May 25, 2017

places I love (south africa // cape town).

a quick flight across the country and we found ourselves in cape town. we had four nights in the great city (with a getaway to wine country in between...more on that later), and we loved every second. 

cape town is full of life and color and all the good things. here were some favorites. 

cape town is spread out, so we split our stay up between beautiful camps bay and the city centre so we could easily get around. in camps bay we got a little fancy and stayed at the amazing 17-room POD. it's the kind of place where the awesome staff think of everything before you have to ask for it. cold waters in our car for a day trip, fresh popcorn and hot cocoa for an in-room movie night, etc. when lindsey started asking about hiking, one staff member even invited her to join him and his friends on their sunrise hike up lion's head! the rooms were perfect (equipped with ready packed beach bags for a quick walk to the bay), and we loved every minute of our visit. 

when it was time for the city centre, we kept it a little more budget friendly and stayed at the Hippo Boutique Hotel. It was low on the frills - but spacious, clean and in the perfect location to walk around a bit and explore. 

let's be real. the majority of the stars on my google map were restaurants. and they did not disappoint. cape town was made for food lovers. here were some favorite spots: 
molten toffee. nowhere makes a cold brew like they do in the US, but the food and drinks at molten toffee were perfection. 
deluxe coffeeworks. simple, cool and good. 
orphanage cocktail emporium. less food, more drinks...this speak-easy vibes spot serving drinks in tea cups was real cute. 
arcade. I'm a sucker for a good neon sign, and this cool bar on bree st. didn't let me down. 
foxcroft. we snagged a reservation here on the tail end of our cape peninsula day trip. cozy, delicious and in the adorable constantia area - it was a great end to the day. 
the potluck club. we couldn't get in to the famed Test Kitchen (as one of the country's top restaurants it's been booked solid since opening), so instead we opted for it's sister restaurant, the potluck club. the view from the glass-walled top of the biscuit mill silo is a draw in itself, but the tapas style dishes were perfection. we definitely left full and happy. 
chef's warehouse + canteen. this tiny no reservations spot was listed as the place where "chef's go to eat" - and it was easy to see why. no decisions necessary, the only menu option is the eight course tapas for two, and every dish blew. my. mind. lindsey contemplated going into the kitchen to hug the chef we loved it so much. GO, and go early. apparently we got lucky, there is usually a line around the block. 

there is so much to do in cape town. a highlight for us was spending a day doing the cape peninsula drive. we took our time so it took most of the day, but we wandered down and around the cape of good hope, stopping in places like kalk bay, simon's town, boulder's beach (the penguins!), cape point, and more. it was definitely one of the most scenic drives I've ever been on. we spent another morning on a tour of robben island (every tour is led by a former political prisoner - and it's amazing). we wandered around the beautiful gardens of kirstenbosch (I'd love to go back when there's a concert there!), and took the cable car up to the top of table mountain. we wandered around bo-kaap, the old, technicolor muslim neighborhood, and went to the saturday market at the hip old biscuit mill in woodstock. 

other tips. 
  • rent a car! once you get the hang of driving on the opposite side of the road (thanks linds!), it's pretty easy to navigate, and it was SO helpful to have the freedom to go where we wanted. we made sure to look for hotels with secure parking, and never had a problem. 
  • book your robben island tour in advance! 
  • just wander! we loved walking around on bree street, in woodstock, in camps bay, etc. 
next up: back to that side trip to wine country in the middle of our cape town stay...


May 23, 2017

places I love (south africa // durban)

we started our adventure with a bang, and after wrapping up a whirlwind of safari we drove to coastal durban to spend the night before our flight to cape town the next morning. 

originally we had taken a chance and booked a random guest house we found online, but at the last minute we switched up our plans and decided to treat ourselves to a night at the oyster box

the beautiful hotel is perched on the umhlanga beachfront along the indian ocean (!!) and is home to durban's iconic light house. everything about the oyster box feels like a trip back in time to an era of Indian magic. 

the breakfast buffet is what legends are built on. there are employees armed with squirt guns who's sole job is to scare monkeys away from diners. there is garden after garden after garden. the waves crash with such force you can hear them from your room. the uniforms alone make it worth a visit. 

admittedly, the hotel was so perfect we never got the chance to wander out and see what else durban had to offer (with the exception of a lovely beach walk). so we'll have to come back! 

the whole thing felt like a hazy candy cane colored daydream and the perfect way to wash off a week's worth of dust. 

