Travel Taco Tuesday

Holy Guacamole! These last few weeks have flown by and it’s time for my monthly ‘Travel Tip Tuesday’ post. This month my focus is on food, more specifically, cheesy veggie goodness rolled into a soft (or for some, hard – I’m judging you btw) tortilla shell. I’m focusing on Tacos, lets tacobout it now!
Travel Tip Tuesday & Tacos
I just returned from Cancun, Mexico on a mission to sample all the best tacos that I could possibly fit into my stomach. For the full video, including my reactions to hot sauce and tequila (cause you have to in Mexico), check out my YouTube channel Mellie Telly for my latest video HERE!
Hello From Cancun
No time for a video? Then read on for my tips on finding, eating, and enjoying my favourite food. I mean, we had a wedding taco party, how much more dedicated can you get?!

The Taco Search

Finding tacos in Mexico is not difficult; the real 5-star challenge is finding a local business, not the restaurant chains geared towards sucking as much money as possible from tourists while providing practically tasteless food. I spent lots of time on Google searching “The best tacos in Cancun”, reading forums, searching “Local tacos” and looking up suggestions from expats and locals alike. To save you the time, here is my list of restaurants that I have personally tried or ambitiously wanted to make a stop at: Taco Factory, La Parrilla, Tacun, The Surfin Burritto, El Asador, El Poblano, Tacos Rigo, Los de Pescado, Taqueria Coapeñitos and Mextreme. Some are located in the Hotel Zone, and some downtown Cancun. Taco TimeIn the end, we could not possibly hit up every single place. In Mexico, portion sizes tend to be enormous and greasy and add in the intense summer heat, was way too much food. We ended up sticking to a few local places downtown (so local that not a single tourist was in sight, and no one understood English, PERFECT), with a few touristy spots for comparison. Can you guess which ones were best?
Build Your Own Taco at El Poblano
You’re right if you were thinking the handmade, under-priced, over-spiced deliciousness that the local shops offered up. Oddly enough, many places did not have vegetarian tacos on the menu, so after some hand gestures and awkward attempts at Spanish, they were willing to create something special. Often it would result in a ‘build your own’ taco, and gluten-free was not always possible. You win some, you lose some.

Eat It Hot

All meals are served with chips, dip and HOT sauce to start. I prefer that over bread and oil any day. The hotter the sauce, the better, provided I had a Corona or Sol (low gluten beer) to combat the burn. I suggest trying all the sauces on the table; you are in Mexico after all. The colour of the dip or salsa is not an indicator of spice, as in some restaurants the green one was the hell in the bottle and others the red one was the mouth scorcher. Not sampling all the flavours would be like flying to Amsterdam and not having a handful of cheese. No one does that.
Taco Factory Cancun
Most of the time the tacos were fresh off the grill, hot, spicy and ready to go. Have napkins nearby to soak up your sweat, a bottle of water and/or beer, and you are set to roast in the sun and eat tacos to your heart’s content. I always take a bite first to experience the original flavour the chef provided, and then add sauces and lime wedge squeezes if needed.

The Results Are In

More often than not, my stomach and taste buds were satisfied. There were some meat close calls (1 accidental consumption), too many intakes of gluten and some fun games of charades before ordering, but Cheese Louise, it’s worth it for tacos. Overall I was surprised by the lack of “street meat” taco stands that I had envisioned would fill the roads, perhaps we were not in the right city? Or it was tourist down season?  If you know, leave a message in the comments below.

To see which taco won my heart over in Cancun, be sure to watch my YouTube video on Mellie Telly!El PoblanoNo matter how tasty these Mexican meals were, I am still on the hunt for the PERFECT taco holy grail (and maybe one that won’t cause stomach pains hours later). So far the best have been the ones we’ve made, (with love) with our own hand-picked ingredients and extra flavours. Maybe it’s the control of portion sizes, adding specifically what I’m craving or the joys of building and plating my own. Now, let’s see if my saucy souvenirs will now only enhance what we already have, as my search continues.

