Travel Tale: My First Flight

After two disastrous flight experiences to and from Zanzibar this year, I found myself (in the throes of Novemberitis) placating myself with promises of only local travel for 2017. Nothing wrong with that, of course. In fact I have had occasion to feel quite content with the idea of exploring only my immediate surrounds for a little while.

The plan: Play around here for the year while saving up for a nice international trip to be taken after my plane weariness has had time to subside.

I expected it to take a year. It took a month.

So now, as I find myself back in the habit of perusing my Cheapflights app during almost any given lull,  I cannot help but think back the first time I flew. Flying with children is quite a tiresome endeavour these days, especially for a mixed family. On the odd occasion I consider it (a flight to Vic Falls sometime, perhaps) but then I come to my senses and remind myself of the home affairs nightmare this would entail.

When I was a wee little thing though, my brave and probably naive mother, set out on a trip to the States with three children under the age of five in tow. I remember it being a bit of a challenge that culminated in me dropping the cold medicine and having it shatter on the floor of what I assume was the Minneapolis airport.  Apart from that I remember countless packets of peanuts, not being able to sleep on uncomfortable chairs, movies projected in the front of the plane that I could not see, kind hostesses, and a very travel-weary mother who probably regretted her decision to attempt to travel alone with three children almost immediately.

As tiresome as the entire trip was, though, it did give me my very first taste of somewhere new, a taste which I am beginning to fear will never be satiated. It seems too that this is a feeling can only be reached by plane, as mad as that may sound.

When I arrived, as a five year old in the States, I thought we were in the sky. I still feel a little like that after flying. Planes take us away to strange places where people speak in strange tongues and with strange accents. Even television does not prepare us for the differences between us. And nothing prepares you for that feeling of being somewhere entirely new. Nothing prepares you for how much there is to learn out there.

I don’t love planes, I admit. Even the 5 year old me found little to be enchanted by inside these large tubes of discomfort that hurtle us through the sky while our bodies react with dehydration and a greater susceptibility to illness. And yet I cannot deny that planes do two of my absolute favourite things in the world:

They whisk me away to faraway places.

And, most importantly, they bring me home.

I’ve broken up with myself…

When the new year rolls around you inevitably find a slew of folks suggesting that you leave bad relationships in the past. This, of course, is sound advice, and I have followed it myself on quite a few occasions (it gets easier to do with practice). This year, however, the person I am parting ways with is myself.

Of course, the only reason I am putting it this way is because it sounds very dramatic and it will make you roll your eyes.

What I really mean though, is that my travel-loving adventurous self and my introverted curl-up-with-a-book-and-never-leave-home self are parting ways. But only in the blog sense. Unfortunately in the real world we share a body so we’re stuck with each other.

That’s right: I have finally listened to all the experts and I’m splitting my home-schooling blocked-author mom persona and my travel persona up, because honestly the combination doesn’t make sense even to me so I can only imagine how many raised eyebrows occur when folks land up here.

The travel self is being spoiled, because even though she is relatively new, she is still being allowed to keep the Passing the Open Windows url. The older self, that some of you might still know and love, will be adopting her namesake as a url and will be pondering life and sharing her facts and fictions over at Nadine Rose Larter. For now, you’ll have to forgive both sites for being stuck in a bit of a transition period. I like to think they’ll soon find stability.

Here’s wishing you all a great new year of positive changes and progressive happiness. I hope your 2017 is filled with the exact adventures that make your hearts sing!

