Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sarajevo, We Love You & Hedona Wine Club

It sure has been a long time! The last year I was a little low on travel material for this blog, since my family and I were in DC for Bosnian language training until August this year! Now we're back overseas again - this time in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina until summer 2018.  We absolutely love it here so far and have already been taking advantage of the ample travel and dining opportunities available to us in the region.

I thought I'd re-launch A World Safari with this great post by my husband about a particularly fabulous dinner we had a couple of weeks ago at the Hedona Wine Club, an exclusive establishment in the hills above Sarajevo.

Enjoy ~ more to come!

Hedona Wine Club

Hedona Header

Elegant Dining Experience Lets You Drink in Local Wines and Spectacular City Views

Words by Scott Kennedy, photos courtesy of Scott Kennedy and Hedona Wine Club
10.22.15 —  Nestled high in the hills overlooking Sarajevo is a hidden gem for lovers of fine food and wine. Hedona Wine Club is the creation of Arman Galičić, who is also the owner and one of the masterminds behind the Sarajevo Brew Pub. Hedona is not a restaurant so much as it is an experience.  Arman has built up a wealth of knowledge on the wines of the former Yugoslavia region and uses Hedona as a way to showcase these wines, carefully paired with innovative renditions of classic Bosnian dishes.
Hedona Dining RoomHedona is an excellent choice for a special-occasion restaurant (though it should be noted that they have a four-person minimum) and we booked it to celebrate the final night of a family visit.
Arriving around 5:30 on a Friday, we were greeted by Arman and his wife with a welcome drink and an amuse-bouche. Following introductory conversation and admiring the beautiful views of Sarajevo and surrounding Hedona vineyards from the dining room, the other guests for the evening —a group of six visitors from Denmark— arrived.
Dining at Hedona is a shared experience and we all took seats around the table together to begin the evening’s degustation. While working our way through the first few courses (pumpkin soup, sea bass, and a four-cheese sirnica), Arman carefully explained each of the paired wines and his creative take on local cuisine.
In the midst of our meal, Arman called for an impromptu intermission, leading our group away from the table and down the steps to the Hedona wine cellar. On the premises, Hedona has approximately 3,500 grapevine plants, mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which Arman uses to carefully make sparkling wines following traditional methods. After explaining the process and intricacies of making sparkling wines, Arman popped open two bottles of his 2012 vintage for everyone to sample. They were fruity, crisp, and refreshing – a perfect drink to cleanse our palates and reinvigorate us for the rest of the food to come.
hedona-inat-roseBack at the dining table, we were served lamb sous-vide followed by veal, before moving on to sweet dishes and dessert wines. As Arman said more than once during our meal, “life is short so you should enjoy good food, good wine, and good company.” That sounds like a great recipe to me!
Anyone interested in making a reservation at Hedona should contact Arman at least three days in advance to allow time for the necessary preparations. Though each menu is unique and a surprise, Hedona is happy to work with guests to accommodate dietary restrictions.
While making a reservation can be a bit of a challenge, the experience is worth the effort for those who are persistent. Expect to spend four to five hours for dining at Hedona. The price, at 200 KM per person, is quite high for Sarajevo, but offers an excellent value in comparison to a similar experience in the United States.
HEDONA WINE CLUB
Address: See map
PH: 061.131.271 or 061.428.952
Hours: M-T: 19:00 – 23:00; W-Sa: 13:30 – 23:00; Su: 13:30 – 18:00
Web: hedona.ba

Monday, June 9, 2014

Baby on Safari - Johannesburg & the Lion Park

Hey look! A giraffe!
Over Memorial Day weekend, we decided to be brave and take the baby on a little trip to South Africa. We visited Johannesburg for two nights, and then stopped at Pilanesburg Game Reserve for two nights on the way back to Botswana.

Lion Park!!
While it was a tons of fun to expose the baby to tons of new experiences (petting lion cubs! going to an antiques market! getting up close to a giraffe!) the driving portion of the trip wasn't tons of fun. Lesson learned: Do not needlessly subject a baby to a fourteen-hour round trip car ride! That being said, we got some amazing photos out of the trip and got to have The African Experience one last time before we depart Botswana in a couple of months.

