1 year later: Los Angeles

It was roughly a year ago that I fell off the blogging bandwagon, simply because I couldn’t adequately put something together that could do justice to our trip. And here I am a year later, and all I can think about each day is every moment of our trip. So while TimeHop is helping me, I thought I’d put something small together.

Wednesday-Thursday 11-12 June 2014

Freezing in Joburg. Flying for 9hrs. 8hr layover in Abu Dahbi. 14 hour flight to NYC. Arriving in NYC. Freshening up in the bathroom. Buying the wrong “ice coffee”. Breaking the wire from my braces as we land. 6 hour flight to LA. Free (kosher) food on Jet Blue. Finally reunited with old friends! Eggplant parmesan. Incredible hospitality. Snacks for days. Packing our own groceries. Ben & Jerry’s. BEDTIME.

Friday 13 June 2014

Jetlag. Universal studios. Minion photos. Simpsons ride. Studio tour. Jurassic Park dinosaurs. The Mummy. Orthodontists. Rest time – shabbat!

Saturday 14 June 2014

Sleeping late. Visiting the shul. Chabad next to aerobics studio. Lunch at the Machbubis. Planning for Disneyland. Afternoon naps. Third street promenade.  No indoor smoking. Slushy margaritas.

Sunday 15 June 2014

Hiking to the Hollywood sign. Avenue of the Stars. Shopping. Jeff’s Gourmet Burger. Magic Castle.

Monday 16 June 2014.

Disneyland. Indiana Jones. Almost losing our sunglasses. Thunder Mountain Railroad. Splash Mountain. The Haunted Mansion. Peter Pan’s flight. The Disneyland parade. Matterhorn. Roger Rabbit. Toon-Town. Disney Princesses. Mickey Mouse. Fast pass. All the snacks. Fireworks. Sound and lights show. Too many emotions.

Tuesday 17 June

Venice Beach. Vegan restaurants. Target. Outdoor malls. Takeout sushi. The dreaded red-eye flight…

And then… we headed to New York!

I’m up each night reminiscing about the details of this trip, yet when it comes to writing it down – words fail me. Going through pictures I feel I never took enough, as the scenes in my head I don’t have evidence of. It  was a busy week, and I can’t put into words the experiences we had and how eternally grateful I am to our friend Rocky who hosted us, fed us, drove us around, and was all round incredible to us.

We left a piece of our hearts there. LA – we’ll be back!

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“They’re just things,” right? No.

We arrived back in South Africa on Friday after a whirlwind belated honeymoon, 2 weddings, and awesome trip to America. Our luggage however, did not.

We knew they couldn’t be lost. The chances of both our bags not arriving in Johannesburg was a little fishy. After a delay at JFK and a mad rush to our connecting flight in Germany (escorted by the airline’s flight attendant), we had a feeling we knew where our luggage might be. But that feeling that all your things are abandoned somewhere in a foreign country is terrifying. Not to mention the fact that we had just gone on an expensive trip and bought ourselves some expensive things. Also you know, clothes and toiletries and things from home (because you had to go overseas with something).

“Pack essentials in your hand luggage in case your suitcase goes missing!” they tell you. And I was so pedantic on this. To the point that Greg kept telling me I’m being neurotic. Not only did we pack essentials (pyjamas, change of clothes, underwear etc), but I even went so far as making sure we each packed half of our clothing in each suitcase, so even if one of our bags did go missing, we’d each still have clothing to wear.

This was on the way there. On the way back we were more worried about being overweight. Ironic, considering by the time we left Johannesburg after my friend’s wedding to come home to Cape Town, we didn’t even have luggage. Thank God we took Greg’s suit bag with his suit (surprise?) and my dress for my friend’s wedding out of the suitcase or we’d have to have run around finding that too.

They’re just things. It’s all about the memories. Right? If anyone had to tell me this I might have slapped them. Or rather responded with an “I know, but…!” and not really be able to describe it, knowing full well that at the end (well, the very, very) end of the day they might just be things. But no, don’t tell me that minutes after. (Don’t worry, no-one did, I’m just being defensive here.)

