Monday, August 14, 2017

Cuba part 1

Before we could leave, we had to declare our reason for going to Cuba (we chose "support of the Cuban people") and have them check our visas.  Then we could get our boarding passes stamped "Cuba Ready"

Waiting at the airport

Arriving in Cienfuegos

When we arrived, we were waiting in line to have our passports checked.  First Milena's niece was pulled out of the line and taken into a small room.  She came out a few minutes later, and they asked me to come in.  They asked me a few questions including how much money did I have with me (they do not take American credit cards and ATM machines don't work with American debit cards, so we had to take all cash with us).  They asked what my job and salary is.  They asked why I was there, and I tried to explain that I have been friends with a Cuban family for over 30 years and wanted to see where they came from, but I'm sure he had  no idea what I was talking about, so I said "Tourist."  All of these answers went onto a blank piece of paper and he just continued to ask questions until a woman came into the room and said something in Spanish and they let me go.  Once I was I got out of there I noticed that my group had made it through customs, but Milena's mom was there, chatting someone up.  They asked Milena's mom if I was with them, and she said "Si" so I was free to go.  Once I got on the other side, everyone was freaking out and asked what happened.  I asked Milena's niece (also white) what they said to her and she said, "They just looked at my last name (which is Cuban) and let me go."  It was a good story.  I have no idea what they will do with that plain white paper with a few tidbits of information about me, but that was the only trouble that we had the whole trip.  We were a little worried about traveling to Cuba after someone made an announcement that Americans are no longer allowed to go to Cuba, but then didn't make anything official, so we didn't know what to expect.  But everything was fine.  

The first of many classic cars that we saw. 
Our hotel 

Milena's youngest posing by the pool.  

Street in front of the hotel  

Milena's brother bought this beret and cigar before the trip and couldn't wait to do his Che Guevara pose.  His mother was sufficiently freaked out to make it worth the trouble.  

More to come... 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Fourth birthday

This little stinker turned four in May.  Here she is waiting for her guests to arrive.

Lining up for the pinata 

Delicious birthday cake!


On the last couple of days, I went to see the vineyards.  Apparently, South African has the perfect climate for them.  One day, I went to Groot Costantia, which is super close to the city and I just took a bus there.  It is the oldest vineyard in the country and it is from 1685.

this was the home where the owners used to live.

We ate a nice lunch at this restaurant.  

On my last day, I went with a tour group out to Stellenbosch.  They have a super cute little town with historical sites, as well as art galleries and other shopping.  Here's an Dutch Revivalist church in town.  

After exploring the town, we got back in the tour van and drove to the vineyards.   I mean, it's no Falcon Crest or anything, but was lovely.  

Next we went to Franschhoek and another vineyard.  

We ate at this restaurant.  

I had ostrich.  My supervisor at work asked before I went if I was going to try it, and I said.... "Uhhhh.... I'm kind of a picky eater."  But we went to this fancy-ish restaurant and I asked the waiter if anyone every regrets it after they order it.  He assured me that I would like it, and I did.  

And that is pretty much it.  
Next up:  Cuba! (in July)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Table Mountain

We took the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain and had lunch.   The view was great.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Cape Town

One day, we took a half-day tour around the peninsula with a stop at the Cape of Good Hope.  

Some baboons on the side of the road.  (we were in the van with the doors locked.  apparently, they have learned how to open doors.)

Before I got here, I thought that this is the place where the two oceans meet, but I learned that it is not.  But it is the most South-Western point on the African Continent.  

After the Cape of Good Hope, we stopped at Boulders Beach, where the penguins live.  

Afterwards, we were dropped off at V&A waterfront shopping center.  It's kind of like South Street Seaport in NYC.  We ended up going here a lot because the rest of the city is super quiet after dark.  A lot of people go here, so it's a safe place to be with lots of shopping and restaurants.

This is their version of the cronut.  NOT even close.  

A different day, Julia and I met here and had lunch between her work stuff.

The view from our table.

 fish  in some yummy sauce with mashed potatoes

They had these corny things all over the place.  I posed with this one. 


The Ferris wheel by night.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cape Town

After three days in Amsterdam, I flew to Cape Town.  My friend had a work conference in Cape Town and invited me to tag along (same conference I attended with her when we went to Sweden and Denmark 6 years ago).  I decided to stop in Amsterdam on the way over because it s a hub for Delta/KLM flights, and since I would be stopping there anyway, I may as well stay a few days.  

this is the view from our window -- that's Table Mountain in the back

One day while my friend was at her conference, I was hanging out at the hotel.  I thought I might take a shower and just then this happened.  

Just a window washer, but I was very happy that I am a procrastinator and hadn't started my shower yet! I waved and then took his picture.  

This is a piece of the Berlin wall, which they gifted to South Africa after the end of Apartheid.  

There was a courthouse around the corner from our hotel that people could go to in order to have their classification changed.  If their hair was not too kinky and their complexion light enough, they could go from non-white to white.  Of course that meant that they couldn't talk to their families anymore, but I guess that is the price some were willing to pay.  These are the benches outside where people waited to meet with the judge.

These brightly painted houses are in the Bo-Kapp neighborhood.  My guide told me that these homes were painted bright colors because the people that originally lived there were not allowed to wear colors, so they painted their homes to reflect a brighter mood.  I went on a different tour on my last day there, and that guide said that story was a myth.  These homes were painted bright colors after Apartheid ended in 1993 and Cape Town became known as the Rainbow City.  He also told us that there is a town in Brazil that was having economic troubles.  They painted their homes like this and the city became a huge tourist attraction.  These homes were originally slave quarters, and after slaves were freed, they continued to live here and passed them down to the next generation.  Now, of course, these homes are becoming a hot commodity and people are selling their ancestral homes for millions of Rand because they are located close to the downtown area of the city.  

this street is known as "Hollywood" because so many pictures are taken here.

They were filming something in this home -- a movie or commercial or something.