautiful. Our table was on a veranda with a view of the sea and the activities on the Waterfront. We had the most delicious meal. The best grilled calamari ever was our appetizer, and our main dish was a whole grilled baby kingclip fish. We had to debone the fish, but after eating so much fish in Portugal last year, we were experts. With the dinner, we had a bottle of pinotage, a South African wine specialty. Our waiter was great, so helpful and friendly. It was perfect.
We took a taxi back to the hotel. After getting out what we’d need for our all day excursion the next day, we went bed.


Above left: our hotel

IMG_0265 IMG_0267 IMG_0271 IMG_2443 IMG_2442Waterfront

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