8.03.2013

South Africa: Day 13 (Port Elizabeth)

Now that the wedding is over, I can finally get back to these South Africa posts!!! (I do plan to fully document the craziness of planning a wedding in three weeks in a blogpost series called Project: Wedding. . . someday.) 

But for now, it's back to South Africa. . . 

Driving from Jeffreys Bay to Port Elizabeth should have only taken one hour. 

But it took two. 

I finally turned on the data roaming and accessed the map program on my phone and got us where we needed to go. 

We drove right through the city, and it started to feel more like East London. 

And then we drove to the waterfront to find a hotel.

The process of finding a hotel was always so complicated, partly because of the situation with the internet, partly because we were booking lodging in areas we were unfamiliar with, partly because we were traveling with such a large group, and partly because we were traveling on a budget. (Steve would probably add: And partly because of my unrealistic expectations.) 

Generally, we would turn on data roaming on my phone as we were approaching a city. I would slowly scan tripadvisor for accommodations with good ratings to find a few options. (Slowly because the internet access was so poor.) Once we arrived, Steve and I would leave all of the kids in the car, walk into the hotel, ask them about their rates for different room configurations (family suites, etc. . . their jaws would drop when we told them we needed three rooms), then try to access their wireless internet connection, quickly check prices online at both their hotel website and discount booking sites like kayak.com, booking.com, hotels.com, agoda.com, take into consideration factors like internet access (important to me), a gym (important to Derrick), the Disney Channel (important to the kids), breakfast, parking fees, etc, and then make a decision whether to take it or check another hotel. It was a long process. And nobody does that in South Africa. . . they all make reservations ahead of time. 

The hotel prices in Port Elizabeth were all really high ($150-$200 per night). I told Steve I was finished sharing a hotel room with Derrick. And I also told him I was finished making decisions. I actually made Steve go into a couple of hotels by himself because I didn't want to be responsible for the outcome. 

Steve is completely incapable of making a decision when he is hungry, so we needed to go eat lunch before we booked our hotel. We parked in front of a hotel and walked over to The Boardwalk, a multimillion dollar casino and shopping center, right on the waterfront. 

There were a couple of men holding big machine guns who were pacing back and forth in front of the casino. As usual, the security guard turned away right when I took this picture:


The Boardwalk was completely empty:


It was early on a Monday, but still, the feel of the place was much less vibrant than when Steve and I visited in 2002. 

We got suckered into eating at Spur because their Monday special is buy one, get one free burgers. It was a bad decision. 

If the tone of these last couple of posts about Days 12 and 13 in South Africa have sounded kind of dreary, it's because they really were. In addition to my frustrations about lost blog posts, cold and windy weather, and poor internet access, Derrick and Gcobisa were quarreling. And that really put a damper on everyone's attitude. Steve says this was the low point of our trip. 

We promised the kids that we would take them over to bumper boats after lunch, but they were closed. 


So instead, we went and played at the arcade: 


Gcobisa's sister, Noli, called to say that she had arranged a family discount at the Protea Hotel Marine. (She runs a line of spas in Cape Town that are located within the Protea Hotels.) The Protea Hotel Marine had been one of our top choices, but their price was way too high. Noli secured us a rate that was less than half what we had been quoted, so we were thrilled. I was even more thrilled not to be sharing a hotel room with Derrick. 

Steve and I were in a family suite with Adam and Kaleigh, Rachel and Lucy shared a room with Gcobisa, and Derrick had his own room. This became our standard sleeping arrangement. Our room was on the fourth floor and even nicer than we expected. (Our only complaint about the room was that it was a family suite with no bathtub. Actually, the whole bathroom was poorly designed. . . but the kids remember it was the hotel with the fancy shower.) 

The kids plopped down in front of the television to watch Disney Channel and I plopped down on a chair next to the window. I sat there, basking in the warm sunshine, and watched three surfers off in the distance for at least an hour: 


We went to dinner at Charlie's Pizza and Pasta in Summerstrand, which was a lucky find. Everything was phenomenal: the salads, the pizza, the desserts, and the atmosphere. I begged Steve to open a pizza restaurant just like it. We had the Nordstrom Salad (pear slices, candied pecans), the Seared Fillet and Strawberry Salad (slices of seared beef fillet, strawberries, gooseberries, pine nuts), two Margherita Pizzas, Pesto and Pine Nuts, Lemon Cheesecake, Flourless Chocolate Cake, Tiramisu, and a Bubblegum Milkshake for Kaleigh. All for fifty bucks. . . with the tip. (I miss South Africa's restaurant prices!)

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