Marrakech from the rooftop bar and terrace of El Fenn hotel
with the minaret of the Kutubiyya Mosque in the distance

David and I were lucky enough to have the chance to attend five nights in Marrakech celebrating the wedding of American friends’ daughter to a Moroccan-American man. As this was a private event, I won’t write or share photos of that except to say our hosts went to extraordinary lengths to ensure their guests had a fabulous time. (And we did!) Instead, I’ll keep this post to a relatively short travelogue, sharing some photos and a few places we really enjoyed. It wasn’t my first time in Marrakech, but it had been some years and there were new places to discover (and a cautionary tale to share). read more

Stone Town and the Park Hyatt Zanzibar

I booked our last two nights in Zanzibar at the Park Hyatt Zanzibar, a beautiful and historic former mansion set on the water and in the middle of Stone Town (also known as “Mji Mkongwe” which means “old town” in Swahili). Stone Town is the old part of Zanzibar City, the main city of Zanzibar, which sits on the west coast of the island facing the direction of mainland Tanzania.

The architecture and layout of Stone Town reflects the island’s historic ties to Oman as well as a complex fusion of the many cultures that have influenced it over the centuries. Stone Town was the seat of the Sultans of Oman and Zanzibar. Zanzibar became a part of the holdings of the Sultan of Oman in 1698. Around 1840, a later sultan moved his capital from Muscat to Stone Town. In 1856, a struggle over succession divided territories into the Sultanate of Oman and Muscat and a separate Sultanate of Zanzibar which existed until 1964 when the sultan was overthrown in the Zanzibar Revolution. read more

Nungwi, Zanzibar: resort time on a prime beach

Lone Masai on Nungwi Beach

Nungwi Beach on the northern coast of Zanzibar ranks among the prettiest on the island and is home to many popular resorts, hotels and restaurants. I definitely wanted to spend some of our time in Zanzibar there. Scanning our available hotel points and certificates and local resorts I was happy to find very reasonable award availability at Marriott’s Nungwi Beach Resort by Turaco. Reviews sounded good, the location was great, so I quickly locked in four nights.

Although roads are generally good in Zanzibar, the last half mile or so through the town of Nungwi approaching the resort is a narrow dirt road. Our SUV slowed to a crawl as our Zanzibar driver, Ally, dodged impressive potholes and wove among small shops. We stopped in front of tall gates, checking in with a security guard before proceeding to a large open-air lobby. read more

A Zanzibar Spice Farm en route from Uroa to Nungwi

After four nights at a boutique hotel on Uroa Beach on the east coast of Zanzibar, it was time to move to a resort hotel on Zanzibar’s popular north coast. The drive looked to be over an hour, but that still left us with some time to kill between check-out in Uroa and check-in in Nungwi. I knew I wanted to visit a Zanzibar spice farm and lots of spice farm tours are offered out of Stone Town, but with only two nights planned in Stone Town, I didn’t want to spend our one full day there on a tour. This moving day between two hotels seemed like the perfect opportunity to fit in a spice farm tour and lunch en route. When I asked Zanzitaxi to add the stop to our transfer, they suggested Jambo Spice Farm and we made plans. (“Jambo jambo!” is a familiar greeting in Swahili meaning hello.) read more

Uroa, Zanzibar

View from our porch at F-Zeen Boutique Hotel in Uroa, Zanzibar

After some weeks of gray and cold Paris, I was ready for sunshine and warmth. Unfortunately, the Mediterranean is still too cold for me this time of year so I started looking further afield. I eyed Cape Verde (Cap Vert) but found flights less-than-convient. A couple of stunning photos of Zanzibar beaches caught my eye, further research piqued my easily-piqued curiosity, and when I discovered I could book us reasonably-priced award flights in Qatar Airways business class with an overnight layover in Doha, I was all in. read more

South Africa finale: A gorgeous hotel in a former Constantia vineyard

Although the room we stayed in listed online at over $700/night, our stay at The Cellars-Hohenort was completely free thanks to Hyatt credit card “annual” certificates which David had accumulated over the pandemic as Hyatt and other hotel chains extended the validity of such certificates during the worldwide shut-down. (We used my three certificates for our stay at The Marine Hermanus.) The Cellars-Hohenort is part of the Liz McGrath collection of three 5-star hotels which, along with The Marine Hermanus, had just come under the Hyatt umbrella. We couldn’t have been happier with this use of the certificates! read more

An Afrikaner ostrich farm

Skeiding ostriches were as curious about us as we were about them.

I’m behind on blogging having been distracted by the holidays and then the heartbreaking last weeks with my beloved, nearly 18-year old dog, so am finishing up the end of our South Africa trip while on a transAtlantic cruise from Florida back to Europe. I’ll keep it brief, but I hated to let two favorite South African stays (and a pair of awesome Qatar Airways Qsuites flights home) go unreported.

Looking for something different after our time driving South Africa’s Garden Route, I was intrigued to find Skeiding Guest Farm, billed as a working ostrich farm. How fun!) Turning inland from the Garden Route, the drive to Skeiding took us through dramatic mountain passes into the Little Karoo, a rugged high plains area. We stopped for lunch at a funky little roadside café and gift shop called Bella de Karoo and descended back through the mountains to the ostrich farm at the end of some miles of unpaved road. (Bella de Karoo apparently has guest rooms elsewhere, but we didn’t check those out.) read more

South Africa: The Garden Route

The Indian Ocean at The Heads, Knysna, South Africa

The famed Garden Route along the southern coast of the Western Cape of South Africa stretches from Mossel Bay to Storms River. I’d planned our first two nights officially on the Garden Route at an AirBnB apartment in Mossel Bay. The drive from Hermanus was just under 3 ½ hours along an inland stretch of the N2 highway. It wasn’t the gorgeous coastline we’d enjoyed en route from Cape Town to Hermanus via the Cape Peninsula, but it had had its own rugged vastness with mountains looming beyond plains off to our left. We loved a lunch stop at Ou Meul Bakkery in Riviersonderend where kudu venison meat pies and sweet pastries were delicious and cheap. read more

Hermanus, South Africa: coastal charm, whales and wine

Hermanus, South Africa

Six free-annual-night Hyatt certificates first put Hermanus, South Africa, on my radar screen. David and I each had accumulated lots of hotel certificates over the pandemic and we each had three Hyatt nights that we needed to use. We get one certificate/year with certain credit cards and, although they usually expire within a year, Hyatt had extended the expiration due to the pandemic. This created a great opportunity to use those certificates for an extended stay. We often use these certificates for a 2-night stay, using each of our 1-night certificates, then calling the hotel to make sure we can stay in the same room, rather than checking out and then in again as the booking switches from one of our names to the other. So, we could have lumped our nights together for a 6-night free stay somewhere, but that really didn’t suit our plans on this trip. read more

South Africa, the Beginning: Cape Town and Cape Peninsula

A final view of Mt. Kilimajaro as we leave Kenya, the Zambezi River just above Victoria Falls
on a refueling stop in Zambia… and Cape Town, South Africa, here we come!

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. read more