Botswana & Victoria Falls

I am smitten with Botswana. A land locked, semi-arid country in Southern Africa, roughly the size of Texas. The incredible wildlife, friendly people and stable economy all contributed to an amazing trip with African Travel Inc  in mid-November.

P1000297

There is no getting around a very long travel day to access this part of the world. I had a 6am flight from Boston to JFK and then a 15 hour flight to Johannesburg with South African Airways. Once in Johannesburg, we still had a 2 hour flight to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. By the time we arrived at the Victoria Falls Safari Club we had been in transit for more than 30 hours. That was the only challenging part of the trip and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

P1000163

Our first full day included a guided hike at Victoria Falls in Victoria Falls National Park. The Falls are known locally as the smoke that thunders and are twice as high as Niagara Falls.  The rains were just starting so the volume was much less than during rainy season but it is still a very impressive site to see.

P1000166

From Zimbabwe we drove to Botswana and on to our first safari camp, Leroo La Tau on the Boteti river. To call it a safari camp sounds like I was roughing it…I wasn’t! I had a fantastic view across the river from my balcony and from the bathroom! Plus great food and a very friendly staff.

One afternoon I looked across the river from my room and saw these three elephants drinking and playing. I watched them for at least half an hour. It was fascinating. I kept pinching myself all week, feeling like I was living in a PBS documentary!P1000529

The zebras showed up a little later for their afternoon drink and I continued to watch.

P1000271

The day starts very early on safari, so that the game drives can happen at dawn and dusk when the animals are active and it’s not so hot. At Leroo La Tau, we took a boat across the river to access Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. Our first afternoon was incredible, with sightings of elephants, zebras, giraffes, lions and a wildebeest!

Attachment-1

Attachment-1

P1000670

P1000379Our guide spotted a leopard in a tree keeping an eye on the caracal he had killed and dragged up to a separate branch. The following morning we returned to the tree and found that the leopard had moved to the same branch as the caracal and was feasting on his kill!

P1000447We continued on and our skilled guide found four lions lazing in the sun. We sat very quietly in our open jeep watching…and taking pictures. It was unbelievable.

P1000316

P1000898

P1000912

P1010021We left Leroo La Tau in a small airplane for Camp Okavango in the Okavango Delta, another property of Desert & Delta Safaris.

Raised boardwalks led you around this gorgeous property from your room, to the pool, to the lounge and dining room.

Camp Okavango is a water-based safari and we rode on a mokoro, a traditional canoe, at sunset through the reed-lined waterways.

We finished our canoe ride in time for sundowners, which is safari speak for the guides to set up a bar facing the sunset and serve cocktails! Our tireless guide Beth taught me to quit messing around and just order a ‘bush’ double G&T! Thanks Beth!

And then we were off to Chobe Game Lodge, a five-star, Ecotourism-certified safari lodge and the only property located inside Chobe National Park on the banks of the Chobe River. The Lodge was recently featured in the NYTimes Travel section highlighting the all-female safari guides. The lodge is also known for having hosted Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton on one of their honeymoons! We arrived in time for lunch and a lively performance of music and dance.

Then we were off for an afternoon ride on the Chobe River in a solar-powered boat.

IMG_0785

In our few hours on the river we saw hippos, buffalo, crocodiles, elephants and baboons! That evening, our guide opened the cooler and served sundowners as we watched another sun set! Incredible scenery, knowledge and hospitality!

P1010422

P1010534

P1010477

P1010452

P1010412

The trip was amazing. It was a thrill to observe animals in their natural habitat and have such skilled guides explaining their behavior and keeping you safe. I highly recommend adding a safari to your bucket list and would be happy to tell you even more about my experience and help you plan your trip! Feel free to contact me! heatherrobinsontravel@gmail.com

 

 

 

Posted in African Safari, Botswana | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Greece

Where to begin? We just spent 8 days in Greece hiking on 3 different islands so I’ll start  in Athens at the Acropolis! To be up close to these magnificent structures is amazing—and to think about when and how they were built is unbelievable.

IMG_9367

IMG_7711

IMG_7718

After a day in Athens, we took a ferry to the island of Tinos. The weather was unusually hot for mid September and we felt it. I wouldn’t normally be out hiking in the heat of the day with very little shade but that’s what we did!

