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Best Laid Beach Plans…

22 Mar

Just as I sit here in our apartment, looking out onto the pollution filled Beijing skyline – I am supposed to be sitting next to my marvelous man with a glass of something sparkling in hand, aboard a plane bound for Sanya.  Specifically, Haitang Bay.  Specifically, see below.

But as it has a way of doing from time to time…life got in our way.  So, I decided to distract myself (from the cold…the smog…and our annoying neighbors’ cigarette smoke that permeates the hallway and seeps under our door – sorry for the bitterness of this beach deprived blonde) by writing about glory days of beaches past.

So onto to something much more marvelous…like Mozambique!

The Bazaruto Archipelago of Mozambique was the perfect way to end our 3 week stay in Africa.  It was all sand, sailing, seafood, and fun in the sun.  Even my third degree burns (see: A Burnt Bride) couldn’t put a damper on this to-die-for island.

Brett enjoying a local brew while taking in the sites of the island via an open air jeep.

Our home for the week in Mozambique was one of the 16  lovely villas at Azura on Benguerra.  From the service to the activities to the natural beauty of these undiscovered beaches, Azura lived up to all of our expectations.  Which – as my husband (I am sure will agree) are quite high…

TRAVEL TIP:  For other South Africa bound honeymooners…there are many travel companies that will push the Seychelles for “end of the trip beach time” – BUT the islands of Mozambique will provide all the luxury with half the cost.  Although…that will probably change as their popularity grows – so book fast!

Our Villa

Sailing around the archipelago.

Footloose and Fancy Free

Deep Sea Fishing Success!

Our Catch of the Day!

Enjoying our catch of the day by candlelight at a romantic table for two on the private beach. Perfection.

On a positive note…we are in the process of rescheduling our beach time trip.  For now – the departure date is set for two weeks with an alternative destination: The Maldives (thanks to the recent non-stop flight offered by Mega Maldives Airlines).  Fingers crossed.

 

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Blyde River Canyon…A Bit Belated

19 Mar

The Beautiful Blyde River Canyon

As it always does…time has slipped through my fingers once again.  Not only have I not posted anything in regards to China lately, I haven’t posted  – well…anything at all!  So, I thought I would step back in time for a moment and finish sharing the tales our adventures in Africa this past October.  It was brought to my attention that I never wrote about the Blyde River Canyon or Mozambique.  Two places that definitely deserve recognition (and high praise…Nick Cage style).

Stealing a kiss at the top of God's Window on top of the Blyde River Canyon

From Camp Jabulani (where I left off…see the following link for details:  https://ablondeinbeijing.com/2011/12/27/its-all-about-the-elephants/) we traveled to the Cybele Forest Lodge and Spa – a Relais & Chateaux property nestled in the woods of northern South Africa.  The lodge is perched 3,000-feet above sea level amidst Mpumalanga’s forests, mountains and meadows between White River and Hazyview. Owners Rupert and Barbara Jeffries have transformed the original hunting lodge they bought in 1979 to a cosy, yet stylish retreat. There are twelve quaint cottages and ours had  the added advantage of our own heated swimming pool!  It was divine!

Brett standing in God's Window at Blyde River Canyon

During our two nights stay, we took all of our meals in our room at the dining table or poolside on the patio.  It was the ultimate in privacy.  We did leave the room…twice.  Once for a couple’s massage and once for a helicopter ride through the canyon, complete with a stop at God’s Window for a champagne picnic.  Needless to say, it was a very strenuous 48 hours.

Champagne picnic at the top of God's Window

Heli Silhouette

I honestly had never heard of the Blyde River Canyon (the 3rd largest in the world – not to mention that it is a GREEN canyon) until we began our research for the trip.  I am so glad that we made the decision to venture off the beat and path to see this side of South Africa.  It was completely unexpected, and is mostly highly recommended.  I don’t think it is possible to truly capture the beauty of this magical place with unprofessional photographer hands (like ours), but I  hope that our pictures capture enough of its essence to encourage you to visit.

One of many waterfalls falling through the Blyde River Canyon

Our fantastic pool. We did have to watch out for the monkeys though! Little thieves that they are...

Thank you Cybele Forest Lodge & Spa for such a rejuvenating stay!  Just writing and remembering has relaxed me…and well, distracted me from the hazardous pollution of Beijing.  Literally.  The “pollution-o-meter” recommends staying in today.  So – Blyde Blogging it is!

