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Africa/Middle East

Malawi Misadventures & the Magnificent “Lake of Stars”

Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 | 4 comments

Malawi Misadventures & the Magnificent “Lake of Stars”

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“If we hit a goat, we don’t leave it behind, we take it. It’s good meat.” said my driver, Jacob, as he halfheartedly slowed to avoid a smattering of languid goats along the dark and deserted (of cars, anyway) road from the airport in Lilongwe to my hotel on Lake Malawi. It was after midnight now, so at this point I’d known Jacob for about an hour which suddenly seemed like not long enough.

We’d gotten off to a bit of a rocky start at the airport in Malawi and now I was mildly alarmed that he’d just seriously floated the idea of loading a dead goat into the back seat with me. But before I move on to my exciting drive from the airport on my first night in Malawi, let’s back up to how I got here…

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Cruising to Mozambique on the MSC Opera

Posted by on Jan 29, 2014 | 2 comments

Cruising to Mozambique on the MSC Opera

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For my second cruise with MSC in as many weeks, I was headed up the eastern coast of South Africa bound for Mozambique. Like Namibia, Mozambique was a country that I hoped to visit while exploring southern Africa but the logistics of getting there and deciding where to stay were complex.

So when I discovered that MSC had several cruise itineraries from Durban that visited Mozambique, it was a no-brainer. I had originally planned to do a cruise that included both Madagascar and Mozambique but couldn’t work out the dates for that sailing with the rest of my itinerary so I settled for the MSC Opera’s sailing that called at the capital city of Maputo and made a second stop on the uninhabited sands of Portuguese Island.

For nearly 200 years after Vasco da Gama landed at Mozambique Island en route to India in 1498, the Portuguese ran trading posts along the coast of what they called Portuguese East Africa. In the centuries that followed, the gold trade turned to the ivory trade and by the end of the 18th century, both had been replaced by the slave trade. Nearly a million Africans were sold into slavery through Mozambique’s ports making it a major center of the African slave trade.

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Lesotho & the Sani Pass: A 4-Wheel-Drive Adventure to the Kingdom in the Sky

Posted by on Jan 24, 2014 | 0 comments

Lesotho & the Sani Pass: A 4-Wheel-Drive Adventure to the Kingdom in the Sky

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It’s the world’s highest-altitude nation where even the “lowlands” sit at a dizzying 4,500ft above sea level earning it the nickname, the Kingdom in the Sky. Though Lesotho is surrounded on all sides by South Africa, its defensible position in the mountains and a determined people kept it independent through the decades of apartheid.

While tiny Lesotho is one of Africa’s poorest nations, this alpine mountain kingdom just might be one of the continent’s most underrated travel destinations.

Easily accessible from Durban or Johannesburg (as long as you have a 4×4, that is), Lesotho’s highest peak tops 11,400 feet, the highest in all of Southern Africa (topped on the continent only by Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro).

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The Township Legacy of Cape Town

Posted by on Jan 22, 2014 | 0 comments

The Township Legacy of Cape Town

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Cape Town, South Africa…I loved it so much on Round the World #1, I went back for more on Round the World #2. But it had been more than 6 years since my last visit and I was long overdue for a return to one of the world’s most stunning cities.

I had two days before my cruise to Namibia and one day after to enjoy all that Cape Town had to offer. After spending my first night settling in at the Westin, the next day I headed over to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront area (an easy walk from the hotel) for lunch and a little shopping.

The V&A (as the locals call it) is a working harbor and its importance dates back to the Cape Colony of the 1800’s. Safe shipping was essential for the budding colony and the first load of stone for the harbor breakwater was tipped by none other than Prince Alfred – second son of Queen Victoria.

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Cruising to Walvis Bay Namibia: USA, Party of One (Are Americans Missing the Boat?)

Posted by on Jan 20, 2014 | 0 comments

Cruising to Walvis Bay Namibia: USA, Party of One (Are Americans Missing the Boat?)

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It’s the only place on the planet where the dunes of the world’s oldest desert meet the crashing Atlantic surf; a German colonial legacy set against a lunar landscape. It’s Namibia…and no journey through Southern Africa would be complete without a visit.

Namibia has been on my list ever since Matt Lauer stopped there a few years ago on “Where in the World is Matt Lauer.” I know, I know, I seem to get a lot of my travel inspiration from Matt and it doesn’t always pan out (see Seychelles), but watching him explore those incredible dunes in the Namib Desert was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and I just had to see it for myself.

