Satara to Skukuza and home

The wind on Thursday evening brought in a massive storm overnight and it bucketed down with rain (along with thunder and lightning). At stages I wondered whether the roof would stay on and when the water would start leaking through. Fortunately neither happened but when we got up in the morning the effects of the rainfall were evident. Michael of course said “Storm, what storm? Never heard anything”!

Our flight left just after 11am from Skukuza airport so we had to do the 90km drive from Satara to Skukuza. We left at around 6:30am. It was very overcast and for the first time it was actually cold (we were wearing long pants and jerseys). It rained very lightly for about the first 30 minutes of the drive. Very little game to be seen which we were surprised about because it was much cooler and expecting the predators to still be active. Unfortunately we saw no predators on way down to airport. We did add a few birds to the trip list and I added one more lifer (bringing the trip tally to two lifers and my total tally to 422). The trip list ended at 109 birds. Not terrible but could have been better. It seems many of the migrants had not quite returned yet. We are back in January and so I’m hoping we finally get to see all the migrants we haven’t yet seen.

The flight back was uneventful except before take off the pilot announced that he needed 8 passengers sitting in rows 1-4 to move to rows 11-18 to re-balance the weight on the plane. We were sitting in row 2 but we waited long enough to volunteer that sufficient other people moved and so we could stay put. Not sure why it mattered that much because the plane was only about 1/3rd full and we never used much of the runway to get the plane into the air either. Pilot being overly cautious I assume (which is generally a good thing when flying).

It was good, relaxing 5 days … just a pity it wasn’t longer and that the whole family weren’t there with us.

Until January (which will be longer!)

P & M

Olifants to Satara

We reversed what we did a few days ago and headed down from Olifants to Satara today. Before we left we did a quick morning drive around the loop near Olifants camp along the Olifants and Letaba rivers. Unfortunately nothing of note to see but we enjoyed our coffee/tea overlooking the Olifants river. We came back to the camp, packed up and headed out back to Satara. This time we took the dirt road for part of the way and added a few more water birds for the trip. Probably the highlight of the day was seeing an African Darter catch a fish about 5 meters away from us (as you can tell it was a slow day). We are now up to 105 birds for the trip which isn’t bad considering we have not seen some pretty standard ones (we haven’t for instance seen any bee-eaters). We also only saw a Martial Eagle for the first time today (though we have seen a lot of other eagles).

The trip down was pretty uneventful. It was hot (well into the 30 degrees again) and also windy (rain is on the way) and so bird viewing wasn’t great and nor was game spotting.  As you can see, most of the game (including elephants) were congregating under trees. We did see the usual (impala, kudu, giraffe, elephant, wildebees etc) but nothing really to add to the trip list. At one of the watering holes we noticed zebra all facing the same way and so we again followed their gaze and noticed numerous cars. It was clear from the zebra and the cars that a predator was nearby and it turned out to be two lions under a thorn thicket. They looked pretty similar to the ones we saw two days ago and might very well have been the same two (they were further South but it did look like a male lion and lioness again).

We then headed into Satara for our last night. We decided to ditch the evening drive this time because of the heat and the wind. One last braai (even though it was so windy) and now I’m ready for bed.  We have to get up relatively early tomorrow to ensure we get to Skukuza airport in time for our 11:20am flight back to Cape Town. Can’t believe how quickly 5 nights has gone past! We have booked for early 2018 already (this time Helen will be with me) and so already looking forward to that.

Until tomorrow …

P & M


Today was a pretty low-key today. We only planned to go out early morning and late afternoon and that is exactly what we did.  The highlight of the morning drive was spotting hyena in the river when we stopped to scan the riverbed. We also had a plan to go to the low bridge crossing at Balule as we had read there were some good bird spotting possibilities.  We weren’t disappointed and added about 10 birds to the trip list (we are now at 99 birds for the trip so far).

The rest of the day we just relaxed around the camp and enjoyed the view over the Olifants River from our chalet. We obsessionally took out of our binoculars to see what we could see. Over the course of the day we saw impala, waterbuck, elephant & giraffe in the river bed without moving from our chalet. It was very hot today with the temperature rising to 37 degrees. Dare I saw a bit warmer than I would actually have liked. There also was not a breath of wind so it really was quite stifling at times.