It’s All About the Elephants

27 Dec

Safari on Elephant Back - the famous Jabulani himself to be exact!

At Camp Jabulani, a Relais & Chateau property located in the private Kapama Game Reserve, everything is elephant.  In fact, there wouldn’t even be a Camp Jabulani without the inspiration of a tiny, 4-month old baby elephant whose herd was forced to abandon him when he got stuck in the mud of a silt dam.  It took over year (along with the help of a sheep named “Skaap” who acted as a surrogate mother) to nurse the little guy back to health.  After baby Jabulani (his name means, “rejoice”) was healed, numerous efforts were made to release him back into the bush.  He was not having any of it.  These humans were his family now, and he had no intention of leaving them.  Luckily, or as they say at The Camp…”fate stepped in”.  Just five years after rescuing Jabulani, it was discovered that 12 Zimbabwean elephants needed a new home as the farm they currently lived on had been seized by war veterans.  These ellies would have been collateral damage if it hadn’t been for the rescue efforts of the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre and what eventually became the Camp Jabulani that exists today.

In my opinion, this type of operation could have easily become a “cheesy” petting zoo type experience.  On the contrary, Camp Jabulani is quite the opposite.  It is a true luxe safari experience.  With its 5-star quality lodges (each with private pool),  beck-and-call service standards, on-site spa, and let’s not forget the gourmet food that blew us away at each meal.  Seriously – the food is incredible…edgy flavors, beautiful presentation, and to top it off – the chef shares her recipes!  Although, last I checked they don’t sell Wart Hog or Antelope at any of the markets here in Beijing – so it might be a while before I can actually test any of them myself.

Brett and I truly loved our time spent at Camp Jabulani.  Safari on Elephant Back was a completely different experience.  You really have a bird’s-eye view of the bush – not to mention the tranquility of it all.  Plus, watching the elephants have their “play time” in the watering hole and visiting the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre to play with baby cheetahs were unforgettable moments.

Even though this little baby is too small to take guests on safari just yet, she likes to join the herd so she can stay close to her mamma. Nature is so precious.

The ellies play!

Just a second after I snapped this shot...the little ellie lying on his side lost his footing and crashed into the water. It was equally hilarious and heartbreaking. More incredible though - was the way that the entire herd rushed to the little one's aid.

There are more than just elephants at Camp Jabulani. Expect to see all of the Big 5 as well - from elephant back if you are lucky!

Wild dog! Check out that crazy hide.

It was all I could do to stay in the jeep! I just love giraffes.

We figured out that if we ask for the biggest ellie - we could ride on safari together. Much more fun! BTW- safari on elephant back was much more comfortable on my burned back than bouncing around on the primitive paths in a land rover jeep.

These little wart hogs have no fear. OK maybe...it was me that had no fear! They are so ugly they're cute - and I just had to get a closer look. If you look closely, you will see that they are actually on their knees, snout to the ground searching for food. Hungry little buggers, right?

One gorgeous sunset + my gorgeous husband = perfection.

Our view during Camp J "sun-downers" - what South Africans call cocktail hour. Stunning.

This beautiful surprise set-up was waiting for us after the sun-downers. The five-course meal to follow was also to die for, and it put both of us into a fantastic food coma.

On our last morning at Jabulani - before leaving for the Blyde River Canyon, we visited the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre. These two charming cheetahs were rescued from the wild after injury.

Playing with a cheetah cub born at the center. This cutey will be trained to live in the wild by older cheetahs who split their time between the wild and the center. That's right - these smarty pant cats have realized that when things get too tough in the wild...they can take a vacation to a place where humans provide them shelter and serve them food and drink. Brilliant.

Shortly after this picture was taken, this little kitty had to be put into "time-out". He became a little over zealous and started to climb on my back. Under normal circumstances - no biggie, but with 2nd and 3rd degree burns from the fire-pit fiasco...it was a less than ideal situation. In the kitty's defense, our ranger did tell me that if I stayed in one position for too long, the cubs would want to climb on me. I suppose I was just too distracted by their cuteness to keep track. Wouldn't you have been?

Up next: Our voyage to the Blyde River Canyon  – the 3rd largest canyon in the world and it is completely green and a spa retreat at Cybele Forest Lodge.  Stay tuned!

A special thank you to the team at Camp Jabulani for an incredible South African adventure!

