BACK IN STRIDE AGAIN

I’m thankful the Lord protected us on our journey and brought us all safely home to our families.  I had to hit the ground running because the next day after my return, the family was flying to Las Vegas to celebrate Casey’s 21st birthday.  That little girl some of you use to see running around Negril wanting to dive off the cliffs (no, not on my watch young lady) is still adventurous.  I understand that while I was in South Africa she went Sky Diving.  Smh. Anyway, we had a great time in Vegas with her.  Mom, dad, grandparents, and  friends were on hand to wish her well.

The last 2 things I wanted to share about South Africa was our experience in THE WINELANDS and in Cape Town at THE TEST KITCHEN.   Our day in Stellenbosch was quite nice.  We met the first black female winemaker there who makes wine for Stellakaya.  Her name is Ntsiki Biyela.  I definitely give the sista props with all she has accomplished, however, on a personal level, I felt something was missing.  The warmth of M’hudi or even Mont Rochelle was not there. I had to call on my dear friend, the Professor, International Wine Broker, Jess Peters for some serious clarification.  She is the niece of Jabulani, one of the first black South African winemakers who has a different perspective towards black wineries.  Ms Biyela was not the first black to get a degree in Enology but she is the first black female to be the head wine maker for a major winery. She had won several awards.  My wine connaisseurs on this tour who had been drinking Pinotage since we landed were not particularly fond of Stellakaya’s Pinotage.     M’hudi is the first owned and operated black vineyard and their wines are made at a nearby winery.  New Beginnings was started by a handful of black farm laborers who were given a piece of land immediately after apartheid

Needless to say, we will not return to Stellakaya but one of my other favorites    Our reservation at the highly acclaimed TEST KITCHEN had been in place for 8 months  we had 11 courses and each was delightful   You could choose wine paring, tea pairing or no pairing  the chef did an amazing job on each course and the service was totally on point    So my friends, that sums up this 2015 South Africa tour.  On a scale of 1 to 10, it was a 10.    If you want to join next year,  yes we are going back to celebrate Dana Terry’s birthday.   There are so many things South African that I miss already and dream about.  For 1, SHEPHERD’S TREE GAME LODGE   IT IS TOP OF THE LINE.  #2 MAXIMILLIENS RESTAURANT.  In a word “Excellent”.  We have a few spaces available for 2016  so if it’s your dream to visit the Motherland…….Make it South Africa.

On another note:  ATTENTION SHOPPERS, LOVERS OF BROADWAY PLAYS AND THE BIG APPLE.  We are working on a package  that will include R/t air from SFO and shuttle, 3 nights hotel accommodations and play tickets  PLUS  you will have plenty of time to Christmas shop til you drop in Manhattan.  The play is the revival of THE GIN GAME starring JAMES EARL JONES AND CICELY TYSON   Interested?   Inbox me at rivoli98@yahoo.com

Until next time……image image image image image image image

WINE, WINE AND MORE WINE

For years I have been quite the champagne connoisseur, visiting  the Houses in the Chamoagne Region of France, such as: Roderer, Moët et Chandon, Veuve Cliquot and others.   It’s been almost 17 months and I haven’t tasted a drop of the bubbly nor other spirits simply because I wanted to have a clear head and be able to hear my Father speak to me as I walk this walk, however, that does not preclude me from ensuring my guests that love it, enjoy themselves..

As I write this blog, I am  sitting in the First Class lounge  at the Cape Town Airport waiting to board my flight home.  It’s been a wonderful journey.  I do have a few more things to share with you about our lovely day in the WINELANDS and our exciting meal at the very popular TEST KITCHEN.   Stand by…. There is more to come.

A LEISURELY SUNDAY SPENT ON THE CAPE

GOODBYE SHEPHERD'S TREE

GOODBYE SHEPHERD’S TREE

OSTRICH, UP CLOSE AND TOO PERSONAL ON THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE

OSTRICH, UP CLOSE AND TOO PERSONAL ON THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE

VIEW OF THE ATLANTIC FROM MY ROOM

VIEW OF THE ATLANTIC FROM MY ROOM

LIONESS ON THE PROWL

LIONESS ON THE PROWL AT SHEPHERDS TREE

After the bountiful  breakfast the group was picked up by Desmond for the CAPE PENINSULA tour.  Wait…. None could imagine over 230 items to choose from on a brunch spread. They saw first hand what was up here at the fabulous TABLE BAY HOTEL at the Waterfront.  My all time favorite was waiting for me:  Duck crepes with plum sauce, scallions and thinly sliced cucumber.  You can get anything imaginable from Sushi to Thai Spicy Noodles, an assortment of cooked meats, champagne, every conceivable juice including spinach and wheatgrass, and every fresh fruit God provides.

After staying in several Hotels in Cape Town over the years, Table Bay is by far my most favorite. After all, if President Barack Obama, Michael Jackson and Mary J. Bilge have stayed here, it’s sure just fine with me.

