This user hasn't shared any profile information
Home page: http://www.cappleyard.com
Posts by ClareAppleyard
South Africa is well known as home to many adrenaline pumping activities. From cage diving with Great White Sharks to bungee jumping and white water rafting, there are no shortage of activities to get the blood coursing through your veins. As Tourism Month draws to a close in South Africa, we zoom into the North West Province and showcase the best way to spend a Sho’t Left day.
1. Slip-sliding away
Zip-lining is an activity that will appeal to the whole family. Big on speed and big on adrenaline, Magaliesburg Canopy Tours allow visitors a unique way to explore the North West. Having zip-lined a number of times before, I can highly recommend it for a few hours of fun. Expect to be strapped into a not-so-flattering harness (jeans and trainers are the best clothes and shoes to wear) and strung up on a steel cable running from one side of the gorge to the next. For most, the adrenaline factor is moderate to low, but if you’re of the less-adventurous kind, you can be expected to let out a few screams. As you progress down the gully, the lines get faster and faster, but there’s no need to panic, the competent and trained staff will hit the brakes for you if necessary.
2. The fast & the furious
Ahhhh, quad-biking, one of my favourite activities. Few things get me as excited as quad-biking, so when I found out that we’d be quad-biking as part of the media tour for the launch of South African Tourism’s Sho’t Left campaign, I was almost beside myself. We enjoyed a lengthy ride on quad-bikes supplied by Soweto Outdoor Adventures, but there are a number of companies such as The African Chapter and Adventure Bookings that allow families to explore the North West Province in this unique manner. Closed shoes are definitely required and prepare for a dusty and dirty half-day adventure!
3. A view from the top
There can be fewer more incredible ways to see the Magalies River Valley and surrounding areas than from high up above, by enjoying one of Bill Harrop’s hot air balloon safaris. The first thing that strikes you is the size of the balloon, and the loud “whooshing” sound of the burners that inflated them. The balloon ascent is incredibly smooth and after a safety briefing you’ll be up…up…and away. The view is really breathtaking and, because the balloon drifts on the air currents, it really is peaceful up there. The silence is punctuated every now and then by the sound of the burner but don’t expect this to be a thrill-a-minute kind of experience – it’s more about the serenity and spectacular view. With pre-trip coffee and rusks and post-trip breakfast and champagne, this is one adventure you won’t go hungry on.
4. Feline footsteps
Several times during my visit to the Ukutula Lion Park and Lodge, I wished fervently that I had not worn white that day. The white lions that we were walking with had a penchant for white objects. Thankfully the guides made sure the lions had some padkos along the way so that we didn’t end up looking like a good meal option. Ukutula, just an hour from Johannesburg, allows you to see lions in their natural habitat and you have the opportunity to walk with some of these amazing animals, without being separated by a cage or fence. We were also fortunate enough to hold lion cubs of only a few weeks old, and to see other animals, including hyena and cheetahs. The park boasts several rare white lions, bred naturally at the lodge and they place a strong focus on environmental education and awareness.
5. Pack your trunk
The Elephant Sanctuary in Hartbeespoort provides visitors with a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the world’s largest land mammal. Elephants are one of the “Big 5” and very little beats the thrill of seeing an elephant in the wild. At the Elephant Sanctuary however, you get to see a far more personal side to these giants. Predominantly serving as a rehabilitation centre, we experienced an opportunity to feed these remarkable creatures at the Sanctuary, but visitors to the Sanctuary can choose from intimate interactions such as an elephant walk, bare-back elephant riding and even spending the night in the Sanctuary, in a room right next to the elephant’s lodgings.
Have you done any of the activities above? What did you enjoy most?
The authors participated in the listed activities as guests of South African Tourism, as the Sho’t Left media campaign relaunched in South Africa. As always however, all opinions are our own. Parts 1, 2 & 5 by @clareappleyard; parts 3 & 4 by @metroally.
South Africa is our country, a country we love, a country that hosts upwards of 9 million visitors a year. What do the international visitors know that we don’t? Why are we so reluctant to get out and explore our own country?
