Wednesday, November 20, 2013


November 15:  We arrived early in the morning and decided to take the metro into town and then to our apartment.  The metros in Paris are pretty easy to navigate.  We had to change trains twice but we arrived around 10 AM at our apartment on Rue de Entrepreneurs.  The apartment had four rooms: living room, kitchen, two bedrooms.  The toilet was separate from the shower and sink which we liked very much.  The area we were in had all kinds of little pastry, wine, cheese, vegetable shops.  That is what I like about Paris- the food!  The first afternoon we walked to the Eiffel Tower.  The Eiffel Tower was erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair.  It has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower is the tallest structure in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world; 7.1 million people ascended it in 2011.  We did not go up but we took pictures from both sides.  Walking across the Seine river for taking pictures was the best.
November 16:  Today we did the grand tour of highlights of Paris.  We took the subway to Notre Dame and then walked from there to the Louvre Museum.  We saw the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and then wandered around for about 2 hours.  Actually we got lost and had a hard time finding our way out of the Lourve.  It is easy to do since this museum is one of the largest in the world.  Next stop was the Opera house but we couldn't go in because it was closed to the public today.  So we walked over to the Champs Elysee and walked thru a Christmas street fair and then the famous boulevard.  At the end of this fabulous shopping area is the Arc de Triomphe.  After walking around this arc we took the subway home and picked up some take away food for dinner.
November 17:  Today we took the subway to Versailles.  The Palace of Versailles is a royal château in Versailles in the Île-de-France region of France.  When the château was built, Versailles was a country village; today, however, it is a suburb of Paris, some 20 kilometres southwest of the French capital. The court of Versailles was the centre of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in October 1789 after the beginning of the French Revolution. Versailles is therefore famous not only as a building, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy of the Ancien Régime.  What a beautiful palace.  We walked thru the palace and saw the kings apartments, queens apartments, and the hall of mirrors.  Then we walked thru the gardens to Marie Antoinette's private living quarters.  We spent all day at this beautiful place.  That night Dean and I had a delightful dinner at a local brassiere.
November 18:  The Opera house was open today so we toured it in the morning.  The  Palais Garnier  is an elegant 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera.
The Palais Garnier is "probably the most famous opera house in the world, a symbol of Paris like Notre Dame cathedral and the Louvre".  This is at least partly due to its use as the setting for Gaston Leroux's 1911 novel The Phantom of the Opera and the novel's subsequent adaptations in films and Andrew Lloyd Webber's popular 1986 musical.  We walked to the Invalides where Napoleon's tomb is  and got lost walking there which is easy to do since Paris streets run every direction!  Les Invalides contains museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building's original purpose. The buildings house the Musée de l'Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d'Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the burial site for some of France's war heroes, notably Napoleon Bonaparte.  We walked thru the Army museum, saw Napoleon's tomb, and looked at old war relics.  That night we had another lovely dinner and another wonderful pastry!
November 18:  We left for the airport around 9:30. Took the subway again and got to the airport around 11 for a 2:30 flight.  We flew Air France to New York and landed around 4:30.  That night we stayed in a Howard Johnson ( a dump) and flew out the next day for Phoenix.  It is great to be back in the USA!
Pictures:  Dean and I at the Eiffel Tower, entrance to the Louvre,  Arc de Triomphe, gates to Versailles,
Hall of Mirrors, gardens of Versailles, chandelier at opera house, Napoleon's tomb, leaving our apartment, pastry shop.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Whale Coast and Garden Route

 We spent 5 days driving the Whale Coast Route and the Garden Route.  First stop was at Stoney Point on the Whale Coast Route to see more African penguins.  While we were there we saw rock dassies sunning themselves on rocks.  There were two baby dassies.  Believe it or not, these little furry creatures are related to the elephant.  The first night of the road trip we stayed at Hermanus, the whale watching capitol of Africa for one night.  We saw a mother whale and baby but too far for a picture.  In Hermanus they have a whale crier who walks along the viewing areas and blows his horn to tell everyone where you can see whales.  Dean and I had a wonderful sushi meal at Lemon Butta in Hermanus.  We stayed at the Whale Coast Inn which was very cheap, conveniently located, and had very spacious rooms.
