(a picture of a Washington DC celebrity)
Here is a little from my travel log from South Africa -
This trip was in the making from last year, two perfect storms eliciting my desire to visit the continent of Africa: 1) a friend from South Africa talking up his country (my crush) and 2) realizing my job with non-descript airlines was soon coming to an end and a need to use my travel benefits.
Flight over was long - reminded me of going to India sans the whining crying kids (why is it always Indian children who cry the loudest on flights?). The plane was relatively empty and crew was nice, so journey wasn't too bad. Reach Johannesburg and immediately find my cell phone doesn't work (despite me having gone to Cingular store in the mall just the night before - gotta love those boys who work at the cell phone stores - all geniuses!). PS - immigration in Johannesburg is so much like India, I had to laugh, super slow and bureaucratic
Mom and I ended up staying in South Africa for only five days - two in Johannesburg and two in Cape Town - with one day for travel. We didn't do a huge amount of touristy things - we did see Cape Point, the Penguins at Barrier Beach, an Ostrich farm, the botanical garden and the beaches in Cape Town. My favorite spot was Chapman's Peak (or was it point?). Just beautiful, blue-gray water, steep cliffs and this breathtaking views. We mostly shopped in Johannesburg, the famous desi hangout, Oriental Plaza. No we didn't do a safari (mom is NOT an animal person).
My mom adored Cape Town but I preferred Jo'burg, I think I'm just a city girl at heart (hence my favorite place is London!) - I liked the buzz and excitement of the town. Cape Town is very nice but just a bit slower. It wouldn't be that hard to adjust because South Africa surprisingly, has a lot of American influence (I was really thinking I'd see more British emphasis in the culture). They watch our shows, movies, our stores fill up their malls, some of our cars pepper the street. But, sadly no Starbucks yet (LOL).
Everyone has been asking me, "so what did you think?" .....I liked it! South Africa is a unique place unto itself, I think the closest description is India meets Florida meets Australia. The one thing that stuck out in my mind is that every single person I encountered was beyond nice! This has to be the friendliest place I've ever been too outside of America!
The other big thing that stuck in my head is security. Before we had even gotten off the plane, my mother and I had been warned repeatedly about how you could be mugged, robbed or, because we were two women alone, worse. Everybody, the drivers, the guest house owners, shop associates, friends warned us to be extra careful. You would think there was someone lurking around every corner just waiting to pounce on your purse (they would have gotten only a few dollars, which btw don't go very far in South Africa - it is not a cheap country!). But looking at all the gated communities and the complex security systems in every house, one can see there is a point to these people's warnings. Thankfully, we had no problems.
"What is it like, some years after apartheid?" some of you asked. I have to be honest, I didn't study the country's history as well as other friends who have visited. But from what I saw and from what my SA friends said, it seems life is moving forward. If there are tensions, it doesn't smack you in the face. There are a number of problems, yet that is to be expected after years of oppressing people, no? I'd say South Africa is definitely a place you should go to...just make sure you know how to drive on the opposite side of the road, because you can't get around without driving!As for me, Auf Wiedersehen, I'm off to Berlin today, see you all next week!