A Burnt Bride

23 Dec

After our ceremony in the wide open bush (see Chitwa Chitwa Part Three for more details) we were taken to a surprise location for a romantic wedding dinner for two.  Tucked away in the quaint courtyard of the lodge and centered around a roaring fire-pit, the crew at Chitwa, once again amazed us with a perfectly picturesque setting.

A lovely wedding dinner for two!

Within a few minutes of being seated, we began to hear a rumbling of strange noises…drums…unusual calling sounds – and then they appeared!  An authentic tribe of African dancers to perform for us!

These dancers were no joke. Completely in sync with their moves and their chanting. Incredible!

Then…they ask us to join in the fun with a special serenade for us to have yet another first dance (officially our fourth!).

Then the party really got started (before dinner of course…I mean why not?).  The leader of the group called out to all with a loud party cry!  I have never heard anything quite like it.  I hope to hear it again some day!

African Style Congo Line!

This is when things started to go south…Actually – when they started to go DOWN south…down in flames really…

The photograph above was the last picture taken at our African Bush Wedding Celebration…why you might ask?  Well…moments later when my feet actually came back down to earth, they were completely twisted and intertwined with my wedding dress – which caused me to lose my balance ,and I fell flat on my back into the FIRE!  That’s right…at that very moment I became A Blonde Burnt Bride in the Bush!

Luckily, the tribe leader and Brett were able to pull me from the flames in record time.  Thank God.  Do you know how much aerosol hairspray I use?  I would have gone up like a nuclear bomb if my entire head of hair had hit.  I did lose a few locks – but the real victims were the dress and my back.  “Sorry” to our future daughter (or maybe a, “you’re welcome” is more likely in order) wearing your mother’s wedding dress will not be an option.

Thanks to Shannon – Dr. Shannon that is – lodge manager, wedding planner, and burn unit warrior extraordinaire – things turned out much better than they could have.  The lodge had all the tools and equipment necessary, and she had the skills to treat my wounds (2nd and 3rd degree burns) just as a hospital would have (which was hours away BTW).  Note to self: avoid dancing around fire-pits when miles away from medical care.  In fact: avoid dancing around  fire-pits all together.

The shock of it all (and let’s be honest the Champagne probably helped the cause) allowed me to power through it for a bit.  Truth be told, I remember laughing about it at first.  Thinking…you silly blonde you.  What a hoot!  That hoot turned into serious hurt within about 30 minutes – leaving our lovely wedding dinner uneaten and a beautiful 3-tiered pink wedding cake uncut.  (Silver lining…wedding cake for breakfast for the rest of our stay at Chitwa Chitwa.)

Back in our room, the smell of singed skin, scorched silk, and burnt hair (sounds lovely for your honeymoon night right?) filled the air.  Shannon was in and out throughout the night checking and/or changing the dressings on my back and arm.  Let’s just say – it wasn’t an ideal situation for romance.  That and the fact that they gave me some crazy pain killers that knocked me out….  But – it does make for a great story now, right?  Frankly, even if this entry has bored the pants off of you, I hope you will at least lie to me.

The picture above was taken a few days later when we were finally near a pharmacy on our way to another lodge.  The pharmacist prescribed an antibiotic and Silvadene creme (this stuff works miracles).  My arm had nothing on my back…but my back just looked too gross to show the pictures.  I would like to report that 3 months later – things are looking much better.  I will most likely have permanent scars – but at least Stefan du Plessis got a lot of pictures of me in a backless dress that day.  Plus, I know how much worse this could have been.  I thank my lucky stars (i.e. God) every day, and I am more than happy to LIVE with scars.  And truthfully, the happy memories of that day way outweigh the burnt ones.

Images courtesy of Stefan du Plessis – South Africa Photographer.

Chitwa Chitwa Part 3 – A Bride in the Bush

21 Dec

Brett and I decided to say our vows to each other at sunset in the wide open bush of the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve in South Africa.  Countless emails were exchanged between our travel consultant, myself, and the amazing team at Chitwa Chitwa to create the perfect setting for our special moment.  Bags upon bags of rose petals were ordered for the aisle.  An unusual duo of musicians (a classical violinist and an African drummer ) were hired to create the perfect background melody. Pink roses were selected for bouquets, boutonnieres, and centerpieces. Pink Champagne was ordered for celebratory toasting.  A perfect spot was chosen and decorated with lanterns and candles galore.  And of course, a minister was hired to bless the vows and the marriage.  For how many guests you might ask?  Well…for two!  It was just Brett and myself (and our new friends at Chitwa Chitwa). That is all you really need though, right?  A Bride and a Groom.