Cheers,
Melissa

Road Trip Tips

Another month means another travel tip – this month let’s talk road trips. I find this very fitting as I have just journeyed to the States via car twice in the past month, accumulating over 5000 km! If you follow my socials then you’ll know that we spent the May long weekend in Allegheny National Forest (in Pennsylvania and New York), and have just returned from a beautiful drive to the Blue Ridge Mountains (spread between Virginia and North Carolina). So here are some tips that we learned along the way…
Travel Trip Tuesday
Bring a cooler
A cooler is a great way to save money by purchasing groceries and limiting the number of times you eat out at restaurants. We also find that pulling over for a scenic picnic is much quicker than stopping at a restaurant and ordering a meal. One caveat is that import laws forbid from bringing in our go-to nutritional snacks through the border. Instead, recommend to stock up on vegetable chips, chocolate, and cold refreshing drinks. Then once you make it past border control, stop for groceries and ice and voila you have meals for the next few days. Having a cooler allows to save on time and money and enables to be more efficient to see more attractions and purchase more fridge magnets!
GPS
Buy a GPS
Everyone has a phone with Google maps, though a good quality GPS unit is a godsend for traveling. I’ll admit, at times we used our phones to find the address of the location to type it into the GPS, as the GUI is not as clean as Google Maps and it had difficulty finding desired locations. A GPS screen is much larger than most cell phones (our GPS has a 7” screen), does not have distracting pop-ups of incoming messages, does not burn through your data (which is important to note when traveling abroad) and does not lose signal as frequently as cell phones in the mountains. Our GPS allows changing the notification defaults, such as when you are speeding. Example, it is possible to set the limit to only provide an audible alert when you are 9% over the speed limit. This is helpful if you have a lead foot or if you are traveling in an area where the speed limit is better reported as the speed minimum and you do not want the GPS reminding you every 30 seconds that you are speeding. After using the GPS for the last two trips, I do not know how we traveled without it before. I like knowing what percent of the trip we are at, estimated arrival time, the speed limit on the road and our real-time speed – this helps me with being the Nav-o to make recommendations to speed up or slow down to avoid those marked speed trap cameras.

Play Music
You can only play ‘guess the license plates’ for sooo long (turns out I don’t even know the game I am playing, it’s counting not guessing). After a while, you will need some tunes as caffeine for the mood. So have a pre-set playlist, such as THIS ONE from Spotify. You can rely on the radio (so many rental cars have nowhere to insert a CD anymore), but you may end up with less than ideal stations. Our options were country, religious, or static. At times there was only one station and it seemed like the DJ was juggling plastic bags as he was playing music.
Navigator or Photographer?
Know your Role
Before heading out into the sunset, make sure everyone in the car has been assigned a role and knows what it is. That way there is no confusion with navigation, arguments over who is DJ, snacks captain, or knowing who is going to keep the driver entertained while the rest of the car is napping. The whole part of a road trip is enjoying the journey, so do so without conflicting ideas or expectations of what is to come.
Washroom Break & Photo Op
Pit Breaks Rules
We have an unwritten rule (well until now I guess), that we fill up the gas when the tank is ¼ full (or empty, depends on which way you look at the glass). I digress, the reason we do this is incase we end up going off the beaten path unexpectedly, or go longer than anticipated. It has come in hand a few times when we had no cell service and the GPS was no help in finding the next available gas station. Since we are on the topic of stops, always use the washroom when you can. You never know when the next stop will be. Don’t have to go? I don’t care, force it! Multiple bathroom breaks are annoying and frustrating. It takes so much longer to reach your destination, and you have to re-pass all the traffic you just passed. In our car, if one person goes, we all go, and it reduces the number of breaks.

Emergencies
I know, I know, I constantly preach about packing light. But don’t skimp on the necessary precautions that could save you in unpleasant situations. If you are road tripping always be sure to have a first aid kit, flashlights, a warm jacket, a snack, some cash, a car charger for electronics and lots of water. Not to sound like a negative Nancy, but you really never know.

Do you have any road trips in your near future? Agree with my tips or have your own to contribute? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

Do you want to watch some of our road trips? Check out these new videos on my YouTube channel, Mellie Telly:

Cheers,
Melissa

Sweet Dreams

Travel tip Tuesday - Getting Good Sleep
Happy Travel Tip Tuesday! This month’s tip is nothing to lose sleep over. I want to help you feel well rested after your free walking tour in your city of choice. I know it can be quite difficult to catch some Z’s when you are traveling in an unfamiliar setting, flying in and out of different time zones, getting stuck with pancake pillows (the worst), a lumpy mattress, or itchy sheets. Add in some AirBnB roomies and a new environment filled with creepy sounds, and you have a recipe for disaster for your sleeping schedule. So here are some tips to try on your next trip!

Get Active
First, I try to stay active all day long (8am-10pm), which is not very hard to do in a new place. If you spend all day exploring, going on adventures, hiking, climbing to the tops of cathedrals or walking around endlessly in museums, you will naturally be pooped at the end of the day. Trust me. If you are more of a vacation lounger, this may be a bit more difficult unless you are soaking up a lot of the suns rays all day – that alone can make you a bit sleepy. However, try not to nap while resting on that beach, as tempting as it is, as that can affect your sheep counting ability in the PM.
Pink PJs
Cut the Caffeine
I need a coffee IV to function in the morning, ask my husband. It is NOT a pretty sight until I’ve had my caffeine fill. But when traveling I cut myself off by mid-afternoon, as caffeine can stay in your blood for 6 to 8 hours! This is to ensure I’m not all hyped up on my second wind when I should be dreaming of my early morning excursion. (Find out why getting up early is essential when traveling HERE).
Morning Java
Just Ask
Whether you are in a hotel, motel, AirBnB, bed and breakfast, whatever, don’t be afraid to just ask for what you need! Prefer having 3 pillows? More blankets? A fan on (whether for just the white noise or the gentle breeze), ask the host/concierge. It doesn’t hurt to inquire about what will help you reach your sleep goals. Worst case – it’s a no. I find I sleep best when there is a window cracked open, as often it’s hard to get comfortable when the room is too hot and stuffy. If you know you may need certain items in your room beforehand, make a special request so you don’t have to ask after check-in when you just want to hit the hay and put your head down.
Good Night
Other Options
When in doubt, put your phone down and your screen away, pick up a book, relax, have a glass of warm milk (not wine – that can affect your hormones and disrupt your sleep) and pop some melatonin. This is a non-prescription drug that aids in rising your melatonin hormone levels and gives you a little nudge towards sweet dreams. However before taking any drugs or sleep aids, I highly suggest consulting with a physician or doing your own extensive research, I’m not a doctor, clearly!

Do you have issues sleeping when you travel? What do you do to aid it? Any questions for my next monthly travel tip? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

5 Things You Didn’t Know about Frankfurt!

Frankfurt, Germany
Before we left Europe to return back to life in the Six, we enjoyed one last weekend of traveling. We made a final stop in the financial capital of Germany, and arguably Europe, Frankfurt. This charismatic city is the 5th largest in Germany, and a global hub for tourism, education, and transportation. Frankfurt was so surprising, that I want to share with you all the interesting finds we made on our trip!
Frankfurt At Night
1) It is tall! Like really tall – 14 out of the 15 tallest skyscrapers in Germany reside in Frankfurt. After being surrounded by so many flat buildings in Amsterdam, it was a nice treat to visit a city filled with high rise beauties, similar to what we are used to in Toronto. Though Commerzbank Tower is the tallest at 259 m, Main Tower (200 m) was my fave because of the 360 panoramic views! Highly recommended. Since Frankfurt is often referred to as Main-Hattan because of its rockin’ skyline resemblance, there are 7 Spiderman hidden all over the city. An artist set them up randomly to ensure that Frankfurt gets its fair share of comic book characters as well. We could only find two. How many have you found?
Spiderman
2) Red lights are not just in Amsterdam. That’s right, you can stroll the red light district in Frankfurt as well. Reminder to tourists, no photos are allowed to protect the privacy of the workers. Don’t stray too far at night, it’s pretty close to the train station where the safety levels are in line with Chicago at night (it was really sketch – times 10). They are making efforts to clean up the drugs and crime, though it is recommended to just stay clear of the area.
Red Light District
3) Fake it until you make it. The famous Instagram spot, Römerberg, is picture perfect with its old row houses (now converted into shops and restaurants). Going to burst your bubble here, these are not actually authentic; they were reconstructed after being destroyed in WW2, to bring in more tourists. You can find this charming area in Altstadt (old town).
Römerberg
4) When life gives you apples, make apple wine! In Frankfurt, you can find lots of German beer and unlimited sausage, but don’t forget to sample some authentic apple wine (apfelwein)! Yup, that’s a thing. I wasn’t a big fan of it; it tastes just like cold apple cider vinegar to be honest.
Apple Wine
5) When we travel around Europe there are usually numerous amounts of tourists on the weekends. Frankfurt was not the usual. Most people drive into work during the week; therefore on weekends, the streets are pretty empty. Comparable to the financial district in Toronto. I’m not complaining. It was a nice change to stroll and window shop without feeling overcrowded! On the other hand, that meant lots of buildings were closed.
Flea Market Finds!
Apart from all these cool facts, there are more than enough activities in Frankfurt to keep you occupied for a weekend. They have ample museums (most closed on Monday’s, so watch out), free churches, The Eschenheim Tower (the oldest and most unaltered building in the city center, from the 15th century, and you can go to the top for free!), archaeological finds, shopping malls and an awesome flea market on Saturdays along the Main river!

Have you been to Frankfurt? What did you think? Let me know of your German travels in the comments below! Auf Wiedersehen!

Cheers,
Melissa

New Years with the Danish

This year we celebrated NYE in Denmark! We have witnessed the fireworks in Amsterdam and were told these are some of the best fireworks in Europe, but the fireworks in Copenhagen are INSANE. I cannot even fathom how I am going to begin to depict the craziness of the fireworks in Denmark. So here it is…
Fireworks in the Square
Fireworks are being lit all day and all night long. I’m not even referring to the scheduled professional ones, these are your amateur neighbors store-bought fireworks. The most popular professional fireworks are launched at 11 pm inside Tivoli park (more on this famous amusement park later on). Then the party continues just outside the gate in the City Hall Square.
Tivoli Fireworks
Picture this, a couple thousand people of all ages, forming a circle and literally tossing any fireworks they have into the circle of people observing. It starts out as all fun and games, but it gets loud, crazy and chaotic. I literally witnessed people getting hit with fireworks, or panicking and knocking themselves out while trying to escape the upcoming sparks – one gentleman tried to run away from a misfiring firework, tripped and hit his head on the pavement and literally knocked himself out, this was our cue to turn in for the night.
Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens is where we launched our celebrations. It is the second oldest amusement park in the world and was visited often by Walt Disney for inspiration. It opened in 1843 and is still functioning today. But it is expensive. To gain an entrance that does not include any rides you may have to give them your first born. Yes, it is beautiful, like a winter wonderland, light show and fake snow included. But unless you plan on standing in line and enjoying every ride, it may not actually be worth it. Even the food inside will cost an arm or leg!
Tivoli Gardens
Bringing me to my next point. It was increasingly difficult to find authentic Danish food in Denmark! They have a variety of choices from Chinese, to American, Dutch, Italian, etc, but Danish was not always on the menu. Now, this may be because we were here over the holidays and many restaurants were closed or Google Maps is not updated. Even with the conversion to their currency, the DKK, much like Zurich, Copenhagen is very expensive. My favorite stop to eat was at A Hereford Beefstouw, they had an incredible vegetarian steak! That’s a first! A runner up is Tivoli food hall as it has a variety of eats for all the foodies out there (you do not need to purchase a ticket for the park to enter this hall FYI).

Even in the high wind chill, and on the day of hangovers, they still run the free walking tour in Copenhagen. It was very informative and ran by a very enthusiastic guide whose fascination with the city was contagious. Having a guide is helpful maneuvering through the windy streets as Copenhagen is actually very large and spread out.
Changing Of The Guard
If you are there for a short trip, here are 5 places that you must include in your itinerary:

