photos: A view of Mexico City, Salad at Pojol, A view of Paxia's dining room, and Frida  Kahlo.
photos L to R: Chef Enrique Olvera, dish at Azul, Azul restaurant, Mexican dish. Paxia and chef Daniel Ovadía. bottom: Chapultepec Park, University Museum of Contemporary Art, Plaza de la República, Catedral Metropolitana, W Mexico City Hotel, Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo.

by David Cohen


There’s nothing like dining at  the best restaurants in the world and seeing some of the most important pieces of art ever created. A visit to Mexico City will reveal some of these treasures, and will give any traveler the opportunity to indulge in epicureium culinary delights.

As one of the world’s most well-rounded destinations for both leisure and business travelers, Mexico City has it all. The capital city of Mexico offers amazing history, cultivating culture, award-winning cuisine, and some of the best facilities and amenities in accommodations, including luxurious spa services. Mexico City boasts more than 3,500 restaurants featuring both traditional Mexican fare as well as a variety of international cuisines, edgy art exhibits, notable museums, colorful bazaars, and fun-filled entertainment, all giving even the most seasoned traveler inspiration.

Visited by 12 million people who spend about 700 million dollars each year cause for city officials to ensure that Mexico City is the safest place to visit in all of Mexico. Police in the city maintain a peaceful atmosphere to ensure the safety of tourists.  It is no wonder that both The Mexican Tourism Board and Aeromexico airlines partnered to deliver a convincing message about the wide range of opportunities available in this large and dynamic city.  

Diego Rivera  is one of the most important and prominent Mexican artists of all time. His large wall murals (A) in fresco––a technique of mural painting––helped establish the Mexican Mural Movement (the promotion of mural painting starting in the 1920s, generally with social and political messages) in Mexican art. Rivera painted numerous murals including those in Chapingo, Cuernavaca, San Francisco, Detroit, and New York City. However, Diego Rivera's most famous murals and most unusual projects are found in Mexico City.

Between 1950 and 1952, Rivera  created the Tlaloc Fountain, a large and intricate mosaic of Tlaloc, the Aztec rain god. Located in Chapultepec Park, this monument was created during the overhaul of Mexico City's municipal water system. The fountain was built with the intention to merge practical functionality with cultural expression via a single work of art. For more than a decade, the fountain and some of Rivera’s murals have fallen into despair. However, following a long restoration process which kept Rivera’s creative style intact, the park re-opened to the public about a year ago.  

The mosaic stone fountain contains a shallow pool measuring approx. 100 feet long by 100 hundred feet wide. Originally, the fountain served as the ceremonial entry point for water from the Lerma River into the city's main reservoirs. Although the main flow of water has now been diverted into a pipe, Rivera's sculpture of the Aztec rain god Tlaloc is still in the pool.  

The Carcamo House is a giant tank inside a rotunda that is part of the same complex. This was one of Rivera’s most important works entitled Water: Origin of Life. Rivera painted the entire cement tank, including the floor, in elaborate colorful scenes. Until the 1990s, municipal water flowed into the tank, and from here, technicians were able to control the levels in several large reservoirs. The bright and elaborate mural covers the entire cistern and is an allegory of water as the indispensable giver of life, and without it the human existence is impossible. 

Another must see is the large Plaza de la República and its mammoth Art Deco monument commemorating the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910. It was intended to be the chamber of Mexican president Porfirio Díaz, but the Mexican Revolution put an end to Diaz’s plans and his dictatorship. In the 1930s, after the revolutionary turmoil had died down, the dome was finished as a monument and was dedicated to the Mexican Revolution.

The Museo Nacional de la Revolución was built under the monument. The museum describes the tumultuous years from 1867 to 1917 in exhibits of documents, newspaper stories, photographs, drawings, clothing, costumes, uniforms, weapons, and furnishings.  The museum has plans to open a rotating exhibit space in the monument in the future.

The Plaza de la Constitución, also known as the Zócalo, is the center of Mexico City in every respect. It features three not-to-be-missed landmark sights, which together constitute one of the largest and most important public plazas in the world. Museo del Templo Mayor is the remains of the 14th- and 15th-century Aztec empire’s capital called Tenochtitlán. There are over 8,000 objects found here, with the most famous being the basalt Coyolxauhqui Disk representing the goddess of the Moon in a very human way, and the majestic Eagle Warriors.  The Catedral Metropolitana, is the oldest and largest cathedral in all of Latin America. The cathedral was begun in 1567 and finished in 1788 and is a blend of baroque, neoclassic and Mexican churrigueresque architecture. Finally, Diego Rivera's murals at the Palacio Nacional (the federal government building) are not to be missed.

