Feb 062014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 (Day 1) – Friday, January 31, 2014 (Day 3)


Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 (Day 1)

  • Joanna flies from Houston (5:35pm) to Miami to London (11:30am on Thursday)

Thursday, January 30th, 2014 (Day 2)

  • Mark flies from Skikda (work site) to Annaba airport
  • Mark flies from Annaba (10:50am) to Marseille (12:15pm)
  • Mark flies from Marseille (3:00pm) to London (3:55pm)
  • Joanna arrives in London (11:30am)
  • Mark and Joanna fly from London (8:10pm) to Cape Town, South Africa (10:00am on Friday)

Friday, January 31st, 2014 (Day 3)

  • Mark and Joanna arrive in Cape Town, South Africa!! (10am)
  • Rent car
  • Drive to Simon’s Town
  • Visited the Boulder’s Beach Penguins
  • Dinner at The Lighthouse Cafe
  • Night at Aqua Terra Lodging

The first blog is always abut the travel days.  But it’s also an introduction to where we are headed.  We are very excited for our trip to South Africa which will include Cape Town, the Garden Route, and a safari in Botswana.  We had about 2 weeks of notice to plan this whole trip, and we are very happy with the final itinerary.  We are also excited to escape the cold winter of the Northern Hemisphere and head down south where it is the tail end of summer.  Mostly, though, we are incredibly happy that we will have a full month to spend together after 13 weeks apart.

Welcome to London


I, Joanna, started my long journey from the US to South Africa on a series of British Airlines flights to London.  Due to the lateness in planning the trip, the best flight combination to London that I could get included a layover in Miami.  This meant of course that my first flight was on American Airlines and was actually a domestic flight.  And, due to silly airline rules, when I went to check in online for my flights, I was directed to the AA website to check in and could not check in via the BA website.  That, in turn, meant that AA gave me warning messages that I could not check in online because my end destination was not in the USA.  And finally, this meant that I could not pick my airline seats (really the only reason to check in early these days).  So, I  had to wait until I got to the airport.

As usual, I hired a SuperShuttle to take me to the airport and they even showed up about 25 minutes early to my house.  Luckily I was all set and ready, so I jumped in the van and we were off to pick up two more people.  The first pickup was easy, but our second pickup in downtown Houston decided that he would not be picked up early.  In fact his listed pickup time was 45 minutes from when we arrived in downtown and he said he was in court.  Our shuttle driver called dispach, but they told us we had to wait for the guy.  He should know that SuperShuttle sometimes comes early and sometimes late.  Shared Van services are cheap because they are not exact.  So, sadly, we all had to sit and wait for 45 minutes in the shuttle waiting for this guy!  As I said, luckily we were way early, but one of the other ladies was going to be very close on time to catch her flight.  Since I hadn’t slept the night before, I caught a 45-minute power nap while we waited.  Finally we picked up our last guy and he mentioned that he’d been sitting at a cafe eating lunch (not in court!)  We were a bit frustrated with him, but oh well, it was off to the airport.

Then, at the airport, due to my issue with the American Airlines flight destination being outside the US, I could not  use a kiosk to pick up my boarding pass.  This was lame and my frustration was only heightened by the fact that I’d just waited in a SuperShuttle for 45 extra minutes.  So, the service lady put me in a special line to see one specific counter agent who could help me check in for my flight.  I was number 2 in line, but this was the line for people with difficult issues which meant I stood there for probably 20 minutes.  Finally I was able to drop my bags and check in.  But, due to being so late in checking in, I had middle seats all the way through to London.

But, the one good thing about traveling domestically for the first leg was that I could use my TSA Pre-Check privileges to go through security without emptying my bag of the laptop, electronics, and my shoes could stay on my feet.  Security was easy.  Then i had time for lunch in the airport before my flight to Miami which was uneventful.

My flight to London was easy as well, and though I had a middle seat, I was in the premium economy level of the plane so the seats were a tad bigger and I had a footrest and a leg recliner rest.  Also, being in the middle of the middle 4 seats, I found out that the other middle seat next to me was empty which then made my experience that much nicer.  I promptly fell asleep and didn’t wake up until the “breakfast” which was about an hour before landing.


I arrived in London in the morning, though still pretty tired.  I had pre-booked a “Yotel” which was a little tiny hotel inside the airport (though outside the terminal) and provided pod-type rooms.  my room was about 10 square meters and had enough room for a full bed, and a little bathroom with a shower.  It also had some free wifi for me so I could check in with Mark and check on his flights.

My "pod" in the London airport

Mark’s flights were all delayed, and the first one was delayed from Annaba to Marseille about an hour which had us slightly concerned about the layover time.  There are some air-traffic-control strikes going on in France and the originating flight was being delayed from Paris.  Luckily he still was able to catch his next flight to Marseille and arrived just fine in London with plenty of time to meet up with me.

I had a lovely sleep in my pod in London and woke up much more refreshed to go meet up with Mark.  We met and had dinner at a restaurant called Giraffe which we had remembered we liked from the last time we flew through London on our way to Iceland.  And then we had an easy overnight flight to Cape Town after that.  By the end of the flight, though, it was feeling a bit long and we were happy to finally arrive and get off the plane.