Very little about the day could be considered traditional.  I mean our guest list consisted of a herd of giant Water Bucks…  Also, the fact that the Bride and Groom got ready together.  I did wait to put on my dress until after they had taken Brett to the ceremony spot…but for the make-up and hair roller portion of the primping process – we were together!  The day was lovely – perfect really,except for one little, itsy bitsy glitch – but I will save that for later!

Here is the our day summed up in pictures photographed by the wonderful Stefan du Plessis.  Warning!!  Lots of photos!

Brett sees me like this every day...I figure he must like it or he wouldn't have proposed in the first place! (Although, I am not sure why I am posting it for all of you to see!)

My good-looking groom tying his wedding tie.

Oops! I guess I should have waited to apply my lipstick until after I kissed him goodbye. The groom is not supposed to have ruby-red lips, right? Brett & Morgan Hutchinson

The Dress! I designed and had this made here in Beijing. It was my something new and my something blue!

Brett on his way to the ceremony site. Just about a 5-10 minute drive through the bush.

The elegantly rustic archway that God and the team of Chitwa Chitwa created. (God because the tree became an archway when it was struck by lightning). Tristan, our ranger even made the rails on either side of the arch with fallen branches and covered them with lanterns.

Here comes the bride! (In her open-top ride...) Hair and veil be damned!

The groom - what a jack of all trades. He escorted me down the aisle as well.

The lovely sounds of Anneke Coetzer. In fact, I think their unique beat would be perfect for Hotel Costes soundtrack!

Of course I already knew that I loved this man...what I did not know is what a poet he is. Truth be told...his vows put mine to shame 🙂 Morgan Hutchinson

My turn now! I did get a big laugh from our guests (Water Buck excluded) when I pulled them from my cleavage...I mean - it's not like my wedding dress had pockets!

The prayer and blessing after our vows.

Now you may kiss the bride!

Signing our marriage certificate. This one is just for show...the real one was done back in Beijing. That said - if you are planning to wed in South Africa, they can take care of everything for you so that your marriage is also legal in the USA (or other countries for that matter).

Our first dance as Mr. and Mrs. Brett Hutchinson! (Okay...to be fair - it was our third. First at the Circus of Love and second at our Chinese Wedding celebration). Third time is a charm, right? Brett and Morgan Hutchinson

Popping some pink bubbly!

This might be my favorite. You can see the Water Buck in the background! Brett and Morgan Hutchinson

Just look how perfectly Stefan captured the sunset in our hands

I actually requested the photos on this termite mound. Why you ask?? Because termites are incredible. Not the "eat your deck" kind of termites. They are terrible. South African termites; however, are the bee's knees. The queen can live to be 20 years old and she can lay 300,000 eggs a day. Can you believe that? A 20-year-old insect. Plus they make their own food - it is a fungus, but still. I mean - I love mushrooms so who I am I to judge. Seriously - I heart nature.

Our get-away car! Chitwa Chitwa...you left no stone unturned. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Tristan let me use his Ranger's Rifle as a prop for a few photos. Don't get any ideas - the problem I mentioned at the beginning of this blog entry did not involve me shooting myself or anyone else for that matter!

Just before taking off for our night-time game drive. That's right...we went to see the lions eat before we ate our own wedding meal - in full wedding garb and all. Surreal to say the least!

Since this entry is already quite long…and very photo heavy, I am going to write about the wedding dinner and party portion of the evening separately.  This way I can keep you in suspense as to what went WRONG on our wedding day.  Believe me… it was pretty terrible.   But when looking back, it does make for a great story.  Stay tuned!

All images courtesy of Stefan du Plessis Photography

Chitwa Chitwa Part Two with Stefan du Plessis

21 Dec

On the morning of our wedding ceremony, we asked our wedding photographer to join us on the morning game drive.  His photos gave us an entirely different perspective than those that we took.  Stefan’s  pictures confirmed to us that even though we have the same camera base (Canon 7D) – skill and type of lens (but mostly skill) make all the difference!

Up and at 'em! 5 AM and ready to see the big 5!

Our transportation for the week

Brett cracking me up as usual...what "Brettism" could he have possibly just said??

Treking through the bush to get closer to a group of giraffes

Morning coffee on game drive

Chatting with the gang about the weather report...it was calling for rain that night. Rain, rain go away!