Since Africa was a major focus for this year’s RTW, I figured there was no better time to add Namibia to the itinerary. After a little research I realized that I couldn’t get to the major airport, Windhoek, on Skyteam so I would need a separate flight (outside my RTW ticket) if I flew. But even if I did book a flight to Windhoek, it appeared that the places I would actually want to visit were hours away and driving on your own was roundly discouraged. I needed a better plan.

Enter, MSC Cruise Lines.

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Off the Grid in the Kingdom of Swaziland

Posted by on Jan 13, 2014 | 0 comments

Off the Grid in the Kingdom of Swaziland

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Where in the world is Swaziland?” said pretty much everyone I know when I rattled it off between Paris and Cape Town on the Round-the-World #9 itinerary.

Sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique, the tiny nation of Swaziland has been independent since 1968. Known for its natural beauty and friendly people, I decided no 3-week trip around southern Africa could be complete without at least a brief stopover.

But first, a recap of how I got to Africa’s last remaining monarchy…

When last I left off, I was boarding the world’s largest aircraft, the Airbus 380, in Paris. Now, flying on the A380 is awesome, it’s just a behemoth. Unfortunately, loading and unloading that behemoth takes about twice as long as any other plane. As a result we departed Paris late and a comfortable ninety minute connection in Johannesburg turned into a mad dash through yet another airport.

Luckily, my flight to Manzini, Swaziland was an international connection, meaning I didn’t have to clear customs in Jo’burg. Both times I’d connected here before I’d been headed to Cape Town (a domestic connection) and had to wait in long immigration lines before heading to my gate.

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Photo of the Day – Beau Vallon Seychelles

Posted by on Jun 21, 2013 | 2 comments

Photo of the Day – Beau Vallon Seychelles

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An archipelago of 115 largely uninhabited islands stretching across the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles are known for their exotically-pristine beauty and have played host to at least one Royal honeymoon (see: William and Kate). Luckily, since more than a dozen of the islands do offer some level of tourist facilities, there’s enough undiscovered beauty to go around, like the exotic beauty of Beau Vallon Seychelles. The main granite island of Mahé is the largest of the islands and home to the majority of the local population of just 85,000. The Seychelles are also home to some of the rarest flora and fauna in the world including the largest known population of giant Aldabra tortoises (though don’t expect to see one lumbering down the beach toward you – despite what you may or may not have heard from Matt Lauer). The tropical isolation of the Seychelles Islands makes them the perfect choice for honeymooners or anyone seeking a little privacy and tranquility…and don’t miss  visit to Beau Vallon Seychelles.

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Zen in Zanzibar

Posted by on Feb 4, 2013 | 0 comments

Zen in Zanzibar

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After a lengthy (8-hour) layover in Lusaka after Victoria Falls and a sleepless night on the way to Nairobi, I landed at 6:00am with two hours to kill in the Nairobi airport before my 8:00am connection to Zanzibar.

And thank goodness for the Kenya Airways Simba Lounge or I might have been reduced to finding a square of floor space somewhere. Even at 6:00am, the Nairobi airport was a hive of activity.

Though booked through Kenya Airways (a Skyteam member), my flight to Zanzibar was operated by Precision Airways. We boarded the small prop plane right on time and I grabbed a window seat hoping to get a glimpse of Zanzibar on approach.

Little did I know our pilot had plans to start the show long before our arrival in Zanzibar.

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Lucky in Livingstone: A Visit to Victoria Falls

Posted by on Feb 2, 2013 | 2 comments

Lucky in Livingstone: A Visit to Victoria Falls

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After my quick trip to the Canary Islands, I arrived back in Madrid with a 4-hour layover and a mission…unload my Antarctica suitcase.

You see, I had this whole master plan to ship the obnoxious suitcase carrying all my heavy winter clothes (and one very yellow parka) back to the U.S. so I wouldn’t have to carry it around the world for a month.

Unfortunately, when I tried to ship it back from Buenos Aires, they wanted almost $400. Preposterous! So, I checked the bag to Madrid figuring I’d have better luck shipping it back from Europe than South America.

Luckily there was a post office in the Madrid airport and after filling out paperwork for an hour and parting with €100 (far more reasonable) I was approximately 40lbs lighter and had never felt better. Finally, back to my traveling weight!

Unfortunately, my joy would be short-lived.

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Save the Date for Round the World #8!

Posted by on Dec 5, 2012 | 7 comments

Save the Date for Round the World #8!

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It’s that time of year again…one month from today I’ll be departing on my 8th annual trip around the world! It’s going to be another whirlwind globetrotting adventure exploring 14 destinations in 10 countries and for the first time on all 7 continents.

Many of you know that Antarctica has been on my list for several years and this year I am finally making it happen. Yes, I’ll be cruising all the way from Argentina to the great white continent with Quark Expeditions and I am impossibly (some would say annoyingly) excited about it! 

