South Africa: Simon’s Town Penguins

Beach with Penguins Milling About_July2018Certainly one of the highlights of my visit to South Africa was the morning before our flight. We decided to book a private car to Simon’s town. Yes, this was an additional and unexpected cost, however, in the big scheme, we already spent the time and money to get down here. And sometimes, the best way to maximize your time and your trip is to be flexible.

I would never have thought about using this private driver option in the past. I haven’t been accustomed to traveling other than for work. But when hubby and I were in Macedonia, the only way to get to Kokino was to hire a private car (one that was referred to us by friends at the local U.S. Consulate). This turned out to be a fantastic experience — as those of you who are used to doing such a thing probably already know.

So, we booked Jeremy, our driver from the African Pride Hotel, now a Marriott Autograph Hotel, to drive us through the Bo-Kaap neighborhood (another thing we wanted to do but due to my dumb foot injury couldn’t do on our own), then drive us to Simon’s Town, to see the penguins, then straight to the airport.

You might think this sounds rushed, but you wouldn’t be right. We had a great breakfast, met Jeremy at 8:00 a.m. and drove through the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, with it’s brightly colored buildings, with a running dialogue. As it turns out, Jeremy was born and raised in Cape Town. We heard about the real estate issues, the cultural differences, etc. from an on-the-ground POV.

We had a lovely drive out to Simon’s Town, a naval base town, with more local history about a fire, the devastation to the local snakes –Cape Cobra and others– and how the college students studying geology, botany, and zoology hike along the trails. We drove past some of wine country, and then to the home of the African Penguins, formerly known as Jackass Penguins.

We walked the short walk from the parking lot, through a neighborhood street, to the Penguin beach. We paid, went through the turnstile and headed to the walkway. I thought that we would — wait!!! Wait!! There they are!!! Penguins!!!

I couldn’t believe it — right there. Not 10 steps from the start of the walkway — it keeps people off of the penguin’s beach—there were penguins. Not one or two penguins, but at least 10 penguins and the further down the walk we went, the more penguins we saw, until we arrived at the end of the walkway, viewing the beach, the Indian Ocean, large rocks, black Commorants with orange beaks and claws, and a hundred penguins.

My husband and I were delighted. I have to say that the light earlier in the day is absolutely magical. The African Penguins shimmered and their inimitable shadows waddled towards the water. Soon, the sound we were hearing was becoming clearer.

One penguin would point his beak straight up to the sky and start the sound, then another, and another. It sounded like donkeys braying. Ah. Now I am reading the sign. That’s how the name Jackass Penguin was first assigned to these birds. I am a little slow when it comes to connections.

Bottom line: This was one of the top highlights of our trip to Cape Town.

 

 

 

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South Africa: Capetown Table Mountain

Table Mountain Gondola
The view from the tip of Africa.

Table Mountain: You want to take the gondola (at least we wanted to take the gondola up the mountain) so keep your eyes on which line you are in — but no matter how long the line is,  it will move quickly and the view is worth the wait. You can pre-purchase tickets using a QR code, so check that out! As you snake your way around and up to the gondola, don’t miss out on the photo op! Plan a fun pose and strike it with your fellow adventurer! Inside the gondola car, the floor slowly turns so that you can get a 365-degree view. Be aware, they pack the car full!

Wrong way little buddy!
Dassie in line on Table Top Mountain, South Africa.

Dassies: part rat, part marmot, all rodent — our driver says beware, they can carry rabies! We noticed a fair number of these critters on top of Table Mountain. Especially near the cafe. No dassies were foaming at the mouth when we were there.

View at the bottom of the earth!
On top of Tabletop Mountain, Capetown, South Africa.

Atlantic Ocean: Beautiful views of the Atlantic ocean, rivaling the views of Diamond Head in the Pacific Ocean on Oahu. Also, when you are looking at the ocean, a simple quarter turn reveals beautiful mountain ranges with fog and clouds. This view reminds me of Kokino in Macedonia. Either way, getting up to the top of Table Mountain is worth the line.

 

South Africa: Card Reader Issues

SimonsTownView_20180706

In this beautiful place at the tip of Africa, it is a piece of heaven for little penguins. The Indian Ocean and it’s hypnotic mists along with the quiet town, Simon’s Town, make for a peaceful retreat. However, the magical ingredients for a peaceful retreat don’t always include effective credit card readers. In fact, throughout Africa, card readers and the handling of them in shops can be a little bit of a problem.IPENGUINYEAFRIKA_20180706

At this adorable souvenir shop we had the following experience with the card reader. The line was not reliable, and so the communication between the card reader and the authorizing computer was taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r…so, the clerk took the card to another reader, BEFORE receiving a “not authorized” code, and started trying to authorize it through that reader. At that point, literally the sale of over $200 (I fell in love with a silver penguin charm) could have been approved twice, creating a double charge to my account. In fact, this has happened to my husband once.