Mexico City's University Museum of Contemporary Art (MUAC), is well worth a visit.  Opened to the public in November 2008, MUAC is located in the middle of the University of Mexico’s campus.  This unique and minimalistic glass building offers a unique experience to all visitors.  Designed by Mexican architect Teodoro González de León, who was influenced by both the New York Metropolitan Museum, with an immense, sloping window out front, and London’s Tate Modern with its minimalist presentation style. This style of architecture sets a new paradigm for artistic creation and construction by providing a framework for discussion and experimentation. The museum’s mission is the displaying, preservation and study of current art (from 1952 on), and its main goal is to make art available to all students and people in general. MUAC promotes interdisciplinary works with dynamic, cutting-edge exhibits composed of both national and international artists. MUAC has built a first-class space for the enjoyment of a wide variety of art forms.

As one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Mexico City, San Ángel has retained its colonial architecture and charm, reminiscent of its esteemed culture and history. Narrow cobble stone streets, tree-lined plazas, and sprawling haciendas still make up the center of San Ángel. This wonderful neighborhood is well  known for being the summer residence to many of Mexico’s aristocracy in the late 1800 and early 1900’s, including Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo’s residence which is now a museum. Today, the haciendas of San Ángel play host to the Saturday Art Show and Bazaar with many craft vendors, restaurants and coffee shops. 

Mexico City stands out for its varied cuisine and fine restaurants that offer something for everyone. The numerous restaurants offer a range of prices to fit any budget, thus offering no reason not to enjoy the many international cuisines and flavors. 

Named as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world by Restaurant Magazine, Pujol offers gourmet traditional Mexican cuisine with a modern twist. Executive Chef and owner Enrique Olvera offers his personal touch to deliver scrumptious Mexican delights from fresh ingredients that are always purchased at the local market. The traditional dishes are turned into contemporary delights by providing unique flavors and beautiful presentation, making dinning at Pujol a memorable experience. www.pujol.com.mx.

Azul Histórico should be on any foodie’s ‘must try’ list. Centro Historico district in downtown Mexico City, renowned chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita’s food is any food enthusiast’s dream come true. In line with the delicious food, Azul Histórico also delivers excellent service and a relaxing atmosphere on their colonial patio for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Be sure to try the classic huevos motuleños­­––two fried eggs on tortillas with black beans, ham, and peas, all bathed in Mexican mole sauce. Another must-try dish is the chilaquiles rojos con arrachera––a fried tortilla tenderly cooked with delicious grilled slices of steak. Don’t hesitate to recommend this high-level Mexican dining option to any traveler. It is a great stop for a relaxing lunch. www.azulhistorico.com.

Located in Polanco, one of the most chic and trendy neighborhood in Mexico City, Solea, is the signature restaurant of the W Mexico City Hotel. Under the direction of executive chef Mauricio León, Solea offers an innovative steak & seafood menu that will satisfy every hungry soul. Each dish is prepared with a contemporary design and served on modern textured surfaces such as compact discs, marble, or glass to emphasizing a clever interpretation of traditional Mexican flavors and dishes.

Set in the traditional colonial neighborhood of San Ángel, Paxia is a multi-award winning restaurant and my favorite place to dine in Mexico City. Meaning peace in Nahuatl,  the language of the Aztecs that is still spoken by about 1.5 million people in Mexico, this sophisticated restaurant offered  offered the most innovative dining experience I had while visiting Mexico City. With impeccable service and a casual but elegant atmosphere, the young executive chef Daniel Ovadía delivers perfect Mexican dishes cooked to perfection. All of this combined makes Paxia one of the most popular restaurants in San  Ángel. Every dish I tried held an explosion of flavor centered around a beautiful presentation. Every course was matched with a fine spirit, making my lunch at Paxia one of the best experiences I have ever had. The food, decor and excellent service should be an inspiration to any aspiring chef.  Some of Paxia’s specialties include the chicharron lasagna––a ground pork dish, and the Aztec Budin––a masterful dish of foie gras with truffles which won the Top Main Dish Award in Mexico City in 2008. Paxia offers an extensive menu of local boutique beers, Mexican wines, and fine cocktails www.danielovadia.com.mx.