IMG_7752

The hills were barren, with the odd cow and many churches dotting the landscape. A recent article in Travel & Leisure states that Tinos has over 700 churches! The most famous is the Church of Panagia Evangelistia (Church of the Virgin Mary) which attracts pilgrims to the island who crawl on their hands and knees from the port to the church, a distance of about 800 metres – uphill!

IMG_7760In the village of Volax, we watched a man weave the traditional baskets of Tinos. I really wanted to get one but it just didn’t fit in my luggage.

IMG_9981

In another village, there was a well-stocked cafe that operates on the honour system. Our amazing guide, Dafni, made Greek coffee for all and pulled a bag of marzipan cookies from her pack for our mid-morning break!

We hiked on footpaths that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere and then a picturesque village would appear.They often seemed deserted. I think the locals knew to stay inside during the heat of the day!

IMG_7804

IMG_9416

IMG_7779

The bold blue doors catch your eye after looking at so much white or dry hillsides.

IMG_9499

IMG_9806

We took a ferry from Tinos to Naxos, the largest and most fertile island in the Cyclades and started hiking. In the village of Chalki we poked in several shops with hand made woven goods and local honey. Dinner was at an amazing restaurant tucked down an alley and included BBQ and some of the best french fries we had ever tasted. Apparently the island of Naxos is known for their potatoes. Later in the week we saw Naxos french fries on a menu in Santorini and ordered them immediately!

IMG_9733IMG_9543Our most challenging hike was to the top of Mt Zeus on Naxos, the highest point in the Cyclades. According to Greek mythology, Zeus was raised in a cave on this mountain. It was extremely windy at the top, as you can see by my hair and the fact that I am holding on to the stone marker!

The hike ended in the village of Filoti where we tried caffe freddo, a cold coffee drink with whipped milk on top. The coffee we drank varied from place to place with many cafes serving instant coffee…it has a taste that is very recognizable and always disappointing to me.

IMG_9631IMG_9716The island of Naxos is home to a massive 2,500 year old marble doorway, the Portara, that was the entrance to the unfinished temple of Apollo. It provided a spectacular backdrop for the sunset. IMG_9693From Naxos we took a high speed ferry to Santorini. From the port, the road zig zags up the side of the volcanic cliffs for some stunning views into the caldera, the underwater crater left behind after a massive volcano in 2000 BC submerged the central part of the island.

IMG_9738The hike from the town of Fira to Oia in Santorini was amazingly beautiful the whole way. Hiking in Santorini seems to be popular, the day we flew to Greece the NYTimes had an article called In Search of the Authentic Santorini? Skip the Beach. Take a Hike.  Many of the places mentioned in the article were part of our hikes. We left Fira late afternoon and literally walked into the sunset, framed against the dazzling white buildings and blue domes of Oia, one of the most photographed towns in Greece, with good reason! After dinner we had some very delicious gelato at Lolita’s!

IMG_9745

IMG_9864

IMG_9891

IMG_9868

IMG_9907The only downside to Santorini was the number of tourists. On our last day on the island, we got up early and wandered the back alleys of Oia, took some photos and saw very few people. By 10am, the narrow alleys were clogged with people and we headed back to our hotel for the short walk to the nearby beach and taverna.

We flew from Santorini back to Athens, the flight took less time than the drive from the airport to our hotel in Athens. We enjoyed one more dinner in Athens at Gods’ Restaurant near the Acropolis Museum and left the next morning. Since our return I have been reading about other Greek islands and trying to figure out when we could go again and spend more time doing less! On my want-to-visit-list is the island of Folegandros after reading an article in the NYTimes a few years ago about a little hotel called Anemomilos Apartments. It is a little more challenging to access so it’s going to take more planning but it’s going on my list!

Yamas! (Cheers in Greek!)

 

 

 

Posted in Greece, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Quebec City

This has been a summer of driving to various provinces in Canada…NB, PEI, Ontario and, most recently, Quebec. We spent a night at Manoir Hovey, a charming Inn in North Hatley QC on our way to Quebec City a few weeks ago.

IMG_8814It was peaceful and beautiful, despite the fact that Hillary and Bill (and the very discreet secret service) were also staying there, as guests of the author Louise Penny.

