|07-06-2009, 08:37 AM||#1|
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Allentown, Pa
South Africa Trip Report Day 1, 2 &3
Hello all. We are back from South Africa and had an unbelievable time. I don't know how to post pictures, and they are still on my camera card, so perhaps I will be able to go back and add them later. Too much to say for now.
We Flew South African Air and I would highly recommend this airline. (Although the trip back was more standard than the way there in terms of service). We flew coach. The service was lovely, they kept serving food, beer and wine were free. 3 flights. A short hop to Washington DC, then a SEVENTEEN hour flight to Johannesburg and then a 2 hour flight (with another meal and more free alcohol) to Cape Town. The long flights were no where as bad as we thought they would be. Individual entertainment systems in each seat. We came prepared with books and ipods etc. My kids are 11, 12 and 15. They are well traveled, so they know how to keep themselves occupied.
An abd rep (not the guides) was waiting for us outside the luggage area before we had picked up our luggage, which came out first, and we were off to the Southern Sun Waterfront hotel. We checked in quickly. The hotel is beautiful. Our two rooms were standard, but very nice rooms with two doubles each, and all the amenities in the bathroom. We had been traveling for 2 days, it was 10:30, we all passed out.
Day 1 of Disney itinerary
We came down for breakfast at 10 am, after a wonderful night's sleep and were greeted by Tina and Craig who filled us in on everything we would needed to know. Tina is a Disney Vet and she was wonderful. Craig is South African and clearly trained in the ways of Disney. Terrific as well.
Breakfast was an enormous buffet with everything you could think of. The service in the hotel (and everywhere we went) was amazingly friendly. The hotel was crowded with mostly British and Irish soccer and rugby fans as the Confederations cup was being played in South Africa(soccer) and some big rugby championship as well.
This whole first day is on your own to allow people to arrive and recover from the long flights.
We took the hotel shuttle to the Victoria and Albert Waterfront. A huge complex with a million stores, restaurants, an aquarium, craft markets, movies and museums. We went directly to the Robben Island ferry terminal and bought tickets to see Robben Island. This is the Island prison that political prisoners were kept on during aparteid, Nelson Mandela being it's most famous prisoner. No problem buying the tickets for the next departure as it is now Winter in SA and low season. If you are doing this trip during their summer, buy those tickets in advance. Robben Island is a must do. You get a big dose of history right away. I read Nelson Mandela's autobiography before we went, because I like to know some background wherever I go. I remember aparteid and it's end from the news reports, but it is important to really know and never forget.
The weather in Cape Town was quite uncooperative the whole time we were there. It was overcast and cool this first day, but better, we were told, than the previous 7 days, when Robben Island was closed because the seas were too rough for the ferry. Several hours later we were back at the waterfront. I found free wi fi outside near the amphitheatre. I was too cheap to purchase the world plan from my carrier. We had dinner at the waterfront in a restaurant recommended by Craig called Baia. It was terrific. Our son is a picky eater, but getting better slowly, and he never had a problem with the food the whole trip. The restaurant overlooked the waterfront all atwinkle (night time around 6 pm, it's winter). Lovely bottle of wine and great seafood.
Started the day by meeting the group for a beautiful buffet breakfast in a private dining room. We had only 4 families, 16 people. One couple without their grown children, one family of 4 (who we met last year on the Germany trip and knew a few weeks prior would be with us) and 2 families of 5. Our 11 year old was the youngest. The weather was dubius and Table Mountain was closed and remained closed the whole time we were in Cape Town. Craig checked the status about a million times a day, hoping to get us there at some point, but the weather was the big talk in the news with big storms and high seas, so we didn't get there. I don't feel like I missed anything though. We headed to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. It poured during our tour of mostly the indoor areas. Tina was ready with the Disney plastic ponchos for whoever needed one. I took one, and then had my raincoat with me every day after that. The gardens are beautiful. Andrew, the garden guide was knowledgeable and friendly. The mountains in the background gorgeous. It stopped raining for a short walk outside too.
Next we headed to the District 6 Museum. During aparteid, whole communities were uprooted and moved, simply because the white people decided that black people could no longer live in the neighborhood, the white people isolated and dehumanized black people. The Museum in an homage to the families who were moved to substandard barrack like homes far out of town. Another fabulous history lesson. The museum guide lived in district 6, so could relate his own experiences. This particular district was torn down and never rebuilt for anyone to live in.