We drove down to Joburg the first day of our trip, of course stopping at McDonald's in Rustenburg on the way. Believe it or not, there are no McDonald's in Botswana, which of course makes me crave it all the time, even though I never eat at McDonald's when in the U.S. Fortified by our double cheeseburger meals (and bottle for the baby) we continued on to Johannesburg and arrived at our absolutely lovely hotel, the Clico Boutique Hotel in Rosebank.

A romantic dinner for three.
I would highly recommend this place to anyone traveling to Johannesburg - it's centrally located in a nice part of town, had lots of charm and character, and the food was AMAZING! The hotel restaurant serves a delicious continental breakfast, plus anything you want made-to-order and it's all included in the quite reasonable room rate. We ate dinner at the hotel our first night, and were truly impressed by the quality of the food and the service. In particular, we appreciated how accommodating they were with the baby. When we had to cut the meal short to soothe the baby back in our room, the waiter didn't even blink an eye at our request to serve the rest of meal in our room. Neither did they put in an extra charge for the impromptu room service. Granted, they were probably relieved to have our (very vocal) baby out of their restaurant!

The morning after our arrival on Johannesburg, we headed to the Lion Park. I had been wanting to visit the park ever since hearing a colleague’s fabulous stories about petting lion cubs there, and thought it would be a really cool experience to take the baby and take some photos of him up close and personal with African wildlife.

We weren’t disappointed!

Did someone say lion cubs?
Visiting the Lion Park is a perfect activity for families with young children (even as young as ours) because guests can self-drive, preferable with kids because you don’t have to worry about them bothering other guests when you’re in your own vehicle. 200 rand (about $20) gets you admission to the park, all the self-driving you want, plus the lion cub interaction activity. The self-drive was pretty cool – we saw several adult lions and cheetahs. In another section of the park, guests can also feed giraffes and ostriches. Lots of fun!

But the best part was hands down the lion cub interaction. Here, you can take turns entering an enclosure where you can pet several cubs and have your photo taken with them! Not many people, and especially not many five-month-olds, can say they’ve pet a real, live baby lion.  I know the baby won’t remember any of the trip, but he (and we) sure will have fun looking at all of the photos when he’s older. "Remember that time you pet a lion cub?!"

More later on our visit to Pilanesburg Game Reserve's lovely Bakubung Bush Lodge.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Traveling to Botswana With a Two Month Old


This past February, we ended our lovely time at home for maternity leave and departed Florida for the long trip back to Botswana. The route – Orlando to Atlanta to Johannesburg to Gaborone – includes the second- longest single leg direct flight in the world. It takes almost 17 hours to fly from Johannesburg to Gaborone. 

Asleep, post-bouncing.
Although this was not our first time on this flight, it was certainly our first time on the flight with a baby!  Throwing a two month old into the mix made flying a whole new experience. Our typical pre-baby routine on other long flights we’ve taken between, for example, Atlanta and Johannesburg; Shanghai and Chicago; Hong Kong and Newark; Shanghai and Sydney; or Sydney and San Francisco has been:

Arrive at airport two hours early
Check in
Saunter around airport and buy magazines and candy for the flight
Board plane
Excited to finally be aboard the plane.
Watch a movie
Eat dinner
Watch another movie
Take Ambien
Sleep for 8 hours
Watch movie #3
Eat breakfast
Watch movie #4
Deplane

– And voila! There we are in a new destination.

Enter baby and change the travel routine to:

The little traveler.
Arrive at airport four hours early “just in case”
Parent #1 struggles through the airport with five suitcases (two for each parent and one for the baby)
Parent #2 juggles screaming baby, diaper bag, and stroller
Parent #2 hands off baby to Parent #1
Parent #1 bounces baby (who is still screaming) to sleep
Parent #2 quickly grabs some sandwiches for the flight
Two parents lug baby and stroller and car seat and diaper bag and carry-ons and finally board the plane
Two parents spend 17 hours taking turns stroking baby’s cheek, holding baby’s pacifier in his mouth, changing baby’s diaper, intently watching baby in his car seat to make sure he really is sleeping, walking baby up and down the aisle when he gets bored. Parent #2 feeds baby every three hours (she is the female parent).
Parent #2 manages to watch half a movie during the 17 hour flight.
When the plane lands, two parents wait until everyone else disembarks, and then they lug baby and stroller and car seat and diaper bag and stroller off the plane.

