Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Grand Finale ……….. Cape Town

What a hectic three days we have had in Cape Town – I think I need a vacation!!!
We have been incredibly lucky with the weather – it has been spectacular. Warm and humid on Monday but then very comfortable yesterday and today.

Cape Town is a wonderful, friendly and picturesque city. It has a history not dissimilar to that of Manhattan – settled in 1652 by the Dutch East India Company – Jan van Riebeeck in the case of Cape Town; Peter Stuyvesandt in the case of New Amsterdam; but clearly there were major subsequent differences. Cape Town remains a relatively small city compared; the ocean provides a spectacular foreground, the mountain a striking backdrop. I don’t really know another city with as dramatic a situation.
Went to visit our favorite cousin who has a beautiful apartment overlooking the Atlantic Ocean – took some pictures of the view from her balcony – the sea with the Mouille Point lighthouse – its light had been the first thing we saw as we sailed in on Monday morning.

Devils Peak with the clouds pouring over; signifying a South-Easterly wind. 

The clouds form a “table cloth” over the top of Table Mountain (which had been so crystal clear and etched when we sailed in.

Lions Head on the opposite side of Table Mountain and the houses climbing the slope.

Yesterday we took a drive out to Fransch Hoek – village out in the winelands. French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution went to Holland where they found refuge. The authorities in the Cape – particularly Simon van der Stel – had a great desire to bolster their winemaking skills with these folks so offered them religious freedom, free passage and land grants if they would take the risk and sail out into the big unknown. Fransch Hoek is one of the places they settled and they were very successful here.
Today Fransch Hoek is a quiet oasis of art, lovely places to stay and great restaurants.
The memorial to the Huguenots bookends the main street which is lined with old houses a church and buildings; 

we visited lovely art galleries – with their exhibits in some cases spilling out into the courtyards. Some of the art was relatively representational.

Some needed a bit more explanation.

A lovely art glass store – Red Hot Glass

Sidestreets led to more places to visit and things to see.

Some of the items allowed for self indulgence.

Then went to a restaurant in a wine farm up on the slopes with a great view of the valley, of the vineyards and fruitful olive trees. Had a lovely relaxed lunch before heading back to Cape Town.

Visited Reina and Selwyns apartment (and took the photos of the view) and met their neighbor – Ivan – someone I grew up with and last saw when I was 12 years old!!!

Arrived there in time to see our home for the last 82 Days sailing out into the Atlantic once again and heading North up the West Coast of South Africa to Namibia and on to its final destination in Rome. A bittersweet goodbye.

Then dinner with the family

Today, spent time saying hello and goodbye to friends and family here – a wonderful tea with Mary and Kosie in Pinelands; Coffee with Marilyn at the Waterfront; dinner with Estelle and Morrie at the Ocean Basket – then back to pack and prepare for our departure tomorrow.

This trip, described as best we could in this journal, has been the trip of a lifetime. Met great people. Saw fascinating places. Repaired my emotional gyroscope. Now I’m ready to go home.
Thank you for joining us – jealous observers and loyal readers
Until the next time

Monday, April 11, 2011

The beginning of the end – the end of the beginning?

With apologies to Winston Churchill (who, of course had a strong South African history)

A sad finale to our absolutely wonderful 2011 Pacific Princess World Cruise. We will remember with fondness the feeling of family on board. 

Eric was a gem as a cabin steward – would that either of us was anywhere near as meticulous as he (or as consistently cheerful) -  he even went out of his way to help me schlepp the luggage down to the gangplank today with not even one comment (unlike me)

Elmer and Manuel were our waiters in the dining room. How amusing it must have been for me to persist in my vague efforts at Atkins – the obligate carnivore at work - while at the same time asking for the delicious ice cream of the day (Banana last night) – “one scoop”

Our companions in the Dining Room –
Bill and Kathy

Michael J and Karen

And Irene and Mary (who doubled as Bridge opponents during the mornings). 

They put up with our impatience at formal dining and our absences (when we ate at the buffet or bistro) with forbearance. They will have their third companion couple for the next leg to Rome.
As a farewell the Captain threw a cocktail party and the chefs did the usual parade through the dining room – we drank champagne, had fun and enjoyed the vibe.

Tom – the youngest passenger – said goodbye to Merle as he (on his leash) took off for the wild North – to Victoria Falls by train. 

Then, the last minute packing – 12 separate containers of STUFF ranging from the large red cases for the hold to plastic bags with this and that for the family and needy of South Africa. We added to our donations of clothes to be given away by donations from others on the ship so all will benefit.
Sailed into the beautiful Table Bay at 6am today. What a sight. 
 The World Cup Soccer Stadium gleamed in the sunrise.

As we stood on our balcony and enjoyed the vista (and Merle took beautiful pictures), Merles cousin Reina did the same from her balcony in Mouille Point. Two points of view.