The Inn is on the shores of Lake Massawippi, a clear, deep lake that was perfect for swimming and kayaking on the August day we visited.

IMG_8798

We enjoyed lunch on the porch at Manoir Hovey before heading out for the 3 hour drive to Quebec City. After settling into our room at Hotel le Germaine, a boutique hotel in the Old Port, we headed up the hill to wander the streets. The Chateau Frontenac dominates the city and is the start of the Dufferin Terrace, a boardwalk with beautiful views of the St Lawrence River that links the hotel to the Citadelle, a national historic fortress.IMG_8866

The city is so charming, it almost feels unreal. Cobblestone streets, cafes, museums, history…and tourists! I did most of my exploring of the city in the early morning and escaped the busiest part of the day by heading back to the hotel or heading to a museum. The Musee de la Civilisation was a 5 minute walk from our hotel and was a perfect place to spend a few hours on a rainy day. The Plains of Abraham museum was another great place to spend a rainy morning.

IMG_8902IMG_8983

IMG_8968

The fresh produce at Le Marche du Vieux Port was amazing and I returned every day for strawberries and raspberries. On the map it looked like a long walk but it was really only 10 minutes from the hotel and included walking by this canoe art in front of a working grain elevator, which was lit up at night to look like the Northern Lights!IMG_8885

IMG_8889

IMG_8917

IMG_8924

The staff at Le Hotel Germaine were incredibly helpful, providing us with a list of restaurants prior to our arrival and then responding to our requests to change our reservations when we changed our minds! Every meal we had was delicious. Il Matto was 2 minutes from the hotel and served great Italian. Le Clocher Penche was in the up and coming neighbourhood of Saint-Roch and served innovative, unpretentious cuisine. Chez Victor served really good gourmet burgers and La La was a rustic, cozy restaurant serving traditional Quebecois meals.

IMG_8921

With the Quebec City Tourism website as my guide and my own two feet, I saw a great deal of the Old City and walked 34 miles in three days while my husband attended a conference. I had planned to spend a day driving around Ile d’Orleans, an agricultural island just 15 minutes from downtown Quebec City but between the traffic and the rain, I decided to save it for another visit!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Canada, Quebec City | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

P.E.I.

Prince Edward Island is acres of potatoes, miles of beautiful, empty beaches, amazing cloud patterns and lobster!

IMG_8057We drove through Maine to get to PEI and stopped in St. Andrews NB at the Rossmount Inn for the night. Dinner at the Inn was amazing and the beginning of my daily lobster diet!

Our first meal in PEI was a lobster roll at The Lobster Shack in Souris. Located right on the beach, the roll was delicious and so were the oysters, so good that we ate lunch there twice!

We stayed at The Inn at Bay Fortune overlooking the Fortune River. The Inn is owned by Chef Michael Smith and his wife Chastity. Michael is a well-known Canadian chef with an international reputation for simple, sustainable home cooking.

Each night the FireWorks restaurant at Inn at Bay Fortune features a unique Feast showcasing locally sourced foods all prepared over live fires. The menu changes nightly but always starts with the Oyster Hour…on the night we were there we had oysters, grilled chicken tacos, smoked salmon and sausages with a maple mustard dip and fresh herbs. And that was all before dinner! Our breakfast waitress Ruthie had warned us to not go crazy during the Oyster Hour and save some room for the many courses to come. Wise advice.

Greenwich National Park was on my list of places to visit so after a fabulous breakfast at the Inn, we set off for a day of exploring.

After walking through woods, on a floating boardwalk,

IMG_7479and through parabolic dunes,

IMG_7518we came to a gorgeous, empty beach.

IMG_8036Walking the beach built up an appetite so we got back in the car and followed the Points East Coastal Drive to Naufrage and had lunch at the Shipwreck Point cafe. Another spectacular view and great lunch.

Paddles on Fortune River, a kayak and canoe rental place, had just opened down the road from the Inn so we reserved kayaks for one morning and thoroughly enjoyed the tranquility of the Fortune River and the bald eagle that swooped by and then perched on a tree and let us watch him.