With vibrant gay culture clubs and booming nightlife, Mexico City was the first city in Latin America to legalize gay civil unions.  Mexico City has dedicated resources to make sure it remains one of the most gay-friendly destinations in the world, making your trip to the city of ”lights” and to “the city that never sleeps” the one you will forever remember. 
 
 
by  the National Crime Prevention Council

Tips for holiday travelers,  how to protect yourself, family and your home  this holiday season. 

Follow these safety tips to avoid problems during your travels!

Personal Travel Plan: Think Before You Go
  • File a “travel plan.” Let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, when you plan to arrive and how to contact you. If you deviate from that plan, let someone know.
  • Travel with friends. There is safety in numbers.
  • Make sure your house appears “lived-in”.  Lock all doors and windows, set household lights (inside and out) on timers.
  • Trim your hedges and bushes so thieves cannot have a place to hide out.
  • Have a neighbor park a car in your driveway to make it appear as if someone is home.
  • Have a neighbor pick up your mail and newspapers while you are away or have them held at the post office.
  • An alarm system controls access points to your home and lets you know if someone has invaded your space.

Driving: On the Road Again
  • Always lock your car doors.  Keep valuables out of sight, preferably in the trunk of your car. 
  • Never pick up hitchhikers.
  • Park in well-lighted areas and close to the building.
  • Do not stop alongside the road if possible. If your car is bumped from behind or if someone indicates there is something wrong with your car, go to a service station or a well-lighted, populated area and call for help.
  • Fill the gas tank before dark; lock your car doors and roll up your windows if you step away from the car for any reason.

Travel Destination: Checking In

  • Use all hotel locks and other security devices, even when you’re in your room.
  • Store valuables in the room safe or in the facility’s main safe.
  • Don’t tell strangers the name of your hotel, your room number, or other personal information.
  • Guard your room keys. Don’t leave them unattended or visible at restaurants, the pool, or clubs. 
  • Don’t prop open your door or open your door to strangers. Use the peep hole before opening the door.
  • Don’t leave your purse or bags unattended at hotel buffets or lounges.

Personal Safety: On the Town
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Take only the cash you need in your purse or wallet.
  • Limit the number of credit cards you carry.  Bring only the necessary credit card(s) with you and carry money separately from credit cards.
  • Women should keep purses closed and snuggled tightly against the body.
  • Men should keep wallets in a front pants pocket or coat pocket.
  • Know your route and stick to well-lighted, well-traveled streets.
  • If you feel threatened, get away and call for help, or try to go to a crowded place. 
  • Always let someone know where you are going, who you are with, and when you will return.
  • Avoid going off with strangers, and always use the buddy system.
  • Avoid using alcohol and other drugs.  Impaired judgment can put you in potentially dangerous situations.
  • Select ATM machines in visible, well-lighted locations.

For more information visit www.ncpc.org.
 
 
by David Cohen

Since it was installed in the terminals of Paris-Orly Airport on November 8, 2011, the Automated Baggage Drop-off System, developed by a special team at the airports of Paris has been a huge success.
 
At the Future Travel Experience Forum held in Vancouver, Canada, on September 5-7, 2012, the Best Baggage Initiative award for 2012 was given to Aéroports de Paris in front of an audience composed of around 400 professionals from the air travel industry, from over 160 organisations.
 
Future Travel Experience is the only independent world-wide forum dedicated to transport industry stakeholders. It focuses on the end-to-end travel process from the passenger's point of view, from booking to the collection of baggage at the arrival destination.
 
This new system allows passengers to check-in their baggage in less than just 30 seconds. This service will at the continue with this service at the Paris-Orly Airport and the West terminal will have the new system installed by the end of this year, while  Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport will have the system installed by the beginning of 2013.
 
"Passengers have adopted this technological innovation very quickly. Apart from obviously saving time, this free service also means the baggage drop-off stage runs smoothly. It is positive for the passengers and for the airlines as well," pointed out François Rubichon, Deputy CEO of Aéroports de Paris.
 
So how does the automated baggage drop-off system work?...  in only two steps.
 
Checking-in: passengers will have to print their boarding-pass at the self-service machine, or check in online at home. Passengers will be getting their baggage ticket that will need to be attached  to their Luggage.
 