Yes, we have the memories in our mind and heart (awwww). We had taken photos and videos – which by the way, never feel like enough. But sometimes, you just want those physical memories and mementos too. At a handful of points, I literally just wanted to curl into a ball and cry. Some of my favourite headscarves were in that suitcase. Not to mention all my beautiful accessories, which I’ve literally invested so much in. And they all come from Israel. The new things I’d bought. Our Mickey Mouse key rings and “Just Married” badges from Disneyland. The new boardgame we bought. My awesome nail transfers. My maps of Disneyland and Universal Studios. My Minnie Mouse ears. My hungry caterpillar pencil case (that I’d already planned to use as my new make-up bag). So they might just be “things”, but they were my things. Most of them hadn’t even entered my little life yet, and some played such a big part.

Did I mention that I also stupidly left my unused wallet in one of these suitcases, with my bank card and sim card inside? No? Well, that happened. You see, it was an emotional 6 days.

We’re lucky that they found our luggage and couriered it straight to our door. (I won’t let you think about our biggest fear, was that they’d delivered the wrong bags. Don’t worry, they didn’t). I’m not going to tell you the entire sob story, or name and shame the airline or airport. It wasn’t one person, just a clear lack of communication which was terribly frustrating. But it’s been a learning experience in what is important (the answer is that your things are still important, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise even though at the end of the day, in the very back of your mind you know they’re just things and eventually you’d realise that. But still, they’re your things.), and so I leave you with these pearls of wisdom.

  1. Always take out travel insurance. Always.
  2. Pack smart, all the time.
  3. Pester airlines and airports until they make your case important.
  4. If you have an important meeting/event/wedding (i.e part of the purpose of your trip), don’t pack those in your suitcase.
  5. Be lucky enough to have friends as good as ours (I had to borrow clothes for Shabbat, as well as a scarf for my friend’s wedding).

I really hope that none of you ever have to go through the process of lost luggage, being that close was already too close for comfort!

It’s been a little quiet around here.

I feel like I’ve been a little scarce here other than my 365 project. I just haven’t been finding time to write, or to think of things to write about. I like to get fresh air (sometimes) during lunch, and like to chill to stay away from the computer when I’m home (I do spend far too many working hours in front of a computer.

Well, we had a pretty rad anniversary. We found some slow background music on 8tracks and cooked a super fancy food (lamb shanks, anyone?) and the entire meal definitely cost us far less than going out. Turn off the light and pop some candles on your table and it’s instantly a whole lot more romantic than any kosher restaurant you can probably find in South Africa. We’re definitely adding candle light to more dinners, everyone deserves some romance, and who cares if all you’re eating are something like hotdogs for dinner. We hand crafted each other gifts, and I was so happy with what I did – I must do a blog post on it. I laughed at how Paleo friendly our lamb shank meal was was – served with green beans (actually, is that paleo friendly?) and cauliflower mash. Deeeeelicious. Thanks to the wonderful people of twitter (and one in particular) who assisted in lending this poor couple a recipe. If in doubt when cooking lamb shanks: the slow cooker.

The best part of our anniversary was definitely watching our entire wedding video. We didn’t get something fancily edited, basically just a recording of the entire night, but the truth is we didn’t want one. Our parents were paying and they said it was important – and we are so thankful that we have it. Pictures are wonderful and beautiful, but there’s nothing like actually reliving the whole night. It warmed my heart to tears (literally) to see my friends, those who have or are getting married, friends who flew from all over the country and the world, the beautiful messages and their smiling faces. There was so much laughter and dancing at our wedding that I can’t even explain. We literally laughed our way through (with some tears along the way). It was interesting for me to see how I seemed a little stressed on the day getting ready, but as soon as we arrived at the venue and the night progressed, I completely loosened up and relaxed. I clearly know what I was doing 😉 We took so many video shots while watching, and this one is my favourite (I can’t watch it enough):

Guys, our wedding was absolutely magical. 2 years down and a million more to go!

A post shared by Lee-Ann Lipman Gelb (@leelipman89) on

Oh goodness, I may not have mentioned (and maybe I should have, or still should do an actual post about this), but my chlidhood bestie and I started a blog together. It’s nothing fancy as of yet and our posts are a little sporadic, but it’s kind of exciting for us 🙂 Go follow Our Shabbos Menu to see what’s been cooking in our kitchen when we have all those guests over!