The next day we drove to L'Agulhas, the southern most point of Africa and where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet.  It is not as impressive as Cape of Good Hope but we HAD to go to the real tip of Africa.  On the Garden Route, we drove to Mossel Bay for two nights, staying at Amzee Bookmakierie B&B. The first night here I watched some whales breeching (with binoculars).  While we were in this area we drove all the way past Plettenberg Bay to Birds of Eden (about a 3 hour drive from Mossel Bay).  It is the biggest aviary I have ever been to and has some spectacular birds.  We spent 2 hours looking and taking pictures of birds.  But we were not impressed with the Garden Route that everyone here raves about.  It supposedly goes from Heidelburg to just past Plettenberg Bay.  We didn't see much.  Just a lot of driving and not that great of scenery.
Last night we drove back towards Cape Town and we are staying at Southern Cross B&B in Somerset West.  This is another wonderful, inexpensive, B&B.  Today we walked around the old town of Stellenbosch, did some wine tasting, and had a nice lunch at one of the winery's.  We came back to our B&B, packed up and are ready to leave tomorrow for the airport and our flight to Paris.  And I think all four of us are ready to get home.
Ron has been our driver for this road trip and he has done a wonderful job.  He has had to drive on the wrong side of the road, dodge the fast moving cars, and put up with all the passengers telling him how to drive.  What a trooper!!
Pictures: Stoney Point, baby penguin, rock dassies, Hermanus whale crier, L'Agulhas and the four of us, our B & B in Mossel Bay, Birds of Eden and some colorful birds, Dean and I wine tasting, Dean and Ron.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fish Hoek, South Africa

November 5 - After leaving Capetown we stayed outside of Fish Hoek on the southern peninsula for 4 nights.  We had an apartment thru AirBnB which was very nice except for the highway noise.  The first night we walked the beach and then we drove to Kalkbay for a great dinner at the Harbor House.  I had the angelfish and it was superb!
November 6 - We had our first rainy day!  Drove toward the Cape of Good Hope (the most south westerly point of Africa) but it was raining so much we decided to do the cape another day.  We did stop at Boulders beach in Simon's town and watched the African penguins.  They were formerly called Jackass penguins because of their donkey-like braying call.  They  are in their molting season so they were not very active.  During this time of the year they lose their down feathers so they do not get into the water.  The month before this molting season they gorge themselves since they cannot hunt to eat.  We drove along the western coast to Chapman's Peak, a very scenic highway similar to Hwy 1 in California. It is a toll road, fairly short, for under $4, and we did it going to Hoek Bay and coming back.  The views were fantastic.  While in Hoek Bay we had lunch at Mariner's Wharf, a famous restaurant in this area.  I had the Mariner's Curry which was just OK.  Not as good as the Harbor House.  By the way, the rain stopped when we started up Chapman's Peak, thank goodness.
November 7 - Beautiful clear days so we drove to the Cape of Good Hope via the scenic route out of Simon's Town called Red Hill which is a very curvy road up and over the mountain.  The Cape was beautiful today.  We took the Flying Dutchman Funicular up to the lighthouse and back down and walked the light keepers trail to Cape point.  On this trail we encountered many baboons.  They were sitting along side of the trail and on the trail.  After a brief lunch in the car (you can not eat outside because of the baboons) we hiked to the ocean via Dias Beach and stuck our feet in the water and took lots of pictures.  There were 250 steps to get to the water but it was worth it.  Fairly tired, we went back to our apartment and walked to town for fish and chips takeout.
