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Jupiter Barking

odzala1.jpg“Ugh! Don’t you wish we were still there?” Three months after our honeymoon, this has become my weekly mantra of sorts. It’s like I’m almost disgusted that we are no longer trekking through mud and staring with our breath held at 400-pound gorillas. Luckily, I’ve been granted the opportunity to relive what I’ve taken to calling “The Best Trip EVER!” (capitalization and punctuation compulsory) by writing a few articles about the whole fabulous adventure. The first came out in the January issue of Robb Report, and I’m so happy my editors decided to keep that first sentence in. From what I hear, it narrowly escaped the axe, but I do just love it so! more»

Gorillas in our Midst

_dsc5600bcrop.jpgOdzala’s Ngaga camp spoils all typical notions of safari. Not because the gorillas are so much more thrilling to see than most other animals (which they are), or because the setting is so much more beautiful than you’d imagine (which it is), but because you have to work damn hard to see what you came all the way to the Congo for. Unlike my other safari experiences, we didn’t pile into a Land Cruiser and roll past lions and giraffes who marched before us as if on cue. Rather, we walked, and we hacked through giant marantaceae leaves, and we listened, and we waited, and we walked and hacked some more. And when we finally found the gorillas—with whom we were permitted to spend just a single hour each day—we were always, without fail, swarmed by sweat bees that wanted nothing more than to blind us by flying kamikaze-style into our eyeballs. In spite of (or perhaps because of) all of this, interacting with the gorillas is an experience like no other. Whether watching an infant cautiously shuffling down a tree trunk, spying a lone female napping in a tree, or trembling with fear as a silverback charged us within mere feet, every moment seemed poised to be the most magnificent we’d experience for the rest of our collective lives. And if that wasn’t quite the essence of a romantic honeymoon, we at least had private dinners on the terrace of our hairy-looking raffia hut most every night. Oh, and plenty of Ngok. more»

Born on the Bai

langob.jpgMost people don’t fantasize about a honeymoon that entails waking up at 5 AM every morning to slosh through murky swamps and mud so deep you almost lose your shoes. Then again, most couples jet off to Maui or Jamaica to sip Mai Tais and lounge on beaches—something I certainly don’t disparage, but nothing I’d consider particularly life-changing. Since we had hoped for something closer to the “mind-blowing” end of the travel spectrum (and since, truth be told, we’d already been to Maui and Jamaica), John and I decided to go all in and head to the Republic of Congo’s newest, and quite nearly only, safari lodge. First stop was Lango camp, located on the edge of a bai where buffalo, bongos, and elephants regularly congregate for their own version of cocktails and sunbathing. We humans, on the other hand, boated through the Lekoli River alongside hundreds of agile mangabeys, trekked through jungles filled with chimpanzees as startled to see us as we were to see them, and, in-between, dozed off on our porches to the sound colobus monkeys swinging and snacking in the trees above. Of course, this was all just precursor to the main event—gorilla tracking on our next and final stop! more»

Vine Intervention

laresidence2b.jpgEven if I hadn’t been reveling in our newly-wedded bliss, I would have been amazed by La Residence Hotel. Set among private vineyards in Franschhoek, where springbok and ponies frolic, this drop-dead gorgeous oasis along the edge of a picturesque lake was made for honeymoons. I had been to Franschhoek several years before so knew a few of the good stops—Huguenot Chocolates for a mid-morning snack, The Common Room for lunch, and La Motte for some serious Shiraz (a varietal that John claims to dislike, and yet not a drop remained in any of his tasting glasses). But La Residence, in its secluded location behind the town’s suburbs and away from its main street, had escaped me. This time, we were so lucky to stay in the Frangipani Suite, where a marble quarry had seemingly exploded, and the bathroom was larger than our apartment. And will you just look at that pink chair? It’s possible I have never been so sad to leave a hotel. more»

Down by the Bay

kalkbaydip5.jpgPost-Sandy cabin fever is setting in right about now so it only makes sense to drool over our photos from South Africa for the umpteenth time. I had already been completely in love with Cape Town from my previous trip, but our recent discovery of Kalk Bay between the city center and the Cape Peninsula has moved the region to the number one spot on my Places-I-Want-To-Live wishlist (sorry, Barcelona). Even if you pretend not to care about Kalk Bay’s close proximity to Cape Point and Boulders Beach (penguins!), this hip little beach town is out-of-control adorable, from the trendy oceanfront B&B we stayed at to the cool shops along Main Road. My only regret is that we weren’t able to stay longer—but, alas, we had a rigid itinerary that demanded we drink our way through the Cape Winelands. more»