We drove along the scenic Atlantic seaboard past Camps Bay, Bantry Bay, the naval village of Simonstown, a stop to see the African penguins at Boulders Beach then on to the most southwestern point of the Continent of Africa at the Cape of Good Hope.

Sister-in-law Jackie soon earned the name of the “police”. She let the ladies know when their shpopping time was up; after all they all wanted to get to GREEN MARKET SQUARE to barter with the vendors before they packed up their wares.  This was a good thing because Goldie and I have learned not to interfere with a group of shopaholics.

Tonight a few were planning to dine at Ruben’s located inside the 6 Star ONE AND ONLY HOTEL. Ruben is a brother, son of farm workers,  who has gone on to own 2 restaurants in Cape Tiown and the title of a very highly acclaimed chef worldwide.

It’s rest time for me this evening so I will be staying in tonight and will also pass on the Robben Island and Langa Township tour tomorrow.  Robben Island, a prison for some 450 years for slaves, exiled Eastern princes, lepers and those punished for resisting oppressive rule, among them, Nelson Mandela.

Tomorrow will prove to be an emotionally charged day for all as it always is for me listening to the political prisoners describe the harsh, cruel and unusual punishment meted out by the racist prison guards.

Time is passing quickly, we will soon be homeward bound but do tune in Tuesday to read about “what’s new”.

Diamonds, Jewels and All Things Beautiful

Today we bid farewell to the fabulous Michaelangelo, time to move on.  We were running on a very tight schedule today  because we needed to arrive at our game lodge before the evening drive began. At 830am the owners of Schwartz Jewelers sent 2 vehicles for the group.  Unfortunately, being hit hard with theft in the mall they have relocated to a very private and heavily secured location.  Yes, we were honored to be their guests. We sat comfortably and listened and learned the fascinating story of diamonds as well as heard their personal stories of relationships and creating special pieces for the likes of Liberace, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, and Lionel Richie  and now here we were joining the ranks.  They have been in business since 1924 and for many years had a store in Beverly Hills.    The lovely ladies in this group were definitely treating themselves and in no way cheating themselves. Since they have a store in SUN CITY some purchases would either be delivered to the lodge or to Cape Town.

The drivers delivered us back to the hotel in time to collect our luggage, meet our guide, Joe and say our goodbyes to the nicest and friendliest doormen and bellmen around.  Our journey to the “non malaria zone” Pilanesberg would be 2+ hours.  This lodge  would be a new experience for me and I was hoping it would turn out to be a wise decision to change from Ivory Tree to Shepherd’s Tree.  My #1 reason for wanting to change was because the quality, taste and presentation of the food at Ivory Tree had gone way down the last two visits

Upon our arrival, we were greeted with drumming and cool refreshing towels.  Stepping into the reception area was like Stepping into another world.  Peacefulness, a welcoming ambiance and such high end classiness surrounded us.  Yes, I knew I had made the right decision.  Patricia, our greeter, immediately offered lunch if we so desired.  We were ushered into a lovely dining room and our servers gave us several options.  Some know that buffets are low on my list and this was a “let the group be seated and served”.    Yes indeed, my kind of place.

Lunch was divine, after which we were taken to our lovely appointed accommodations and then off to the evening game drive. Our Ranger is a likeable brother by the name of Sipo and between he, Darlene and the sassy, 85 yr old Mrs Dorothy Word of San Francisco  (Dayna’s mother) we couldn’t stop laughing.  With Ms Dorothy on board there is no need for Goldie (my alter) to make an appearance.  Ms Dorothy gives it straight, no chaser and she takes No Prisoners. She is quite a lady.

Darlene Daevu  said she wanted to see an “Impala” because the only one she had ever seen was a car. Lol. Guess what? The first animal to be seen were several Impalas.   Then Michelle Mendez, the birthday girl, and avid Animal Planet regular started calling out the animals: White Rhinos, Cheetahs, and there they were.  They will be on the hunt at 530am for more.

Back at the lodge after the game drive and ready for dinner which was another fabulous event; Michelle was surprised with a lovely cake, wine for all and the entire dining staff singing and drumming for her.  Wow! It’s been a grand day but not complete for me until I hit that hot, steamy  outdoor shower under the South African midnight sky.  Yes, this is it ! This is the ticket ——SHEPHERD’S TREE just may make me change my mind and come back when Dana Terry comes to celebrate her birthday next year in October.  Tomorrow a few are having spa treatments and others are going to Sun City. I just may find myself lounging poolside with a good book. Rest and relaxation is what I have ordered for myself and its time to take it.  image image image image image image image image

SOWETO, PAST AND PRESENT

Memorial to Madiba

Memorial to Madiba

Mandela'sHoughton Estate

Mandela’sHoughton Estate

Nelson Mandela Bridge

Nelson Mandela Bridge

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FNB STADIUM

FNB STADIUM

Today was the day for education. After breakfast,   Our luxury charter picked us up at 9am and we began our incredible journey.  Our very soft spoken, humble guide, Joe was as usual on top of his game.  One unique thing about a KATTRAX TOUR is the fact that Our Father has blessed me with the best guides in the industry worldwide that stay with me year in and year out.  Joe is a historian in the truest sense of the word.