Dropping Luggage off: After checking in passengers will scan their boarding ticket at the drop-of area and put their luggage into the machine. The Machine will check the name and the weight and then sent your luggage to the airline. Passengers will receive a  automated "baggage receipt".
 
It takes only thirty seconds for the luggage to be is checked in, and automatically directed onto the usual route where it is screened and inspected again before arriving at the final destination––the aircraft. This system is safe and quick.
 
 
by David Cohen

There’s something about getting to the top of any building that brings you a natural high that just doesn’t go away.  Delicious  cocktails, a pool,  music, sun-fueled and chill-out leisure time, or incredible city views are only some of the amazing pleasures these Designer Hotel rooftops offer any traveler. 

Above:
Located in one of the most glamorous spots on the Cote d’Azur – behind the famous Croisette in Cannes, France, the FIVE HOTEL & SPA exudes sophisticated charm and spirit. Taking inspiration from five continents, artisans from around the globe were commissioned to create luxurious handcrafted furniture for this 45-room hotel. The rooftop offers guests one of the best views of the old city. The Zen pool, a stainless steel pool is complemented by a blonde cumaru deck with big comfy day beds, turquoise walls, and three waterfalls. To satisfy your hunger, try some delicacies created by Jacques and Laurent Pourcel at the Sea Sens restaurant on site.
 
Top Left: It’s not often that the exterior of a hotel steals the show, but exactly the case when it comes to Hotel Omm, in Barcelona, Spain. The unusual limestone façade of the hotel is a work of art. Inside the hotel, the design of simple lines, natural materials, and fine balance of colors and volumes, provide a calm backdrop to the futuristic lighting fixtures. The rooms themselves looks like pages in a book about to be revealed. The swimming pool and solarium on the roof are made from dark wood, creating a natural atmosphere. The drama is created by the fantastic panoramic view of the Sagrada Familia and Casa Milá. During the summer evenings, cocktails and tapas are served a la Barcelona style by the poolside. Guests can enjoy special performances and treats during the Hotel Terrace Week each June, and Moet & Chandon champagne always host parties on special dates through the summer!

Top Right: Located in the heart of the market, The Great Getaway Medina is the perfect picture during a trip to the exotic city of Marrakech, known as the "Ochre City" in Morocco, Africa. This intimate six-room hotel offers a magical experience from the moment you enter. The grand circular courtyard with high columns and arches are full of jeweled stones walls, along with intricately detailed handcrafted wood furniture that furnish the entire hotel.. With magnificent views of the ornate historic old city and the Atlas Mountains, the roof is Aladdin’s fairy tale paradise. The aroma of spices coming from the grill on the roof will make you hungry for the Moroccan specialties offered, including kebabs, fresh seafood, beef with dried plums, and home style terrines. 

Bottom: The Mamilla Hotel offers a unique designer comfort gate-a-way in the old city of Jerusalem in Israel. Combining the genius of internationally renowned architect Moshe Safdie, and interior designer Piero Lissoni, the result is a striking. A modern design combining old Jerusalem stones, a dramatic floating metal staircase, glass and steel ceilings all achieving a minimalistic esthetic contemporary design. The outdoor lounge and restaurant on the rooftop offer an inspiring view of the Old City. Guests can enjoy the comfortable seating while having a drink at the elegent wood paneled bar. This comfort extends into the Mamilla Café, where the informal dining area includes a long Carrera marble table and sofas at the elegant shaded terrace lounge. 

 
 
by Kraig Smith

Company examines nearly 1,000 keyword search terms to spot consumer travel trends

The summer travel season is almost here and digital marketing intelligence provider AdGooroo  knows where Americans will be going. Namely, Las Vegas and Disney. In an analysis of nearly 1,000 travel-related keywords searched an estimated 2.4 billion times on Google during January and February 2012, AdGooroo found Disney accounted for 7.3 percent of all travel-related searches followed by Las Vegas at 6.3 percent, placing these two vacation destinations ahead of all others explored by online searchers, followed by Florida (5.7 percent), the Caribbean (3.2 percent), Mexico (2.1 percent) and Hawaii (1.1 percent).

The study was conducted using AdGooroo’s Industry Insight search marketing dashboard, which measures search data for more than 160 industries as well as virtually any advertiser.

The overall most popular travel topic searched was not destinations, however, but transportation (airlines, trains, auto rentals) at 33.6 percent of all searches, and lodging/hotels at 21.3 percent, suggesting Americans may already have a good idea where they are going this summer but need to find out how they will get there and where they will stay. The next most popular travel topics were destinations (17.7 percent), ticketed attractions (10.8 percent), cruises (9.1 percent), booking sites (3.6 percent) and travel packages (3.1 percent).