1) Christiansborg Palace is large, beautiful and a popular tourist attraction (as this is where you will find the Supreme Court, Ministry of State and the Royal Stables). We were lucky enough to watch them rehearse the equestrian show for the Queen’s party that night!
Copenhagen, Denmark
2) The Round Tower is super unique, I’ve never been in something quite like this. To reach the viewing platform at the top you don’t actually climb stairs, but instead, ascend up a flat (ish) winding ramp. There are little stops on the way with little surprises to add to the excitement.
The Round Tower
3) You cannot visit this city without a stroll down Nyhavn, better known as the canal with a row of colorful houses and old sailboats. This 17th-century waterfront and entertainment district is very photogenic, but unfortunately not authentic (thanks walking tour!). Sorry to burst your bubble, but the boats that are docked there are paid to be there to draw in tourists. Though the houses were constructed from 1670-1673, and once housed Hans Christian Anderson (in 1845-1864), they have been reconstructed and painted to draw you in. But who cares, the street is super pretty and photogenic, giving you a feel of what it may have been back in the day.
Nyhavn
4) The Little Mermaid statue is bronze and placed on a small rock by the waterside. Much like the Mona Lisa in Paris, it is a tiny attraction that creates quite a crowd. This statue is based on the fairy-tale by the same name and was unveiled in 1913. It often gets decapitated or vandalized on a yearly bases. You can go right up to it on the rocks or from a safe distance via a boat tour.
The Little Mermaid Statue
5) The Danish War Museum was surprisingly one of my favourite stops on this trip. It was a lot bigger than anticipated and had the most cannons I have ever seen at once. The focus is mainly on past wars just affecting Copenhagen; did you know they had the biggest Navy at one time? I definitely recommend this museum, it was very informative with lots to look at. It is also housed in an old military fort!
Danish War Museum
Overall this city had its charm, but I think would have been more enjoyable if most attractions were not closed for the holidays. If you plan on starting your New Year here you will experience the craziest fireworks ever, but there is a limited amount of attractions to occupy yourself in between.

Still not finished your coffee and want more to read? Check out my latest articles for other publications! Exiting Expat Life for Verge Magazine is all about my mixed feelings of moving back to Canada from The Netherlands. If you are an adrenaline junkie keep South Africa on your radar, with 8 activities you can do there! Check out my Geargreed article HERE!
Melissa in Amsterdam
Cheers,
Melissa

 

Holiday Travel

Thanks so much for all your comments, questions, and support this past year! Due to popular demand, I will continue my monthly ‘Travel Tip Tuesday’ posts! Since the holidays are wrapping up (see what I did there?), this month’s tip is dedicated to traveling over the Christmas season.
Travel Trip Tuesday
On previous Christmas vacations, my husband and I have traveled to the Caribbean, and for the most part, it was seamless. The trips were on the pricey side since our dates were not flexible, though this was offset by the near limitless alcohol, constant parties and the weather was heavenly. This is the only way to really enjoy the holidays when traveling, in my opinion.
A Sunny Christmas Vacation
This year we tried something a tad different. We celebrated Christmas in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and dashed off to Copenhagen, Denmark, to catch the New Year’s fireworks. Though both trips were fun filled in their own way (and stay tuned as I will be posting more details on each trip very soon), they were difficult this time of year. Having known what we know now, we would have done it differently.
Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Due to Palma being in their offseason, coupled with the last remaining businesses being closed for the Christmas holidays, many of the attractions and restaurants were closed for Christmas and New Years. We found that museums closed early (if they were even open at all), open restaurants were far and few between (and adding in our GF/ Vegetarian needs was a blast), some excursions were not running, and often it was a ghost town between mid-afternoon and late at night. In warmer countries like Spain this is not a huge issue, however, Copenhagen is collllllld. So walking around aimlessly can be tiring. Why not stop and have a drink you ask? Well, Denmark is expensive (like Zurich, Switzerland expensive) and who wants to spend their whole trip held up in a bar? Then add the cold chill and it’s probably not even healthy to spend the entire day walking around in the winter wind.
Copenhagen, Denmark
Don’t get me wrong, both countries had a lot to offer and were beautifully decorated for this time of year; just be prepared to do extensive research before packing your bags and booking your flights. Instead just go on a guided tour or an inclusive resort to ease the stress of planning and just enjoy relaxing away from the holiday stress! Better yet, get out of the city, rent a car and drive around for a few days; this is when we typically have our most fun.

Want to see more from our trip to Mallorca, Spain? Check out my YouTube video on Mellie Telly HERE. If you enjoy it please be sure to like it and subscribe!
Palma Decorations
Do you travel for the holidays or do you prefer to stay in town with the fam jam? Any stories of traveling during the Christmas season? Do you have questions for me to cover on my next ‘Travel Tip Tuesday’? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

