Wine and Horses in the Western Cape

It turns out there’s a reason that this is my third post ever on  My apologies if you’ve been on the edge your seat waiting to hear about horses, wineries, and farm-to-table eating.  That will be the last promise of any future authorship on my part.

After our Chapman’s Peak drive, we headed east to Franschoek for lunch at Bread & Wine.  It was a beautiful setting – eating on the patio next to the big, barn-shaped, white-washed building with a bright blue sky behind it.  We used an American Express concierge service to make the reservation for us in advance to give the illusion we were important people.  As a result, they gave us free champagne upon seating us.

I’m obviously not the photographer in the family, but I really wanted a photo to capture the relaxed and delicious meal.


Vinod did a bit better…the home cured charcuterie platter:


This was our best meal in South Africa that was unfortunately a bit more rushed than we would have liked due to needing to head over to the horse stables…

After arriving at Paradise Stables, we met a German couple with whom we’d be riding.  We were never really introduced to our “guide”, and she didn’t have much to say during the ride, but it worked out alright.  We found plenty to talk about with the Germans, and it was nice to feel that we were more or less on our own as far as the riding went.  The excursion was about four hours, with visits to three different wineries for tastings along the way.  Luckily the German guy was into wine, so when there were decisions to make, we let him handle them.  Photos are a bit tricky from horseback, but we managed to snap a few.

Vinod’s view ahead to Lillie.




The entrance to the final winery, Mont Rochelle.




What a way to celebrate 30 years!


Back to Cape Town | Cruising Chapman’s Peak

Sorry to all the RSS and email subscribers who got that dumb temporary post delivered to them earlier.  I can truthfully say that it was entirely Lillie’s fault.

However, we’ve taken this as a sign that it’s time to post another update from the Cape Town trip since it’s been two months since the last.  So here are some snaps from Chapman’s Peak—west of Cape Town on the Atlantic Coast.  It’s a 9km road boasting 114 curves hugging the ocean.  A fun drive.

Starts in Hout Bay:

And ends in the town of Noordhoek.  Sweet little beach here where we dipped our toes in the Atlantic.  With a little more time, there are some riding stables that would be well worth checking out.  Part of the charm is that you can take the horses for a spin on the beach.


And there’s Table Mountain out in the distance:

While we didn’t hop on horses in Noordhoek, we did hop on horses in Franschoek.  Lillie will tell you that tale in the next post…

Cape Town | Part I

We’re thankful to have traveled elsewhere in Africa previously, because Cape Town is a decidedly less African experience.  Geographically, it deserves every superlative possible—it’s impossible to get away from jaw dropping vistas.

Culturally?  We found the black/white race dynamics to be too overwhelming to be really comfortable there—considering apartheid only ended in 1994, the wounds are no doubt still fresh.  But I’m not going to turn this into an inane ‘how my 4-day trip to Cape Town changed my world view’ college essay that my brother would scoff at.

All I’ll say is that if you go to Cape Town, go there with some sense of self-awareness and perspective.  Otherwise, I reckon for some it would be a destination rated highly on a "stuff white people like" list—nice beach, good food and wineries, etc.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me tell you about the beaches and wineries we visited…

Cape of Good Hope

We’re about 10,215 miles from Seattle here.  Side note: amazingly, not the furthest we’ve ever been from home—Fort Dauphin, Madagascar wins that prize at 10,778 miles.  (if anyone can name a further airport from Seattle than Fort Dauphin/FTU with regular commercial air service, please drop a comment—from a quick search, I couldn’t find anything).

View Larger Map


I love geographic extremes—so visiting the southwestern most point of the African continent at the Cape of Good Hope was a thrill.  Looking up the cliffs next to Good Hope, you see Cape Point (just a few minutes drive between the two).  There’s actually some serious history behind the area, so it’s a cool feeling walking out to the lighthouse on the cliffs marking this spot.

In the second photo below, the white car is our rental parked at the Cape—and that’s a wild ostrich on the right stalking the parking lot!  That was a new wildlife sighting for us, but we just found them too creepy and weird looking.