Among all travel topics, keywords focused on travel packages recorded the highest clickthrough rate, 9.8 percent. Keyword searches related to booking sites such as Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity generated the lowest clickthrough rate at 2.7 percent.

As evidence of a still-sluggish economy, the study found significant bargain-hunting activity, with 13.3 percent of total travel-related searches containing words such as coupon, discount, cheap, low-price and deal.

“Travel is one of the most keyword-competitive industries,” said Richard Stokes, founder and CEO of AdGooroo. “So it represents fertile ground for search marketers in the travel category to apply Industry Insight and deepen their understanding both of their marketplace and the competitive landscape.”

For additional insight into the study, read an in-depth analysis by AdGooroo’s senior vice president of research and analytics, Gregg Hamilton.

For more information, visit AdGooroo.com.

 
 
This is your new blog post. Click here and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.
 
 
Have you ever wonder where you might find a little piece of Versailles in the USA?  The answer will consistently be the Belvedere Inn in Saugatuck, Michigan. 

Tucked far off the main street of downtown, situated at the end of the road on the northern edge of Saugatuck, Michigan, sits an elegant 98-year-old mansion. Here, former Chicago couple Shaun Glynn and Pete Ta have reinvented the meaning of what a Bed & Breakfast is. 

Shaun and Pete met in the late ’90s at Big Chicks, a gay bar on Chicago’s north side. In 2003, the couple decided to give up their comfortable and successful corporate careers and sell their home in Bucktown. The couple borrowed money from the bank, and with the help of the former owner of the B&B, began to peruse their dream as the new owners of the Belvedere Inn.
   
As an accomplished European Executive Chef, Shaun left Galway, Ireland and immigrated to the United States in 1998.  He earned top positions at some of the most prestigious companies in the hospitality and catering field. 

In 1975, Pete immigrated to the United States from Saigon, Vietnam and has since earned an excellent reputation in the world of finance and investment.  In 1999, he began working in the Information Technology (IT) field, becoming one of the top specialist in the field. 

"We are both very different individuals with different skills and experiences, but with one common goal," Pete said during my interview in March at the Inn. 

Together, Shaun and Pete combined their skills and started implementing their ideas to transform the old 10 guest room B&B into a comfortable and casually elegant mini boutique hotel. Their combined experiences and efforts paid off.  In 2004, The Belvedere Inn was named the top B&B in Western Michigan; and in Saugatuck it was named the best gay travel destination in the Midwest.

As one of the best restaurant in Michigan, the Belvedere Restaurant offers a wonderful gourmet dining experience. The four-course ­­­­­­ is a great value and provides delicious selections for each course. The restaurant is open to both guests and the public. 

Whether your visit is a romantic getaway, a mini vacation with friends, a celebration, or a gay wedding destination, The Belvedere Inn is always the perfect choice for your travel needs or event. It’s no wonder The Belvedere Inn is referred to as "A Little Piece of Versailles."

For more information or reservations go to www.thebelvedereinn.com.
   
Chef Shaun was delighted to offer PINK readers one of the guests’ favorite  recipes Crispy Garlic Sippets (Garlic Bread), along with the house specialty, Mussels in Pernod Cream (see above). Enjoy!

 
 
Picture
Photo courtesey of Villa Encantada.
by David Cohen

Located in the scenic hills of Amapas/Conchas Chinas in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Villa Encantada provides a vacation setting where paradise is found all year ‘round. Within a few minutes of downtown, the Amapas/Conchas Chinas area is considered by many to be the Beverly Hills of Puerto Vallarta.

Designed by one of the most well-known and respected architect in Puerto Vallarta,  Arturo Ramos grew up in a small town called Mascota just 15 miles from downtown Puerto Vallarta. As a young boy, he already was interested in studying the architectural features of buildings. “As I grew older, I saw architecture as means to be involved in a highly creative profession for my life’s work” says Ramos. The clean lines and dramatic open spaces of the Villa are strong evidence of his work and follow the wishes of his clients who wanted a high quality Villa that reflected native architecture. To that end, Ramos chose a Spanish Colonial approach to offer guests the opportunity to experience an environment or culture different than their own. It was Ramos’s reputation that convinced his clients to contract him to design the Villa.