As Tourism Month (September) kicks off in South Africa and South African Tourism relaunches it’s massively successful Sho’t Left campaign to boost local tourism, here are 6 reasons why you should book your next holiday within our borders…
1. Spectacular scenery and abundant wild life
There are many reasons why international visitors flock to South Africa each year, but top of many visitor’s lists is to experience a real “safari” and to take in the beauty of places like Cape Town, the Drakensberg and the Garden Route. Cape Town has just been voted the 4th best city in the world by Travel + Leisure’s in their annual “World’s Best Awards”, yet many South Africans have never visited the city. It’s also sad how many South Africans have never visited the Kruger Park or the Pilanesberg in an attempt to spot the “Big 5”. Very little beats the thrill of seeing a lion or an elephant out in the wild, so grab your binoculars and get out there!
2. Outstanding and unique cuisine (and wines!)
South Africa is a melting pot of cultures and thus, unsurprisingly, our cuisine is both varied and delicious. From traditional African fare such as “Smileys” (sheep’s head) and “Walkie Talkies” (chicken heads and feet) to world-famous curries (Durban is home to the world’s biggest Indian population outside of India) to top-rated restaurants such as The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français, Franschhoek, and The Test Kitchen in Cape Town, both of which rate in the Top 100 World’s Best Restaurant list for 2013. And, world-class cuisine deserves world-class wine, which South Africa has in barrel-loads.
3. It’s on your doorstep
Holidays don’t need to be a week or two weeks long. Weekend getaway breaks are perfect to get you out of the house and relaxing in a game reserve, guest house, hotel or B&B. Sadly, weekends as we know them are pretty short, so it makes sense to explore areas within 2 – 3 hours of your home. From Johannesburg, why not explore Magaliesburg and parts of the Northwest province or Limpopo? From Durban, there’s plenty to choose from in the Midlands, North Coast and South Coast. And, from Cape Town, Cape Agulhas and the Cedarberg are perfect escapes.
4. It’s not as expensive as you’d think
For some reason, many South Africans think that local travel is over-priced and unaffordable. It’s sometimes understandable when you consider the number cut-price trips to Thailand, Greece and other exotic destinations. At the launch of Tourism Month last week, the CEO of South African Tourism, Thulani Nzima, summarized this belief perfectly when he said, “It’s a perception of cost that’s not real. People buy the latest cellphones, designer jeans, new sunglasses. You can have a weekend in Durban for less than R2000.” The new Sho’t Left website went live last week with approximately 80 travel packages, to suit all travel tastes and budgets.
5. There’s something for everyone
From rugged mountains to pristine beaches; from rural hamlets to thriving cities; from the solitude of the African bush to the hustle and bustle of mega-sized shopping complexes, there’s a style of travel and holiday to suit everybody. Adventure activities abound with white-water rafting, bungee jumping, parasailing, shark-cage diving, sand-boarding, quad-biking, hot-air ballooning all available in many of our provinces. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach get-away or an adrenaline-filled adventure, South Africa has it all.
6. A world of history in one country
Over the years, South Africa has made history for reasons both good and bad. Our most famous and well-loved figure-head, Nelson Mandela made history by becoming the first African president in 1994. Prior to this though, South Africa has lived through some turbulent times. Robben Island in Cape Town, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and the Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto all show-case our history in a world-class, interactive fashion. If you’re in Soweto, stop past Vilakazi Street, the only street in the world to have housed two Nobel Prize winners, a great claim-to-fame indeed.
Rest assured though, politics is not the only history we have to brag about. The biggest diamond ever found was mined at Cullinan diamond mine, 90 minutes from Johannesburg. There is a great diamond tour and diamond display on site at the (still-operating) mine and, if you really want to take a trip back in time, The Big Hole in Kimberley is a fantastic tribute to South Africa’s early diamond mining days.
Last but not least, the Cradle of Humankind is a World Heritage Site that has produced some of the oldest hominid fossils ever found. The Maropeng visitor’s centre opened in 2005 and gives visitors a fascinating trip back through millions of years to discover all we can about our early ancestors.
So, there you have it. 6 reasons to explore the wonderful and diverse country you live in. What’s your favourite local destination within South Africa?
Experiencing authentic Indian food truly is a delightful sensory experience. From seeing colourful and beautifully arranged dishes, to inhaling the exotic spices of cardamom, cumin and coriander to teasing your taste buds with flavours of chili, yoghurt and chicken, few cuisines deliver like Indian food.
As a lover of the sights, smells and tastes of Indian cuisine, it was with great excitement that I opened my emails one morning to find an invitation to a sneak preview of Johannesburg’s forth-coming Taste of India festival.
One of Sandton’s premier restaurants, Piccolo Mondo at The Michelangelo, will play host to top Indian chef Jerry Mathew from the 20th – 23rd August for 4 nights of Indian splendor. South Africa is home to a significant Indian population and there is no doubt that this festival will be a phenomenal success. Supported by South African Tourism, the festival is part of an ongoing drive to promote Indian tourism to South Africa. As Thulani Nzima, CEO at South African Tourism notes, South Africa needs to be able to adequately cater for the specific dietary requirements of Indian travellers. To this end, Mathew will be extensively involved in the training of Legacy Group restaurant chefs.
If the food presented at the media launch is anything to go by, Indian food lovers will be in for a treat during the four nights of the festival. We were greeted with a choice of alcoholic or non-alcoholic mojitos; the non-alcoholic one I sampled was so delicious I couldn’t resist indulging in a second one.
The beautifully decorated room in which we were hosted was conceptualized and decorated by CS Events and the authentic style décor will certainly add flair to each evening of the festival. We were entertained by troupe of dancers from the Ghungroo Dance Academy and the Bollywood style routines are sure to entertain dinner guests at the festival.
Chef Mathew prepared a number of his favourite dishes for us to sample, with a selection to satisfy both carnivorous and vegetarian tastes. The chicken tikka kebabs were melt-in-the-mouth tender, with just enough heat to give your mouth a delicate tingle. The onion pakodas were exceptionally delicious and the machi amritsari were cooked to perfection – the fish was flaky, moist and perfectly seasoned.
For the duration of the festival, guests can indulge in a buffet of dishes, including Dhahi vada, a South Indian delicacy of fried lentil nuggets in mild spiced yogurt; Kerala roast chicken; Jinga Jalfraize, prawns cooked in a creamy tomato gravy; Paneer butter masala, cottage cheese in a tomato butter and, Lachha Paratha, a delicious bread layered and grilled with butter. Lovers of the sweet things will no doubt look forward to the selection of traditional Indian desserts that will be on offer.
I attended the media launch of the Taste of India festival as a guest of South African Tourism and Shed Marketing, but, as always the views and opinions expressed are strictly my own.
My first trip to Paris was 5 years ago, back in 2008. We were on holiday in London for 2.5 weeks and with a cousin living in Paris and a brother who could organize free Eurostar tickets, we hopped over to Paris for the weekend. Literally.
In 3 short days we managed to pack in a world of sight-seeing…
The Louvre and the Mona Lisa? Check.
The Eiffel Tower? Check.
Basilica Sacré-Coeur? Check.
The Catacombs? Check.
Notre Dame? Check.
Arc de Triomphe & the Champs Élysées? Check.
People watching at a pavement café? Check.
The problem was, I was miserable. Emotionally, I was going through a turbulent patch and as a result, I really, really did not enjoy Paris. The food didn’t appeal to me, the people were abrupt and rude and quite frankly, I could do with not ever having to visit Paris again. Rome, Budapest & London rated far more highly on my list of enjoyable European cities.
So, when my partner decided that this was the year to participate in the Paris Marathon and that we’d make a holiday of it, I was, understandably, a little anxious. Would it be any better this time around? Could Paris really be enjoyable? What if the trip brought back old memories and regressed me emotionally? 7 days in Paris…how would I cope?
Thankfully, second time around, Paris was a pure delight. Apparently your emotional state of mind has a lot to do with how you enjoy your travels (like, duh!).
We rented an apartment in Ivry-Sur-Seine and set about exploring parts of the city that we hadn’t seen first time round. We splurged on breakfast pastries from the local boulangerie; we bought salamis and cheeses and crispy French loaves.
On our first day we discovered La Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie. The Hall of the Guards dominates the Conciergerie, an imposing medieval room with striking pillars and arches. There are some quaint recreations of cells where prisoners had their hair shaved before their execution and Marie Antoinette’s private cell with her guards.