if you're ever in durban, treat yourself to a little trip back in time at this wonderful place. xx 


May 18, 2017

places I love (south africa // lions valley lodge)

we waited in the dusty car park tentatively, looking around juuuust in case. I spotted a couple giraffes casually posed on a nearby hilltop, sighed, wondered how this could be real life + shot a ridiculous grin at my favorite travel mate. we were in for an epic, epic week. 


a few months ago, lindsey and I decided we better stop talking about going to south africa and instead maybe ACTUALLY GO TO SOUTH AFRICA. she was turning 30, I was feeling wanderlusty, and so off we were. 

so far in this life I've had the good fortune to see some pretty unbelievable corners of the world. I don't know that they get any better than this one. we spent almost three weeks exploring what makes south africa so special. cape town, durban, vineyards, etc. everywhere was unique and perfect. but to be fair, my heart was stolen the moment we arrived in that dusty parking lot. so let's start there shall we? 


a week in nambiti private game reserve. just a few hours drive from johannesburg, we were in another world. 

after a few minutes of meaningful giraffe to human eye contact, a green game viewer came bounding around the corner captained by tyrone, who would be our guide (and bartender, and babysitter, and animal expert and adventure guru) during our stay at lions valley lodge, one of nine lodges in the reserve. 

lions valley was recommended by a friend, and we had no idea what to expect. we spent the entire drive to the lodge open-mouthed staring at everything around us, and when we pulled up to our home, we knew immediately it was going to be special. 

nothing I say can do the place and the people justice. every inch was beautiful. our room (hey savannah suite!) was unbelievable (side by side bath tubs for post safari relaxing? a back wall of windows that open so far that you're basically outside? watching zebras hang out by the watering hole from the couch? come on). the staff were exceptional (great food, warm greetings, awesome guides). it was the perfect home for a few days. 

each morning started while it was still dark, when tyrone would come meet us at our door for the walk to the main lodge (lions valley is an unfenced camp, so there's always the slight chance that it will be a lion instead of your guide there to greet you). after a quick coffee, we were off for a morning game drive. armed with blankets and cameras, we spent hours watching the sun rise as we ventured all over the reserve in search of wildlife. we spent mornings making pit stops to watch the hippos swim while we enjoyed tyrone's dreamed up bush-appropriate coffee/hot cocoa/amarula creations. we chased radio updates to hang out among herds of elephants. we'd return to the lodge for the day to relax, unwind, and enjoy the quiet for a while...then it was back in the viewer for an afternoon drive, with coffees and cool mornings replaced by sundowners below pink sunsets. every day was the same + every day was an adventure. 

at first I was worried it would get old. we had twelve game drives ahead of us. how many zebra can one girl look at!? good news. obvious news. it never got old. 

we explored every inch of nambiti. 

greeted other adventurers as we passed, all sharing in the same awe-filled daydream. 

asked tyrone one hundred dumb questions. 

found ourselves on cliffs, by waterfalls, in trees, buried in grass taller than our vehicle.

we met a little strawberry of a rhino named torpedo. 

got caught in the middle of an elephant herd. 

sat motionless in the pitch black darkness while two lions wandered by so closely I could have tousled their manes.

we felt our heartbeats pick up speed when we realized the humans weren't in charge. 

we were guests in their world. 

saw shooting stars. 

sat and watched and never tired of it. 

we paused for zebra roadblocks. 

embraced the chance to unplug. 

got used to (and loved) hearing the beep and chatter of the ranger radio. 

trusted our guide to get us close but not eaten (success!). 

listened to his stories about past adventures and made new ones.

learned so much about humans and animals and how we could all stand to be a little kinder all around. 

I could have stayed forever listening to the wind blow through the grass, watching rhinos meander across the path. 

every moment, every sound, every human, every big, beautiful animal is one I'll never forget. we were heartbroken to leave, which I'll take as a sign of life well lived. lions valley, you were the adventure of a lifetime and made our first trip to south africa so, so special. I can't wait to come do it again. xx 

for a little video fun too, click here

after we left lions valley lodge, we stayed a few more nights at a tented camp also in the reserve. it was wonderful too and we had a great stay - but spotting our beloved lions valley game viewer on the road each day was like seeing an ex after a break up - just a tiny bit sad, weird, and nostalgic for what you lost. lesson learned. pro tip: commit to one lodge! 

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