Ramos chose to use primary elements for the design, like cantera stone for the floors, columns and balustrades; for the windows, doors and cabinets he used rich parota hardwood that is native to Mexico. It is evident that there was a concerted effort to repeat colors and materials throughout the grand interiors to increase the feeling of visual spaciousness.

In Spanish, Villa Encantada means enchanted and it lives up to its name in providing so many luxurious amenities. With spacious 5,000-square feet of luxury, 5 bedrooms with private bathrooms, many terraces, a solar-heated swimming pool, spa tub, spectacular décor, beautiful original art works ... the list never ends. The art displayed in the Villa was chosen not only for its design and color, but for sentiment as well. The many blown art glass bowls, plates and vases are from Tonala, an artisan community outside of Guadalajara.

A stay at the Villa is designed to ensure a totally relaxed atmosphere. On-site service includes a maid, a chef and a houseboy. You won’t need to do a thing. No cooking, no grocery shopping, nothing. Simply just sit by the pool, relax and enjoy the sun and the air. I couldn’t resist doing watercolors by the pool. By painting, I not only relaxed but I had fun doing it.

In the evening you must dine outside on one of the terraces or by the pool, feel the soft ocean breeze and enjoy the lush tropical jungle landscaping. The breathtaking views of Puerto Vallarta’s famous Banderas Bay are magnificent, especially with a margarita or tropical drink in your hand--one made by a member of the staff. This enchanted house truly offers vacationers the life style of the rich and famous.

If you decide to go into town (and believe me it will be difficult to leave the Villa), Puerto Vallarta has a lot to offer. There are many great restaurants, lots of shopping and fun gay nightlife. Romantic walks on the beach are good idea for couples, but whale watching is the ultimate experience as you watch the great beasts migrate to the Sea of Cortez. No wonder why Puerto Vallarta is one of the most popular resort destinations in the world. 

Villa Encantada is available for rental year ‘round: for reservation visit www.villaencantada.com. To find out more about gay life go to: www.discoveryvallarta.com, www.gayguidevallarta.com/Daylife or www.discoveryvallarta.com. For Information on traveling to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, visit www.visitmexico.com.
 
 
This is your new blog post. Click here and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.
 
 
Picture
by David Cohen
Colors, adventure and energy… these are some of the qualities one encounters when visiting South Africa. From incredible wildlife and astounding scenery to thriving cities, South Africa has it all. South Africa’s complexity emerged from Dutch and British colonial history, internal warfare, and decades of struggle to become a modern democracy. In 1652, Jan Riebeeck arrived in the Cape to establish a station for the powerful Dutch East India Company, importers of slaves from all parts of Africa.

Years later riots and violence against the colonial rule caused the weakening of the Dutch power and finally, the British seized the Cape in 1795. In 1994 after decades of apartheid rule, Nelson Mandela become the first president of a fully democratic South Africa. Eight journalists left New York City on a direct flight to Johannesburg on South Africa Airlines, and although we were excited about the trip, the airline’s economy class is intolerable for a 15-hour flight. Our first stop was Sun City, two-and-a-half hours outside Johannesburg. This over-the-top resort, with its Las Vegas-style entertainment and man-made beach, is the entertainment capital of the Northwest province.

At Sun City we stayed at the Palace, a luxurious 5 star hotel with overly lavish accommodations–we would have preferred something a bit more subtle.The Pilanesberg Game Reserve, adjacent to Sun City, lies in an extinct volcanic mountain and is the largest game reserve in South Africa and the best place to witness the most spectacular wildlife in the region. Wild animals seen frolicking here include white and black rhinos, giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, elephants, lions, water buffaloes, hippopotamuses, and many bird species. But the day’s highlight was only ten minutes away from the hotel at the Sundown Ranch, where we held a lion cub–one of the trip’s most unforgettable moments.

The safari continued with a visit to Makweti & Metsi lodges in the Welgevonden area (both Welgevonden and Pilanesberg are malaria-free). Only three hours away from Sun City, these lodges are elegant and beautifully designed and maintained. Our friendly and knowledgeable ranger, Wayne, made our stay memorable. In his open Land Rover we drove up and down rocky hills and over creeks, experiencing the flora and fauna of mother Africa. Here we searched for lions and enjoyed a night safari. To add to the ambience of the evening, the crew surprised us with a picnic in the wilderness, where we witnessed a colorful sunset. Sipping champagne and eating hors d’oeuvres in the wild was an unforgettable treat–and hearing the sounds of animals nearby made the experience even more exhilarating.