We slowly made our way through downtown Joburg, hearing how things use to be and seeing how they exist today.  We crossed the Nelson Mandela bridge which was officially opened by Madiba himself 2 days after his birthday in 2003. We rolled through Braamfontein, a central suburb that’s a part of a cultural arc that includes Newtown, Constitution Hill and the Civic Center. We watched hundreds of young people scurrying about to the University and others on their way to work.

On December 5, 2013 Nelson Mandela made his transition while at his residence at Houghton Estates.  Of course we had to make a stop to pay our respects. There are some displays of memorials on the side of the residence of which his grandchildren now occupy.

Next stop was SOWETO (SOuth WEstern TOwnship).  This is where the struggle began.. We passed the FNB STADIUM, built for the 2010 World Cup  and also the site of Mandela’s Memorial.   We visited the Apartheid Museum, the Hector Pietersen Memorial  and Museum.  Hector was gunned down by racist police In 1976 at the tender age of 13 during a peaceful march to oppose the mandatory law that all must learn the language of the oppressor —-Afrikaans.

Our lunch stop was at Sakhumzi on the popular Vilakazi Street, where 2 Nobel Peace Prize winners have houses.  Mandela’s is now a museum “Mandela House” and Bishop Desmond Tutu’s is still a residence even though he spends most of his time in Cape Town.  I have dined at several lunch spots in Soweto but Sakhumzi is by far the best when it comes to food preparation, cleanliness and service.

Time was against us so a few places were only pointed out, like the REGINA MUNDI Catholuc Church where students would gather and plan during the uprisings. Those racist police opened fire there and bullet holes in the walls remain as a constant reminder.   There was no stopping the shopaholics in this group. They were relentless and no doubt they will be buying another suitcase.  Lord, let there be room in the luggage trailer

Back at the hotel, I rested a bit while others hit the adjacent Sandton City Mall.  A few hours later I dined solo at Picollo Mondo Restaurant here in the hotel  and my meal was heavenly: I started with a Foie Gras Terrine,  cleansed the palate with a passion fruit sorbet followed by my main course of French style duck breast with a Campari Orange glaze and accompanied with duck leg croquette, fondant potato garnished with puréed pumpkin and grilled baby fennel and a side of garlic scented French style green beans.  Yes, in a word: heavenly!

Tomorrow we say farewell to joburg but first Schwartz Jewelers will send a driver for the group to visit their workshop and then showroom. They have since moved from the Sandton City Mall.  Several are excited to purchase that special diamond from the motherland.

SOUTH AFRICA, AFTER 8 TRIPS….ITS STILL AMAZING

The chauffeur arrived a few minutes early and we were on our way. This trip would start off different since I would be flying Business Class on one of the worlds BEST airlines — EMIRATES.   The private car service for departure and return is one of the many perks that come along with the purchase of their  Business or First Class ticket.  San Francisco, Los Angeles and JFK are flying the newest A380 aircraft. This baby tops a triple 7 and the Dreamliner in my opinion.  When you add the flight time to the east coast and the overnight in NY you might as well fly Emirates as the time will almost be the same going through DUBAI.  Seats lay out fiat 79″, you’ve got a stocked fridge at your seat, over 2000 channels of entertainment and free wifi 40K miles in the clouds. Service was impeccable to say the least and they’ve got the nicest flight attendants in the industry.  Friends,   I say treat yourself don’t cheat yourself.  When you’ve said goodbye to this world; trust me; your sons and daughters will certainly enjoy what you didn’t.

After checking into the 5 Star Michaelangelo in Joburg (adjacent to the Sandton City Mall and Nelson Mandela Square; I attempted to catch up on emails and rest a bit.  The only thing on the agenda this evening would be dinner at MAXIMILLIENS located in the DAVINCI HOTEL a 3 minute walk from our hotel.

I chose the Crispy calamari with Cajun spices served with garlic as an appetizer followed by Pineapple breeze sorbet to cleanse the palate.  My decision for main course was difficult: Creamy prawn penne pasta with basil and sun dried tomatoes OR Grilled beef medallion complemented with mushroom risotto and sautéed spinach and cranberry jus.  Man, what a decision but the beef won and was it ever tender and succulent. Those that chose the prawn pasta dish were oohhing and ahhing.  I had to try the green chili sauce that was served to them along with their freshly shaved Parmesan.  The dessert choices were: Lava cake with vanilla ice cream OR Vanilla crime brûlée with almond biscotti bar.  My trademark personally hand picked South African wines —- Pinotage, Chenin Blanc, Rose’, and Chardonnay  flowed endlessly.  I excused myself after dessert, settled the wine tab and left the newly acquainted tour members chatting and drinking wine.   image image

Business Class Emirates A380

Business Class Emirates A380

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