This evening the highlight of the game drive was rescuing three damsels in distress.  We did the same drive as last night and when we got to one of the pull off spots overlooking the river we found two ladies outside their car trying to place rocks under the tyre of the car while the 3rd was driving trying to get it out. Michael and I had been cautious yesterday when we did the exact same thing but our car has 4×4 and so we engaged that and we actually had no problem getting back up at all. They were however in a Renault and could not get the car back up. We told them to reverse as they needed it to hit the sandy patch with some pace but they were too scared and so they asked if I would be prepared to try. Being a kindhearted guy, I said sure and after trying with a short run in which didn’t work, I reversed further down the slope and hit it with pace and managed to get the car out for them.  They were delighted, thanked me profusely and they jumped in their car and headed off as quickly as possible (clearly to avoid further embarrassment).

The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful after that. Another beautiful bushveld sunset with the almost full moon rising before the sun had set. A braai for dinner (chops, chicken wings, sweet potato, potato and ratatouille).  Inside the chalet with aircon running to cool off! It is still about 27 degrees outside (at 9pm).

Until tomorrow …

P & M

Satara to Olifants

We decided to wake up at 6am this morning for a slightly later morning drive. We did the same as we had done the previous morning and headed for the dam (where we saw the lions the previous day) but no lions to be seen. On route we did see a lifer for me though – Harlequin Quail. Pretty much impossible to spot because it is the same colour as the grass but Michael somehow managed to see it and we were able to positively ID it as well.  The rest of the drive was up to the other dam in the area (for coffee/tea & rusks) and then back again.  We saw the usual game – kudu; impala; giraffe; waterbuck etc but nothing much else.

We had to check out by 10am and so after breakfast at Satara we packed up and headed north to Olifants. It was already pretty hot at 9:30am (nearing 30 degrees) and so most of the animals were already finding shelter under the trees.  We still saw a lot of game on the way up to Olifants including a huge herd of wildebeest and impala (together – must have been about 200 impala and close to 100 wildebeest); plenty of zebra and kudu; a smattering of giraffe, waterbuck, steenbok etc.

The highlight of the drive was at Ngotso North dam. We stopped (as we usually do) to see what we could see at the dam and noticed a small herd of impala standing very still and all looking in same direction. I said to Michael they wouldn’t do that unless they saw a threat. He tried to dismiss me but I insisted there must be something around. So he took me seriously (fortunately) and scanned the direction they were looking in with his binoculars and sure enough under a tree he spotted a lion! There is nothing better than spotting something like this yourself and not relying on other people spotting it for you and you just having it pointed out.  And we were proud of ourselves for seeing the signpost the impala’s gave us! It turned out to be one male lion and a lioness with him. We probably watched for around 30 minutes and the male got up and adjusted his position but nothing much. The impala alarm called, kept watching, drank a bit from the water and wondered off. The lion weren’t interested in them. Too hot. What amazed me is that a lot of people came past and didn’t even stop to ask what we were watching! In fact many people were driving with their windows closed even – how can you do that in the Kruger – it’s a sin!

We got to Olifants around lunchtime and as we could only check in at 2pm we went and had some lunch, admired the view from the camp over the river, did some shopping and then at 1:45pm hoped they would let us check in (and they did).  We have a fantastic hut here with a view of the Olifants river.  You couldn’t really ask for a better view.  Just sitting outside looking over the river we added 5 birds to the trip list.

We went for a late afternoon drive but it was pretty hot (well over 30 degrees) and we hardly saw any game at all (waterbuck, herd of elephants and impala).  Braai for dinner (pork strips & borewors) with sweet potato; potato and ratatouille (made by Michael). Pretty nice dinner again if we say so ourselves.

Until tomorrow …

P & M

PS: This sunset is for you Helen!

Satara Day 2

We left the camp at sunrise (up at 5:15am). Michael was impressed with himself and took a photo of the time on the car as we drove out to prove to everyone that he can get up early if needed.  Admittedly we did go to sleep at about 9:15pm last night and Michael is again sleeping as I type this (it is 10:50am!).