However, nothing can prepare you for the sheer beauty of La Sainte-Chapelle. Consisting of a lower chapel and an upper chapel, La Sainte-Chapelle has to be one of the most awe-inspiring buildings in the world. The lower chapel is dominated by Gothic arches with rich blue and gold colours, but it’s the upper chapel that takes your breath away. Fifteen massive stained glass windows, dating back to the 13th century, depict various scenes from the Bible and, religious or not, one cannot help but feel awed by the sheer size and beauty of the chapel.
We spent an afternoon strolling around the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris’ largest cemetery and the final resting place of notable icons such as Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde. Having chosen not to buy a map (we have an iPod, an iPad, an iPhone and apps…why would we need a map?) and having declined an elderly gentleman’s offer to guide us around, we got horribly lost, but delighted in discovering family crypts, unique tombstones and amazing memorials. Finally, 2 hours later, we relented and bought a map, allowing us to find the graves of Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde.
Marathon day allowed us to see new parts of the city and on our final night, I took a stroll through Le Quartier Latin, discovering cobbled walkways, cosy restaurants and an eclectic part of Paris that we never new existed.
Yes, this time round Paris was a pleasant surprise. It does appear to be the fantastic city that everybody thinks it is and for that, Paris, I must apologise. I judged you wrongly first time around. Rest assured, I will be back.
It’s the question that gets me every single time.
“Is it safe to visit South Africa?”
Inevitably, my blood starts to boil as I brace for the next hammer blow, “Because you know, from what I’ve heard it’s very dangerous and they’ve told me not to visit”.
Who are the ominipresent “they”?
Have they ever been to South Africa?
Have they ever travelled through the many parts of our countryside?
Have they taken the time to educate themselves on our nation, or are they just regurgitating snippets that they’ve heard on the news, found on the web or overheard from some disillusioned, white, ex-South African who emigrated because “the country is going to the dogs under that black government”?
[Please, excuse my frankness, but those are often the people trash-talking South Africa]
But, despite the resounding success that was the 2010 World Cup, despite 19 years of freedom for all, despite everything, people are still reticent to visit South Africa because they deem it too dangerous, too risky, too threatening.
In my work with American tour groups, I find that the travellers have inevitably been warned (by well-meaning relatives and neighbors), not to book that package tour to South Africa, yet the groups all thoroughly enjoy South Africa and would “highly recommend it”. In the advent of travel bloggers, more and more bloggers are visiting South Africa and I have yet to hear a bad word spoken against South Africa.
Disappointingly though, despite all the positive experiences we hear about, negative media about South Africa still abounds.
Enough! It’s our job as responsible South Africans to change that.
So, I polled a variety of travel bloggers who have visited South Africa for their Top 2 reasons on Why You Should Must Visit South Africa. There were some common themes that surfaced together with some touching, heart-felt responses. Let’s hear what some of our favourite bloggers had to say….
Diverse & Spectacular Scenery
Not surprisingly, this rated highly on many blogger’s lists. Keith Jenkins of Velvet Escape highlights the “jagged snow-capped peaks of the Drakensberg to expansive savannah and rugged coastlines” as an example of the natural beauty that South Africa has to offer. Africa lover Sandy Salle (Hills of Africa) echoes this sentiment as she celebrates South Africa “for its spectacular wine lands, unspoiled beaches, as well as Cape Town, which compares to a mini San Francisco!”.
Perhaps one of the most enthusiastic votes for this category came from Wandering Earl who notes “From large, vibrant cities to beautiful coastal communities, from mesmerizing wine regions to tiny towns in the middle of nowhere, and everything in between, every region of South Africa feels as if it is an entirely different country in itself.”. Nothing quite beats an African sunset either for amazing colours against wide open skies. Check out Craig Zabranksy’s amazing gallery of South African sunsets, and see for yourself.
The “Big 5” Safari Experience
Many visitors to South Africa come solely for the purpose of visiting the Kruger Park to spot wild animals in their natural habitat. “Seeing all these amazing animals in their natural environment while enjoying the beautiful landscape” was a personal highlight for Earth Xplorer J.D. Andrews and “viewing the “Big 5” (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant & rhino) in person was a remarkable experience” for Landloper Matt Long. Jen Pollack Bianco and Cailin O’Neil both share this common sentiment, after their visits to South Africa included a safari expedition.
Sandy Salle highly recommends visiting some of our many monkey and elephant sanctuaries, all of which offer guided sightseeing tours, allowing you to get within meters of the animals. Don’t discount our offshore wildlife either, home to whales, dolphins and Great White Sharks, all off which can be spotted along many parts of our coastline.
