One Day in Kings Landing – 10 Years After My First Visit to Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Dubrovnik is Croatian city on the very southern tip of Croatia, just north of Montenegro and across the Adriatic from Bari, Italy. Dubrovnik is split into two parts: New Town, the modern part of town with swanky hotels and restaurants, and Old Town, the beautiful walled part of the city that stars as Kings Landing in Game of Thrones starting in Season 2 (it was filmed in Mdina, Malta in Season 1). Both are worthy of your time.

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Welcome to Dubrovnik!

With crystal clear green water and warm temperatures from May – early October, Dubrovnik has been a popular European and Russian vacation destination for decades, until the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, when Dubrovnik sustained significant war damage. Rebuilt and open for business since the early 2000s, Dubrovnik is back as a major vacation player and home to two busy cruise ports. Rick Steves famously named Dubrovnik “The Pearl of the Adriatic.” As a result of its newfound popularity, tourists are flocking to the city in droves and the Old Town can get crazy busy, especially during the height of summer. If you haven’t yet been to Dubrovnik, you’ve definitely “missed the boat” on this exotic destination, but its still a city worthy of a few days, especially as part of a larger Croatian or Balkan itinerary.

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Old Town Dubrovnik.

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Napa Valley Wine Tasting

Dan and I took a full day tour to the Napa Valley from San Francisco with Max’s Wine Tours.  After scouting out a number of tour companies, we went with Max’s Wine Tours because it seemed to encompass the most winery visits (and therefore the most tasting).  The tour was quite expensive, at about $175 a person not including lunch or tastings (which cost at least $20 a person per vineyard). Be sure to consider this when budgeting your day!  Needless to say, this was quite the expensive day…

The tour started with Max’s colleague, Evan, collecting us in a large SUV promptly at 8:45. We then picked up two other tourists (tours are max 6 people) who we got along with quite well. Next, we were on our way to the Napa Valley (about an hour drive), where we stopped at 4 wineries and in St. Helena for lunch. The tour was fun, our guide was incredibly knowledgeable about wine & the Napa Valley, and the Napa Valley is just gorgeous.  However, I have to say after visiting a number of major wine producing regions in the world, the Napa Valley is my least favorite.  Sorry Napa! [I feel like this needs a caveat.  Napa is gorgeous and there is significant opportunity to try fantastic wine.  However, Napa is also very commercialized and expensive.  A $25 dollar tasting in Napa may only be $5 for similar quality wine in Mendoza or South Africa.  If we were to go back I would probably try to get a hotel in Napa, drive myself and visit two vineyards per day- Dan].

The tour started with a visit to Honig Vineyard and Winery.  Honig is a family vineyard and winery that started in 1964 and grew from there, specializing in Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Today, Honig is quite recognizable and uses a cute bee theme!  At Honig, Dan and I both ordered the sampler, which included a 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (really good and awesome to compare against the 2012), 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Bartolucci Vineyard and 2013 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc (super sweet!) The tasting was held in an outdoor courtyard surrounded by vineyards.  I recommend Honig, especially to visitors new to wine!  Honig a good introduction and the location is very nice.  All of Honig’s wine were delicious.  We did not buy any because they are available on the East Coast.

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The Most Fun Wine Tour – Stellenbosch, South Africa

We really wanted to visit a few wineries during our time in Cape Town but we didn’t want to drive (due to all the tasting we planned to do) so we decided to take a full day tour.  There are a lot of options, and we ended up going with Wine Flies, and are so glad that we did.  This tour went to 5 vineyards, included all wines, cheese and chocolate tastings and lunch, and only cost about $55 USD a person.  Our guide, Riaan, was super knowledgeable and laid back.  Really, I cannot say enough great things about this tour!! 205 218

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One Week in Cape Town, South Africa!

Dan and I began our trip to Southern Africa in Cape Town, South Africa!  Cape Town is a gorgeous, historical city with so much to offer!  Literally, it has beaches, mountains, great food, even better wine, craft beer, so much history, a mix of people and an evolving political climate.  Cape Town makes for such an interesting place to visit.  Main picture from the top of Table Mountain and below are some more favorites!

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A Grand Entrance to Southern Africa for Dan’s 30th Birthday!

Hello!  After a far-too-long hiatus, wareontheglobe is back!  The postings fell behind due to a two-week vacation to Southern Africa and preparations leading up to it (i.e. clearing my plate at my paying job for the trip!).

As you may have gathered, Dan and I took two weeks and traveled to South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe earlier this month. We took this trip as an early 30th birthday celebration for Dan.  What a treat, and so worth it!!  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the entire trip was amazing!  I will be posting a lot about our trip, as so many people have already asked for information about it and how feasible such a trip would be for them.  While waiting for the more detailed posts, here is a sneak peak to tide you over!

For starters, we flew direct from JFK to Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB or “Jo’burg” as everyone calls it) with South African Airways on a 14.5 hour flight (yes, that was a ridiculously long flight) and then transferred to Cape Town for six lovely days!

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Cape Town is a BEAUTIFUL city right on the Southwestern tip of the continent.  We sampled delicious, delicious wines in Stellenbosch, hiked around the Cape of Good Hope, bronzed on the beach (as Dan says), saw the famous penguins and took a boat to Robben Island to see where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Our time in Cape Town was amazing and while we stayed six nights, one with limited time could do the highlights in just a few days.  Here are some of my favorites – full post to follow:

Stellenbosch

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Hout Bay:

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Cape of Good Hope:

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After Cape Town, we flew back to Jo’burg (1.5 hours or so) and then transferred to Livingstone, Zambia (another 1.5 hours) to see Victoria Falls for three nights!  We split our time between the Zimbabwe and Zambia sides of Victoria Falls (or “Vic Falls” as the locals call it)  Another wonderful experience, but a bit of an effort to reach, requiring a connection in JNB each way.  If you want to visit Victoria Falls, you need to stay AT LEAST two nights and I would recommend longer.  There are many activities to do aside from the Falls, including elephant-back safaris, helicopter rides, a walk on the edge of the falls, day trips to Botswana to see the game reserves there, rhino walks, and any dare devil activity you can imagine!  Here are a few highlights from our trip – a view of the falls from a helicopter and the Botoka Gorge just beyond the falls.  Another full post to follow!

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After Victoria Falls, we flew back to Jo’burg, spent a night there at the lovely Bath on 54 hotel and dined on a 10-course tasting menu at Cube Tasting Kitchen.  I’ll have to come back to JNB to see the city!  Here is a shot of the hotel pool with Jo’burg in the background from our room.

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We saved the best for last, ending our trip with a safari near Kruger Park, South Africa.  We stayed at the luxurious Vuyani Lodge and saw lots of zebra, giraffes, elephants, monkeys and even two cheetahs!  I will be positing more about the safari but here are a few shots!  We were so close to the animals!

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In short, this was SUCH A FUN TRIP!!!  And it was not nearly as difficult to plan and execute as I had imagined!  Totally doable!  While we took a long, leisurely two weeks, you can do this trip on a shorter time-frame.  For example, Cape Town and a safari can be done on 10 days and one or the other could be done in a single week as long as you don’t mind the long flight!  Prices were way more reasonable than I expected and everyone spoke English.

Happy Sunday!