Traveling to Africa


| vschneps@queenscourier.com |

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I’m at Table Mountain with the wind blowing. Below is the famous soccer stadium that hosted the World Cup. They are preparing the 84,000-seat arena for a concert by Eminem.

Taking the journey to South Africa alone surprised many of my friends and family. But I wanted to take the trip that my husband Stu had planned for years but had been too ill to take. So I decided to take it for him.

Just planning the trip was a chore. Stu used to take charge and make the arrangements. I found a wonderful travel agent, Mike Giarretto of Cruise Planners, who very patiently walked me through the many choices.

But I knew Stu would have chosen South Africa for the safari, and so I did.

Part of the fun of preparing was selecting a camera for the most important part of the adventure, shooting the animals. At first I was going to go to one of the big camera stores in Manhattan. But time got away from me and I found an amazingly informed man, Bruce, who owns a camera/Fed Ex/picture framing business. I asked him what would work for my needs and he honestly told me he gave up selling cameras, but could order anything.

I was immediately impressed with his knowledge. In fact, he not only guided me as to what to buy, but installed everything and then got me a WiFi card that allows me to take a photo then have it sent.

Remarkable. He provided such great customer service that I wanted to sing his praises. That’s how a small business survives against the big box stores.

Then there was preparing the clothes for the safari. My tour group, Micato Safaris, had sent me a list of clothes and colors to wear. It seems the animals don’t like red, and black is too hot to wear. So off to the stores I went to buy some beige and forest green colored outfits. After all, I didn’t want to scare the animals!

The company gave me a canvas bag as my luggage and I thought, “How in the world will I fit my things?” So my daughter, Samantha, suggested I buy the bags that crunch my clothes. I did and they did the job.

On my way

The six-hour flight on Delta Airlines to Amsterdam was my first leg of the voyage to Cape Town in South Africa.

The plane, an airbus, is sensational. I had a seat in what felt like a cocoon. I was in my personal space with a shelf for my “stuff” — my books, magazines, iPad, even my own personal screen offering movies, TV shows, games and more.

But the best part is the wonderful meals and wines to accompany each course. It was almost like the other night at The Pierre, where I was a guest of MaryAnn and Joe Mattone. The Italian American Cultural Association had a unique dinner with specially prepared dishes accompanied by five different wines. What a luxurious black-tie night.

My plane experience was pure luxury, too. When I arrived in Amsterdam I asked for a golf cart to take me to the gate for my KLM flight to Cape Town 10 hours away.

I had a five-hour wait to catch the flight so I went to the KLM lounge where they have a quiet room darkened with little private cubbyholes and lounge chairs. Somehow I got about three hours sleep even though I was afraid I’d oversleep and miss my flight. But I didn’t.

Fortunately I got a golf cart to take me to the gate because the driver admitted it was a mile away! I can’t imagine what the architects think a traveler can tolerate. The last trip Stu made, at the enormous Frankfurt terminal, was so huge we would have missed our flight if not for the golf cart. Travelers beware!

I saved my “serious” sleep for the flight. Two movies, three meals and 10 hours later I was in Cape Town.
And so I am off and expect to report on my great adventure. Stay tuned.

Some of the animals I get to see on safari.

A photo from my room at the hotel, One And Only in Cape Town, a five-star resort hotel with a spa and restaurants including Nobu! It’s located at the foot of Table Mountain, seen in the background.