It was a beautiful morning – 17 degrees at 5:30am – not a breath of wind. We headed for the dam nearby and on route added zebra to our trip list (we also impala; kudu; wildebeest; giraffe).  At the dam it was clear there was something good to see considering the number of cars and as we approached we spotted two lions (one male and one female). They got up and walked about 100 meters and then sat down again. A really good sighting of lion. We watched for a bit and then headed off to see what else was in store for us. We had early morning coffee/tea at another dam and saw zebra, wildebeest & impala at the dam while we drank our coffee/tea.

On our way back we passed the lions again (who were just sleeping) even though there was a herd of impala not much more than 100 meters from them.  As they were doing nothing and didn’t seem to be interested in doing anything we headed off again. About 1km or so down the road we saw two male giraffe fighting and stopped to watch them for some time. The one was trying to get his neck under the others leg to lift him up and throw him over and eventually he managed to achieve that.  I got some really good photos of the fight and if I’m able to I will try to upload one or two to blog and Instagram.  We got back to camp at just before 9am to have breakfast and spend the rest of the day just relaxing. Michael took that literally and slept from about 10am-12:30pm.

Unfortunately while typing this earlier today the electricity went off.  I thought that it would be short-lived but it’s now 8:10pm and we still have no electricity.  What is even more irritating is that it seems the majority of the camp is restored but not our block of huts. Doesn’t look like power is coming back on tonight for us – at least we moving on tomorrow! Still would have been nice to have had coffee tonight. Whole meal done on the braai again (fortunately we were prepared for that). That’s a photo of us eating by laptop light – romantic father/son dinner!

We did go out for a drive this afternoon and saw tons of game again but nothing significant. The closest we came was driving up next to a stopped car and asking them what they were looking at and their reply was “a lion just took out a zebra and then went into those thickets and we have seen it again”. When I asked how long ago was that, she replied “about 4 minutes ago”! So if only we hadn’t stopped to ID that one bird or stopped to check if that was a log or leopard we might have seen it! Someone famous in our family once said “you can’t fine tune life” and he was right .. #noregrets

Most importantly the electricity just came back on – so I was wrong on that front! But while I was hoping to upload the photo of the giraffe fighting – I realised that I have left my card reader at home and while I thought I had a cable to connect my camera to my laptop that thought couldn’t be realised either. Where is Stephen with his cables when you need him?!

Until tomorrow then …

P & M










Kruger Park Impromptu

This wasn’t planned but I needed a week off before the end of the year and so I decided to fit in a quick weeks break in the Kruger Park. Company was restricted because of other family members’ commitments but Michael (kindly, sacrificially or maybe just with glee and rubbing his hands together) agreed to come with me for the week.

We left this morning from Cape Town on the direct flight into Skukuza. Slightly late departure because they were adding water for the toilet (I swear they should get the water from somewhere else on their flights and not from drought stricken Cape Town). My mood changes immediately you touch down inside the Kruger Park – such a great thing that there is an airport inside the Park with scheduled flights.

Michael and I were so organized in getting the rental car and park permit sorted out when we arrived that we had to wait about 10 minutes for the bags to arrive.  Getting the luggage off the plane isn’t done at a fast pace but then again you’re in the Kruger so who really cares.

We headed into Skukuza camp to do some food shopping for next 2 days … essential items like biltong, droewors, beers, crisps etc (and some vegetables of course). On the way into the camp (which is only 4 kms) we saw two of the big 5 (elephant and buffalo) and added some birds and other game to the trip list. After the shopping was done we headed out to our first overnight stay which was at Satara camp. About 90 kms drive which usually takes around 3-4 hours (allowing for stopping for game). As it was just past 2pm and the camp gates close at 6pm it was just the perfect amount of time not to have to rush.