Become a Photographer

Well, folks, this is my last monthly travel tip of the year! I can’t believe how fast 2018 has gone by! If you want me to continue my Travel Tip Tuesday monthly blog posts, please let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!
Travel Tip Tuesday
This year has been very busy for travel; by the end of the month, we will have covered 12 countries in 12 months. Since returning to Canada last Christmas, we have been to Switzerland, Hungary, Austria, Ireland, Belgium, Greece, France, The Czech Republic, Germany, South Africa, back to Canada and France, and soon flying to Spain and Denmark. It has been an epic year, and I feel so incredibly lucky for all the adventures! I know one day the years will go by faster and faster and may eventually blur together, so my take away for this month’s tip is to take lots (and lots) of photos when you travel!
Take Photos!
Each trip is unique and if you travel like us, it may be your only time visiting that city or country for several years. The places you eat, visit, and people you meet, will likely only happen once in a lifetime. So don’t be shy about taking photos (or videos). Photos will help you remember when you are older, can be shared with family members who are not able to travel, will be a learning tool for younger generations, and are really the ultimate souvenir!
Souvenirs
Souvenirs can start to clutter your home, break in transit, or take up space in your bag. Don’t get me wrong, we collect plates, magnets, etc when we travel, but photos are priceless. They literally cost you nothing!
Tourists
It’s OK to look and act like a tourist, it is your trip after all, so take your photos! Obviously be smart about where you store your phone and how you carry your camera though, especially in busy public spaces prone to pickpocketers. We like to use a general rule that our photo taking opportunities should not impact surrounding people. For instance, taking photos should not block other people’s views, hold up lines, disrupt traffic flows or draw too much attention. Most importantly, once you capture that picture perfect moment, put your camera away and simply enjoy being in the moment and take in your surroundings. What does it look like? Taste like? Smell like? What is something unique about what you are seeing or experiencing? Make sure you actually enjoy it with your own eyes and not just through a lens. Don’t just walk from one landmark to the next to get a single photo just to prove they have been there because honestly, nobody cares where you have been. Travel for you and your personal experiences. Pictures are great, living in the moment and truly enjoying the experience is best; when you relive the moment through your photos in years to come, the memory will mean more because it will be a strong emotional experience.

My last note: To cut down the time spent to capture “the shot”, take some photo lessons or watch some tutorials online. Minimizing time spent behind the lens allows for more unobstructed experiences.

Do you like to take lots of photos when you travel? Do you have any travel questions for next year’s Travel Tip Tuesday posts? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

