Africa 2015

22 family members arrived in Johannesburg on June 26 early morning – some straight from San Francisco while most had enjoyed some days in Amsterdam. Olivia, John and the girls flew in from Athens, Greece – more on that in a different post.

From Johannesburg the family flew to Maun in Botswana where they connected to smaller planes able to land on the airstrip near the first of two camps – Xigera. The property, located in the Okavango Delta, is owned by Wilderness Safari and overall this was the first Africa trip in a while where the family didn’t stay at AndBeyond properties.

The transfer process and security procedures in Maun were rather chaotic but all made it out of there in time in three separate planes and arrived at Xigera Camp mid-afternoon just in time for a quick game drive which at the end brought a head-to-head with a (luckily) friendly elephant bull – close enough that the trunk came inches away from a couple of faces. Nature at its best.

The following four days were spent around the delta and in it. Part of the time were in traditional open safari vehicles but the water was the main attraction and the family came to spend a fair amount of time in makoros and in the fast boats through what seemed like an endless maze of little water ways that somehow all found their way back to the main waterway that will let you reach Maun in approximately eight hours.

The camp itself it built on stilts above the wetlands below. The animals are free to roam throughout the camp and sand traps revealed the presence of nightly visitors every morning at sunrise. Some were spotted “in person” – elephant and hippo. Hard to hide. Even at night… The camp was beautiful and built in a nice tent style. The staff was wonderful and took very good care of all.

John’s birthday was celebrated on the last evening at Xigera and the staff not only celebrated him with song and dance but had also left him a couple of presents in the room; which was a very nice touch.

It was time to pack up and continue the journey June 30 and three planes picked the family up mid-morning before making the two-stop journey back to South Africa. The first stop to go through customs and immigration while the second stop was for refueling. After almost five hours the planes arrived at Londolozi airstrip where the last two family members – Andrew and Lucy – joined for the remainder of the trip.

Londolozi – a Zulu word that roughly translates into “protector of all things” is an icon amongst all the African safari camps. It has been around for years and has been instrumental when it comes to wildlife preservation and rehabilitation. Their leopards are known world-wide although they did prove quite hard to find. The resort as stunning and and the whole camp is very professionally run.

The first game drive brought a pack of nine sleeping lions just about a mile from camp. The looked undisturbed but the crocodiles that they shared the water hole with. Three unrelated young lion brothers had killed a water buffalo kill – something that was revisited on several occasions reminding all the the smell doesn’t improve as the days go by.

There were many other sightings over the five days. Lots of giraffe, wildebeests, birds incl. fish eagles and Penny’s beloved lilac-breasted roller, elephants and water buffalo. There’s supposedly a lone ostrich that no one spotted, and rumor has it there’s a petition to get her a male ostrich to keep her company.

The leopards were hard to find but patience and some luck brought the good first sighting just as the light was disappearing on the third day. Good excuse to stop for a sundowner once the leopard had had enough of our company. The second good sighting actually happened on the way back from a morning drive with a leopard chomping on a fresh kill. Wonderful to see these precious cats in their natural environment.

After a great 4th of July celebration on the riverbed, it was time to start packing. The following morning it was off to Johannesburg with evening flight waiting to take most back to the US. Olivia left her wedding ring in the room but luckily she was staying behind in Johannesburg for a few days to see old friends so the ring and its rightful owner got reunited after a couple of days of separation.

As written before there is no place like Africa and it’s safe to say that all are looking forward to go back sometime in the near future.

For a more visual story there are some select photos from the trip here.

August 2015

Isabella came back from summer camp on August 15 and very much enjoyed a couple of weeks in Portola, CA together with new friends as well as the ones she made last year. 2015 was the last year she could participate so small traces of sadness but some of them are also off to boarding school, so we’re sure they will stay in contact and compare notes.

Once back Libby had organized an little party for Isabella and quite a few of her Saint Catherine’s friends showed up for some pizza and to catch up with what had happened over summer. All but Isabella were back in school and the little group of 36 students that followed each other for years are now spread all over the peninsula including San Francisco.

Olivia and John took Adriana to Las Vegas early August for her to experience all the craziness. She (obviously) loved every minute of it. Olivia and Adriana went to see Le Rêve at Wynn and fully enjoyed the show while John was busy taking a light painting class in Nelson 40 miles outside Las Vegas. Of other highlights that week was the High Roller observation wheel. It stands 550 feet (168 meter) tall and it’s 30 later by the time you get back down to the platform.

Pia is having a good time at Burlingame High School and on the cheer team. They performed this past Friday during the football game – as did Bella’s team – and Pia is enjoying it. Bella is currently delivering the news broadcast at the school. We uploaded the inaugurate newscast to our Vimeo account.

John and Ella spent the past weekend in Hong Kong getting a little time together before school starts. It’s a such a great place and although compact it still offers lots of diversity. They spent a couple of days in and around the city and made it Lantau to see Big Buddha – one of the largest outdoor buddhas in the world as well of Temple of 10,000 buddhas. What was meant to be a hike turned into a bus ride when heavy rain got in the way. They purchased a couple of umbrellas and continued semi-dry while the monks making their way up to the buddha got absolutely soaked.

The weekend prior to Hong Kong Olivia, Adriana and John spent a couple of days in Carmel Valley. It remains one of their favorite places on the planet. A Sunday morning hike brought sightings of 20+ whales feeding very close to the shore and the short hike ended up taking almost three hours with all the stops.