From Makweti & Metsi Lodges the tour continued northeast toward the famous Kruger National Park, where heat and humidity are as common as the blue sky. At this prime attraction you can sit and watch the wildlife from the privacy of your own room. Imagine watching the first unsteady steps of a lion cub or listening to the joyful calls of birds seeking mates or watching monkeys fighting among themselves– all from the luxury of your personal lodge. Here you’ll be pampered with every comfort imaginable and have the finest cuisine delivered to your doorstep or prepared and served for you in the wild.

At Mala Mala and Singita Game Reserves located inside the Sabi Sand Reserve near Kruger National Park, miracles really do came true. These resorts are first-class and offer luxury accommodations with a distinctly African style. One night at Mala Mala we tracked a family of leopards that seemed unconcerned by our proximity.

After a week on safari we flew to Cape Town, the gay mecca of South Africa. This hot destination is one of the most visited spots in South Africa, even when the sun isn’t shining. Cradled between the mountains and the sea, Cape Town attractions include beautiful sandy beaches, wine country, botanical gardens, museums, shopping, and more. A cable ride to the top of  Table Mountain is a must. Named for its flat top, this mountain dominates the city’s skyline. From the top you can witness some of the best views of Cape Town and the peninsula. Visiting wine country is also required.

Over the past 10 years South Africa’s wine industry has experienced a renaissance, and their wines are among the most popular in the New World. A full day trip to wine country is recommended.Other places to visit are Cape Point, a cruise to Seal Island (a seal preserve), a trip to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for over 25 years, and the Castle of Good Hope.

We stayed at the Table Bay Hotel, a 5-star hotel on the stunning waterfront that is only minutes away from the gay village, Cape Town’s Boystown. The De Waterkant Village apartments–a complex of 60 beautiful restored historic cottages in the heart of the gay village–is another place where you can enjoy the privacy of home. Within walking distance to clubs, bars, bathhouses, restaurants, and shops, this village is the place where people meet to play day and night.Planning to explore the nightlife? We recommend some of the following spots. If dancing is what you want, then 55 is the stop for you–this club opens late and has a friendly crowd. Bronx is the most popular bar in the village, and is mixed, crowded and interesting. If a sophisticated atmosphere is important then Manhattan Café and Bar is the place to go. For steamy action go to the Hothouse or Steamers. Both bathhouses are open 24 hours on the weekends. Another spot to check out, especially on Sundays, is Clifton 3rd–the gay beach where you can mingle with locals.

DavidTours arranged dinner at Rozenhof restaurant where we dined with many of David Rubin’s (the owner of DavidTours) friends. We also were invited to a Sunday afternoon cocktail party at his friends’ mountaintop home, where the view of the peninsula was spectacular. Due to Cape Town’s high crime rate, caution is highly recommended here, and taking a taxi from one spot to another is a way of life. Make sure to call a taxi from inside an establishment, and never pick up a cab at the street corner.

From Cape Town we flew to Zambia to visit Victoria Falls–one of the world’s largest and most beautiful waterfalls. Nearby, at the Royal Livingston Hotel we treated ourselves to massages and were able to enjoy some rest and relaxation. At night we cruised the Zambezi River aboard the African Queen, where we witnessed a remarkable sunset with colors that reminded me of a Gaugin painting. The river was crowded with hippopotamuses and crocodiles. The following day we took a helicopter ride to see breathtaking Victoria Falls from above–Incredible! Unfortunately, three years of drought made the walking tour of the falls a bit disappointing.

From Zambia the tour traveled to Johannesburg. At night we dined with Rubin’s friends again. After dinner we visited the Heartland, a complex of gay bars which lacked the energy of metropolitan clubs and discos in the United States and Europe. After spending the final night of the tour at the Grace Hotel in Rosebank, an affluent suburb, we spent our last day bargain hunting at the Mall at Rosebank–the Mall’s African craft market has all your gift and souvenir needs.

South Africa’s diverse population, wonderful wildlife, and rich culture offer the traveler an unforgettable experience. Many thanks to DavidTours the organizer, and to our tour guide Christian who made our trip memorable.

To learn more about Africa call DavidTours at (888) 723-0699 or visit their website at www.DavidTours.com.

 ents from the top bar.