One of my best friends got engaged a few weeks ago, and I’m so incredibly happy for them. It’s nice to have a friend’s wedding where you can actually be around to help and discuss and be there for her leading up to the day, which sadly hasn’t been the case recently. Too many weddings out of town. Too many of my best friends are getting married this year (all in different countries around the world may I just add), and it’s difficult to pick and choose. Also, I’m just not rich enough for all of that. I’ve already missed 2 weddings recently, and those were only in Joburg. To top it off I have a serious case of Wanderlust, and it’s not helping that so many people at work have awesome and fun trips planned (today a colleague is on her way to SXSW. I mean, too cool.) I’m tempted to take a trip, but choosing destinations is hard.

I’ve had a couple of “meh” days at work. The ones that make you pretty sad. Maybe I’m just going through a bit of a rough patch. I mean that’s totally normal, right? But it was nothing that a lindt ball, a long shower, nail panting and some super girly series couldn’t fix (Pretty Little Liars is the only thing I watch these days, and it’s very sporadic). I hardly watch series anymore and I have no idea where people find time for it. Perhaps it’s because Greg and I watch such drastically different shows. Occassionally we’ll watch some of the comedy stuff, yknow, 2 Broke Girls, The New Girl, Modern Family (though I don’t remember when we last watched that) FRIENDS, and of course, Survivor. I guess I like to do other things sometimes.

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This weekend, with the colder weather we did something completely uncharacteristic: we watched a movie (at home. We usually choose series over movies). In fact, we watched two movies. Even more uncharacteristic because I usually fall asleep. We watched Mao’s Last Dancer, which I was meant to see years ago with a friend, and  I’ve subsequently read the book (which was at least a million times better). We also watched What To Expect When You’re Expecting, surprisingly it wasn’t quite what I expected and had a lot of heart. I’ve worked on a Fertility Clinic as a client before so I really felt the plight for some of these stories. It was a surprisingly good movie 🙂

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I miss a lot of my friends who’ve moved from Cape Town. That is always hard and a little sucky. I called my friend a couple weeks ago, and it’s funny how the 5 minute conversation we said we had time for quickly turned into 20 minutes. Thank goodness for whatsapp and the interwebs allowing you to keep in touch with people effortlessly. But the truth is, it’s really not the same as a catch up on the promenade or over coffee.

I guess that’s what’s been going on recently. And you? I love to hear from readers 🙂

They say that change is as good as a holiday, but sometimes you just need a holiday for a change.

Our trip to Knsyna along the Garden Route was full of sun, beaches (a little getting burnt), holding snakes, beautiful viewpoints, lots of braais, lots of driving, dirt roads, and just general fun times. Out of all the things on my little list of things I wanted to do while we were in the garden route, we managed 3/4. We never got to ride an elephant because they were booked until the 10th of Jan. Bleak 😦 I won’t apologise for the image heavy post, but I will forewarn you (consider this it).

I’m so glad that we did so many different things to our last trip. We were a little worried that we’d “compare”, because last year we had such a fabulous and special time. We started our trip with a relaxing Shabbat: an early night, rummikub, a little brocha on our balcony overlooking the lagoon, naps and reading. We were practically in a food coma: eating, reading, sleeping, repeat. It was wonderful, and really the right compulsory break before the exploring.

On a colder, not beach-friendly day we explored the shops in Plett and landed up in the bar of the Beacon Isle hotel. It was so relaxing, just sitting there and talking. For hours. It’s not so often that we have that many uninterupted hours to really connect and not have to think about dinner/laundry/plans/work etc.

At the hotel we were picking up some pamphlets and found one for a snake park in The Craggs (where you’ll also find Monkey Land and other fun places). Greg loves snakes, and wanted to be a herpetologist when he was little. It was pretty interesting. Did you know that when they say a snake is “poisonous” that actually means it can shut down your nervous system, or your circulatory system? Heavy days, right? But don’t worry, most snakes don’t want to get in your way and will most likely slither away at the sight of you. And guys, I even held a snake. Two actually. I promise it was only for photographic purposes.

We braaied every night (it’s not a luxury we have in our little flat), and after discovering beautiful spots that had braai places too, we even braaied during the day (promise we brought lots of kosher meat with us from CT). I found about a place called Jubilee Creek on the internet, a beautiful creek with braai spots and a little 3km walk. So we had to check it out. Warning: it’s far (totally worth it, but far). As in, one you turn off the highway you’re going to be driving along dirt roads for about 25 minutes more. We guides at the SANPark entrance (small fee, again, so worth it) told us of the walk up ahead. We went and did the short 3km walk. But it wasn’t the flat walk I read on the internet. No, no. Jubilee Creek itself with that walk was faaaar, faaar down the dirt road, which we’d only discovered after doing the steeper walk. It’s ok, we had fun and took some pictures.

