After our Kenya safari, it was time for 15 days/14 nights in South Africa. I wanted to spend the entire time in the Western Cape, exploring Cape Town, driving the famous Garden Route at leisure and doing a little wine tasting. We also wanted to make use of Hyatt anniversary night certificates that had been piling up during the pandemic but that would be expiring before too long. With Hyatt and Small Luxury Hotels having recently added the 3-hotel Liz McGrath boutique hotel chain in South Africa to its lineup, we had a great opportunity to get max value from those certificates.
Traveling from an apartment in Paris to Kenya for a safari was truly a “now for something completely different” move. Just what I had in mind to really make this 2-month trip a birthday celebration. I’d been wanting to make a trip to sub-Saharan Africa from Europe to avoid the really long flight(s) and jetlag that attend travel there from the US. After five weeks in Belgium and France, now was the perfect time.
In addition to the obvious appeals, I loved the idea of Kenya because it made sense as a waypoint on our way to South Africa and we could get there from Paris without an overnight flight. This meant we were fine with flying economy (with a exit row or bulkhead seat for David’s long legs). I transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Air France/Flying Blue to book an 8-hour flight on Air France from Paris to Nairobi, Kenya, for 48,000 points (24,000 points apiece) plus €214.40.
This post is not as fun as some, but I wanted to share practical travel-during-Covid info that took me awhile to pull together for our recent travels to Belgium (via the UK), France, Kenya and South Africa.
This year was a big birthday for me, so I was hoping we’d be able to do something special after last year’s pandemic isolation. We were thrilled when Europe opened up to (non-essential) American travelers again after we’d been banned for so long during the pandemic. When Antwerp friends asked us back for a favorite house- and cat-sit in September, we decided to launch my birthday trip there. I came up with a 2-month/4-trips-in-1 birthday trip that included Belgium, Paris, Kenya and South Africa. I made plans with the understanding that any portion of our travels could be canceled at any time given the vagaries of ever-changing Covid restrictions. I researched travel requirements throughout the summer, thinking early on that South Africa might be out when that country raised its Covid Level from 2 to 3 to 4. A ban on all alcohol sales and the closing of many venues would make our planned Garden Route exploration and wine tasting impossible. Fortunately, South Africa was back to Level 2 by the time we traveled there. When –just prior to our September 2 departure– the EU recommended member nations consider banning Americans as our Covid numbers spiked, we started to wonder if we’d even make it to our first stop in Belgium. I decided each and every step of the trip would be a gift. As each portion of our trip materialized, we counted ourselves lucky and crossed our fingers for the next. In the end, all four portions of our trip worked out and we had a wonderful time: We spent three weeks in Antwerp, two weeks in an apartment in my beloved Paris, a week on safari in Kenya, and 15 days in the Western Cape of South Africa.