The game park is very dry still as the summer rains don’t seem to have arrived yet.  It makes game viewing very easy and the game viewing was prolific on the drive up.  Massive herds of impala, more kudu than I have ever seen on one game drive, giraffe … journeys of them on the journey, wildebeest, elephant, buffalo, hippo (outside of the water), baboon, vervet monkey, warthog, waterbuck, steenbok, grey duicker, bushbuck and numerous birds.  The birds included a pearl spotted owlet which I have no idea how I spotted it because it was blending in to a grey tree. Two other cars stopped and one had foreigners in it and they just say ‘oh’ and drove off.  The other guys were clearly birders and they were more excited than we were and congratulated me on spotting it.  Still not sure how I saw it – it really was blending in. 32 trippers on the bird list so far without really looking much.

About 20 kms before we arrived at Satara we saw a den of hyena’s including some cubs. One of the cubs was very small still and suckling on the mother. Two were slightly older (like young children). There were at least 3 adults and at least 4 cubs that we could see.  And they were right on the side of the road.

The game viewing was incredibly good for our first drive and has set my expectations high for the rest of our time here.  The lack of water must be driving the animals to the waterholes and that is a good thing for game viewing.  Dinner was the obligatory braai (chickens wings, beef strips, gem squash, corn on cob, veg skewers) and now we are both in bed already (we are both pretty tired).  I am going to post this and then go to sleep (it is 9pm).

Until tomorrow …

P & M

PS: That sunset was for you Helen (we stopped to take it especially since we knew you would have insisted we stop if you had been here)

Last Day

Sunday was our last day in the USA before we headed home (sorry for the delay in posting). We didn’t have much time in Greenville on Sunday am as our flights back started at 2pm. We did however want to have breakfast at IHOP (International House of Pancakes). Every time we are in the US we end up eating there at least once for breakfast. So we found the nearest one to us (about 4 kms away) and drove there.

The menu at IHOP is just ridiculous.  There must be at least 50 different options for breakfast alone. Of course most of them are Combos (pancakes + eggs + bacon/sausage + hash browns etc). They kindly have now put the calories next to each option. Most options started at 650 calories and given most women should eat about 2000 calories per day (and men 2500) that is a fairly sizeable part of your daily allowance (and note I said start at 650!). We came for the pancakes so we all had some option that involved pancakes. I did a combo of pancakes/bacon/egg; Helen had peach cobbler pancakes and Chloe chocolate chocolate chip pancakes. Chloe was disappointed in her choice (we will have to go back next time so she chooses more wisely).

People watching in the IHOP could keep you occupied the whole day. This was genuine Southern territory and the size of some of the people definitely matched the calories on the menu. The accents were also so Southern it was almost as if they were speaking another language. Talking about accents, Chloe has the Southern accent perfected.  Next time you see her get her to bring it out for you … she’s pretty funny.

Back to the hotel to pack up and then head for the airport. We had issues checking in online (in that we couldn’t) so we got to the airport a little earlier to get our boarding passes. You have to check yourself in at the airport even (no check in clerks) but midway through the process it told me to seek help anyway. They needed to verify we had visas for the UK. We finally got our boarding passes and headed for the gates.

Greenville is a pretty small airport and so no real lines at the security. Chloe for some reason is TSA Pre-Check which means she can go through another channel and doesn’t have to take out her laptop or take off her shoes.  Helen and I are not. We have no idea how she managed to get that status (maybe because she is below 18?). Helen’s suitcase was pulled over and unpacked. Apparently it was the choc chips or bake mix or something they didn’t like. Swabbed for explosives and then cleared (fortunately). We had time for some lunch at the only restaurant in terminal (I’m not kidding about it being a small airport).

We had a flight from Greenville to Charlotte, NC. If I had known how close Charlotte is to Greenville I would have driven.  About 150kms. As you can imagine flying that distance takes longer than driving it. At the gate they offered $500 for anyone wanting to fly later because the flight was overbooked … seems to happen on every American Airline flight. We left late, sat on the tarmac just off the runway for 15 minutes because they were switching around the runways at Charlotte and by the time we landed in Charlotte we were probably almost an hour late. Fortunately we had a reasonable time before our flight to London.