 

Thinking about tourism…

As it turns out I am currently sitting on a bed in a hotel room in George thinking about tourism. Probably I should be out there exploring a bit, but instead I am sitting here feeling zen and contemplative. And what am I contemplating? Not even George tourism and what I might manage to get up to while I am here, but Port Elizabeth tourism and how I might manage to play a small (or big!) role in moving the industry forward.

shark rock pier

Lately I’ve been asking myself what I personally think is a really important question:

What makes people come to visit Port Elizabeth? (and by extension, the Eastern Cape)

img_5270I was visiting Hlosi Game Lodge when this question first occurred to me. Of course we won our weekend there, otherwise we would never have had the experience. These game farm experiences – and they are experiences – can be quite costly. Worth it, most definitely, but that doesn’t quite change the fact that I can’t afford them! Anyway… Of course when we were visiting Hlosi, we were the only South African visitors there. The rest of our fellow guests were from all over the world. England, of course, but also Germany and Sweden if I remember correctly. So as I observed these guys (who got really excited seeing giraffe in the far distance) I could not help but wonder: how did they end up here? (more…)

Sharing the Bay by Being a Hometown Tourist

img_36002016 has been an incredible year for me. I feel almost guilty saying that because in the grander scheme of things it has been a pretty scary year. Especially that part where the Apocalypse is coming and The Hunger Games are probably going to be a real thing now. And even more especially that part where too many folks seem to be on board with this madness.

I digress. We accidentally got spoilt this year. I somehow found myself overseas twice, exploring places vastly different from home, and I began to fall more and more in love with the idea of somehow getting it right to balance my homebody self with my adventurous self. This year kind of showed me that out-of-the-ordinary things are possible in even the most ordinary of lives.

Of course going overseas twice in one year plus getting a little over-enthusiastic on the roadtrip front has inevitably lead to a little more credit card debt than I am comfortable with, and of course the husband has over-extend his available leave, which means that next year is looking a little travel-skint for this wayfaring duo. Perhaps it may have been a little wiser to spread things out a little bit more. Oh well, too late for that.

img_3316But you know what? I’m kind of excited regardless. All this exploring in faraway places has kind of drawn me home a bit and inspired me to explore around here in a more intense way. I am determined to spend 2017 sharing the bay while I discover all the secrets our beautiful city has to offer. I can’t wait to start, so I’ll probably be sharing some of my favourite things about around here over the next couple of weeks. But I’m most excited about going out there and treating Port Elizabeth as a foreign place that I have the added bonus of oodles of time to explore.

I’m a Port Elizabethan Blogger, folks! I should have been doing this ages ago!

(First order of business: figure out how to take a really cool picture of the pier…)

A Life Saving Trip to Hlosi Game Lodge

whatsapp-image-2016-11-15-at-12-41-56-pmAt some point in the last two months I entered a competition to win a weekend stay at Hlosi Game Lodge which is situated inside the Amakala Game Reserve just outside of Grahamstown. I don’t remember entering this competition at all due to the fact that my wanderlusty self tends to enter any and all competitions that have anything to do with accommodation these days. Thank goodness for that.

Now I must admit, I was super thrilled to win the competition, but at the same time I was a little overwhelmed. Folks that frequent these places are fancy people. And we’re not fancy people. We’re choose the cheapest option for accommodation on booking.com people. That’s who we are. So going to such a fancy place, while exciting, made me a little anxious, but I have to admit that by the time we arrived at Hlosi I didn’t even care how unfancy we were in the fancy fancy place. I just wanted to crash and be anywhere outside of real life.

And that’s exactly what we got.

Hlosi ran the competition to promote their new tented accommodations. Of course a tent sounds mad, but glamping is fab! (I can’t believe I just typed that)

Hlosi GiraffeEven though it’s just a 40 minute drive from home, Hlosi felt like it was a whole world away and acted as a sort of quiet sanctuary for my tired soul this last weekend. We spent a total of 12 hours (2 morning drives, two evening drives) exploring the Amakala Game Reserve and falling even more in love with this beautiful country of ours. I cannot help but envy travellers who get to come here and experience this all for the first time. Aside from beautiful game drives and spectacular sightings (despite the cold, rain, and wind) we were spoilt with wonderful food, drinks aplenty, and an incredible room overlooking the open veld where wild animals roamed past. We even had a bath with a view!

Look, in real life places like Hlosi are not really an option for us because of severe budget restraints *stifles an uncomfortable giggle* so I am extra grateful for this particular experience. Despite being crazy far out of our league, I will admit that being at Hlosi inspired me even more to step outside of my own doorstep and take in the wonders of right here.