This year’s trip will start in Buenos Aires and be the longest yet at a staggering – when you consider the name of the website – 54 days.

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Heaven on Sand…the Magnificent Maldives

Posted by on Feb 8, 2012 | 5 comments

Heaven on Sand…the Magnificent Maldives

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If not for a bit of luck in Abu Dhabi and a minor miracle in Doha, Qatar…we might have missed the Maldives entirely.

After a full day exploring Abu Dhabi, we arrived at the airport at 10:00pm excited for our redeye flight to the Maldives. We were flying Qatar Airways, which meant a quick connection in Doha to catch our longer flight to Malé, Maldives.

As we got in the line for check-in, I glanced at the departures board and noticed that practically every flight showed delayed or canceled. What!?? The weather outside seemed fine, we were in the middle of the desert after all, what could be the problem? As it turned out, the problem was fog. Enough fog to cause the virtual shutdown of the Abu Dhabi airport.

Having spent months researching flights to the Maldives and knowing how limited the options were, I had an immediate sense of dread. If this flight didn’t go, we were in big, big trouble. We’d be lucky to get to the Maldives at all, much less by the next day.

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24 Hours in Abu Dhabi

Posted by on Feb 2, 2012 | 0 comments

24 Hours in Abu Dhabi

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After a 12-hour flight from Réunion, I landed in Paris and hopped on the train to meet up with my friend Susan at the Westin Paris. Susan flew in earlier that afternoon and will be joining me for the next 2 weeks of RTW #7! No one has ever joined me for this long on one of my RTW trips and I am super excited that Susan is coming along.

After meeting up at the hotel, we headed out for a spectacular dinner at my favorite little restaurant on Ile St. Louis before calling it a night (since we both had spent most of the night before on a plane). The next morning we caught the train back to the airport and headed to Abu Dhabi.

Situated in the southeast of the Arabian peninsula, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) is a federation of seven emirates (similar to principalities) and the capital city is Abu Dhabi. I’d visited one other emirate before – Dubai – on RTW #1 and it was quite an amazing experience.

The UAE is known for oil, opulence and over the top architecture and I wondered if Abu Dhabi would measure up to Dubai.

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The Garden Island of Reunion

Posted by on Jan 31, 2012 | 0 comments

The Garden Island of Reunion

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Sandwiched between Madagascar and Mauritius…and hundreds of miles from anywhere else, lush Réunion Island is a French outpost with a decidedly spicy Creole flavor.

Though it’s not known for pristine beaches and flashy resorts, like neighboring Mauritius, the island does have a few picturesque sandy shores framed with sparkling blue sea and more than one nightlife-centered resort town.

But the real draw of Réunion is its stunningly unique natural setting featuring soaring peaks and one of the world’s most accessible active volcanoes.

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Mauritius: Lions, Beaches & Peaks…Oh my!

Posted by on Jan 30, 2012 | 2 comments

Mauritius: Lions, Beaches & Peaks…Oh my!

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I arrived on the island of Mauritius fairly exhausted after a 36-hour travel day involving 4 flights from Malta and a 6-hour layover (turned tourist outing) on neighboring Reunion – more on that in the next post.

After realizing a few days earlier that my hotel in Mauritius, Le Meridien Ile Maurice, was a staggering 40+ miles from the airport on the opposite end of the island, I figured I’d better go ahead and reserve a car for my two day stay. I was thinking of getting one for the next day anyway so I could get out and explore the island but the looming $100 cab fare from the airport made that decision a no-brainer.

It turned out to be the right decision because Mauritius is a large island that is much more easily discovered with your own wheels.

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A Mediterranean Cruise: Spain, France, Italy, Tunisia & Mallorca

Posted by on Jul 8, 2011 | 0 comments

A Mediterranean Cruise: Spain, France, Italy, Tunisia & Mallorca

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The marathon is done (thank God) and now it’s time to move on to the fun part of this trip! After a lovely day in Geneva, I flew on to Barcelona to meet my friend Shannon who was flying in from Atlanta the next day. We’ll be traveling together for the next 2 ½ weeks, starting with a 7-night Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona.

I’ve always wanted to try a Mediterranean cruise. It seemed like the perfect way to get around to a variety of beautiful places and only have to unpack once. And when you’re traveling for a month to a dozen different countries, a week in one bed is a good thing! So when we found a terrific itinerary that included Italy, Spain, France and Africa, we couldn’t pass it up.

Shannon’s flight into Barcelona arrived right on time Thursday morning and I found her in the arrivals area without any trouble…I love it when a plan comes together. 

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