IMG_8130

IMG_8132

IMG_8153Our last meal was at Point Prim Chowder House where we enjoyed a fabulous seafood dinner and the sunset. We ate outside and when it started to get cool, the owner offered us blankets so we could continue to watch the sun sink into the water.

We packed a lot into a few days and could easily have spent much more time in PEI.

IMG_8162

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Canada, Prince Edward Island | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

O Canada

It’s Canada’s 150th birthday this year and a perfect time to visit our northern neighbour. The exchange rate is favourable, Parks Canada is offering free admission and you can buy butter tarts! We have several trips planned to Canada this summer.Canada_150First up is our visit to Prince Edward Island in July and a stay at The Inn at Bay Fortune. The Boston Globe did a story last summer about the owner/chef Michael Smith and his Fireworks Feast every night at the Inn. It sounded like a good excuse for a road trip. I’ll let you know when we return!

August we are heading to visit family in Ontario and finally, after over 30 years of driving from Massachusetts through Buffalo, we are going to stop at Niagara Falls! I booked rooms with a view of the falls at the Niagara Falls Marriott Fallsview on the Canadian side. Apparently the Falls is lit up at night and they have fireworks on summer nights. Hopefully the weather will cooperate with a cloudless night. I will post pictures if it’s clear!

Our third Canadian road trip this summer is to Quebec City. We are making a stop on the way at Manoir Hovey, a charming country inn on a lake in North Hatley, QC and the inspiration for Manoir Bellechasse in A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny. In Quebec City, we are staying at Hotel le Germaine, one of a small chain of boutique hotels. We have stayed at the one in Toronto and loved the location, room decor, and terrific breakfast. I’m going to spend my days exploring Quebec City and researching where to eat dinner while my significant other attends a conference.

Contact me if you would like some help planning a summer trip to Canada. You can reach me at heatherrobinsontravel@gmail.com

FullSizeRender

 

 

Posted in Canada, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Travel Consultant

Heather Robinson_Travel Logo_Tag

I’m excited to announce the launch of Heather Robinson Travel. If you’ve been reading this blog you will know that travel has always been a big part of my life. I am channeling all those years of traveling into my new consulting business – Heather Robinson Travel -and I am looking forward to creating customized travel plans for anywhere you want to go. Contact me at heatherrobinsontravel@gmail.com to start planning your trip.

Posted in travel | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Nevis

It starts at sunrise with the walk on the beach, taking in the sheer beauty of Nevis.

img_6834

img_6933

img_6898

And it continues all day long with friendly people, empty beaches and rum drinks.

img_6796

img_6903

We just returned from a week in Nevis, I’ve stopped counting how many times we have been to this little island in the Caribbean. We keep going back because it is such a special place. I just looked back and discovered I have blogged about Nevis in 2013, 2015, and 2016!

We rented a house this year called Coral Reef Villa that proved to be perfect. Just minutes from the beach and right next to Nisbet Plantation, we had privacy, a pool and beautiful gardens to look at from the spacious screened porch. The owner lives right next door and was attentive and knowledgeable.

img_6765

img_6762

img_6823

The days follow a lazy routine of walking, swimming, reading and deciding where to have dinner. We had delicious meals at The Gin Trap, Bananas, Double Deuce and Nisbet Beach BBQSunshines is a favorite for at least one meal of grilled lobster and killer bees, a potent rum punch that will have you spilling your deepest secrets after a few sips! Golden Rock is another favourite restaurant with a beautiful setting for lunch.

We always fit in a hike with our favorite guide, Reggie Douglas of Nevis Adventure Tours. His knowledge and patience is always appreciated!

img_6856

This year he led us on a hike to Mount Traverers Estate, a former sugar plantation.

Our friend Piggy, didn’t disappoint with fresh coconut water, and we enjoyed the shoreline of Nevis from a boat with Dennis.

On a morning walk I noticed a bar in the village of Fountain that looked interesting so we returned on our departure day since we had an hour to kill between checking out of the house and our water taxi. The owner served us cold Carib, goat water soup and lively conversation!

The Museum of Nevis History in Charlestown is worth a visit, it is housed in the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton.

Like I have said in other posts, Nevis is 36 square miles of paradise in the Caribbean!

img_7071

Posted in Nevis | Tagged , | 3 Comments