The London flight actually left 5 minutes early. I hate the overnight transatlantic flights as they take too little time to enable you to get a proper nights sleep. 7.5 hours of flying time but the flight takes 12.5 hours on the clock. Once you have had dinner (the flight left at 7:55pm), you can only get 3-4 hours of sleep (I got about 3 hours, Helen says she slept 5 hours) because they turn the lights on to serve you breakfast about 1.5 hours before you land. By the time we got to the flat in London I was needing to sleep again and so managed to get another 3 hours.

Helen and Chloe left Monday night for SA and I have stayed in the UK to work. Their flight home was uneventful and they seem to have gotten a good amount of sleep. Seemingly didn’t help the jet lag though as both Helen and I couldn’t fall asleep until 2am (UK time) and 3am (SA time) – and we only discovered that the next day when we were chatting on WhatsApp.

We all really enjoyed the time in the US. Seeing family and catching up is always special. But we also really enjoyed the ease of traveling in the US. Everything is very easy there (I suspect living there you just take it for granted). The short trip has made us want to go back for a longer holiday there again!

Until next time …

P, H & C

Wedding Day

Helen was awake at just after 5am and I followed shortly after that as well.  By 8am we were ready for breakfast again. We thought we would find a place outside of the hotel but the range is pretty limited around the hotel. We did walk down Main Street which was closed off for a farmers market. Beautiful produce (baskets of peaches for example) but no one selling breakfast (they missed a trick with that). So we headed back to the hotel to have breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant.

After breakfast it was time to get ready for the wedding (some of us take longer to get ready than others). We left for the Church just before 11am. The wedding ceremony was at Downtown Presbyterian which was pretty close to the hotel. The Church is not very traditional (for American Church’s at least) as the building is a converted warehouse. The ceremony was ‘unplugged’. I thought that meant no electricity (understandable for South African’s!) but it actually meant, turn off you phone and participate in the ceremony and not take photos and post onto social media. Apparently it has become quite an issue in the US that people live stream the ceremony onto Facebook, SnapChat stories, Instagram etc. So Melissa & Andrew requested that no photos be taken during the ceremony and that people rather be present.

American’s have strong traditions in how a wedding is conducted. All the wedding party including parents & grandparents are part of the procession into Church. My brother’s youngest daughter (Victoria – just under 2 years old) was flower girl but she wasn’t going to walk in by herself so my brother had Melissa on his arm and the flower girl on the other hand. The pastor conducting the ceremony did a superb job. His talk was woven into the vows and the ring exchange which was the first time I have heard someone do that. The tears were flowing from Helen from when my sister-in-law came in (brought in by one of her sons). The groom (Andrew) pretty much cried through the whole ceremony. It was a very touching and godly ceremony and really encouraging to see them start their marriage on such a note.

We were asked to stay behind for some photos with the bridal party.  Only 3 of our direct (wider) family were missing – Stephen, Michael and Daniel – all too busy watching cricket no doubt! We then headed for the reception which was at the hotel we are staying at. Drinks to start while the photos continued. America has the stupid law that only people over 21 can drink alcohol (it really makes no sense that you can be in the army and die for your country but you can’t have a beer). Some instances of underage drinking might have been noted by the cousins (maybe helped along by their parents obtaining the drinks for them).

At the reception we were again seated with my sisters and brother-in-laws (and one niece) which made for easy conversation and an enjoyable lunch. It also meant that when the bar opened my brothers-in-law were the first at the bar … got their priorities right! Another American tradition is for the bridal party to enter after being announced by the DJ.  The bridesmaids and groomsmen come in as couples and all do a unique entrance with a little dance or swirl or whatever they decide on.  Helen looked surprised but it’s my 2nd American wedding so I was expecting it this time.

Lunch was served (which was pretty good) and after the main course we had the speeches.  The leading bridesmaid and groomsmen both do speeches and toasts followed by my brother (father of bride) and then the groom. Then the dances took place with bride and groom going first and then the moment I was waiting for – my brother with Melissa.  I have never seen my brother dance (or at least not that I can remember). While I was expecting him to end up on the floor at some point, he did actually did quite well … #impressed David! The DJ called for all fathers and daughters to join them and so I took Chloe up (though she complained she didn’t know how to dance!). My one brother-in-law had two daughters there and none of them moved a muscle … #losers!  After that Andrew and his mother danced and the DJ also invited all mothers/sons to come up and join them. I did make a point to invite my Mom up though she declined. Stephen/Michael … where were you?? Daniel where were you? … Jason was #loser too.

