Travels With Myself

A Personalized Periodic Update, just for my family and friends, of the Ongoing Adventures of Your Favorite World Traveler

Location: Budapest, Hungary

After nearly 30 years in the financial industry in the US (mostly California and New Mexico), I decided it was time for my second life. I sold my house, sold my car, sold all my furniture, took a TEFL course and moved to Budapest to teach Business English to the business people of Hungary. Amazing mid-life change! I taught for about eight years, then pretty much retired. Since then I have traveled extensively, and have been to nearly 75 countries. I have had six books published, mostly about my travels - see my author's page on I have made friends all over the world. Becoming an expat is the best move I ever made and I plan to continue my travels indefinitely. Come join me on this blog and enjoy the places I've been and the people I've met in the past and present and hopefully will meet in the future.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cape Town Follies - Episode Four

The Clock Winds Down
(Read the first three episodes in order before you read this one)

Saturday, March 3rd, and I was in the home stretch of my visit. I slept in, arising at 8 AM! After my standard hearty breakfast (eggs my way, toast, bacon, fried tomato and juice), I took a taxi to the Canal Walk shopping complex, around 15 minutes outside of Cape Town city center. Another huge mall, but I like malls and thought I’d see what this one had to offer. I walked for several hours, checking out the stores I’d never seen before and having lunch at Wimpy’s (an old British hamburger chain, sort of their McDonald’s) and a snack (or two…or three) at Cinnabon (I couldn’t help it, Ma, I needed the sugar!). The movies on offer weren’t anything in which I was interested, so I finally took a taxi back to the hotel and, after my regular afternoon clean-up, headed out to the 169 Restaurant (located, strangely enough, at 169 Long Street; clever with the names, these South Africans) for some sushi. Mmmm, good, a nice big plate of various sushi types with a Windhoek beer or two thrown in for good measure. I did love the food in Cape Town, and found almost all of it at very reasonable prices.
Sunday was my early day, as I was being picked up for my Game Reserve tour at 6:40 AM. That’s 6:40 in the morning AM. And damn if the tour driver wasn’t there on time. There were six of us in the minibus; the seventh was still asleep when we stopped at his hotel, so too bad for him. It was a two-hour-plus drive to the game reserve, with a short toilet stop. The last 12 kilometers were on dirt and gravel roads, reminding me of my home in New Mexico. But we arrived at the Inverdoorn Cheetah Game Reserve around 9:45, and had time for a rest and some snacks before signing our release forms and starting our tour of the reserve proper. Our guide took the six of us out in a special range rover-type vehicle, soft top, open sides, and we spent the next 90 minutes to two hours driving around checking out whatever animals happened to be waiting for us. We did spot two lions under a tree, lots of zebra and wildebeest and antelope and some monster rhinos. We walked near the giraffes (couldn’t keep up too well, as their strides were somewhat longer than ours). The hippos stayed submerged, but we did get right up close and personal with the cheetahs, as they were literally next to our vehicle, resting in the heat of the day.
In fact, all of the animals seemed to be resting in the heat of the day. They all seemed lethargic or tired or drugged or whatever, but not a lot of life in them. Even the cheetahs appeared nonchalant at our presence, taking it in stride or sauntering off slowly when we approached them. I really wanted to feel the jolt as an angry rhino slammed his horn into our vehicle, but it was not to be. Ah, well, another hope crushed to earth. The tour was okay, but nothing near as spectacular as I’d hoped for. It was also windy out there on the plains, which made it rather cool for someone in shorts and sandals – like me.
Lunch was poolside at the main building of the reserve and was obviously forgettable, as I seem to have forgotten it. We took off around 2 PM and I was back at the hotel around 5. I cleaned up and decided on fish and chips at the Long Street Café for dinner. Anytime I am anywhere near someplace in my travels that offers fresh seafood, I eat as much as I can, as I dearly love it and miss it in Hungary, a landlocked country.
Monday I strolled the Company Gardens in central Cape Town, a nice oasis of green and trees and benches and fountains and statues to succor the weary diplomat or businessman during his hectic day. I also toured the Iziko Slave Lodge museum, another interesting and sobering experience.
And then it was time for a visit to Rick’s Cafe Americain, if I could find it. My taxi driver didn’t know it, but, after dropping me off on the right street, and after asking directions, I did actually find Rick’s. It was right there in plain sight all the time, although the plain sight didn’t exactly shout “RICK’S.” It was a humble frontage, although once inside the ambience made itself clear. I had a drink or two at the bar, chatting with the happy black bartender (absolutely no resemblance to S.Z. Sakall) and enjoying the comfortable feel of the place. I had the obligatory Casablanca Cocktail (like you have to have a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Long Bar in Singapore), consisting of vodka, dark rum, cherry liqueur, lime and cranberry juice. Dooley Wilson must have been off that night, as there was no tinkling piano or anyone else playing As Time Goes By, but it was still a nice atmosphere.