Hopped back on the coach (very roomy since such a small group) and went to Greenmarket Square. Right in the center of Capetown, it is a craft market. We wandered around for a while, bought some fun stuff and then went to lunch.
A word about the food. The food on this trip overall was the best food we have had on an abd. This was our 4th abd. We went to pretty nice restaurants, there was a lot to choose from, both for adults and juniors, and we only had to pre order perhaps 3 times. There were only 2 dinners on your own on the whole trip. I was worried, since the food was what I found least appealing on the other trips, not the various countries foods, but how limited Disney's food choices where. This one was great.
After lunch we had a walking tour of the center of Cape Town. Learned more about the history of the town with it's Dutch roots.
We had a few hours on our own, so where do we go, back to the mall.
Dinner that night was the welcome dinner. It was at the Castle of Good Hope. There was fun entertainment and we ate in a beautiful room at one large table. The one large table thing happened a lot. It worked well. You can really only talk with the few people near you, but if you sit near different people at each meal, you get to know everyone, which we did.
Another fabulous buffet breakfast. On the coach at 8 am. Craig surprised us by telling us that Signal hill was clear this morning and we were going there. It is a lower peak than Table Mtn. which was still closed - you could see the clouds covering the top of Table Mtn the whole time we were there. Signal hill was gorgeous and windy. Amazing views of the whole bowl of Cape Town. We took lots of pictures. I'm the one in the winter hat. It was cold up there and cold for most of the trip. We were pretty well prepared with our clothes, some of the others were not. Of course, we kept hearing how this was unusually bad weather for them.
We headed to The Cape of Good Hope, the most South Western point in all of South Africa. The ride was beautiful. Mountains and seaside and we saw our first animal grazing on a hill. (Tina had the bus driver stop and back up because my daughter didn't spot the Eland the first time! wow thanks Tina) Got our for the photos in the wind and spray. Very exhilerating. Drove on to Cape Point. When we got there, the electricity was out, so no funicular ride to the top. We didn't come to Africa to miss things, so our entire group hoofed it up to the top. It was well worth the walk. Dramatic views of the ocean and huge cliffs. It was very windy. The rain stopped for our hike up and down, but I still held on to my hat. I had my raincoat on over several layers of fleece. Hopped back on the bus a happy camper. On our way to lunch, we saw baboons playing on the side of the road.
Lunch was in a lovely restaurant in Simon's Town right on the beach. The weather was sunny when we arrived, poured during lunch then stopped when it was time to head down to the beach. We walked from the restaurant to the beach entrance. There is a boardwalk all the way down, so no need to worry about sand in your shoes. PENGUINS, PENGUINS everywhere. So cool. They are so much fun to watch.
I forgot to mention, Craig knows everything about South Africa. He told us about history and plants and animals and stories. Lots of great info. He even knew all about the penguins.
While on the beach, there was a sudden squall, it sent most of my fellow adventureres back up to the covered area. Not me. I stayed and watched for a while longer with a few intrepid Australian ladies. The rain only lasted a few minutes. Back on the bus, back to the hotel and a couple of hours on our own. Again we grabbed the shuttle to the waterfront, and went to the Two Oceans Aquarium. Great little aquarium with lots of creatures we hadn't seen before. More penguins too.
Dinner that night was at Gold Restaurant and museum. Dinner started with a drumming class (I was off, buy my 15 year old daughter was good). This was a lot of fun. When our hands hurt sufficiently, we were escorted to dinner. We washed our hands in a traditional way with water being poured over our hands into a large bowl. We went upstairs to the Gold of Africa museum. Very interesting little museum which showed the history of Gold (duh). I really enjoyed this. I wish I had taken a picture of the gigantic earrings that we were told Kings would wear. They would pull your ears down to your shoulders.
Dinner was served family style to the whole table. There were at least 15 different items served. You could tell the Indian influence in some of the dishes. I loved this dinner. During dinner there was super cool entertainment with dancing and drumming and costumes and singing. At the end of the evening, I was thinking, how do you top a terrific day like this one? It got even better.
Last edited by abbyjt; 07-06-2009 at 11:34 AM.
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