Finding our perfect ceremony spot...an open area of the bush with a tree struck by lightning forming a natural archway. Of course the crew at Chitwa Chitwa transformed it later into something even more magical!

Brett taking a little bathroom break in the bush behind a termite mound...

With Tristan and Natalee talking ceremony details. I really do prefer candid shots. Thank you, Stefan for capturing every moment of the day!

Our version of a rehearsal...

As my favorite 2-year-old little girl, Drewsie Willson would say, "I am hap-hap-happy!"

I pray that we are still making each other laugh like this 40 years from now!

 

Trying my hand at photographing hungry lions

These big guys took down this baby Cape Buffalo and cleaned it out within 24 hours. Their bellies were so full they looked pregnant!

Nature is amazing. So is this photo!

With a pride of 4 male lions surrounding our range rover, I love the fact that we were still more interested in each other. Or as Cory Hutchinson and Brett Sweyer would mockingly sing, "Young love!"

Sitting down for breakfast after the drive. I swear we ate more on this 3-week trip than we usually do in an entire year!

At breakfast with the sweet and very helpful staff of Chitwa Chitwa. Thanks for the paparazzi-esque shot, Stefan!

Sitting down with the minister who married us later that day. Lovely man. Jesus lover and great joke teller. Killer combo.

After this breakfast we went for massages, manicures, and some down time in the room to finalize our wedding vows to each other.  I highly recommend writing your own vows.  We  said the traditional ones as well – but saying our own made it even more special – and honestly, more real.

Wedding pictures up next!

All images courtesy of Stefan du Plessis Photography.

 

 

Chitwa Chitwa Part One

20 Dec

With the Ellies during their afternoon drink by the watering hole

There is no possible way for me to sum up our time at the Chitwa Chitwa Private Game Reserve into one post.  There were too many special moments, too many spectacular animals, and far too many wedding ceremony pictures in the beautiful bush to cram into a single blog entry.  So, I am going to divide it into three parts….the animals, the game drive with our wedding photographer, and of course the vows.  Let’s do it alphabetically.

Just getting to Chitwa Chitwa was quite an exciting excursion of its own.  The teeny tiny prop plane was manageable.  The dirt landing strip; however, was a bit out of my comfort zone.  Brett of course thought it was fantastic – he pointed it out from the sky with that, “dude, this is awesome” look on his face.  This dude didn’t find it all that awesome.  Although – it wasn’t nearly as scary or bumpy (for that matter) as I thought it would be.  And after arriving at the lodge within minutes of landing, I was thrilled that we had tested our fear factor as opposed to taking the windy 3 hour drive from Nelspruit.

Upon arrival to Chitwa Chitwa, located in Sabi Sands, we were greeted by Natalie (one of the two wonderful women – Shannon being the other – who helped to plan our perfect African Wedding Ceremony in the Bush).  While our bags were taken to our lodge, we were escorted to their lovely outdoor lunch spot situated on what is one of the largest watering holes in all of Sabi Sands.  Here we watched the hippos swim as we dined on delightful international cuisine influenced by local flavors.  During our meal, our ranger for the week (as well as Brett’s Best Man) Tristan, came to introduce himself and give us the rundown of our schedule.  That’s right – you have a schedule on safari.  This came as no surprise to us (after countless hours of research) but for those of you thinking that you might enjoy an African safari, please be sure that you are prepared for the 4AM wake-up calls every morning for game drives.  I assure you they are worth it!  That said, if early mornings truly are your nemesis, then this may not be the vacation for you.  I would also like to add a note for those in the planning or considering stages, before I start the picture show, that we were deciding between Chitwa Chitwa and Singita.  In the end, it came down to the amazing attention that Chitwa Chitwa devoted to our questions and ideas regarding the wedding ceremony.  I am confident that we would have been very happy and impressed with Singita – but for us, Chitwa Chitwa – a smaller lodge was the perfect fit.

Now on to the slide show!

A view of the elephants taken from our room!

Up close and personal with this 10-15 year old elephant.

This elephant bull roams Sabi Sands as a loner. The eternal bachelor.

These prehistoric creatures blew our minds!

Brett and a black rhino

Hungry! Hungry! Hippo! The most aggressive species in the bush. You don't want to get in their way!

