Thursday, August 30, 2018


Exhausted from 30+ hours of traveling, we nevertheless jumped (okay, crawled) into our rental car and headed down the wrong side of the road (for us) to our first South African destination: Cheetah Outreach, a somewhat controversial plot of land outside of Cape Town.

The goal of Cheetah Outreach seems obvious--to educate the public and to preserve, protect, and increase the cheetah population, which has dwindled from 100,000 in the early 20th century to a mere 6,000 living in the wild today. 

The controversy arises from the breeding of cheetahs to be used as "ambassador animals" that are never introduced into the wild, and from the fact that people who pay the entrance fee are allowed to touch the animals. This "hands-on" practice is getting increasingly taboo in the animal rights world.

We were blissfully unaware of the controversy when we planned our trip, but I have to say that I didn't like seeing speedy cheetahs on leashes:

Monday, August 27, 2018


Flying to South Africa is not for the wimpy traveler. It requires a 10.5 hour flight to London, a layover, and a second 11.5 hour flight to Cape Town. If there is a faster way to do it, we couldn't find it. Cape Town is also 9 hours ahead of Los Angeles. Very challenging.

I am not a very good plane sleeper, and during that 22 hours of flying, I managed to watch FOUR movies.

As we approached Cape Town, however, my attention was riveted on the stunning landscape below us. Can you believe these pictures were taken through the window? The light was perfect.
In my trip notes, I wrote that with the views of farmlands, mountains, coastlines, and cities, this is the most beautiful airport approach we've ever experienced:

Thursday, August 23, 2018


In May and June, we took a trip to five countries in Southern Africa. Our journey began with two very long flights: a 10 hour 35 minute flight from Los Angeles to London, and an 11 hour 30 minute flight from London to Cape Town, separated by a layover of 11 hours 20 minutes. All told, if you include the two hour drive to LAX and the three hours in the airport before take-off (we always leave early because LA traffic is so unpredictable), we were on the road for 37 hours 25 minutes.

And we hit the ground running.

This is what our trip looked like on a map. First, our flight to Cape Town via London:

And then, from South Africa to Namibia to Botswana to Zimbabwe to Zambia and back to South Africa for our flight home:

 AND we did it all with a 24" duffel bag and a backpack each.

But before we started the African journey, we had that 11+ hour layover in London. We are not good sitters, especially if it is sitting in between two flights that are themselves each 10+ hours of sitting. If we have a long layover, we opt for an excursion away from the airport. (See our seven-hour layover in Hong Kong, for example.) There seemed to be plenty of time on this trip for a side trip to Cambridge, and since I have a niece who lives in London who was willing to meet us at Heathrow and join our adventure, we got ourselves a rental car and headed north to Cambridge, a distance of about 50 or 60 miles. Unfortunately, our plane had come in about an hour late and we had spent forever in a customs line (14 rows in the turning ropes), so we didn't have quite as much time as we had planned for, but it was still more than adequate.

Sunday, August 19, 2018


I think art is in the water in NYC. There just aren't many bare walls, no matter where you go. Here are a few samples from the subway:

I'm a lover of graffiti/street art, and NYC has plenty of that:

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Last January we flew to New York during one of the coldest weeks on record to visit our son, who is living in Harlem and whose art was being featured in a show in downtown New York City.  

We left from LAX, where we were surprised to see the invasion of a New York City staple. I don't think LA has sent In-n-Out to NYC yet:

We thought we'd be adventurous and stay somewhere new. On our last couple of trips, we had stayed just across the George Washington Bridge in a nice hotel in Fort Lee, New Jersey. On this trip, we found a private apartment in The Bronx on Airbnb. We were quite please with it:

This was our view of Wales Ave. from our apartment window.

Saturday, August 11, 2018


After almost 24 days of non-stop travel, which included seven countries and an unprecedented number of miles covered (compared to all previous trips we have taken), I was SOOOO ready to go home, but we still had one more major hurdle to leap over: the flight home, which would entail five segments:

1. Arrive 2 hours early at Baku Airport for our international flight

2. Flight #1: Baku, Azerbaizan, to Doha, Qatar - 2 hours 50 minutes (1700 km / 1,056 miles)

3.  A layover of about 1 hour 35 minutes in Qatar

4. Flight #2: Doha, Qatar, to Los Angeles, California - 16 hours 10 minutes (3,360 km / 8,302 miles)

5. Drive home in mid-afternoon LA traffic - about 2 hours after retrieving our luggage and our car, which takes about 1 hour (85 miles)

If things went well, from the time we arrived at the Baku Airport to the time we arrived in our home, we would have been traveling for for 25 hours 35 minutes, would have covered 9,443 miles, and would have gone through a time change of 11 hours. (When we arrived at LAX at 2:05 PM, it was 1:05 AM the next day in Baku.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018


We wanted to see something outside of Baku, and my niece, who has spent some time in Azerbaijan for work, suggested that we drive into the Caucasus mountains to visit an artists' colony named Lahic. It is a distance of about 115 miles, but it takes three hours to drive because of the narrow mountain roads. 

We made several stops along the way. The first was at this roadside stand, one of many selling a conglomeration of fruits, vegetables, honey, and pickled and bottled items.

We were especially intrigued by this transparent disks of dried fruit that hung in rows like stained glass wind chimes. Our guide Yalchin told us what all the flavors were, and we bought a couple to try.

I'll just say that they were much more beautiful than they were tasty.

Friday, August 3, 2018


On our first night in Baku, our guide took us to an observation point that looked out over the city. To get there, we had to climb about a million stairs (okay, may just a hundred thousand). We had gotten very little sleep the night before because of our 3:30 AM flight, and I was grumbling and grumpy.

However, as promised, the view from the top was a not-to-be-missed spectacular panorama of the capital and largest city in Azerbaijan. (Actually, there are no other large cities in Azerbaijan.) Most of the city actually lies below sea level, making it the lowest-lying national capital in the world:

The real reason people climb those bazillion steps at night, however, is to see the iconic Flame Towers, a trio of skyscrapers constructed between 2007 and 2012 that includes the tallest building in the country (about 600 feet - not so big by California standards). They have a wonderful, wavy shape, much like the flame on the tip of a candle: