Exactly a year ago I had the chance to spend New Year’s Eve in the ultimate place to be on that night: Times Square, NYC.
I chose to buy tickets to Rosie O’Grady’s special party. For 400 US dollars (per person) I got a 3-course dinner, access to a cordoned sidewalk on 7th Avenue with unobstructed views of Times Square just seven blocks away and unlimited drinks for the night. It ain’t cheap, but if you are not ready to wait for hours in the cold (without access to any toilets…) to get a decent view of the countdown, ball drop and fireworks, it really is a strong option to consider! Prepare well in advance, as tickets sell out fast. You need to sign up for their newsletter and act quickly when you get the notification they start selling tickets (a couple of months before New Year’s Eve). Don’t expect any fine dining experience or trendy atmosphere though. The place is vast (3 different floors) and rather convivial than distinguished, with average quality food and drinks. But it gives quite a nice way to spend the special night and it’s mainly about the spot after all. Those few minutes before and after midnight on the sidewalk among the crowd, with a full belly (and most of all without unpleasant queuing) are priceless. You will certainly feel to be in the place to be on New Year’s Eve.
St Petersburg or “Peter” as the locals call it surely is one of the most interesting big cities in Europe. No skyscrapers but extravagant palaces, magnificent cathedrals and vast museums. What surprised me most is how clean and modern St Petersburg is! Pulkovo airport stands out as impressive as Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport and there is no trash in the streets of the city center. Roads are in good condition and traffic isn’t the mad hell you had imagined. Visiting in winter is a nice way to discover the city with less tourists, and I was lucky to have the best possible weather (snow on the ground, freezing temperatures and some beautiful sunlight!). You need to spend at least a few days in the city to experience a major part of what it has to offer.
No visit to South Africa would be complete without exploring Cape Town and its surroundings. It’s an amazing region with something for everyone: big city, lush nature, endless beaches, great food, plenty of wineries, baboons…and even penguins!
Most of visitors usually start their visit with either the Waterfront, or the Table Mountain. I liked the Waterfront for only 2 reasons: the view of downtown with Table Mountain on the background and the statue of South Africa’s tremendous four Peace Nobelists!
Exploring great Kruger is an experience you won’t soon forget. Imagine driving at your own pace while seeing monkeys playing in the trees, elephant herds peacefully crossing the road and lazy hippos or crocodiles sun-bathing on the riverbanks… That’s everyday life at Kruger. And what’s best? Besides the entrance fee and gasoline for your car, it’s free!
Like for Sabi Sabi, I recommend to spend at least 2 nights at Kapama Karula for a better overall experience (no rush) and to grow your chances to see as many different animals as possible. Sabi Sands game reserve has a common open border with the gigantic Kruger national park (meaning animals can migrate freely), whereas Kapama is a fenced game reserve. I know, at first it doesn’t sound appealing (I mean, I am totally against zoos)… But when you enter the reserve and drive many miles on dirt roads without seeing a single fence, you realize how huge this reserve really is. You will note the same during your safari drives: many hours of driving, no fences in view.
Where Sabi Sabi Little Bush Camp is intimate and authentic, Kapama Karula is sleek and modern. I would recommend to try both, but if I had to choose I would probably pick Kapama Karula. Why? For a similar safari experience, it comes with a lighter price tag (Sabi Sabi may be a bit overpriced because of its reputation). Plus the villas with big private pools and terraces are to die for…! The safari experience itself depends a lot on your ranger and how full the lodge is during your stay. I had the chance to have the whole open-air safari jeep for myself and my spouse, and an experienced ranger totally passionate about his job (Chris). During 3 different game drives (2 mornings and 1 evening) we went from bush walk among mud-bathing rhinos, sundowners in front of gracefully moving giraffes backed by one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen, to catching a python bare hand in the night and gazing at a starlit sky with zero light pollution. Unforgettable. Despite all Chris’ efforts, we didn’t manage to see a leopard (the most difficult Big 5 animal to spot) and he was even more disappointed by that than we were.