Delicious Food and Drink
There was no shortage of enthusiastic comments regarding the variety of top class South African cuisine. Some bloggers, like The Travel Tart, raved about particular South African dishes, quipping “There’s nothing like stuffing your face with a half-loaf of bread packed with tasty curry” (known as a Bunny Chow). Cailin O’Neil was particularly smitten with our local game meats, particular “springbok and kudu” and shares our fondness for a “braai” – the Afrikaans word for a barbeque. Cape Town in particular offers a huge diversity in cuisines and, if Indian food is your flavour, head to Durban where you’ll find some of the best curries outside of the subcontinent.
South Africa is well known for its world-class wines, something that Keith Jenkins is particularly passionate about. The Stellenbosch & Franschoek regions in the Western Cape are home to many award-winning wine-farms, so be sure to add this destination to your itinerary. And, if you prefer your tipple a little sweeter, be sure to sample Amarula, a cream-liqueur made from the fruit of the Marula tree. It’s exceptionally delicious, very South African and very, very addictive as Craig Zabransky discovered when he attended the World Cup in South Africa in 2010!
“It will change your life”
At a first glance, I thought The Explorateur’s comment about a visit to South Africa being a life-changing experience was a little bit of a cliché. But, as I received more and more responses along similar lines, I began to realize that she had a point. The Explorateur is well known in South Africa, and she found the “real” South Africa when she chose to break out of the “safety” of her hotel and took a tour through Soweto, a local African township. From meeting a tour guide who was imprisoned during the Apartheid era, to being musically serenaded by school children in tattered clothing, The Explorateur discovered that when you look beyond the surface of South Africa, “you’ll gain a whole new perspective on yourself and what’s important”.
Kirsten Alana recalls shared a similar experience, “I remember standing on Vilakazi Street in Soweto and thinking that if two Nobel Peace Prize winners could come from one such humble street, surely nothing was stopping me from changing the world.”
South Africans have long been recognized as some of the most hospitable people in the world, a fact graciously acknowledged by both Keith and J.D. If volunteering is close to your heart, you’d do well to pay attention to Sandy who notes, ”South Africa’s volunteer opportunities are some of the most humbling and rewarding experiences to be had and allow families, individuals, groups and couples to immerse themselves in the local culture, whilst providing locals with the gift of upliftment”.
Perhaps the last word in this section should go to Matt Long, who, like many bloggers, discovered that South Africa really does get under your skin. He says, “Before I first visited South Africa I was warned that the ‘bug’ would grab hold and not let go. Everyone tells me that I’ll love every location I visit, so I didn’t think a lot about it. This time was different though and by the end of my adventures in South Africa, I had indeed caught that mysterious bug. South Africa enjoys a unique mix of qualities including staggering beauty, a rich culture and people so kind your teeth hurt. These and many more factors coalesce and truly do become more than the sum of their parts. A special magic is created that doesn’t just ensure a great trip, but changes at a molecular level turn any trip into a personally transformational experience. Before you accuse me of extreme bouts of hyperbolic imagery, just wait. Visit South Africa for yourself and then, and only then, can you tell me that I’m wrong.”
Are you ready to book your trip to South Africa now?
Sincere thanks must go to all the travel bloggers who shared their heartfelt thoughts on South Africa. Please, keep spreading the positive news on our amazing country.
It’s been just over a year since I joined Twitter and it’s been a fascinating journey so far. As an entrepreneur you repeatedly hear about how you should have a presence in Social Media – Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and, of course, Twitter.
For some reason though, I resisted Twitter until, in July last year, I volunteered to “investigate” it from a business perspective (for both my diamond and travel businesses). I’d heard about all these people (mostly life and business coaches, admittedly) who had generated a significant number of clients via Twitter. However, I couldn’t get my head around how you actually met people on Twitter and it really wasn’t something that I was focused on accomplishing.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Within a relatively short period of time I had tapped into a network of fellow travel lovers and was actively communicating with new friends around the world. You meet and connect with one good person, who connects you to another good person, who connects you to another good person and so it goes.
My travel friendships started to span the globe – from Mexico, Canada and the USA to Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK and Germany to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand – to name but a few. I learnt the value of re-tweeting valuable information and started to recognise when I made a valuable contribution – and when I did not.