Robben Island can be seen behind our ship as we sail in.
Then disembarkation at 9am – many helpers made it happen with the minimum of cursing (on my part) – Eric (as I said), porters at the wharf, Frankie one of the Cruise Staff carried a bag or two; then Mark (Merle’s brother) and Jackie (his wife) were there to meet us, scoop up the paraphernalia and whisk us off to the Villa Rosa (our B&B for the next few days)

Today was a magnificent Cape Town Day – hot and happy – as I traipsed around doing what we came here to do – see the family and spend quality time.
It was fun to see our recent travel companions zip by on the red buses – Hop on Hop Off. Strange maybe but there we were standing on the sidewalk by Bordeaux in Sea Point screaming “Sonia, Sonia!!” as she zipped by on the upper deck – stood up and waved
Adieu all.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Notalottosay…………. East London

Our last port before Cape Town. Around much of the world in 80 days (so far). Probably as much as we can do in one go – time to go home now. See everyone. Get settled. Then get restless again!!!!

East London looked very sedate as we sailed in this Saturday morning.

the welcome to port orchestra looked 'wasted'
Chose to take the shuttle bus out to the Hemmingway mall today – wandered around; bought important supplies for the last lap – salted peanuts; droewors (dried sausage) and biltong (beef jerky – South African style)

Coffee at Mugg and Bean – Merles late Dad loved this place. Then the last bus of this trip; the usual bunfight to get on and whoosh back to the Pacific Princess and on our way

Final thoughts from Cape Town on Monday

Friday, April 8, 2011

Durban – KwaZulu Natal. Landfall in South Africa

This morning we arrived in Durban, our first stop in South Africa. 

I’m ashamed to say that I have never visited here in all the years I lived in Southern Africa so this was very exciting for me. Merle was here when she was a pre-teen – doesn’t count.
Durban is a city of 31/2 million people (at least) and has always represented a different ethnic diversity than that I was used to in Cape Town – as an example the largest population of Indians outside India live in Durban – 11/2 million people. The African population is primarily Zulu – again a difference from Cape Town or Zimbabwe.
Natal was given its name by the always-to-be-mentioned Vasco Da Gama – he anchored off its shores on Christmas Day in 1497. It was originally populated by small groups of Bushmen who left their mark in cave paintings that have been dated back 30000 years. Hottentot tribes followed them much later – round about the time old Vasco was offshore – they were herders and lived in relative peace (we were told) with the Bushmen – who were hunter – gatherers. African tribes arrived in two major migrations – in the 17th centuries. One from West Africa and another – the precursors to the Zulu and Xhosa people from East Africa – Tanzania on down. The Zulu didn’t think much of the indigenous Bushmen and forced them out, while successive highly capable leaders pulled disparate groups together as the Zulu nation culminating with Dingiswayo and Shaka and his creation of their military tactics and prowess.
In the meantime whites had also begun the colonization of southern Africa and commencing a migration north that was destined not to be good for either side. The Dutch arrived in the Cape in 1652, set up a trading and refueling post and with successive waves of immigration were fruitful, multiplied and metastacized.
French Huguenots came to escape religious persecution. Dutch came in greater numbers after Napoleons wars. The British came after the Napoleonic wars ended. The usual story. The Cape was Dutch, then British, then Dutch again and finally the British took it one last time.
Natal was bitterly fought over – The Zulu nations had their share of fighting for power, then the British – Zulu Wars, followed by the Anglo – Boer wars which seem to have occurred in two rounds with the biggie between 1898 and 1902 over who got to own the gold of the Transvaal. I was surprised to learn that Durban was impacted directly by WW2 – with the sinking of 48 ships off the coast here and the buzzing of the city by shipborne Japanese fighter ‘planes. I love this stuff.
Now, of course all of that is ‘history” and a new history is being made. So the look and feel of the city becomes more African; the street names change (actually that happens first) so Broad Street becomes Dr Yusuf Dadoo Street and then all the other liberation notables get an avenue or boulevard.
 Everyone was keen to see as much as they could - off the tours went - early am - here is Jay my bridge partner waving farewell as he heads off

Today we went on a tour to the Valley of a Thousand Hills – a most beautiful part of the country within 30 miles of Durban. The valley has been carved by the Umgeni River (which right now is a bit dry because rain has been sparse). 

While there we visited the PheZulu Park which is a kind of “Old Williamsburg” of Zululand 

they had locals in native costume greeting us, 

toilets in native decoration for our convenience

and put on a show of Zulu song and dance – it was wonderful.
Thought it would be nice to see the audience…………

…….and the dancers……

…….and wondered if you could figure out who was Captain America

and Ms Africa.
 You know who was very focused on capturing the African (Zulu) beadwork

After the hard work we were treated by these absolutely delightful ladies to Tea (or Coffee) and Scones. The scones were homemade and absolutely delicious. Oh yum. The coffee was instant (Nescafe) and reminded me why I left the country

As you looked out over the Valley you can see a hotel (for people) at the top of the hill and a hotel (for weaver birds) in the tree. 

We left for our house in the dock after a lovely day and as I write this are back at sea heading for East London