This Cape Buffalo was killed by a small pride of lions right beside the watering hole the day before we arrived. Apparently, the kill happened during the lodges lunch time for all of the guests to see nature take its course first hand. Ouch!

This hyena is taking a short break after battling it out with the vultures over the remains of the Cape Buffalo.

Even though it didn't totally work out...I was actually hoping for baby giraffes to stand in as my bridesmaids...it was still a splendid sight to see these elegant creatures in their natural habitat. Luckily, Chitwa Chitwa, named for the rickety sound an old giraffe's knees, continues to have a number of giraffe's that hang out at the lodge.

One of my favorite fun facts we learned on game drive was about giraffe lashes. Apparently, their long and beautiful lashes help them to eat from some of the spiniest trees. No Latisse prescription required.

Who knew that impalas liked to chill with little birdies?

Or with zebras?

This particular vervet monkey was one of my favorites. They are extremely curious little things - they literally can't take their eyes of you. Makes a girl feel good...

Hanging out on the sunset deck before heading out on evening game drive.

The kings come out at night!

Just look at the size of its tongue! I seriously could not believe how close they let us get to them!

Evening game drive stop for sun-downers. The staff take your drink order at lunchtime and pack the Range Rover accordingly so that you can enjoy your drink of choice as you watch the sun set, while waiting for the big cats to come out and play.

I felt a bit like Cruella de Vil during our first leopard sighting. Their coats really are to die for - but their beauty in the wild is even more stunning. I kind of want to be friends with them. Although...I am pretty sure they have something else in mind other than friendship...like dinner.

We actually didn't see leopards until our second to last game drive at Chitwa. The lions had been in such full force that they were lying low until the biggest cats in the kingdom took a break from hunting.

Coffee break on a morning game drive.

It is rare to see a lioness as active as this one was during the heat of the day. Sadly, she was on a mission to find her sisters after they had a "cat fight" and separated. Doesn't that just break your heart? Just like 7th graders...lionesses have girl fights too! Do you think they also play truth or dare and freeze each others' panties?

A very special and rare breed of stork. Maybe he will bring a special delivery to Brett and me in the near future??

Our Spotter (different from a Ranger) noticed this little guy in a tree over 50 feet away in the pitch black. Isn't he cute?

Resident crocodile at Chitwa's watering hole

Game drive photo shoot with Stefan du Plessis coming soon.  Stay tuned!

Calling All Wine, Art & Diamond Lovers!

19 Dec

This should cover a lot of you, so I am expecting an extra-large number of readers today.  If you fall into one or all (like me) of those categories, then Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa is a definite destination spot for you.

Laurence Graff, known to many as the “The King of Diamonds” is one of the few humans in the world that can spot a flawless stone with his bare eyes.  No loop required.  So how does this translate into his estate nestled into the wine country just an hour outside of Cape Town?  The answer is – flawlessly.  He has not missed a single detail of perfection.  From the villas, to the gardens, to the museum quality art collection, to the food, to the wines, and last but not least the impeccable service – we could not have been more impressed.  Though our stay was short, Brett and I took advantage of everything Delaire had to offer.  To be honest, any length of time would have felt too short.

Here is the story of our stay summed up in photos.  The pictures speak much louder than my words.

View of the vineyards from our villa. Taken while sipping on the champagne that was waiting for us in the room upon arrival. I love the way these people think.

Brett flipping through the Graff Diamonds coffee table book in our living room. That incredible view (from the previous picture) is just in front of him. Although, I prefer the view with him in it!

Enjoying the bubbly and the warm clean air. I took on a whole new appreciation for air quality after moving to Beijing. It is the small things in life, you know? Like being able to breathe.

The happy couple right before our wine tasting commenced. You can tell because our teeth and lips are not purple yet! I know you are supposed to spit it out...but who does that on their honeymoon?

Our view during the wine tasting. Just stunning.

In the cellar learning about Delaire's wine making process. Probably should have done the education portion before the tasting...

Touring the cellar... Apparently, I got confused and thought we were taking a dance team picture.

A pristine 2008 red wine barrel at Delaire Graff Estate.

On our way back to the villa to rest and freshen-up before dinner I made a quick stop to kiss the iconic statues of Delaire.

One of many powerful paintings by Lionel Smit

A dip in the pool before dinner. Don't judge - I think I may have counted this as my bath...

Sunset at Delaire Graff Estate. Our view as we walked to dinner.

