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Destination: South Africa

| September 10, 2012

This summer has really flown by – between work and vacation there hasn’t been any time to update this blog at all. I guess it’s good that I’m so busy? So what have I been up to…

June: My good friend got married and my friend from Florida flew in for the wedding and stayed by me for a week. We went on a day trip together to Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown. We toured the Phillipsburgh Manor, Kykuit (Rockefeller Estate), and Sunnyside (Washington Irving’s estate). Kykuit is very impressive. The view from every direction inside the house is stunning – it was very intentionally designed that way. The grounds are magnificent, and there is an extensive collection of art- both modern and classic.
Also in June: I saw Mamma Mia! on Broadway (very disappointing), 2 free movie screenings (Pitch Perfect & Cobu), watched the Yankees beat the Mets @ Citi Field (yay!), all while juggling an intense freelance client on top of a busy month for my regular job.
At the end June I took a weekend road trip with a bunch of friends to Richmond, VA. Our friend moved there a few months ago and her in-laws have a gorgeous lake house in Bumpass, VA. Jet Skiing, kayaking, BBQing…

July started out much quieter- an engagement party for my cuz, and Christopher Boffolli‘s Big Appetites exhibit. Mid-July work started to get really busy – at my regular job, plus five freelance clients wanting everything done at the same time. On top of that I was panicking and procrastinating about packing for my vacation…
At the end of the month I saw Bring It On on Broadway b/c my friend won free tickets. The music from the show was not too memorable, but the dancing and acrobatics were incredible.

August… SOUTH AFRICA!!!
I took a two week vacation to South Africa. I stayed by my cousins in Johannesburg and also spent 3 days in Cape Town. It was so nice I almost didn’t want to come back home… Between my camera and my cousin’s we took over 3000 pictures. (Speaking of cameras I don’t know if I’ve mentioned my new camera yet – Canon S100. I LOVE IT! It’s about as good as you can get without breaking the bank and buying a bulky professional DSLR. The picture quality is amazing.)

A few things to note about South Africa:
1- They are obsessed with being clean. The supermarkets are really nice and spotless. They scrub the floors under your feet. The Gautrain is immaculate. You can get a ticket for eating or chewing gum on the train or in the station.
2- Most of the people are super friendly. Everywhere we went someone greeted us with a smile, offered us assistance and started random conversations with us.
3- They hero worship Nelson Mandela. Every other street corner, town, building, highway, etc. is named for him.
4- Right now the South African Rand is really weak. Everything was CHEAP if you convert it to American money.
5- Biltong. ’nuff said. And yummy candy that they don’t sell in America. My new favorites: Cadbury Chomp bars, Nestle Aero and Jelly Tots. Also Sally Williams nougat which they sometimes have here but it’s really expensive.
6- Tangerines are called naartjies??? What??
7- Labor (and gas) is cheap. After getting her van scrubbed down, the tires filled and the windows cleaned, my cousin gave the gas attendant a 1 rand tip (about 12 cents). And he was ok with that.
8- I make more money than the policeman we met at Parliament who has been working for over 10 years. Also, the members of Parliament are greedy, lazy and overpaid (according to the policeman and our taxi driver in Cape Town).
9- Security in Parliament and the airport is pretty lax. They don’t even make you take off your shoes!
10- You can buy electricity in the supermarket in Cape Town. Seriously.

Day 1:
We (I was traveling with my aunt and cousin) landed early morning in Johannesburgh. It was a loooong very uncomfortable 15-hr flight, although South African Airways is pretty decent. The flight attendants were very friendly and attentive. Although we were exhausted, the first day we went to Lory Park Zoo with all my cousins (7 kids from ages 12-1). Lory Park Zoo has a collection of gorgeous lions, tigers and other large cats, but it made me sad to see these huge animals angrily pacing in their somewhat small enclosures.

Day 2:
Walked to the nearby mall to buy groceries for my cousin. Pick ‘n Pay & Woolworth’s are both very impressive supermarkets. Enormous and CLEAN. Both are part of a larger chain in South Africa, and also sell clothing in some locations.

Day 4:
On Sunday we drove to Pilanesburg Game Reserve, a National Park. The whole day was spent leaning out the car windows trying to spot animals. Lucky enough, we saw quite a few. There were zebras lying on the side of the road, giraffes crossing in front, and an elephant that almost walked right into the car. Wildebeest were EVERYWHERE. Every time someone got excited because they thought they spotted a new animal… nope, it’s just a wildebeest.

SA 1 Destination: South Africa

Day 5:
Spent the morning in Montecasino Bird Gardens and shopping center. Montecasino is designed to look like an old Italian village. The outside and the inside of the building is really pretty. The shops and cafes inside are very posh. Most impressive was the bookstore Skoobs (These pictures don’t do it justice, but perhaps you can get some idea…). The children’s section has bookshelves constructed to look like friendly animals, and the cafe has hundreds of paper cranes hanging from the ceiling. There is a glass elevator in middle of the store, and in order to go up or down you have to hold the button down or it stops moving, The second level of the bookstore has a gorgeous cafe-like seating area and a bar, beautiful b&w tiled bathroom, and a separate section where you can play Wii or X-box.

From Montecasino we took the Guatrain bus to Sandton City, a huge shopping center. Lots of American and brand name stores…

SA 2 Destination: South Africa

Day 6:
Apartheid Museum. It’s interesting to note that even though apartheid is officially over, it still feels like not much has changed in the way people interact in the country.
The museum had a temporary exhibit on (who else?) Nelson Mandela that was quite interesting.

Day 7:
Spent a few hours in the African Crafts Market buying presents for everyone back home. The vendors in the market are all very friendly, and VERY pushy. As you’re walking there’s about 15 people at a time trying to catch your attention, all saying “I give you special price”. Half of them are related to each other, or claim to be. Lots of fun, but somewhat overwhelming.

SA 3 Destination: South Africa

Day 8:
Took the Guatrain to the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria. The surrounding neighborhood looked really seedy. We were told that the zoo is really nice, but compared to the Bronx Zoo, or even the Central Park Zoo, it seemed really run down. There were a lot of animals but very spread out so there was a lot of walking involved. The workers all disappeared about 2 hours before closing time.

SA 4 Destination: South Africa

Day 9:
Lunch at Mooz, had my first Chilla Frappe (yum)

Continued in Part 2

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Princess Lea September 11, 2012 at 10:26 am

These photos are AMAZING. I love the monkey that looks like a kung-fu master.

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iTripped September 11, 2012 at 11:09 am

Thanks! That monkey is a Emperor Tamarin- I was cracking up because it kept sticking it’s tongue out.

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