It became clear that behind Twitter there were real people – people that were interested in where you lived and what you did and cared enough to enquire as to how your day was going. And I cared about how they were doing and how their weekends had gone.
Then, in June 2010, South Africa hosted the Fifa World Cup.
Suddenly, we had visitors descending on South Africa by the plane load and they were looking for advice and recommendations and suggestions and guidance and we could help them. The first Twitter friends I met in person were not South Africans, but a set of intrepid explorers travelling overland from Berlin to South Africa for the World Cup. The Amateurs Africa guys are truly inspirational and it was a privilege to have been able to help them out.
We hosted a Mexican partner of a Twitter friend, a lady from New York whose flaky friend had let her down at the last minute with regards to accommodation, a lovely couple from our travel company corporate head office and met up with other fantastic Twitter connections for dinners, coffees and drinks.
Friendships had moved from cyber-space to the real world. We had faces to put to tweets, voices to put to faces and communications extended to Skype, Facebook and email. Firm and lasting friendships were established in a relatively short space of time.
Shortly after the World Cup ended, we wanted to investigate a trip to New York for a business venture. Thanks to our Twitter travel friends, we were faced with the possibility of walking straight into a supportive environment in a city we’ve never visited before. We had an offer of accommodation from the New York friend who had stayed with us during the World Cup. Some great people have organised a “Travel Tweet-up” for the first night that we arrive in New York where we’ll get to meet people with whom we’ve built firm online friendships. We’ve been invited to a cocktail party, hosted by a Mexican tourism authority, thanks to our Twitter friends. We’ve been invited to a post-Central Park run breakfast thanks to a running club we’ve connected with.
We don’t have to spend a single moment worrying about where to go, what to do, where to eat and what to experience – thanks to our extended Twitter travel network. Whilst some may think that this is neutralising the adventure of visiting a new city, for this trip, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re thrilled to be able to connect with so many people that we’ve developed social media relationships with.
It’s now possible to have a friend or a number of friends in a city or country before you visit there – a friend who will help, guide, recommend and advise on a level previously unseen. Sure, you can pick up a guidebook, Google a restaurant, Trip Advisor search a hotel and Travel Channel a country. But with Twitter, you have a man (or woman) on the ground. Build a great relationship and you’ll have a travel friend for life.
I know that after this trip to New York, when it comes to our next holiday, I’ll be chatting to my Twitter friends to see who we can visit, where we can stay and how we can connect.
It’s been a wonderful travel journey so far – long may it continue.
South African officially celebrates the start of Spring each year on the 1st September. Sometimes, the weather gods play mean tricks on us and serve up a Spring day that is, well, far from spring-like. This year, the day lived up to its billing as we celebrated the start of spring with warm weather, blue skies and blossoming flowers.
Each year, to celebrate the advent of Spring, a local wine club (The Cellar Rats) hosts a Spring Wine Festival, and this year’s festival took place on Sunday 5th September in blazing sunshine at “The Old Mill”, on the banks of the beautiful Magalies River. This annual festival is held to raise funds for the Woodlands Preparatory School, situated in Magaliesburg, South Africa.
With a nominal entrance fee (R80/$11) per adult entry, which includes a complimentary wine tasting glass, you get to sample over 600 wines from 110 wine farms. Each wine farm is represented by its own stall and once you’ve found a wine (or two, or three) that you like, you can then buy individual bottles or order crates of wine from a particular farm. In the interests of safety, a designated driver for each family/car is allowed into the venue for free.
The event is family and child-friendly with an abundance of scheduled children’s activities, including jumping castles, water slides and zorb balls. Soft drinks are on sale, as are picnic baskets, prego rolls, boerewors (traditional South African sausage) rolls and BLT sandwiches. For those with classy tastes, you can even buy oysters and champagne! Live singers provide some great background music (even if you do start to see some karaoke parallels!).
Whilst the majority of the stalls are wine stalls, a small number of deli suppliers also exhibit their wares. With delightful tastings of pomegranate salad dressing, lemongrass-infused chocolate balsamic drizzle, Morroccan Zing (perfect with some Camembert Cheese), lemon-infused olive oil and olive tapenade to name but a few, it was a foodies feast.