I think perhaps we need to start bringing our adventures in a little closer to home for 2017. 2016 was an incredible year of travel for us but it was a little too indulgent and the credit card is a bit upset right now. We need to figure out how to make these sorts of experiences more doable. If we can figure out how to take trips to strange lands across the world, we can certainly figure out how to enjoy the land right under our feet to the fullest.

Yes. I think we’ll do that.

Pics: #nayesexploreshlosiamakhala

Why is there a monkey in my tree?

img_4920I’ve lived in Jutland Crescent, overlooking Baakens Valley, for going on twelve years now, and not once have I ever seen a monkey here. Yes, we’re overlooking the valley, and it almost even makes sense that monkeys might make their way here. I suppose you could call our little hill an extension of Settlers Park if you wanted. So yeah. There’s plenty of wildlife here. We’ve had dassies, guinea fowl, grouse, mongooses, tortoises, genets, way too many snakes for my liking, and even a couple of duiker in our yards before (when I say “our” I mean my yard and my mom’s yard – we live next to each other) but never ever have I seen a monkey.

And yet there she was: eating a locust in my tree.

So, I have to ask the question. Why is she here? Why is there a monkey bouncing though the trees in my yard? And why does she seem so impossibly terrified every time she sees me point my camera at her? And why is she, a vervet monkey, alone? Vervet monkeys are social creatures that travel in tribes.

She’s lost.

And she’s really scared of my camera.

Is it silly for me to wonder if she’s been shot at? It seems to be a logical conclusion. I’ve never seen a vervet monkey who was more afraid than curious. They usually just kind of look at you when you look at them. They’re usually cheeky as hell. So maybe somebody shot at her and her family members. Maybe that’s why she’s lost and so far from home.

And there I was pointing a “gun” at her. Luckily by the time I sort of figured out that the gun was making her scared, she also seemed to realise that I wasn’t shooting at her. So she calmed down a bit. Ate a locust. And then vanished into the valley.

I never did manage to get a decent pic of her. But I hope she finds her people soon.

What Zanzibar can learn from Thailand

OutriggerThe travel bug properly bit me in 2013. I blame Thailand. The bug has always kind of been there. I’ve always had a travel list. But before I went to Thailand, my travelling wants seemed to be in the same impossible league as my very real wish to attend Hogwarts or fly around with The Doctor.

But I went to Thailand and suddenly going places became possible. It became this thing that I could do for myself if I really tried, even if I don’t always feel like I deserve it.

And guess what? Three years later I am now someone who travels. Ok so I’m not one of those people who only travels, but I reckon managing to be a homeschooling mom of three who only ekes by on a few freelancing gigs every month but still manages to get out there into the world a little bit is still kind of cool. It counts, right?

I digress… (more…)

Zanzibar and the question of our duty as travellers…

I didn’t go to Zanzibar because I wanted to go to Zanzibar. I went to Zanzibar because the plane tickets were cheap. That’s the truth of it. I’ve never felt any need to go there. In my head it was just another island with tropical fruit and possibly a good snorkeling scene. Lovely, yes. But essential? Not really.

My Travel Bucketlist (in no particular order) is as follows:

  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Prague
  • Iceland
  • Israel
  • Egypt
  • Turkey
  • Cambodia
  • Vietnam
  • Japan
  • Morocco
  • The Philippines
  • Scotland
  • Ireland
  • Alaska
  • A Roadtrip from SA to Kenya

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Those are my must sees. So why did I go to Zanzibar? (more…)

On Zanzibar and the Joys of Being Home

zanzibari-sunriseI’ve been home from Zanzibar for two weeks and I’m only just now starting to feel “normal” again. I’ve spent my days processing, and watching too much television (which you’ll probably hear about at a later stage) and just contemplating the madness of this year. Being home with no immediate plans – or even plans to make plans – feels exceptionally good.

Does loving being home make me a bad traveller?

I don’t actually consider myself a traveler  so much as I consider myself just a regular person who likes to travel and who has recently made a commitment to taking this love more seriously.

Every now and then you might see that meme on Facebook. It says:

Make a list of the things that you love.