Now, my husband stops the clerk, and patiently waits for the “not authorized” receipt and keeps it in his wallet, and in cases where he can, he doesn’t make the purchase. Which is what we did. No cute little silver penguin charm. But, we did wait for two not authorized receipts and my credit card did not receive duplicate charges.

Those in the know, know!

 

 

 

 

Socks: I love you

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Smart Wool socks

I really love good socks. I L-O-V-E socks. Everyone gets socks from me in their Christmas stockings, I look at socks online, in stores, and at booths, and I talk about socks all of the time. I really love quality socks. I know that a lot of people like funky designs on their socks and I like that too, but a well-engineered sock gets me excited!

A well-engineered sock has features–features that solve problems. After all, socks were invented to solve problems, right? Socks were invented to keep your foot from blistering in your shoes, as well as keeping your shoes from dying a pitiful, uncleanly death from foot perspiration.

A poorly-engineered sock is truly irritating, both literally and figuratively. Poorly-engineered socks have caused many toddler meltdowns from my oldest son who is now 34 years old, and I am still suffering PTSD over one of those episodes. They also twist on your feet while you are walking, or they slip down under your heel. They also make your foot uncomfortable because they are too small, or too large. The yarn that they are woven with might suddenly break, creating holes. The type of yarn might not provide breatheability, or warmth. The weight of the yarn as well as the pattern of the sock might be too thin, or too thick.

You can see that we don’t give sock designer-engineers enough thanks. A perfectly engineered sock should come in sizes — Germany does that particularly well. I can get a sock that is just right for my foot, for my husband’s foot, and my giant-of-a-middle son’s foot. I can’t easily do that in the U.S.

The U.S. does have an excellent wool sport sock that is washable and durable. I do absolutely love this brand of socks, and I in no way have been compensated to feature this brand. I love this brand because of how well it is engineered. After I sat on the plane next to a designer for this brand, I really started believing in this brand. It is a pricey sock for the average person, however, these socks are durable, comfortable, and convenient to use. All of those factors reduce the overall cost of this sock. The brand is local to Coloradoans, it is sold at Nordstrom as well as from their own boutiques and online. It is Smart Wool — the perfect name for this product.

I hurt my foot over a week ago here in South Africa, where it is winter, and chilly, and uncomfortable. Part of healing my foot is wearing my comforting Smart Wool socks. They provide support, warmth, and since I purchased them in happy colors and designs, they lift my spirits a little. Also, these socks aren’t the thick wool socks that won’t fit into your shoes. These socks fit, stretch, and launder. I have many other socks that I love, and maybe I will write about them — especially my cotton athletic socks from Germany. But right now, I am grateful for my comfy wool socks.

 

P.S. I will debrief my 5-week packing for this trip when I get home. Lessons learned and successes to celebrate!

 

Zurich Airport

I like the quiet environment of the airport design in both Frankfurt and Zurich. Dark, hard floors. Dim lighting.

At Zurich, I also enjoy the high architectural glass silos, providing a view of the bottom (or top) floor. These periodic pauses sometimes have sculptures in them, reminding me of my own beautiful airport DEN.

Most of all, the prized Swiss chocolatier, Läderach, has a beautiful and well stocked store.

Traveler’s 23rd Psalm

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want [when I miss a connection] [and I have booked my flights on a good airline like Lufthansa, Iceland Air, or their partners like Swiss Air] [and I have my luggage]. He makes me lie down in green pastures [like the Winterthur Park hotel] and leads me beside still waters [because all shops are closed on Sunday in Switzerland]. He restores my soul [with a stroll through beautiful parks and excellent food, like incredible Swiss cheese]. Yea though I walk through the valley of death [crazy angry passengers in the customer service line], I will fear no evil, for thou art with me [along with my taxi voucher, hotel voucher, and meal voucher]. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies [exhaustion and anxiety]. My cup runneth over [at the excellent Starbucks]. Surely goodness [from you O Lord] and mercy [I love free wi-fi] will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord [this entire beautiful outdoors] forever. Amen.