Absolutely fantastic trip and we are already plotting our return. We are thinking about going to Africa again in October of 2010, so we will be in touch with you about that. Also we are thinking of another trip to Paris, along with Amsterdam and Brussels next spring.
LONDON - The Cavendish Hotel is a wonderful hotel in a really superb location. Easy walking to Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, Picadilly Circus, the Theater District, numerous tube stations, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, etc. The location could not have been better and the amenities were very sleek and modern. The basic room is VERY SMALL, but very nicely appointed and comfortable. We spent four nights there up front. I would highly recommend the hotel for location, service, amenities, a great - huge - breakfast and a very accommodating staff. It is located on a quiet, but very high-end street and I just can't imagine being in a better spot. So stick that one in your files, it's a keeper.
PARIS – The St. Jacques Hotel in Paris was also wonderful. Very old-world Paris, five floors with a tiny lift and a tight circular staircase to the top. We had a wonderful room on the top floor with a balcony - looking one way we were two blocks down from the Pantheon and looking the opposite direction we were about six blocks from Notre Dame. GREAT NEIGHBORHOOD - great little restaurants and markets - excellent location for walking to Luxemburg Gardens, St. Germain du Pres, the Latin Quarter, the Cluney and great metro stops. Very quaint, quiet and small - lovely appointments, and all in all, another wonderful place to recommend.
We had a great time in London and Paris but it was VERY HOT!!!! Fortunately, we had great AC in each of our rooms, but we walked and walked and walked all over. London is hellaciously expensive and Paris not too much better - but totally worth it just to wander the streets and grab some delicious food here and there. Some great North African and Indian food in London, and the Parisian food - simple and excellent!!!
AFRICA – Not even sure where to start on my review of Botswana- stream of consciousness I guess… I feel totally emotionally involved with so many of the staff members and guides. Each was excellent. Each camp was wonderful and unique- we hit DumaTau first and I thought there was no way it could be better anywhere else....then we went to Duba Plains and saw the lions and drove through deep water and saw fantastic birds and had an even nicer tent.....presumed Chitabe would just be a throwaway at the end of the trip and it got even better there. The tents have just been redone and reopened in April. GORGEOUS tents and appointments. I would have thought it would be in the premier category. The staff was fabulous and warm and welcoming, accommodating…
Note to June/July visitors - it can be REALLY cold in Africa. We layered on all we had in addition to the wool panchos and hot water bottles they gave us to keep warm! After the heat in Europe it was kind of ironic. But we were wonderfully comfortable and had the most incredible time. We saw everything - UP CLOSE!!!! The wild dogs were denning, so we were not able to see them, and they only have rhinos at Mombo (fine with me, those things are huge) but we saw lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants, giraffes, zebra, hyena, warthog, all sorts of antelope, all sorts of birds, civets, genets, mongoose, storks, cranes, eagles - the list goes on. We happened upon several kills - loin vs. baby elephant, lion vs. cape buffalo, hyena vs. baby giraffe, leopard vs. impala, cheetah vs. impala - elephants shoving each other under water in the river - suffice it so say we came home with 2,000 photos and 4 hours of video. It was truly, truly amazing. We did not even have a big fancy camera and we got some stupendous photos.
The classic camps were perfect for us. I don't think, having seen some of the clientele, that the premier camps would be our style. I can do the gym and luxury of a spa elsewhere - I went to Africa for Africa…
Anyway, I am still dreaming of Africa each night. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Being back home, after seeing the perfect balance of nature, the clean skies and water and the wonderful silence, the stars and the Milky Way, the fabulous sounds of elephants snoring outside our tent, — is tough. I am not sure I want to re-enter this life. So many silly and unimportant things stirring people up.
It was just beyond anything we had hoped for. We are both still wandering about a bit dazed, unwilling to acknowledge we are actually back. Definitely have the travel bug - maybe will have to sell all my possessions to keep going!
Brian & Mary Jane B., Carmichael, CA., Clients of Mindy Crenshaw