After giving Ingrid Bergman plenty of time to walk in and discover me at the bar, I decided to pass on the black hooker who was eyeing me from a table in the lounge and, sighing, went in for dinner. I had the King Prawns on skewers with roasted veggies and couscous, along with white wine. Crème Brule topped it off perfectly, and I even made room for a limoncello. Good stuff. The wind had picked up to near typhoon strength, so I taxied back to the hotel. Much easier than bending into a strong headwind and having it blow my socks off.
Oh No, Tuesday, March 6, only two days left! How to spend them? I walked over to the V&A after breakfast and lazed in the sun for awhile. As the day heated up, I thought a nice harbor sailing cruise would be fun, so I booked one of the 58-foot sailing sloops for a 90-minute cruise around the harbor and cape areas. I did some final shopping at the many shops in the Waterfront, then caught my cruise early in the afternoon. We motored out of the harbor with a contingent of seven people, including three crew. As we cleared the breakwater the captain cut the engines and the crew hoisted the sails and we commenced a quiet, peaceful cruise around the area. The day was hot and sunny, the sky was blue and there was even a beer or two on board to quench the thirst of the passengers. Really nice.
Back on land, I stopped for a cider at Ferryman’s Pub in the Waterfront, picked up the last few gifts and taxied back to the hotel. Dinner that night was calamari and chips at the Dubliner Irish Pub, after which I parked myself on a barstool at Mama Africa’s to hear that amazing band one more time. Always worth it. The main singer, who had a high contralto voice that pierced through everything, wore his black hair in a series of rolled braids as he jinked and jerked and bopped and basically left James Brown gasping in the dirt. Great moves. The band played for nearly two hours straight without a break. I went through four beers and bought another of the band’s CDs. A night listening to great music is always a good night.
So, my final full day in Cape Town. I debated over breakfast as to the wisdom of filling up the day again and decided, what the heck, I’d probably never be back this way anytime soon, so may as well take advantage of the most of what Cape Town has to offer. So I caught the Blue Line HOHO tour to a local winery, the Constantia. Beautiful area in the foothills of Table Mountain, peaceful and tranquil, quiet, and I loved the warning signs around the area: “Beware of the Baboons; No picnics.”
I did a wine tasting and ended up unimpressed with the wines I tried; too harsh for my taste. After a stroll around the vineyards, I re-bused again for the trip to Hout Bay, which I had visited earlier in my stay. I thought about a trip to Seal Island while there, but most of the boats had either already left or were in for the day, so missed out on that. I did have a nice lunch at the London Deck of crab curry and popadums and Castle beer. Yum.
Rode the bus to Camps Bay again and walked around on the beach for awhile, soaking up the last of the sun I’d probably have for another couple of months. Just topping off my tan, you understand. I
Had a late nap at the hotel after my time in the sun, then just had to go back to Mama Africa one more time for their food and music. This time it was cider and bobotie, a dish of minced beef covered with cheese and an egg, plus some rice on the side. Great food, how can I ever go back to Chicken Paprika? The band rocked me once again into the night and I stayed for their entire first set, after which it was time to hit the sack for my long two days of traveling coming up.
Thursday, March 8. A final breakfast, a last packing up, a round of goodbyes to the restaurant and reception staff and it was off to the Civic Center to catch the airport bus. The connections getting home were much easier than those coming out. Checking in for my Jo-burg flight was quick and snappy. The walks to the gates were long but not nearly as bad as when I arrived. We left Cape Town around 2 PM for Jo-burg, where I had a four-hour layover. Plenty of time to get my bag and re-check in to Air France for the final legs home. Which was lucky, as everyone else had gotten and claimed their bags and mine still hadn’t shown up. One of the airport helpers asked me what my bag looked like, when suddenly it appeared on the baggage conveyor belt, looking sad and forlorn, but happy to have found me at long last. Whew! I really didn’t need any more baggage hassles.
I cleared passport control and changed the remainder of my rands back to euro (with a ripoff commission tacked on by the Bureau de Change, so be warned!). We boarded our flight around 7:30 PM for the long overnight flight to Paris, 10 hours plus. And long it was, as I didn’t manage to sleep hardly at all, even after taking a couple of Melatonin. Long damn night. During the six-hour layover at CDG in Paris, I did catch a couple of hours catnap, so all was not quite lost. We left Paris around 12:45 and hit Budapest at 3 PM. I got my bag (I’m always somewhat amazed that my checked bags actually get to where I am) and caught a minibus back to my flat. Home! Good to be home. First thing I did was turn on the heat, which I had switched off when I left two weeks earlier. My flat was cold! I unpacked quickly, more to keep warm than anything else. I knew the flat would need time to warm up, so I headed out for our regular Friday evening gathering of The Club at Champs Sport Bar. It was a small crowd to greet me, but I managed a couple of drinks before heading off for home to catch up on my lost sleep.

And that was the fitting end to my wonderful trip to Cape Town, South Africa.


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