Dining at the Delaire Graff Restaurant for dinner. We chose Indochine for lunch which was also very tasty. The decor of both spaces is lovely. Be sure to check our Delaire's dining options for even more images of the property. Breathtakingly beautiful.

Sadly, our stay at Delaire had to come to an end. It was certainly too short! But the adventure continues. Here is Brett boarding our tiny "crop duster" to take us to Chitwa Chitwa Private Game Lodge. Let the safari begin!

Stayed tuned for lions, leopards, and ellies galore!

Cape Town: The City of Animals

15 Dec

Baboons run so freely in Cape Town that the city has employed official "Baboon Watchers" to help guard and protect the citizens and their homes. Sneaky little monkeys they are...with their red fannies out for all the world to see!

For an animal lover like myself, Cape Town is truly a city of angels (wild animal angels that is).  In addition to the jaw dropping beauty that the city has to offer, it seemed that at every turn in the road, another furry or feathery creature appeared.  Although, I must say that there is actually nothing that angelic about a baboon.

Our tour of the Cape began at Table Mountain, a flat top mountain that offers gorgeous panoramic views of the entire city.  A cable car takes you all the way up to the top – but the lines can be out of control.  Tickets can be purchased in advance online at http://tablemountain.net/ – but I suggest having your hotel buy them for you right before you go in order to be sure that the cable car is operating and that the mountain is open.  Unpredictable winds play a big factor in cable car capability.  We also suggest hiring a driver that is not above offering a small bribe to one of the workers to sneak you up the back elevator.  I bet we saved at least an hour!  By the way – if you are traveling with children, they are a free ticket to the secret elevator ride.  But be careful on the cable car…the floor moves like one of those  revolving restaurants from the 1980’s and it unexpectedly reveals open windows at times.  One father almost had a Michael Jackson moment with his baby girl.

Brett taking in the view and sipping on wine at Table Mountain Cafe

The ride to the top took less than 10 minutes, and the temperature dropped what felt like at least 10 degrees.  We had been forewarned that it would be chilly up there…so I sported my own cape in honor of THE Cape.  After admiring the view and taking an acceptable amount of photos, we stopped in at the Table Mountain Cafe (a surprisingly cute and trendy spot) to enjoy the scenery (free from the wind) over a glass of fine South African wine.

Typical honeymoon solo photos! On top of Cape Town's Table Mountain...in a cape!

The reality is that Brett and I are not the greatest at sticking to a schedule during vacation.  So when we made it back down the mountain an hour late…our driver was a little frazzled.  In his defense, our expectations were very high on the amount of things we wanted to see in one day.  So…our tardiness – due to newlywed giggles caused us to miss out on the boat trip to Seal Island.  While we hated to miss out, it was our driver who fell into a short-term depression over the miss.  He was determined to for us to see some seals.  He didn’t disappoint.

I even got to feed one! Feeders beware though - we learned that seals actually bite!

After the seal feeding and baboon sightings, we couldn’t wait to see what other animals might emerge.  Again, Cape Town did not let us down.  And, as we turned the corner heading to the Cape of Good Hope, a lady ostrich chilling by the sea raised her long lovely neck.

Sunbathing Ostrich by the Sea. You just don't see this everyday in Beijing...or New York...or Murray, Kentucky...or Columbus, Ohio for that matter!

Morgan and Brett Hutchinson at the Cape of Good Hope

Posing by the sea at Cape of Good Hope before climbing to the top

On Top of Good Hope

At the very top! Only 12,933 kilometers to Beijing!

Brett on top of Good Hope. I was trying to be artistic with the new camera... What do you think?

After a tasty seafood lunch (late lunch I should say…we were actually hungry when our dishes arrived) and a not too shabby whale sighting from our seats at the restaurant on top of the Cape of Good Hope, we headed back in the direction of One & Only for our grand finale stop of the day.  Cape Town’s very own flock of beach penguins!

Seriously - two of the greatest things ever...Brett laughing and beach penguins.

A feathery angel in a tux. Obsessed.

Falling in love with the strange and seemingly misplaced little sunbathing birds...

I think I found a true connection with the penguins of Boulders Beach. As a Blonde in Beijing…I often feel misplaced myself!

Cape Town is an exquisite city.  We had no idea how much we would fall in love with it, and we hope to be able to go back. It is a bucket list destination for sure.

Up next…Our trip to the Delaire Graff Estates and Winery in Stellenbosch.  Wine, art, and diamond lovers stayed tuned!

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