When Melissa & Andrew were ready to leave we all exited the hotel and lined up outside to blow bubbles over the departing couple. There was also an ice cream truck (think genuine American ice cream truck) as part of the farewell. Very creamy, sweet ice cream but as they say in US ‘a neat idea’.

By this stage it was 5pm and we were pretty tired. We had agreed to meet up for a final farewell at the place my brother and parents are staying at.  We got there at about 7:15pm and just enjoyed a chilled evening chatting. We got back to the hotel at around 9:30pm and were all pretty tired and fell asleep quickly and slept to about 6am this morning.

Until tomorrow …

P, H & C (moaning about how tired she is …)

Greenville SC Cont.

As most of our day was free yesterday we spent some of it doing shopping. The first shop we went to was CVS Pharmacy (after breakfast). Now you must say ‘A Pharmacy?!’ but if you have never been to American then you won’t understand that their pharmacies are unique. Firstly you find a pharmacy on just about every block corner in America. Secondly, the items sold in pharmacies are wide-ranging.  They are really like a mini-supermarket where you can also get your medication. One of the aisles contained wine … confirms my thought that drinking is good for your health otherwise why would it be in a pharmacy otherwise?! We spent just under $100 in the pharmacy. There is some medication you can get simply off the shelf in America which you cannot get anywhere else in the world and so we always take advantage of doing precisely that when we are in the US.

Helen and Chloe had a brunch with the bride, bridesmaids, other aunts and cousins. That is fairly traditional in the US.  Usually it’s held on the day of the wedding but as it is a morning wedding, this one was held the previous day. I picked them up from there after they were finished and we headed to do some more shopping. Helen had discovered that this weekend is tax-free weekend in SC. One weekend a year just before school restarts the whole state has a tax-free weekend.  I assume it is so people can buy all the necessary school items but we understand it also includes other essentials like TVs even! We could take advantage of that and save ourselves a few more %.

Our first shop was Target which is a massive hypermarket type place (but on steroids). What strikes me every time I am here is the variety you can access in a store. An aisle of health bars was what struck me this time (and I really do mean an aisle). The prices are also incredible. I compared the price of golf balls (yes you can see my interest in that!) and they were about 30% cheaper than what we pay in SA. After some random purchases made at Target (like bake mixes) we headed to find a mall. The traffic was terrible and while it was only a few miles away it took us a long time to get through the traffic.  It is clear that everyone was out and about accessing the tax-free weekend.

While driving around it really struck us again how many shops, restaurants and cars there are in America. And make that large shops, large restaurants (both normal and fast food) and large cars actually. The place is just full of them. It really is a consumer driven society. I travel around the world a lot and have been to many different countries but it really stands out to me again when I am here. We did eventually find the mall but couldn’t find a parking. If you know anything about America you will know they never under-provide for parking at malls so it gives you an idea of how busy it was. I wasn’t planning to buy anything but Banana Republic were selling shirts (and they are really nice quality) at 50% off so not only did I not have to pay tax but I got it half price.  Who can resist an offer like that?

By this stage I was feeling the jet lag kick in and so we headed back to the hotel for a quick nap. Helen resisted and paid later on in the evening for that mistake. Last night was the Rehearsal dinner. It is traditionally held after the rehearsal for the wedding and includes the whole wedding party and close family and friends. We met my sister and brother-in-law for a pre-dinner drink (they were staying at the hotel where the dinner took place) and then we had dinner afterwards. It was a very nice evening. The food was great (it was done by Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse which is a top steakhouse chain in the US) and the company was great (we sat with my two sisters and their husbands). They played a video of Andrew & Melissa (the two getting married) with a variety of photos from their lives to date. That included a shot of my son (Stephen) and Melissa kissing (he started early!). There were also a few off the cuff speeches. Informal and very pleasant. We walked back to our hotel (it was around 9:30pm) and the Main Street of Greenville was just humming with people – clearly the place to be on a Friday night!

