Former TravelPod Member: tfsnews

Joined: December 20th, 2005

Picking up from where we left off... After finishing last night's blog, everyone put a few more logs and pieces of coal on their respective fires and made their way to bed. Just as he was about to fall asleep, Jake moved his leg and felt a soft, warm thing by his foot. Panicking that there was some sort of animal in his bed, he gave it a good kicking, only to find out it was a hot water bottle that someone on the hotel staff had put in as a warm-up. It was a moment of panic and a water bottle, not a wild beast. Today we started early, with breakfast at six and on the road to Kruger National Park around seven. The drive took roughly three hours including one pit stop along the ... read more

Africa » South Africa » Mpumalanga July 18th 2019

We started off this morning, up at 5:00 a.m., in order to have an early breakfast and be on our way to Cape Town International at 7:15 a.m. We flew direct to Johannesburg via British Air and were surprised to be served another hot breakfast. After landing at Johannesburg and collecting our bags, we were met in the arrivals area by our new guide, Mary-Anne. She would be our driver and source of information for about the next four hours as we made our way to Mt. Sheba, a resort isolated in the hills of Mpumalanga. We stopped for lunch at a travel plaza that was also a nature preserve. It turns out Nando's (Peri-peri chicken) is actually a South African franchise. The Nando's in downtown Chicago, however, doesn't have views of emu, rhino, zebra, eland, ... read more
Reception Lounge
Mt. Sheba
Mt. Sheba from Above

Africa » South Africa » Western Cape » Franschhoek July 17th 2019

As the morning began, we expected to make a short tour into the Stellenbosch wine country and then visit Robben Island. Upon arrival in Stellenbosch, we took in the sight of goats frollicking at the Fairview Winery. There was a tower with a goat walk that escalated around it. We had never seen a goat playland before. This one even included a bridge over the road that led to a goat condo. The goat commune consisted of several 1-2 year olds and a goat father who was at least 15 years old. It was really something. Before actually entering Fairview we got some very unfortunate news. Due to expected high winds that would effect wave swell, our scheduled trip to Robben Island had been cancelled. This was a huge letdown as following Mandela's experience was the ... read more
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let down your Goat
from The Long Walk to Freedom
Historic Moment in Time

Africa » South Africa » Western Cape » Cape Town July 16th 2019

Our day began with an 8:15 a.m. departure following another hearty breakfast at The Portswood. We headed south from Cape Town towards Muizenburg, which put us on the Atlantic coast. From here, it would be a series of quick and scenic stops to admire beautiful coastal views and/or wildlife. Our ultimate destination was the Cape of Good Hope/Cape Point--the southwesternmost point on the African Continent. First, the wildlife: Though we did not see any sharks or baboons, signs pointed to trouble with both species. After heading uphill from a beautiful beach, we encountered a "shark spotter" shack, looking over the swimmers and surfers to track any approaching shark dangers. Near the "shark shack," another sign warned us that baboons "are dangerous WILD animals - DO NOT FEED - Keep doors locked and windows closed." We continued ... read more

Africa » South Africa » Western Cape » Cape Town July 15th 2019

Hello, and Greetings from a new Continent. Yesterday, we did well on a 11-1/2 hour flight from Paris to Cape Town. Our guide, Andre, met us at the airport and transported us to our hotel, which was a huge upgrade from the small rooms we had experienced in Paris. This place is very nice. We socialized a bit and called it a night. Today, we got up to enjoy one of the best breakfast buffets in a long time, including cooked-to-order omelettes. We really enjoyed it and it was good enough that lunch was unnecessary. Andre picked us up and gave us a brief orientation to the V & A Waterfront area before we headed up the Lion's Head Mountain. Normally, tours here take a cable car to the top of Table Mountain, but at this ... read more
Cape Town
Lion Head Mountain

Europe » France » Lower Normandy July 13th 2019

We began our day at 5:00 a.m. in order to get a taxi that would take us to a meeting point near the Arc de Triomphe for our Normandy Excursion. What we thought would thought would be a small group of eight soon looked like 20 or more, but we soon found out there were only 8 people on each individual tour. Luckily, we were among the first there, so were assigned to the first tour out. Our guide, Tej, was knowledgeable and friendly, and provided excellent narrative as we left the bustling Paris for more rural Normandy. He has lived in Thailand and Colombia, in addition to being a hang-glider and father of twins. He once biked a continuious journey across continents that took 5-1/2 years to complete and is fluent in at least four ... read more
German bunker
American Cemetery - Normandy
American Cemetery - Normandy

Europe » France » Île-de-France » Paris July 12th 2019

The adventure began this year with a departure from Lansing at 4:00 headed for the Air France counter at O'Hare Terminal Five. We arrived on time and got through security quickly and with enough time for a snack of egg rolls. The plane was fairly comfortable though nobody slept much on the overnight flight. After picking up our bags and heading to the arrivals hall where a driver was supposed to be waiting for us with a placard, no one was to be found. Two phone calls to the company went straight to voicemail and went unreturned. This was a little frustrating because the shuttle was booked directly through Air France/KLM and paid ahead of time. We eventually found alternative transportation but were very frustrated after arriving at our Paris hotel to receive an email receipt ... read more

North America » United States » Florida » Miami June 19th 2017

Today we are waiting at Miami International Airport and sit to reflect on the experience of the trip we have just completed. Last night we had a preliminary discussion and all slept on what we wished to share. So, here goes. As our guide, Ralph, told us last Sunday, we would leave Cuba with more questions than we entered and was he right! The words contradiction, paradox, and confusion all come to mind. The Cuba we visited was not the Cuba we expected to find. The living conditions we witnessed, though not in any way near the standards we are used to, did not represent the poverty and oppression we initially expected to find and, honestly felt we were witnessing at first. In just a week, we learned to look beyond first impressions into the interior ... read more

North America » United States » Florida » Miami June 19th 2017

June 19, 2017 Picking up where we left off... Last night, we enjoyed our last supper in Cuba at a paladar in Cienfuegos. The host has plans to expand in order to accommodate cruise ship passengers in the future. It was a fitting near farewell to our new friends Ralph and Jorge as we enjoyed a tasty meal and fellowship. We should that before supper, we enjoyed cocktails on the rooftop of the Union Hotel, dating from 1869. There, we discussed the issues of the day and broke the Facebook embargo with Jorge. He thought it would be easy for us to find him and was shocked to see how many people of the same name exist in the Chicago area alone. We enjoyed a great view of Cienfuegos, including the energy infrastructure--a Soviet nuclear power ... read more

Central America Caribbean » Cuba June 18th 2017

Our Final Cuban Sunset June 17, 2017 We started of our day following breakfast with a great conversation with Ralph and Jorge about the reaction of Cubans to the recent Trump announcement. Basically, the Cubans were happy that the embargo was not brought back to pre-Obama status. Careful analysis of Trump’s proposal (not an executive order; he signed a memo) seems to indicate that the net result of his ideas, should they be enacted, will really only negatively impact American solo travelers. Group travel may continue as long as it is with a licensed operator, but the “I’m going to check out Trip Advisor and plan my Cuban adventure” travelers will be impacted. And those of us on trips such as ours will be required to document each day’s activities and be subject to IRS audit. ... read more

Tot: 2.349s; Tpl: 0.05s; cc: 15; qc: 59; dbt: 0.0865s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb