In Meghan Markle’s Footsteps!

LOCATION: Capetown, South Africa

WEATHER: Super! High 70. Sunny

Today we were 100% tourists – pounding the streets of Capetown and seeing its highlights.

Some friends had recommended the District Six Museum, so we checked it out. Here we are looking at the stories behind the 60,000 people that were removed from their houses in District Six during Apartheid…

Oops – wrong couple – Meghan and Prince Harry, not Karmen and George. They were here a few weeks ago.

It is a very interesting (and sad) museum. Actually an old church, it tells the stories of these people. Coincidentally, our cab driver told us he was born there, and his story was the same — that it was a delightful neighborhood full of diversity (everything imaginable except pure whites). Then, the whites bulldozed the area and resettled the residents in townships.

The Apartheid government imposed strict rules on where the non-Whites could walk, work, go to school, and shop. They had to carry cards that identified their race, and could be imprisoned for not carrying their cards or for violating the stipulations.

They were mostly divided between “black” (Bantu) and coloreds (everything else – mostly mixed, or Indian, Muslim, or Middle East). Coloreds were treated better, so some blacks tried to pass for colored. The government did a pencil test…..If the pencil stuck in one’s curly hair, you are black. If the pencil falls out, you are colored. If you are bald, the upper lip and nostrils were measured to make the decision. Wow!

Somehow, I don’t think Prince Harry and Megan Markle used the transportation we did – the Hop On Hop Off Bus…

It is really a deal at $30 for 3 days, with various routes all over the city and cape. It took us next to the cable car that goes up Table Mountain…

The cabin rotates 360 degrees while you are traveling up to the peak.

The views from the top are magnificent…

(not a very photogenic photo, but you get the idea….)

While we were there, the famous fog drifted in…

Some people climbed it!

Then, back on the bus to downtown. Many of the buildings still have their colonial facades.

On a different Hop On/Off bus, we drove through the touristy beach area. It is filled with elegant homes, high rises, classy shops and sidewalk cafes.

On our way home, we stopped at a grocery store to stock up again. George bought three kinds of billtong (jerky) in a deli case just for this popular food. He bought 3 kinds – game, ostrich, and kudu. A great snack, and not too expensive.

DINNER: Yeah! The BBQ grill (called braii here) works. The rooftop on the apartment has a nice, large BBQ area, and all 6 grills were busy tonight.

He grilled a pork steak and some veg (baby cabbage, onions, and bell peppers). Side was rocket (arugula) salad.

We were really pooped after a long day being a tourist!

Not imprisoned on Robben Island

LOCATION: Capetown, South Africa

WEATHER: Perfect! High 70 and sunny

Today’s highlight was a visit to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was in prison for 27 years. The island is a UNESCO world heritage site.

After a 30-minute ferry ride, we were escorted by bus to the prison area. Our guide is a former prisoner, there with Nelson Mandela. He was very stern.

The guide was very informative, and we learned that there both criminal as well as political prisoners there during his stay. Conditions were terrible – in this area 40-60 inmates slept on the cold hard floor.

At some point, the rest of the world learned about these prisoners, inspected the prison, and got conditions improved a bit, to include actual cots.

There were no white prisoners, but there was still differentiated treatment based on skin color – Blacks (called Bantu), coloreds, and asiastic. They were placed in different buildings and were given different types/amounts of food.

This is Mandela’s cell…

Then, we took a bus ride around the island. About 300 people still live in the little town where the wardens and military stayed when the prisoners were there. We stopped at the tip of the island where we could see Capetown across the water. There were huge clumps of seaweed in the water.

The island has had a long history of sadness. It was used as a prison back to the 1600s. Then, it was a dumping ground for people with mental illness and leprosy. This leper graveyard reminds us of that era…

Back on the mainland, this seal greeted us….

It was a very interesting outing We are glad we did it.

DINNER: Ostrich burgers!

They tasted more like beef than poultry.

First impressions of Capetown

LOCATION: Capetown, South Africa
WEATHER: Just perfect. Sunny. High 70

As we docked in the harbor, we enjoyed beautiful views of Table Mountain (appropriately named) that looms over the city.

We disembarked at about 10:00. There were LOTS of suitcases waiting for people to pick up. Our tiny rollerbag looked a little sad among all the huge cases. Just glad we don’t have to lug them around!

As we disembarked, this local gospel choir greeted us with dancing and singing.

We made our way to the very nice Air B&B apartment where we will stay for a week in Capetown. The apartment is very modern. We have views of the waterfront as well as Table Mountain from either side.

So far, it seems like a lovely city. We strolled through the V&A (Victoria and Albert) Waterfront which is full of shops, outdoor restaurants, and tourist attractions.