Until tomorrow …

P, H & C

Greenville SC

I sent yesterday’s blog from the flight from London-Philadelphia (the one we were almost kicked off from). I never said anything about the flight though. There are some things that struck me each time I travel on an American airline.  First is the age of the cabin crew.  The guy serving us was definitely closer to my parents in age than he was to me. If my parents ever run out of money in their retirement they can clearly get a job with any American airline as cabin crew. Only thing is that my parents probably couldn’t be as grumpy as the cabin crew. Given America is so known for their service, it really seems that all the grumpy, non-service orientated people end up as cabin crew.

The flight landed a few minutes early and the international arrivals hall was totally deserted. It seems we were the only international flight landing at the time and so we had no delay at immigration (and the guy was quite friendly too – also unusual). We parked at gate A6 and our connecting flight to Greenville, SC was from F29. We decided to walk to exercise off the 20 hours of flying. 15 minutes later and sweating profusely we got to terminal F. Fortunately we could use the AA lounge.  They give you drinks vouchers when you enter because you get nothing for free in AA lounge! Another thing that immediately struck us was that anyone talking on their cellphone did so with an ear piece in.  No one just talked on their phone holding their phone to their ear.  Worried about brain cancer? Too lazy to hold phone up to their ears?

At the gate for the flight to Greenville they announced the flight was overbooked (another one!) and that they wanted 2 people to give up their seats.  $500 voucher for any OneWorld alliance flight and guaranteed seat on the next flight leaving 2 hours later.  No takers.  Next offer, $750 voucher … was thinking of offering Helen and Chloe at that point! The flight probably only costs around $200 so that is a real profit.  I’m sure if you pick carefully you could travel perpetually at the expense of the airline on this basis! We ended up leaving late (waiting it seems for two AA flight crew to join the flight … probably why they needed two seats) and so arrived about 15 minutes late into Greenville.  Pretty bumpy flight as well due to the thunderstorm activity around … plane shook like a blender at times (nervous flyers wouldn’t have been happy).

We have rented a car for the time here. First reminder of real American service standards. Show drivers license; give you the keys. Nice big American yank-tank made by Kia (Korean)! Never seen such a big Kia so no doubt made specifically for the USA market. 30 minutes to hotel (caught in rush-hour traffic on 6 lane highway).  We are staying at Westin Poinsett in downtown Greenville ( Quick shower to wash off 28 hours of travel and then we headed for dinner at the place my brother, parents and some of the other family were staying (Swamp Rabbit Inn). They booked the whole place.  Dinner was Shrimp Boil – basically shrimp, sausage, potato and corn boiled up together and then you just dump the pot contents on the table and everyone just eats with their fingers. It was invented in South Carolina in a place called Frogmore (used to be called Frogmore Boil). My kind of food. Desert was ice cream (cookie dough … our favorite) and cupcakes (including pumpkin cupcakes … see pic).  I’m not a cupcake eater but everyone else seemed to really like them and the pumpkin ones were gone first.

By this point we were exhausted (it was about 9:15pm) and so we headed back to the hotel and fell asleep almost immediately. Pretty much slept through until 5am (Helen 5:30am) at which point we were starving. The places for breakfast nearby opened at 7am and we were there pretty soon after that. The hotel recommended the Famous Toastery which was just around the corner from the hotel. The streets were deserted – nobody gets up earlier in Greenville it seems. Another reminder of America – massive portion sizes. French Toast, Egg & Bacon for breakfast (Chloe had flapjack … size of the plate flapjack). Very cheerful & friendly service (what I expect in the South).

After breakfast (given it was just 8am at this point) we decided to walk around the area. The hotel is very near to the Falls Park area and Swamp Rabbit Trail. We did the whole park area and a lot of the trail. It is very beautiful. You can imagine it was just swamp at one point but they have made a lovely park with a running track etc that follows the Reedy River.  There are small falls (hence the name Falls Park).  The beauty of the area really did strike us and I hope some of the photos capture it for you. Greenville Downtown area is also really quaint and full of character. We already like this place and we have only been here for about 12 hours!

Until tomorrow …

P, H & C