This is a South African wine festival worth adding to the diary for 2011, so keep an eye on the official Cellar Rats Spring Wine Festival page for updates for next year’s festival.
Yes, it’s true. The South Africans are going to be heading to New York City for 5 fun-filled days of shopping, exploring and tweet-ups.
Oh, and we’ll be eating too – we can’t wait to dig into all the great NYC cuisine we keep hearing about and, more specifically, the food trucks! Can you say yummy?
So, what’s the deal? The fabulous Davina Toale and myself will be in New York City from Thursday 16th September to Tuesday 21st September and we want to meet and connect with as many travel and running friends as possible. Yes, that means YOU.
We’ll be staying in Queens with the marvellous Nidhi (@Nids2102) and, when we’re not shopping for running gear, exploring food trucks with Greg (@culverlake), sweet shops with Laurie (@scenebylaurie), having a beer with Christel (@raisethatglass) and Kirsten (@kirsten_al) or par-tee-ing with Jan (@lisajanPA), we want to have some fun with you, our Twitter friends.
We don’t have anything even remotely as organised as a tweet-up at a particular time, day and venue – not knowing NYC from a bar of soap, I’m quite willing to let a NYC local come forward with some suggestions here.
These are the travel tweeters I know of in New York that, if they’re in town, we’d love to connect with – if you know of anybody cool that’s not on this list, please let me know and we’ll add them. Who wants to join in the fun?
- Your name here?
Let’s get some comments and suggestions going here on who is going to be in NYC, or wants to join us in NYC and let’s get this Par.Tee started!
See you soon!
Most people have the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx on their travel bucket list. We certainly did, so when the opportunity arose for us to have a brief stop-over in Cairo on the way back from a European holiday, my partner and I jumped at the chance.
We calculated that 2 nights would be sufficient to see the major sights and sounds and, through our local travel agent, we found ourselves booked into the Oasis Hotel in Cairo, a mere 10 minutes drive (even in Cairo traffic) from the Pyramids. Included in our booking was a guided tour of the Pyramids, Sphinx and the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities with our own personal transportation and tour guide.
Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?
The Oasis Hotel is one of the more popular hotels amongst Westerners and at a first glance, it’s easy to see why. It is set amongst beautiful lush and land-scaped gardens, a far cry from the hustle, bustle and dust of the main road outside the hotel. Rooms are laid out in a resort-style and the hotel boasts a tennis court, a swimming pool and 8 restaurants and bars. The only problem is that with the exception of the Italian restaurant, they all serve off an identical menu. Bar and restaurant service is, to say the least, somewhat lacking.
The biggest limiting factor for us was that the Oasis Hotel is so far removed from central Cairo that it is almost impossible to get out and explore the night-life of Cairo, which we were just dying to do. Unfortunately the limited Oasis Hotel shuttle service, the crowded roads, opportunistic taxi drivers and the sheer safety factor of being two women meant we missed out on our own exploration of night-time Cairo. The Oasis Hotel is convenient for visits to the Pyramid and Sphinx only.
The Pyramids of Giza
The only remaining wonder of the original 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, the Pyramids of Giza were built over a period of 20 years, using only 3 months each year during the wet season. Although the three pyamids at Giza are the most famous and the most visited ones, there are currently 119 exposed pyramids in Egypt. The Giza pyramids comprise the Great Pyramid (or the Pyramid of Cheops), which currently stands 137m high (originally 147m prior to losing it’s original casing), the smaller Pyramid of Khafre and the smallest of the three pyramids, the Pyramid of Menkaure.
Whilst the pyramids are certainly impressive from an architectural perspective, we were left feeling massively underwhelmed by the experience. Maybe it was the hundreds of buses and thousands of tourists, all milling around the front of the Pyramid of Cheops. Perhaps it was the aggressive whistle-blowing of the policemen as they frantically yelled at the tourists who dared to climb up the first step. Or it may have been the ever-present touts and salesmen, following you around and shoving t-shirts, fake papyrus and trinkets under your nose.
Eventually, in an attempt to escape the maddening crowds, we moved away from the front of the pyramid, where everybody congregates and made our way round the side. It was a different world – far less people, sun in a perfect spot for photographs and it allowed us to get up close to the pyramid without a whistle being blown in our ears. Irrespective of which side you walk to though, you’ll never escape the camel-ride salesmen. Talk to them at your peril.