Upon arrival in Cape Town, we found out that our 2 checked bags were still in London and would not get here until tomorrow.  I almost expected my luggage to get lost, but I was really hoping it would not.  I mean, I had an 8 hour layover in London.  Oh well, we can deal with it.

The Cape Town rental car company had our car for us, and I was reminded that we drive on the left here in South Africa and the driver sits on the right.  So we sat in the car to get oriented and also to figure out how to get where we were going.  We are in Cape Town for a week, but due to the lateness of the booking, the summer season, and the International Mining Convention in town, we were unable to find just one apartment with the amenities we wanted for the full week.  So, instead we are staying in 3 places.  Tonight, our first night, will just be one night down south in Simon’s Town.  This is about 30 minutes south of Cape Town and on the way to the Cape Point where we will visit tomorrow.  But most importantly, as well, there are South African Penguins that live here which we want to visit.

We had a pretty easy drive to Simon’s Town, and I was getting used to driving on the left.  The hardest parts are making the right hand turns into the left lane instead of the right lane.  That took several days to get used to.  Also, I am just spatially disoriented sitting on the right side of the car.  In the Simon’s Town area we kept seeing the road signs to watch for penguins on the road or lookout for baboons!  We were highly amused.  Simon’s Town also has a large Naval Base and we could see many people walking around in navy uniforms.  We drove first to our hotel, Aqua Terra Lodging, which was about 5 minutes outside of the main town and up the steep side of the hill.  So, we had an amazing view of the ocean from up here!!  We came here and dropped our bags, not really expecting our room to be ready so early, but happy that it was.

Now, though we were hungry and getting quite warm still in our jeans.  We headed out again and to a nearby mall to purchase some pre-paid SIM cards for our phones and also some shorts, and a sun-shade for the car.   Coming from the winter weather it feels quite hot here in the south!!  Luckily, the mall had it all, and we also found some lunch.  Everything is very inexpensive here in South Africa as well.  The Rand is nearly a 10 to 1 ratio to the US dollar which makes it easy for conversions.  Lunch for two of us was about $13 and our new clothes were inexpensive as well.

View across False Bay (from Simon's Town)

Happily now in shorts, we headed to Boulder’s Beach where we knew there was a penguin colony living.  Penguins are just starting their nesting period and we really didn’t know what to expect.  I was expecting a big open beach and penguins hiding in the grasses elusively around.  Actually, though, what we found was first off there was a park that we had to pay an entry fee to.  Then we walked out on a boardwalk towards the beach.  We didn’t see many penguins on our walk out and I thought they might all be hiding from the heat of the day.  When we saw just one in the distance we exclaimed and pointed and got excited.  I took photos and wished I had brought my DSLR zoom lens.  However, then we walked out to the beach part and found that we were nearly within petting distance of the penguins!  (But don’t get near them because the warning signs say they bite!)

Following a penguin

We were super excited and impressed with being so close to the penguins.  There were hundreds of penguins just out in the sand on the beach and some were digging causing the sand to fly!  Lots were just laying around.  Some were swimming in and some were grooming their mates.  Some were squawking quite loud as well.  We stayed out here for a while just watching all their antics.  We decided that this is the first time we’ve seen penguins in the wild and it is indeed strange to see them on a hot summer day.  We also learned that these specific penguins like to nest in the more forested areas to stay safe from predators and the park actually built artificial nests for them using large flower pots or jars on their sides and half buried in the ground.  We thought for sure the penguins are not using these so carefully and artificially arranged nests.  For one thing the openings all faced the boardwalk where the people are walking.  And for another they are all equally spaced and just look too organized.  But, indeed we did find some penguins nesting on two eggs each!  This was definitely an extra thrill.

Penguins on a beach!

Finally, though, when we decided it was time for a nap, we went back to the hotel and I slept while Mark went up to the lookout lounge at our hotel to play on the internet until dinner time.  The hotel has a tiny little “plunge pool” as an infinity pool with views out to the ocean and really everything was just breathtaking.  Also, the day is sunny, perfect, and we couldn’t ask for anything else.  (other than a little less jet lag!)

Dinner was in Simon’s Town at a randomly chosen restaurant, The Lighthouse Cafe, that turned out to be quite good.  It was small and cute and Mark was really very happy with his calamari steaks.  I was happy with my meal as well, but I probably should have gotten the calamari as well.  Mark also enjoyed a dessert chocolate cheesecake and then we headed to the hotel and to bed.  At this point I have absolutely no idea what day it is or what time it is, but I’m looking forward to a full night’s sleep in a bed….my first one since Monday night!!

The pre-made penguin nests

The view from our hotel

  4 Responses to “Travel to South Africa (Days 1-3)”

  1. What a fascinating trip. We had never heard of a “yotel.” HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MARK! (even though this may get to you a bit late ….)

  2. Love the “yotel” idea! With its own bathroom!!
    Love the photos and “narration”.
    Happy Bday to Mark and Happy Safari to both of you.

  3. Happy birthday Mark! Looks like a beautiful
    place to be spending it. Enjoy that sunshine
    and warm temps. We are freezing in the
    Midwest. Beautiful photos, as usual, Joanna.
    Grandma T.

    • Thanks all for the birthday wishes. Mark enjoyed sone gifts, a day with internet by the pool, a steak dinner, and a movie. We had a great last day in Cape Town and are now off on safari.

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