Two parents collapse in exhaustion…

– And voila! There we are back in Gaborone. Easy, right?! :D

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Baby on Safari



I know, I know… I’ve sorely neglected this blog! Time has flown by and life has changed so much since my last posting at the end of September. 

Baby on Safari
Big Change Number One: We are now proud parents to the most adorable little baby boy who ever lived! Baby is five months old now and changing every day. He’s “talking” (baby talk), almost sitting up, and enjoying new flavors like banana and avocado in addition to his regular bottles. Since this is a blog about our life in Africa and African travel experiences, I should also mention that Baby has already been on his first safari! We took him on a game drive for his three-month birthday and he loved every minute of it. Zebras were his favorite, as they have black and white stripes, a pattern which is apparently very popular with young babies.   
ZEBRA!!!

Africa Baby
 Next weekend, we’re taking him a road trip to the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre, the Johannesburg Lion Park, and Pilanesburg National Park as our last hurrah in southern Africa before we depart to our next post. 

Which leads me to Big Change Number Two: We are leaving Botswana in early August! We have enjoyed many aspects of our time here but two years has been more than enough to experience power outages, water shortages, infrastructure challenges, poor customer service, and a stressful work environment. 

We are very much looking forward to our next adventure – a posting in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina from July 2015-2017! Before arriving in Sarajevo, we will be back in Washington, D.C. for 10 months of Serbo-Croatian training. Our family is excited to spend some time closer to home for a little while, and then to explore Bosnia and surrounding countries from Sarajevo for two years. I have heard nothing but good things about Sarajevo – countless travel opportunities within driving distance; interesting and vibrant city; friendly people; and good food. Baby will certainly be a well-traveled little boy!

More to come later on our trip next weekend, as well as a post on Tips for Traveling to Botswana with a Two Month Old Baby. Yes, I'll be speaking from experience.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Camelot Spa, Grand Palm Hotel and Convention Center

Bathroom/changing facilities
The entrance to the spa.
Contrary to when you might think from this blog, I'm not a huge spa person. I typically get a manicure and/or pedicure about three times per year, and have also been known to have the occasional massage every couple of months. However, when I heard great things about the new Camelot Spa, located at the nicest hotel in town, the Grand Palm, I decided to treat myself to a nice Saturday manicure and pedicure and check the place out.

I was really pleasantly surprised by how modern and sleek the spa facilities were. The front desk was very attractive and the service was attentive, if not completely on-point - I had called ahead and booked the spa pedicure and regular manicure, but they had only made my reservation for a regular manicure. Still, I didn't mind at all because they were so nice and I was one of about four people in there, so I didn't have to wait.
Mani Pedi Station

Cute outdoor seating area
 After I checked in for my appointment, I was given a short tour of the facilities and shown to the back, where the mani-pedi stations are located. First, I had the hour-long spa pedicure ($37), which includes an exfoliating rub, hot towel wrap, and paraffin dip in addition to the standard nail filing and painting routine. The pedicure felt quite good and my feet looked about a million times better afterwards! I then proceeded to have the regular manicure done ($20) which took 30 minutes and was pretty much your standard manicure. The girl did a nice job with both and I left satisfied.

However, while the service and facilities were quite good, I was not satisfied with the quality of the products used at the spa - a South African brand rather than OPI which you typically would see at a spa. Just a few days later, the nail polish on my fingers started to chip off and to actually corrode my nails, so that I had to cut them almost down to the quick to remove all of the dead nail. My toenails somehow survived the toxic products, but I was a little taken aback that I'd paid $20 for a manicure, only to have the nail polish corrode away a large portion of my natural nails just a few days later.

That being said, the spa is definitely the nicest place in town if you feel like pampering yourself! My advice would be to either bring your own nail polish if you want a mani/pedi, or stick with one of their other great options for massages, facials. or wraps. Personally I haven't yet gone back to try the other options, but I've heard good things from others who have.

If you want to check it out, visit the spa's website: http://www.camelotspa.co.za/index.php/camelotspas/international/camelot-at-grand-palm-gaborone and see the link at the bottom for their full menu. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A World Safari: 2003-2013

Stonehenge 2003
Stonehenge 2013 (plus a little baby you can't see yet!

 This July marked ten years since Scott and I met for the first time in 2003 at Stonehenge!