The drive down is just gorgeous, to boot.  One of the highlights of the drive (other than me breaking the passenger side mirror within an hour of landing in Cape Town) was bringing the car to a near stop to yield for a baboon hanging out on the road.  Living with baboons in your neighborhood would be a total nightmare, but this was a nice tourist treat.

Boulders Beach

Along the drive between Cape Town and Cape Point is Boulders Beach—a popular hang out spot for African penguins.  We were there end of day, so they had all returned to shore to dry off for the night.  Watching these guys shuffle their feet around on the beach was still highly amusing.

This is actually a busy little waterfront town that the penguins are integrated within.  So lots of penguin crossing signs around town.



Then there was one last wildlife sighting: a Rock Hyrax aka dassie (pronounced like dussy, I think).  The scale isn’t very good in this photo, but they are decent size at more than 8 lbs. 

I lied in the previous post.  There will be a couple separate posts on Cape Town.  Part II to come…

First Class to South Africa

Everyone’s been asking for photos of the in-flight experience over to South Africa, but nobody clamoring for actual South Africa photos.  So let’s kick things off as demanded…

This photo basically sums up how completely over the top the First experience on Cathay Pacific is:

Now let me explain what you’re looking at above.  I’m sitting across from Lillie in an ottoman turned buddy seat, eating caviar and salmon, while Lillie is sipping on some Krug champagne (we easily finished the bottle on this flight).  Not a bad way to occupy some time on a 16 hour flight from JFK to Hong Kong.

When it’s bedtime, the flight attendants (two dedicated to the max of nine First passengers) will lay down a mattress pad, and spread out a duvet onto a now fully flat bed that easily fit my long legs (not feasible for me in most business classes).  You’re also issued some Shanghai Tang brand pajamas so you don’t have to wrinkle your suit/jean pants.  Also take note of the 17″ TV and accompanying orchids:

For some orientation, here’s a shot from my suite of Lillie in her suite (yes–the proper term is suite, not seat):

Now for food.  The brilliant part about the food service in First is that it’s entirely on demand.  You get your menu at the start of the flight, and then you can order whatever you want whenever–no prescribed meal times.  Awesome on long flights that require some sleep management to combat jet lag.

The flight attendants are far from shy about trying to feed you every single thing on the menu.  I was amused at the sheer quantity of dinnerware on my tray table here.  That’s some braised pork neck with jasmine rice, spring rolls, basket of assorted bread, butter, hot sauce, and a pot of Hong Kong style milk tea.  The Häagen-Dazs came later.

On our Hong Kong to Johannesburg flight, we had what I am unequivocally proclaiming to be the greatest breakfast of all time.  For me it comprised of: caviar and salmon to start things off, a collection of dim sum, a few slices of back bacon, croissants with honey, Hong Kong style milk tea, and finally a berry smoothie.

But what set this breakfast apart was the setting–Lillie and I were sitting across from one another, 40,000 feet in the air, with the glow of the sun rising over the Indian Ocean on the shore of Mozambique.  Simply unreal.

The last stop on the tour?  The WC.  Yes, there’s a full length mirror to admire yourself in your airplane PJs, two windows, and a vessel sink:

We spent pretty much 48 hours in this space through the trip–flying JFK-Hong Kong-Johannesburg-Hong Kong-San Francisco.  Definitely worse places you could be for such a long haul, I reckon.

Finally, just to be crystal clear, we obviously didn’t shell out the $26,000/each (not a typo) this routing would set you back on Orbitz.  This was all paid for with Alaska Airlines miles–that’s how we roll.

Expect three more posts on this trip–all presumably far less interesting than this: on Cape Town and surroundings, brief stopovers in Hong Kong, and a boring/nuts and bolts post on miscellaneous trip planning minutiae.

Lillie is 30

The paper shredder I got Lillie for her 28th birthday had set a pretty high bar for gifts.

So for Lillie’s 30th, we’re heading to Cape Town, South Africa for the next several days.  Making it all the better, we’re heading there via Hong Kong in first class on Cathay Pacific–no more of this business class nonsense!

We’ll be celebrating the big day with Krug champagne and caviar on the 16.5 hour flight from JFK to Hong Kong.

Stay tuned for the trip report…in the meantime, happy 30th birthday Lillie!