November 8 - We all wanted to go back to Cape Point and it was a beautiful day so we headed back down. Since we bought the Wild Card Pass (similar to our National Park pass) we got in for free.  We drove to Oliphantsbos nature reserve in the park and saw bontebok (a beautiful rare antelope) and some ostriches.  We went for a short hike to the water.  Then we drove to Cape Of Good Hope and took some pictures at the sign where all the tourist go.  After leaving the cape we stopped at an Ostrich farm.  I bought some food and fed Clyde, the ostrich.  We ate lunch in Simon's town at the Salty Dog.  We had fish and chips except Bernita who had a chicken sandwich (she does not like fish).  Tomorrow we leave for Hermanus.
Pictures: our apartment in Fish Hoek, views on our walk near apartment, view out of our bedroom, boulders beach, penguins, Chapman's peak drive and view, mariner's wharf, entrance to Cape of Good Hope, hike to Cape Point, looking up to the lighthouse, baboons on trail, the two of us at Dias beach, walking up the steps from the beach, bontebok, the four of us at Cape of Good Hope, me feeding 'Clyde'.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cape Town

We arrived in Cape Town on Nov. 2.  The weather was beautiful and sunny.  We flew on Skylink operated by South African Air.  We decided to get a taxi to take us to our accommodations.  We were pleasantly surprised at the cost - only $270R ($27.90).  Our driver was Sullie and he went very fast thru the streets.  Bernita was hiding her eyes.  We got our accommodation thru AirBnB and we were very pleased.  We had a two bedroom apartment in a great location, within walking distance from the V & A Waterfront.  We had a nice balcony with great views of the sea.  That first night we walked down to Main St. and had a buffet dinner at Giovanni's.  Dean bought me a dozen roses.  He is so romantic!
Nov. 3  We walked down to the waterfront and bought tickets for Robben Island.  Since our tour was at 1 PM we had time to kill and we hailed a taxi and went to Green Market Square.  This shopping area is an assortment of local crafts for really cheap prices.  I bought salad tongs and a picture. We went back to V & A and had lunch at Ocean Basket.  Dean had pickled calamari and seared tuna.  I had pickled calamari salad and mussels.  Very tasty.  Then we went on our tour of Robben Island.  There is a 30 minute boat ride then we had an interesting tour with a former prisoner at the island.  We saw the cell of Nelson Mandela, the different cell blocks, a chart of meal allocation for prisoners and the exercise grounds.  After the tour of the prison we took a 45 minute bus ride around the island.  It was all very interesting.  That night we had a nice glass of wine back at the harbor and dinner at Giovanni's again.
Nov. 4 - We took the big red bus tour of Capetown.  We stopped downtown to talk to the visitors center then we headed out to Table Mountain.  Table Mountain is one of the new seven wonders of nature and the most visited spot in South Africa.  The cost is 205R apiece (about $20).  We rode up the cable car and shared a lunch of Ostrich sub and cold fries.  Worst meal we have had in South Africa.  The cable car rotates 360 degrees so everyone has a good view going up and down.  We walked for about 45 minutes on the top and took pictures.  Great views!  We finished our bus tour at the waterfront, had a glass of wine, and had an early dinner at Ocean Basket again.  This time I had calamari steak and Dean had the kingclip.  Both were very good.
Nov. 5 - We hired our favorite taxi driver to run us around downtown trying to find a car to rent for the next 9 days.  Avis was full so we went to Hertz.  Thank goodness they had a car.  So we went down to Fish Hoek for our next stay in this area.
Thoughts on Cape Town: beautiful city, everyone very nice and helpful, V&A waterfront lots of fun and entertainment, but lots of traffic and very noisy!
Pictures:  Dean on the patio of our apartment, Green Market Square, entertainers at V&A Harbor, Robben Island Museum, former prisoner giving tour, Mandela's cell for 18 years, entrance to Robben Island, Table Mountain entrance, cable car and views, Dean on hike at Table Mt., signs at V&A (we are a long way form home!)