Make a list of the things that you do every day.

Adjust accordingly.

I’m trying to do that. Although I admit I haven’t actually written a list. Maybe I should.

In the meantime I’m contemplating Zanzibar and what I need to say about it. It was a rather educational trip, I must admit. I suppose international travel often is. Or perhaps any travel has things to teach if you’re open to learning. But as beautiful and exotic as Zanzibar is, I left there feeling a bit…well…heartsore…

I know I’m supposed to share all the wonderful things about travelling. That’s what travel blogger do. And yet I feel like I want to talk about the Zanzibari people, and their less shaky political situation. I want to talk about how teachers in Zanzibar can expect to earn as little as $77 per month as a salary. And how the people of Zanzibar are without adequate medical care or family planning services.

It’s so hard to talk about “oooh snorkelling” when these are the things that stick in my mind the most. So forgive me, for a little while. So many folks have been saying to me I can’t wait until you tell us all about Zanzibar. I’m afraid it might not be the pretty picture you expect. At least not all of it.

There are lovely fun wonderful things out there. But there are humans, too. And I cannot help but feel the need to tell their stories first.

the-zanzibar-cow

 

My Favourite Things to Do in the Friendly City

Cheapflights Nelson Mandela Bay BlogathonThrilled to be part of the Cheapflights Blogathon that seeks to explore a bit of the friendly city of Port Elizabeth (with the ever fabulous folk at Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism, of course) I’ve been thinking about all the reasons I love my home over the last couple of days. I can’t seem to stop thinking of the review that Madonna gave of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. 

“The Alchemist is a book about magic, dreams and the treasures we seek elsewhere and then find on our own doorstep.”

When I first read the book (about 10 years ago) I thought that this review of Madonna’s was an inaccurate assessment and it kind of irritated me quite a bit. In a way, I still sort of do disagree with it, but at the same time I’m coming around to her thinking. You see, to me the book was saying that even though everything you need can be found at home, you should still brave the unknown and seek your fortunes (not necessarily monetary fortune) elsewhere. Of course this plays right into the psyche of those of us who love to travel. But I’m kind of liking the idea that maybe both of our assessments were right. Maybe the story teaches us that adventure out there is important, but also that what your soul needs can be found at home too. In the last year I have certainly come to understand that the most wonderful of adventures in faraway places have this magical way of making you love home even more.

And so I have decided to share my favourite things to do here in this friendly city of ours. Port Elizabeth has so much to offer, from temperate weather to blue flag beaches to adventure and tons of touristy fun stuff, but I have to admit that my favourites are more of the understated kind. These are the things that I try to indulge in regularly, or wish that I could indulge in more regularly. Please do feel free to share some of yours!

dscn1841-version-21.) SAMREC Penguin Releases

Hands down this is one of the most awww bless things to do in Port Elizabeth. If you follow SAMREC’s Facebook Page you should be able to figure out when the next one is. Or just contact them. Penguin releases happen pretty regularly and if watching those little critters run down the beach and jump into the sea doesn’t melt your heart, nothing will.

2.) A Coffee Milkshake from Something Good

Can I confess something weird? I’ve never been inside Something Good. This is one of the most popular places to eat in our city, but I gotta tell you, there’s very little chance I’ll ever go inside. Why? Not because they aren’t great. I’m sure they are. It’s because grabbing something from their take-away menu (roadhouse style) and then sitting in my car to consume it while watching the sea is one of my absolute I’m-not-even-nearly-kidding favourite things to do. So if I’m ever in that area this will be my entertainment choice. I speak purely for myself of course, but this is like the perfect date! Grab a milkshake. Park with your car facing the beach. And just sit there. It’s heaven. There are of course other great spots from which to sit and watch the waves (I did already mention that PE is awesome) but this particular piece of our shoreline just does it for me.