When we did eventually get down to the creek, it was so beautiful, we decided to come again on New Years Day for a braai. Our New Years braai was so great and relaxing. If you visit Jubilee Creek (and I do suggest that you do, its in between Sedgefield and Knsyna), and if you plan on braaing, you should try get there early at around 10ish, because it got really full later on in the morning. There were so many families braaing and kids playing in the creek. It was really picturesque, and I just sat on a rock with my feet in the creek read while Greg did his manly thing and braaied. There was (more) rummikub, (more) meat, and (more) marshmallows. Just how I like it 🙂 It was this day, that we also discovered panoramic photos on our cameras. Best things. Really.

We visited the Wilderness to meet a friend that Greg had made through studying for unisa (they had never met), and it’s so great to get local advice and tidbits from a local. She advised us to take a walk along the railway track at the beach, all the way around the cliff to a house of shells. Apparently you can stay there for a small donation, and were later told we should have asked for a tour (but the guy seemed a bit creepy and I was happy enough with some pictures along the train tracks. It’s all always about the photos, right?). But if you go, do ask him for a tour, I’d love to hear more.

And of course, what is a summer holiday with a bit of beach time. Here are the ones we visited and what you need to know:

  • Buffels baai: The thing about Knysna is that it doesn’t have a beach, so no matter where you go it’s a bit of a drive. Buffels is in the direction of Sedgefield from Knysna. It’s a great clean, white sandy beach and very popular with surfers. We got there early (like, the same time as the life guards) and enjoyed the sun and cool water. I did get horribly burnt though that day (everywhere), so I’m pretty opposed to suntannning these days (it’s dumb.dumb.dumb)
  • Noetzie: I was so excited to visit Noetzie with its beautiful castles. I just didn’t realise the dirt road we’d have to take to get there. My poor little toyota tazz didn’t know what hit her; it felt like she was going to fall apart for a whole 15 minutes. Basically, if you go to Noetzie, take a 4×4.
  • Brenton on Sea: As we were heading to Buffels, the people we stayed at suggested we try Brenton on Sea, as it’s a whole lot closer. I wish we’d known about it before. It was quite a busy beach (we did go at around 5pm though) but the water is magically warm. It was a real treat. Not to mention that on the way we stopped at the most beautiful viewpoint. It’s hard not to give Knysna your heart.

Speaking of view points, you can’t go to Knysna and not visit the viewpoint at the heads (as you leave Knysna towards Plett). You take the turn off and just drive to the end, there’ll be signs along the way. The views were exquisite, and our cameras couldn’t quite capture the beauty in that light. But it was so lovely and I just wish you could see into my head.

My final highlight of the trip was our trip along the Keurbooms River. We hired a motor boat from the Plettenberg Bay Angling club and spent the day along the river boating, braaing and swimming. It was seriously fantastic and such an experience. Though be warned: Speed boats. They make huge ripples in the water. Huge ripples that might scare the living daylights out of you that maybe, just maybe, your boat may capsize. Screaming might ensue.

Panorama’s are really the best way to capture some of the beautiful views we saw. So I’ll leave you with these gorgeous panoramas from our trip (they display nicest in these circles, but if you click you’ll see the full size). I hope you go visit the Garden Route at some point in your life. It’s such a treasure on the coast. Could we be any luckier to live so nearby?

4 things I’m looking forward to doing on the Garden Route.

We’re finally going on holiday tomorrow, driving up to Knysna along the Garden Route for a week! I don’t know if I could be more excited. We have wine packed, copious amounts of meat for braaing, vegetables for Africa and 4 geared car to get us there 😛 It’s funny because for the greater part of the last 7 or so years I’ve spent along the Garden Route. Usually I would be running a camp in Mossel Bay, and a couple of times I’d been with my family on holiday in the Wilderness or driving the whole route down to PE.

I never understood people who went to the same place year after year, but if you’re like us, you’re going to find different things to do on each trip! Here are some of the things that I can’t wait to do!