DINNER: We found a supermarket not far from our apartment and bought food for a few days. We will probably eat breakfast and dinners here, and eat lunch out. To our delight, we found gas BBQs on the rooftop deck, so bought food to grill.

Uh-oh….when we got ready to grill the chicken wings for tonight’s dinner, we could not get the grills to work. So, I improvised and sauteed the wings in a skillet inside. I added diced bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions. At the end, I added white wine and plain yogurt for a sauce. Not too shabby. Served with a salad. It is nice to be able to cook again.

Speaking of wine…..the South African wine is excellent so far, and quite cheap (especially compared to the cruise ship). We bought medium-priced bottles for $5 at the grocery store. $2 a glass in a cafe where we had lunch. I will like this!

The delightful cruise ends….

LOCATION: Last day on the Queen Elizabeth. Docked in Capetown, South Africa
WEATHER: Mild, high 70

We departed from Walvis Bay, watching huge jellyfish swim next to the ship in the harbor. We learned that only about 6 cruise ships dock here a year, so it hasn’t become very commercialized yet.

The seas almost immediately became rough. We just have one more day at sea before we reach Capetown. Many of the passengers are going on to Australia from here— 3 more weeks!

We tried to take advantage of the ship’s offerings one more time before we go….

A glimpse into one of the ship’s nice restaurants…

One final afternoon in a cozy nook to read a bit..

A final visit to the pub for a pint and trivia

We couldn’t resist this photo. This Thai waiter reminded us of Kim Jong-un – in both looks and personality….

A final show in the theatre….

These are the nice people, all Brits, who have been our dinner tablemates for the cruise. We had the 8:30 seating which we liked, although it made for late nights if we did a 10:30 show after dinner

This kind man, a Filipino, has been our waiter every night. He knows I like hot sauce and sets a bottle of Tabasco next to my place setting each evening….

George and I checked out the Churchill Cigar Room. He bought a Cuban cigar when we were in Tenerife, then enjoyed it under the guidance of Churchill…..

Boy – did it stink!

Saying a final goodbye to my good friend, the Queen, as we disembark, after 17 days together on the high seas.

Next stops – Capetown, the South African Wineland Area, Botswana, Victoria Falls, Johannesburg, then……???? No plans yet.

BOOKS: The Crowded Grave, another French mystery by Martin Walker. Again, I like his books as they remind me of the village where we housesat not far from Bordeaux. 5 stars out of 5

Namibia….What a Pleasant Surprise!

LOCATION: Docked at Walvis Bay on the SW coast of Africa. Sailing on the Queen Elizabeth from England to Capetown, South Africa

WEATHER: Nice. High 72. Mostly sunny

We docked in Walvis Bay, a port town of about 85,000 people in the country of Namibia. I have to admit I didn’t know much about this new country before. We were not expecting much, but were very pleasantly surprised. Here is its location.

We had splurged on one of the excursions offered by the ship. We had reservations on the Sandwich Harbor 4X4 trip at noon. So, with the morning free, we took a shuttle from the ship to a shopping mall. I was surprised to see a vibrant community with no obvious poverty. The mall had a few shops, but more importantly offered a coffee shop with wifi. (Hence, the last grouping of blog and Facebook posts.)

On our way back to the ship, we stopped at this little market where locals were selling some of their handiwork.There were 48 who had signed up for our trip. We were split into 8 groups of 6 each, in various 4×4 jeeps. It is customary to travel in convoys in case one of the jeeps gets into trouble.

Our first stop was a bay where there are thousands of pink and white flamingos. Just beautiful…Then, a few miles to Africa’s largest salt producers. There are hundreds of acres of flooded areas where salt is mined. This is our jeep driver showing us one of the salt the pink water…After about a mile, the hardened salt road ended and we started our off-road adventure. Away we go!!!

We followed the beach, driving just inches from the sea. We passed several seals sunbathing, and a jackal just waiting to grab one of the seal babiesThe entire area is a national park. We stopped at a pit stop where our driver cautioned us that this would be our only opportunity for a toilet.Then the fun really began. Our convoy turned inland toward the massive sand dunes. We went up and down – like a roller coaster.. Some of the angles were more than 45 degrees. A bit scary.One of the jeeps got stuck going up one of the steep dunes, and had to back up and start again. The trick is to zoom up fast.

We stopped at Sandwich Harbor. This entire coastline is called the Skeleton Coast, as so many ships in the past crashed along the seashore.Another stop was an unexpected lunch. The jeep drivers brought out tables, nibbles, beer, wine, pop, and water. Quite civilized in the middle of the desert!Our driver/guide was quite good. He spoke English to us, but Africaans to the other jeep drivers.

On our way back from the 4-hour trip, we passed some springbok and these ostriches….One of the other guests in our 6-person jeep was one of the lecturers from the ship. She is a well-known BBC reporter, and has presented lectures from her reporting in Afghanistan, Korea, and Russia. She seemed very nice, and politely reminded me to fasten my seat belt during the scariest parts of our dune excitement.

Back on board, we showered, and shook out about a cup of sand from our shoes. The cruise offers each of us comfy terrycloth bathrobes. We popped open the bottle of champagne that I had won dancing one night, and celebrated the end of a very nice afternoon.The captain makes general announcements every day. Today she spoke about the demographics of the ship’s population. Of the 1900 guests, about half are Brits. Next is Australians with about 25%, and the rest of us represent 25 countries. There are 30 Americans; we have met 4. About half of the 1000 crew are from the Phillipines. The others come from 47 different countries, with just one from the USA. Quite an international group!

DINNER: George had beef and I had a vegetarian Indian biryani. We chatted excitedly with our tablemates who had taken different excursions today and compared notes.We went to a comedy show, and then an early night.

Cruising the South Atlantic from Equator to Namibia

LOCATION: Slightly south of the Equator, along the coast of Africa – Libya, Cameroon
WEATHER: More sun, High 90

There are a lot of sun-burned Brits on board. One of our tablemates is brown as can be. She spends almost the entire day, each day, lying in the sun.

Today was a food festival. One of the chefs carved an ice sculpture on deck in about 15 minutes. Fascinating, and it must have been very challenging as the ice was quickly melting in the hot sun.

Then, there was an exhibition of other chefs’ handiworks in the ballroom. There were various stations – vegetable food carvings, pastry sculptures, bread artwork, and a sushi station.

I was invited to help make sushi rolls.

We could taste from each station. I passed on the patisserie and chocolate fondue stations, but made a bit of a pig of myself with the sushi.

There are beautiful live and fresh cut flowers all over the ship. The arrangements in the main lobby are especially impressive. They are changed every few days.

Each day we receive the “Daily Programme” with the following day’s offerings. It is always exciting to see what is up next.

In the last few days, we have enjoyed some excellent lectures on topics such as African Bushmen, Elephants, Moon Space Program, and Britain’s early ships.

We even had a lecture about Salvador Dali, and learned that he was a good friend of Walt Disney…..who knew? They even collaborated to produce a short (really weird) film.

There was a series of 3 lectures about Japan.

There are other things we don’t participate in, such as a darts tournament….

Nor gambling….

One afternoon, we watched a “Float Your Boat” contest to see which tiny ship, made by passenger teams, would float the best. Outstanding work!

And another day, we participated in a wine festival, tasting wines from around the world…

Meals continue to be great. Some of our recent entrees have been seared tuna, orange roughy, veal, and mahi mahi. One night, we skipped the sit-down dinner and ordered pizzas from the informal dining room.

The performances continue to be excellent. We attended the musical “Top Hat” performed by the ship’s actors and a vocalist who sang songs by Andrew Lloyd Weber. The ship has its own orchestra that accompanies each of the guest performers. They are superb, too.

Graduating from Pollywog to Shellback, then on to Namibia

LOCATION: Along the western coast of Africa sailing on the Queen Elizabeth.
WEATHER: Sunny. Hot. High 90

Today we crossed the Equator, around 2:00 PM, and the ship went all out for a big celebration. Years ago, the early sailors conducted an elaborate and somewhat dangerous ceremony for the crew who crossed the Equator for the first time. Now, the ship puts on a bit tamer, but similar, ceremony.

King Neptune ruled, and was elegant in his speech, with playacting pirates who had captured our ship. All a part of the “Crossing the Line” Ceremony.

We were 2 of the lucky 36 pollywogs (those who haven’t crossed the Equator before by ship) who volunteered to be in the show. We were warned to wear our swimsuits and to be prepared for a lot of goo. Almost everyone on board (2000 folks) gathered around the pool and upper deck to watch the ceremony.

We 36, in small groups, were seated around the pool while a “court” with a judge proclaimed we were guilty of a myriad of sins. After being judged guilty, we were doused, and I mean doused, with huge globs of food. The food, like bins of rice gruel, pudding, and noodles had been sitting in the hot sun for a few hours, so it was good and ripe. They dumped buckets of this warm, slimy food onto the 36 of us. It started smelling and feeling like vomit. Then, we were allowed to jump into the pool to wash off. (The pool soon turned into a gooey mess, too). At the end, we kissed a fish, which was also part tof the ceremony. All great fun as we evolved into Shellbacks – those who have crossed the line and survived.