Noah at ArtEC

3.) Check out an Exhibition at ArtEC

If you love initiatives that are all about giving back to the community, then do pop in to ArtEC when you’re in town. I love most of our art galleries by default, but this is hands down the best one we have as far as I’m concerned. These guys are constantly putting on the most exciting of events and bringing the most diverse collection of artists to our attention. And they do this so humbly. It is a beautiful thing to behold. (pics: #nayesexploresartec)

4.) The Cape Recife Lighthouse

I’m not sure how we regular folk are supposed to manage to get up there without going on an actual tour that includes a bunch of other stuff, but I imagine if you contact SAMREC someone might be able to help you. In July(ish) this year, my husband and I used our Nelson Mandela Bay Pass and went on a tour with Alan Tours. This tour included a trip up the Cape Recife Lighthouse. Wow. The photo opportunities. The views. The everything. Go there. (pics: #nayesexploresthecaperecifelighthouse)

5.) The Redhouse Flamingoes

If you leave the city and drive towards Redhouse you will eventually come across a whole bunch of salt pans on your left. These salt pans are filled with gorgeous pink flamingoes. I love taking a drive out that way with my camera and taking a hundred terrible photographs of those birds. One day I’ll have a lens that can handle them at a distance that doesn’t make them fly away, but for now I don’t mind failing in my attempts to capture their gorgeousness. Just watching them is enough.

dscn4673

I really would love to hear what quirky things you love to do around our city. Feel free to share them with me and I might even be inclined to give them a try!

*disclaimer* While this post was sponsored by the good folks at Cheapflights in association with Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism, the content and opinions found here are entirely my own.

 

 

Thinking about things to do in the friendly city of Port Elizabeth

Cheapflights Nelson Mandela Bay BlogathonConsidering I’ve just come back from Zanzibar, it seems a little weird that I’m now writing a post about things to do in Port Elizabeth. Because I have Zanzibar to write about first, surely. The problem is: I don’t want to! And I feel a little brattish about it but the truth is that I was so relieved to arrive home in Nelson Mandela Bay after our latest little adventure that I find myself needing a little bit of breathing space between myself and the last three weeks.

Besides, being glad to be home is truly quite an exquisite feeling. Isn’t it? We should take advantage of all those good vibes!

You see, I’ve been finding that the the more I explore outside of my city, the more I find myself wanting to properly explore inside of my city. Port Elizabeth has just as many wonderful nooks and crannies to discover as anywhere else. And why shouldn’t I approach my home town with the same curiosity that I employ when exploring places that I need a plane to take me to? In fact, for a while now I have settled on the idea that perhaps my goals for 2017 should be to become the absolute very best hometown tourist that I can be.

So, in the wake of making such a resolution, it seemed quite fortuitous to be asked by Cheapflights to be part of their Port Elizabeth Blogathon with Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism. And forgive me for gushing, but when the makers of your #1 favourite app on your phone ask you to do a campaign with them you say YES as loudly as you possibly can. And then you make a fool of yourself by admitting that their app legitimately changed your life for the better. Because you’re too old to be coy about these things.

I do hope you enjoy the upcoming things to do ideas for our little corner of the world. Give me a shout if you think you’ve got some alternative ideas. We like playing with the slightly odder things around here!

Home for Hibernation

Processed with Snapseed.

Yesterday the husband and I, along with our three cretins, got home after a long family trip to the Free State followed by a quick pop-over to Zanzibar. And all I can think is please Lord can I just sleep for three days! Holidays are supposed to be rejuvenating, aren’t they? Relaxing, refreshing. All that.

But no.

I’m exhausted! I’m happy!! But I’m exhausted. And glory there is so much un-packing to do. All I want to do is hibernate. Like a real bear. For 6 months.

I can’t brain. I can’t focus. I can’t anything. I just need sleep. Please.

Tomorrow I will be better.

No. Make that Monday. On Monday I’ll be better. But maybe only next  Monday. Not this one around the corner. You can’t only hibernate for one day. It needs to be more.

So I have to have the quiets for a little while before real life comes back again. After that I’ll be back to tell you about Zanzibar and our own friggen awesome country. Because our country is awesome. And every time I go away I realise it just a little bit more.

Hakuna matata, my friends. I’ll be back. With pictures. And details.