1. Knysna Elephant Park

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I don’t know why, but I have the maddest urge to ride an elephant. On a school trip with Greg at the last school he worked, we got to walk with, touch and feel elephants (which I totally recommend if you’re not into riding one), but I’m just dying to ride on one. People just say I should go to Thailand, but I don’t see myself there in the near future, so why not just do it now?

For more info visit the Knysna Elephant Park website. Bookings are required.

2. Beaches

The truth is, Knysna doesn’t have it’s own beach so either way it’s a little bit of a drive but nothing tragic. It’s all part of the roadtrip experience, right? We loved Buffelsbaai last year, and can’t wait to check out Noetzie (pictured above. Can you even believe  those astles?!) as well as beaches further out like Plett and the Wilderness.

3. Picnic at the Jubilee Creek

We’re huge picnic fans. So the Jubilee Creek looks like the perfect spot. Forest, grass, a little creek to put your feet in. It looks lovely. And you can also braai there. I definitely want to try check this place out if we have time. For more info, check this link.

4. Boating along the Keurbooms River

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Well, if you don’t own a boat to take out to see when the feeling strikes, you may as well grasp the opportunity when you’re on holiday. I’ve done this before, but never just Greg and I, and I think it would be so much fun. Sea, boat, picnic, sun, and trying not to get stuck in the sandbanks.

These are some of the things I’m looking forward to doing, but I don’t want to plan the entire holiday. It’s a time for relaxing, not strategic planning. There are so many more places to visit and activities to do, perhaps I’ll do a round up in the near year. For now, all I want to do is lie on the beach far away from bustling Cape Town.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a fabulous New Year. Bring on 2014!

 

There’s nothing like having something to look forward to.

The one thing currently on my mind is our upcoming trip to Israel. I’m asking everyone I know for tips and ideas of things to do – you wouldn’t think I’d been to this country, many, many times. My parents are taking the very relaxed route about their schedule, but I’m in full planning mode. Good money has been paid to travel overseas, and I literally don’t want to waste a second!

The thing is, I’ve done most of the tourist things. In grade 10 I went on a 4 months programme, I spent my gap year in Israel on an organised programme and went on another 2-week tour in 2010. I’ve been to almost every place listed on tripadvisor and other such sites, places I don’t even know the names of – so I’ve taken to asking my local friends for ideas, as well as naturally trawling the internet.

The thing with planning an overseas trip – it’s so costly. When I look at all the tourist attractions and activities (museums, camel rides, bedouin tents, jeep rides etc) I can’t believe the cost of it – and I’ve done all these things! I guess it shows that the high cost of the programmes I’ve been on were well spent!

Naturally I have to go to the shuk/markets in both major cities – Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. They each have very different energies. On top of that, there is a arts/crafts market running alongside Shuk HaCarmel in Tel Aviv called Nachalat Binyamin – I stumbled on it by mistake once on my gap year, as it’s only open on Tuesdays & Fridays. I never landed up in the area again on those days, so I can’t wait to go back – especially actually with my own money! There’s a similar market now in Jerusalem once a week with work of the art students in the area, we checked it out the last time but I stupidly didn’t buy anything.

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Top: Shuk HaCarmel (Tel Aviv). Bottom: Machane Yehuda (Jerusalem)

I can't express my excitement for Nachalat Binyamin. Sticking to a budget is going to be difficult...

I can’t express my excitement for Nachalat Binyamin. Sticking to a budget is going to be difficult…

We’ll walk the streets of Jerusalem, looking into the shops in the different nooks and crannies. We’ll walk to, from, and all over the beautiful old city and chill out by the Western Wall. I’m going to buy tons of beautiful head scarves (and finally feel at home wearing one!), spices, sweets, pastries, perfume for ridiculous prices, jewellery and eat tons, and tons of kosher food. I have no idea what my waistline will have to say by the end of it!

The country really just has everything – beaches, the religious, the old, the modern and metropolitan, the artsy, the historical, among so much more. I guess those who haven’t been or don’t have much relation to the country thinks of it as war-ridden, and while there are those elements in certain areas, there’s really so much more.

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I’m still fine-tuning our schedule, as we also have tons of friends to see. Having met so many Israelis who come work in the Jewish Community in Cape Town, we’ve really made a large amount of friends that need to be seen! Lucky us I guess 🙂 I foresee plenty fun, laughs, shopping, friends and food in our near future!