South Africa Part 2

South Africa
If you haven’t read part 1, I suggest doing so first! South Africa is way too amazing to cover in just one post so I have split my top 10 favourite stops into two posts. So let us dig right in with what to know for your Safari game drive!
Elephants in South Africa
6) Park It: We did two game drives through Addo Elephant National Park. This park is the 3rd largest in all of South Africa and was created in 1931 to provide sanctuary for the remaining elephants in the area.  The cool thing is that all the animals and vegetation in the park are originally from that area. The park rangers prevent the influx of animals (such as giraffe and cheetahs) and any vegetation that does not actually originate from that area. They have over 700 elephants, along with buffalos, rhinos, zebras, antelope, hyenas, monkeys, ostrich, lions (rare to see as they only have 14 in the entire park) and the largest population of the flightless dung beetle! Our first drive was insanely early in the morning (up for 3:30 am), and it was chilly! Be prepared with layers, it is cold. We thought ahead and brought fleece, gloves and hats. We were there in September, which is their spring, so most days have a bit of a crisp breeze, with a nice warm afternoon in the sun. I found that the animals were more active on our second drive in the afternoon, as the watering hole was the meetup spot for almost 50 elephants!
J Bay
7) Surfer Dude: If you are a surfer, or think now is the time to learn, ride the waves in Jeffrey’s Bay! Jeffrey’s Bay is in the top 5 most famous surfing destinations in the world and hosts the annual World Surf League. This town was pretty quiet during our visit, as summer has not started yet, but I can see the potential during the peak surfing season for sure. It did have some cute souvenir shops, an awesome beach with a quickly rising tide, and beautiful accommodations at Mandyville Hotel, who were super accommodating to us with gluten allergies (which is quite rare).
Cape Town
8) Cape Town: A must see on this side of the Western Cape is Table Mountain. You can get to the top via a cable car (book your tickets ahead online and be prepared for a long line up), or by a 2-hour hike. We opted for the cable car as we had limited time to explore and wanted to spend most of our time viewing from the top, turns out, either option takes the same amount of time during peak times. Once there, you will have incredible views of Cape Town and it’s Harbour on one side, and the never-ending ocean on the other. The landscape is rocky with some bushes and adorable Dassie’s running around (A gopher like animal, actually related to the elephant family surprisingly). We were lucky enough to experience this at sunset and had a view that would give Santorini a run for its money. However, if you stay that late you will have to wait for HOURS to take the cable car down, and be prepared for lots (and lots) of butting on epic proportions. In Cape Town, I would also suggest my usual, a free walking tour. That way you can explore the city on foot safely with a guide, and learn about the history and politics of the country. We did feel rather unsafe in Cape Town, we were harassed for about 6 blocks by an aggressive homeless man and nobody stopped to help us out. We ended up going into a store and waited for the person to leave. It really ruined the vibe of the city for us.
South Africa
9) Townships: I don’t recommend heading to a Township on your own. These government made neighbourhoods have high poverty and practically no employment. They are so bad that even our Uber driver would not venture to one. If you do, go with a guide in at least a small group and ONLY during daylight hours. I’m not even exaggerating this. We made a quick stop at Kayamandi Township and met with a wonderful local who made homemade Xhosa treats such as amagwinya (deep-fried dough bread, not so great for your stomach If you are GF) and chakalaka (a vegetable spicy relish, great for vegetarians). She also explained the traditional wardrobe that women would wear to a wedding (how fitting since we were on our honeymoon) and filled our stomachs and hearts. Within the first 30 seconds of exiting her house, we had someone threaten us for our cameras, so we quickly got into the van and left.
Baboons
10) Baboons: If you are driving along Cape Point, you are bound to see these creatures at some point (usually near mountains) We stopped to take photos of the baboons on the side of the road. However, I warn you not to get too close. As adorable as these old world monkeys are, they are not pets. They can be very aggressive (especially if you have food) and are incredibly smart (they can zip open your purse, inspect your lipstick and open car doors). So make sure to leave space between you and them if you decide to get out of your car! Also, watch out for traffic, but that’s a given.
Elephant Hugs
The great thing about driving in South Africa is that every 100 Km, the scenery drastically changes. The ecosystem is so diverse that one moment you are gazing up at snow-topped mountains, and the next fields of the canola flower. Instead of cows you will see Springbok (an antelope, apparently they taste delicious), and will constantly want to stop for photos, guaranteed! I had no idea that South Africa would be so rich in landscape, really I envisioned walking into The Lion King, but it is so much more than that. It is a beautiful country with an immensely long list of things to do and see, filled with welcoming people, magnificent wildlife and delectable food. If you have the opportunity, book your tickets and go see for yourself!
KVDV PHOTOGRAPHYPhotos courtesy of KVDV Photography!

Check out my YouTube video on Mellie Telly, for the Top 15 Things To Do in South Africa HERE. Planning a trip to SA and want to save money? Use promo code: MELLIETELLY during checkout at Hotspots2c Tours (the company that we used, love and trust) and get 5% OFF YOUR NEXT TOUR! Or book through this LINK.

