Tag Archives: tours

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!

The Last Wonder Standing

4 Oct

FASHION: Red Silk Chiffon Gown with Brushed Gold Sequin Trim. Purchased at Alien Street Market in Beijing.

The Great Pyramids of Giza will take your breath away…for many reasons.  The obvious reasons:  they are huge, they are beyond old, and one’s brain cannot even begin to understand the complexity of their construction.  In addition, it is remarkable to see how close they are to the massive city of Cairo.  Movies and pictures have always led me to believe that these enormous structures are located in the middle of nowhere; however, this could not be any less true.  But I suppose the way in which I was least expecting for the pyramids to take my breath away was in the literal sense – but that they did.

Walking by Khufu with Jasmine

Our day of touring began at 7AM.   Our guide for the next 2 days, Jasmine Amin(who is fantastic!) met us at the hotel and we immediately took off towards the pyramids in order to be there for the opening of Khufu (the largest of the 3 and the only one open for public entry on that day).  I highly recommend booking a private tour guide and car.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Noha, the concierge working with us at the Four Seasons First Residence, selected our guide.  We were able to design a tour based on the exact sites we wanted to see, and the hotel provided a picnic basket so that we would not get hungry during the full day of site seeing.

By 8AM we were standing at the base of Khufu.  Jasmine had already purchased our entry tickets, and we began the short climb to the entrance of this great tomb.  We had no idea what was in store.  Khufu was constructed over a 20-year period around 2560 BC as a tomb for its namesake, Pharaoh Khufu, and it remained the tallest man-made structure for over 3800 years!

Being Dressed Like a Local by a Local

Standing on The Great Pyramid of Khufu

As you can see in the picture below, the limestone blocks used  to build it are almost as tall as me.  I strongly suggest arriving early.  Only 300 visitors are allowed inside each day – once at 8AM and once at 1PM.  Of course it is cooler at 8AM, but even more importantly it is less crowded.  In this scenario, I believe that the crowd would overwhelm me more than the heat.  As you enter the hallway to the tomb, the ceiling height drops to about 3.5 feet and you begin to climb up a steep wooden ramp.  It is dark and you start to feel a bit claustrophobic – but any discomfort is overcompensated by the fact that you are climbing inside one of the Great Pyramids.  I couldn’t help but feel a little bit like Indiana Jones (albeit an Indiana Jones wearing a long red dress which I realize looked completely impractical – but in fact was incredibly comfortable and effortless!) When we arrived at the top and entered the room holding the carsophaugus (basically a granite casket) the heat and lack of air during the climb had winded me, but I recovered almost instantly as I stood in amazement.  The room, made of perfectly assembled dark granite stones was unbelievably dark, cool, and quiet.  The voices of the 10 or so tourists inside echoed in the tiny space.  Other than the tall ceilings, the room felt very ordinary.  There were no traces of golden treasures or ancient drawings.  In fact the only treasure ever discovered inside the Khufu Pyramid was a tiny ivory statue of the Pharaoh Khufu (now located at the Egyptian Museum). A flashlight revealed a small cutout (about 6″ wide) that opened to what appeared to be a very long corridor yet to be explored. It excited me to think that perhaps those naughty tomb robbers from centuries ago had been unsuccessful in stealing all of treasures left for Khufu’s afterlife  –  yet to be discovered even today.  After sneaking a quick kiss in the corner, we decided to begin our descent before it became too crowded.  I must admit that the climb down was a little more stressful…there was a 6 month old baby involved (note to self: 6 month olds are terrified of really dark and really hot cave like spaces that once held a dead body) as well as a couple well into their 70’s – possibly even their 80’s (more power to them but I was terrified of a broken hip situation).

We reconnected with Jasmine after exciting the pyramid where we were introduced to the photographer that the hotel found for us to take pictures for a couple of hours as we toured the rest of the area.  I am actually thrilled that we booked this.  The cost was less than $250 USD (including the pictures of which there were over 300) and it took all the stress of asking our guide or other tourists to capture the most amazing photo of all time with our “small enough to fit into any size handbag” digital camera.  (I am including many of the photographers images in this entry.)

In Front of Khufu's Boat

In addition to the 3 great pyramids, this site is home to the Sphinx as well as a Boat Museum which houses an amazingly intact wooden boat of the Pharaoh Khufu.  We toured the museum to learn the story of how the boat was

discovered only decades ago and how it was restored to its current state before taking a fantastic camel ride over to see the Sphinx.

The camels are kissing too!

In front of the Step Pyramid

After a full morning of learning, our brains took a small rest during the 30 minute drive to Saqqara to see the very first Egyptian pyramid – The Step Pyramid built for the Pharaoh Djoser.  While it was fascinating to see the predecessor to the other 138 pyramids found in Egypt, it was a bit heartbreaking to learn that the Egyptian government is funding a project to create an entirely new facade for this structure.  I mean…I am all for restorations and improvements, but when this project is finished, the original and remaining portion of this 4600+ year old masterpiece will be completely hidden.  To me – it is such a loss.

Rubbing the Fertility God's Belly

From Saqqara, we made a quick stop to learn the process of creating papyrus (the first type of paper created by Egyptians) before traveling to see the ruins of Memphis, a former capital city.  Memphis is the home to many amazing statues and remains as part of an open air museum.

Here we are rubbing the belly of the god of fertility.  Mona and Donna – don’t get too excited just yet!

Finger in Fertility God's Belly Button

After a long day of touring, we made one final stop to a jewelry store specializing in Egyptian style gold jewelry.  While this of course helped my energy level to pick up…I got the picnic basket out to help Brett’s!  We had a beautiful Cartouche made in 18K yellow gold with my name in Eyptian on one side and Brett’s on the other.  We felt a bit like junior high kids buying matching identity bracelets…but we didn’t care!  It was fun.

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