Interestingly, we happened to be in London just about a week after our ten-year "meet-inversary" and so we decided to take a trip back to Stonehenge to relive our first time meeting each other. Back in 2003, we were both 18 and had just gotten off an Atlanta-London flight to start a month-long European humanities tour for high school students, as part of a college credit program run by Florida State University.
Arno River, Florence, 2013
Arno River, Florence, 2003

As you can imagine, hormones were raging as a bus full of jet-lagged high school students sized each other up and got ready to explore Europe together (under heavy chaperoning and strict rules on when and where we could go, mind you).

Our first stop was Stonehenge - we went there directly from the airport - and this was also the first chance we all had to get a good look at each other in broad daylight. I guess Scott and his friends immediately zeroed in on my friend and me (forget a bunch of rocks!), because we hadn't been off the bus for more than 15 minutes before he and his friends approached us and one of the guys asked us if we wanted a "bite of my muffin." (We said no in an appropriately standoffish high school girl way). Well, after that great pick-up line, one thing led to another and 10 years later, here we are back at Stonehenge, married and expecting our first child!
Colloseum, Rome, 2003
Trevi Fountain, Rome, 2003

We don't have many pictures of us together from that trip, but by the time our trek through Europe ended in Florence and Rome, we had gotten to be good friends. You can see from our huge grins and the way Scott is encroaching on my personal space in the 2003 pictures that by that point in our trip we had spent some more time together... and photo ops were an excuse to get close!

Colloseum, Rome, 2013
Trevi Fountain, Rome, 2013
Scott and I visited Florence and Rome for the second time together in January of this year, and again it was sweet thinking that we had been in those same spots 10 years ago, right at the beginning of our dating years. We started "officially dating" just a few months after the end of our high school humanities tour, when we were both freshmen at FSU.

And the rest really is history... we have been traveling the world together ever since!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Spa Day at Etali Safari Lodge, Madikwe

Watering hole
Last weekend I took yet another trip down to Madikwe to check out a new lodge I hadn't visited yet - Etalit Safari Lodge. This time I traveled down with some friends in town rather than my usual husbandly companion. We didn't stay overnight, but had heard good things about the spa at Etali and so decided to treat ourselves to a Ladies' Spa Day south of the border.

The pool
The day started with drinks out the on terrace overlooking the lodge's watering hole. We sipped our drinks and watched zebra and impala gather around the watering hole for their midday refreshments... quite a lovely way to spend one's time. A tasty buffet lunch was served outdoors and we all helped ourselves to (very unladylike) portions of beef stew, baked chicken, bean salad, and bread with malva pudding and custard for dessert.

Spa treatments came after lunch, and this is where the day turned a little weird. There were five of us in our group, and we each had booked manicures (45 minutes each) and full body massages (one hour each). However, the lodge only had two spa staff working that day, which meant that they saw us two at a time and the rest of us had to hang around for four extra hours to receive our own spa treatments. That meant six hours total to do five pedicures and five massages! Because time was running short - Gabs is about a two hour drive from Madikwe and this was a Sunday afternoon - we decided to cut down on our original plans and just do either a pedicure or a massage each. I chose the massage, which was great and very relaxing, but I was disappointed that the lodge hadn't properly scheduled our spa treatments to allow us enough time to do what we wanted. That was poor planning on their part.... they should have started some of us before lunch.

The scene of the crime - day visitors out staying their welcome!
At the end of the day, we had a nice visit to Etali... after all, who wouldn't love lunching outdoors with a view of the animals and a massage afterwards?! However, the day could have been a lot better. We felt discriminated against as "day visitors" - sure, we weren't spending the night, but we were spending $100 each for the day and could have been a potential source of referrals and extra business for the lodge. They didn't see it that way, and chose to treat us more as cheapo bums who couldn't afford to stay there for the night. The clincher came late in the afternoon, when were sitting by the pool waiting for our last friend to finish her spa treatment. We practically kicked out of the pool area and told we needed to leave the lodge and now.... ostensibly because of Madikwe's rule that day visitors leave the park before dark, but I suspect also because we were taking up valuable pool space which could be better used by the lodge's more valued overnight guests.

My final review? A great day, but compared to the level of service I've found at Madikwe's other lodges, especially Mosetlha and Motswiri, Etali was nothing special. Save your money, or spend it somewhere else.