Cheers,
Melissa

South Africa: My Top 10 Favourite Stops

Sunset in South Africa
South Africa is a beautiful country, with so much to see and do. We spent over a week there for our honeymoon, and covered a lot of the southern coast, driving more than 5,000 KM along the Garden Route with Hot Spots 2 C Tours. I highly recommend this company (and by the way, this is not an ad, I am not being endorsed for saying this), they were safe, accommodating, fun and both of our tour guides were a dream! They took care of everything from hotels, to excursions, nightly restaurants and pit stops along the way. Since this was an epic trip to cover, I’m going to share with you my top 10 favourite stops in South Africa in 2 parts!
Cape Agulhas
1) Cape Agulhas: This charming stop has something quite magical about it with the picturesque lighthouse and the romantic boardwalk pathway. The path is best done at sunset. My favourite part was the most southern tip of Africa, this is where the Indian and the Atlantic Ocean meet (there’s a sign so you know when you arrive). Some say you can see a distinct line where this happens, I think that’s a tourist grab to incline people to check it out for themselves – we did not see this so-called line. Perhaps the locals will blame it on the rough water that day. Either way, it’s gorgeous with super cool geological features to check out!
Stellenbosch
2) Stellenbosch: One of my personal highlights of the entire trip. This quaint town reminded me of Canada’s Niagara on the Lake wine region. It is old and cute, and famous for their wine, which you know I love. If you are staying there, be sure to stop at Wijnhuis Wine Bar & Restaurant for a great wine sample platter with your dinner. The food was a bit overpriced (tourist pricing), however, the wine was not! If you are looking to visit a winery check, out Simonsig to sample MCC (Methode Cap Classique is the South African version of Champagne), though they did not offer any tour (via Hot Spots 2 C), so keep that in mind. Our favourites from the tasting were the Kaapse Vonkel Demi Sec 2015 and the Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2005, yum! In Stellenbosch, we stayed in an old Victorian house turned into a bed and breakfast. It was decorated with antiques, with each room having its own unique theme; ours even came with silver plated snuffer candle holders to light your room! I highly recommend staying at this gorgeous place with a secret garden in the back. Check out Caledon Villa Guest House HERE. A little Bonus tip for you, not too far away, there is another great town called Franschhoek, South Africa’s epicurean capital. In this 17th century town, travel to more wineries, or walk around sightseeing down the main boutique-lined street.
Penguin
3) Marine Life: South African is known for its wildlife both on the ground and in the sea. In Hermanus Bay, you can sit on a patio, or on the edge of a cliff, and watch whales surface in the bay all day long. In fact, Hermanus is known as one of the best whale watching locations in the world during whale season from June to November. We were there for an hour and saw over a dozen whales. It was incredible. Not far from there is Betty’s Bay that hosts a thriving African Penguin colony. This is now one of the only remaining breeding grounds of the African penguin. Walkthrough and prepare to say “Awww” at least a dozen times, maybe more! If you want a bit more danger, then head to the fishing town of Gansbaai for some shark cage diving! Stay tuned as I will be dedicating a whole blog post to this, as it was a once in a lifetime experience. It’s exciting, exhilarating, a bit cold, and prepare for seasickness, but worth every penny! If you want to watch a short video of our shark cage diving experience (the shark sticks its head IN THE CAGE!), check it out HERE!
Bungy Jump South Africa
4) Adrenaline: If you are more on the active side and desire adventure, then you have some great options! You can bungee jump from the world’s highest bridge bungee in Tsitsikamma Forest, or there you can also hike and hop along the suspension bridges overlooking the ocean (there is a great restaurant with a view nearby). Still craving the adventure there? Then zip line across a waterfall and river gorge! I tried this and although I was a bit nervous, okay a lot nervous, it turned out to be an absolute blast!
Oudtshoorn Ostrich Farm
5) Oudtshoorn: Hands down a winner in my books. This stop was unforgettable! Just outside of town is an Ostrich pet farm, allowing you to feed and hug these odd looking creatures. I could stay there all day if our schedule allowed it. These worlds’ largest birds are flightless and adorable, though quite dense. Ostrich rides are no longer offered as it can be incredibly dangerous (to the rider, not the bird) and short-lived. Be sure to pick up an Ostrich egg as a souvenir! You can find them engraved and painted, or etched and turned into a candle holder. For a short video on our highlights at the Ostrich farm check out this video HERE. If you are in Oudtshoorn, the Cango Caves are simply a must do! They offer different tours through the caves for various levels of athleticism; we opted for the adventure tour. It was a bit tough carrying cameras (DSLR, 360 camera, cell phones), so I suggest to leave them behind if you can. On this tour, you are crawling, twisting, sliding and climbing your way through small passageways. It is very tight and slippery on the path, so make sure you are actually up for it. No bathrooms once you get started, so be sure to go first as you will be gone for a while a couple of hours. If you are not a cave or bird fan don’t worry, you can hug, feed and walk with elephants at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge nearby instead!
Honeymoon Selfie
I’m going to end here for now, but stay tuned for my next post with the remaining 5 stops to make in South Africa. I’ll cover the townships, an honest review of Cape Town, what to keep in mind for your Safari game drive and more!

Photos courtesy of KVDV Photography!

Check out my YouTube video on Mellie Telly, for the Top 15 Things To Do in South Africa HERE. Planning a trip to SA and want to save money? Use promo code: MELLIETELLY during checkout at Hotspots2c Tours (the company that we used, love and trust) and get 5% OFF YOUR NEXT TOUR! Or book through this LINK.

Cheers,
Melissa

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