By now it was clear to us that our tour guide was really just running through the motions and wasn’t really too interested in what was on the agenda. It’s a short drive from the pyramids to the Sphinx and, once we had parked we joined the queue of tourists slowly making their way towards the entrance to the Sphinx, taking care to side-step the sales touts once more. The Sphinx has been made out of sandstone, the oldest geological rock in the area and, as history has it the Sphinx was carved to represent the best possible combination of man and beast; the strength of a lion and the wisdom of a man.
The block of sandstone from which the Sphinx was carved was not large enough for the entire 23m height of the monolith, so the head of the Sphinx has been carved from limestone. A protective beard was carved to shield the neck of the Sphinx from the brutal desert winds (bearing in mind that the neck was the vulnerable join between the resistant sandstone and the eroding limestone), but this was supposedly removed by the British at some stage.
Like the pyramids, the Sphinx is characterised by a constant stream of tourists, queueing to get their photo taken in front of the Sphinx, jostling as they attempt to be photographed with no other tourists blighting their shot. There is a constant stream of people rushing up, having their photo taken, and then being hustled off to the next stop on their tour. ?Never in our lives have we felt like such cattle, being shuffled from one photographic opportunity to the next.
The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities
It was at the Egyptian Museum that the photographic opportunities eventually dried up. No photographs are allowed to be taken inside the museum and indeed, I was reprimanded by a policeman for attempting to take photographs of some of the artefacts in the museum grounds. This is where our disillusionment with Cairo really set in – we were stopping at displays that were of interest to us, reading the limited information provided on an artefact when our tour guide, who was marching ahead of us, abruptly turned round and informed us that “this is no way to see the museum” and that we had to hurry up if we had any chance of seeing what we had to see.
And, in that sentence, we can summarise our issues with guided tours – you get to see what the tour guide wants you to see; not what you want to see. Egypt, unfortunately, is one of those places where you are best with an English-speaking organised tour, rather than attempting to negotiate language, costs, traffic and corrupt police officials on your own. However, an organised tour comes with it’s own pitfalls.
Yes, we saw the artefacts recovered from King Tutankhamun’s tomb, including the famous gold mask, ornate jewellery and other items. Yes, we paid an extra 100 Egyptian Pounds to enter the Royal Mummy Room, where 9 mummies are currently on display. But we were left with an overall feeling of disappointmet, almost like Egypt has sold it’s soul for the sake of tourism. Tour guides rattle off facts in a rote manner and show very little interest in what you, the paying traveller, wishes to see.
Thus, by the end of our first day in Cairo, we were starting to feel a little disillusioned. We’d been shuffled from pillar to post like cattle and we were beginning to wonder just what all the fuss about Egypt was about. Had we left Cairo after our first 24 hours, we could happily have never thought about returning. Our next blog post will tell you just what changed our minds.
Every #MexMonday, we’ll be bringing you a fabulous vacation get-away to Mexico. This week, our featured get-away is to Nuevo Vallarta, a residential and resort community in the state of Nayarit. Popular with visitors from both the United States and Canada, it is situated just 20 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta.
Join us for a 5 night stay at the Villa del Palmar Flamingos beach resort and spa from the 23rd – 28th November, 2010 and save an unbelievable $1,863 off the best available online price by paying only $297.88 per person sharing (5 nights).
Your vacation includes:
- 6 Days & 5 Nights at the Villa del Palmar Flamingos Beach Resort & Spa
- Deluxe ocean view studio room accommodations with 2 queen size beds
- Round trip airport transfers
- Free golf at the Vista Vallarta Golf Course (cart required, $49 fee)
- Tatewari Spa discount
- Must have a valid passport
- Must book your own airfare into Puerto Vallarta airport (PVR)
The all-suite Villa del Palmar Flamingos Beach Resort and Spa is located in Nuevo Vallarta, approximately 5 miles north of Puerto Vallarta International airport and 7 miles north of downtown Puerto Vallarta. Featuring a lagoon-style pool, outdoor Jacuzzi, non-motorized water sports, activities and a supermarket. Dining options include the Bella Vista Restaurant and the Pizza Bar serving the pool areas. This resort offers 117 ocean view accommodations, all with furnished terraces.