20150822 Adriana Olivia John Carmel Valley

Many Schools, one birthday and a trip to the hospital

There has been much activity around high schools. Pia has been accepted into Burlingame High School and is very happy with that. Isabella got accepted at Kent School (Connecticut), Santa Catalina (Monterey) as well as Burlingame High School and Notre Dame (Belmont) – about half of the schools she applied to. She already passed on Burlingame High School and even though she was supposed to give Notre Dame an answer this past Friday, she was given a one-week extension to make a more objective decision. She slept over at Santa Catalina on Friday to get a feel for it all and we’re off to visit Kent School on April 6. Big decisions and not easy ones for anyone involved.

Adriana’s been on a couple of field trips with Saint Catherine’s – one to a cookie factory and one to the Exploratorium in San Francisco. She’s still very active with her cheerleading but the season is slowly winding down. She turned eight since the last update and had a bunch of kids and Belmateo’s Bowling Centers. A total of 25 that Olivia somehow managed almost on her own.

Isabella was supposed to attend the birthday but ended up in the Emergency Room after she woke up with shortage of breath, strong headache and blurry vision. No fun, and quite scary and we’re now setting up appointments with specialists to find out what’s going on. Doctors think it might be migraine but nothing’s is of course certain at this point. On a more positive note all the girls had their annual checkup and passed with flying colors.

Pia is gearing up for her confirmation. They spent last Saturday at a retreat. Adriana is right behind with her first communion. She’s had a couple of trial confessions. Didn’t take as long as we all expected…

Famous people – at home and in L.A.

The end of January saw Pia and Isabella act as servers at the annual crab feed at St. Catherine’s. Put on by the Men’s Club it is a significant fundraiser for the school and for the first time it was help at the new gymnasium. Bella had the Burlingame High School Winter Formal dance that same evening.

Isabella has a final High School interview (Notre Dame, Belmont) on February 5. Now it’s a waiting game. Most will give her answers in the week of March 9 – exactly a month after her birthday. Speaking of which… Olivia took Isabella plus Isabella’s sisters and friends to Benihana for her actual birthday. She was lucky to receive cash, two pair of Lulu Lemons, rainbow slippers and a deposit for the Walton Grizzly Camp she (also) went to in 2014.

John was not part of the celebration as he had been invited to help document The Grammys. Lots of fun being on the red carpet! There are some picture of the celebrities here. He went to Boston right after and had to fly to New York and continue the journey using Amtrak. Like with many of his colleagues the snow disrupted travel plans, but he had a good time in the snowy and at times very cold weather.

Valentine’s Day was celebrated at the posh Hakkasan in San Francisco. Early dinner and back in time to turn the light off in the kids’ bedrooms. Fun to see so many people carry pillows around. The annual fundraiser is quite popular with no risk of harm other than the thousand of feathers left behind. Not sure why San Francisco is not following the International Pillow Fight day April 4.

Taxes are filled and for the first time in years John and Olivia ended up owing Uncle Sam more than they had paid. No fun but compared to Danish tax rates it’s a breeze.

We have added a link to our growing video library on the right side of the page. There is also a link here.

Winning performance

There’s no escaping that Pia and Isabella’s days at Saint Catherine School is slowly coming to an end. It was time for graduation pictures this past week, and they both tried to keep their balance on their four-inch heels early Monday morning.

It’s also been time for them to hand in their yearly science project. Both were presented to the judges who unfortunately gave the Grand Prize to one of their classmates. Pia had tested how to make the perfect pie crust while Isabella had tried to find the best way to build a kidney.

The two of them helped out at the school’s annual crab feed last night. Isabella had to run home afterwards to finish her application to Santa Catalina high school. The last of the bunch. Now it’s a waiting game until March 10 when the first schools will let her know of their decision.

Adriana’s cheer team cleaned house in San Jose last weekend, and for a while it looked like they were all off to Florida to compete in the Nationals. They’re instead off to Anaheim mid-April and will surely sporting their new exclusive uniform only given to the ones at the top of the podium.

She’s preparing for her first reconciliation and had her first scheduled confession yesterday. When practicing on paper she wrote “Please help me forgive my sister Bella for wanting to drown me”. We’re not sure of the details.

Bella went to Burlingame High School’s Winter Formal last night. She accepted the invitation after receiving a box of doughnuts – take that Kay!

Happy birthday(s)

Bella turned 17 on January 6 and was celebrated by classmates and family. Isabella’s birthday is February 9 and the extended family had her birthday dinner at Benihana last night – a little early, but conflicting schedules moved the festivities up a bit. Adriana is next.

John spent a bit of time in Las Vegas from January 3rd. The Consumer Electronics Show seems to get bigger and bigger even though the announcements weren’t that significant this year. Through Akamai he hosted 120 people on January 5th and oversaw all of Akamai’s activities there.

Last Friday Pia and Isabella went to the Junior high dance at their school and danced from start to finish together with the sixth and seventh graders. The Drama activities are in full swing and the production of “Shrek” is already taking up some of the afternoons. Isabella will once again be active off stage.

With the exception of Santa Catalina (Monterey) All the high school applications as done and so are the entrance tests. Now it’s a waiting gaming until early March.

Adriana, Pia and Bella are all active with cheerleading – Bella and Pia are cheering for the boy’s basketball teams for their respective schools.

Mid-September update

Not a whole lot to report from the last two weeks. It’s back in the routine and the calendar looks the same from week to week for a little while. That’s not to say things aren’t busy… In fact yesterday John & Olivia jumped on a plan to South California for the day to get a little time to themselves but also to celebrate that it was six years ago they decided to try things out.

Isabella’s killing it with “The Dorys” – her soccer team. They have won all their matches. This week’s game ended 8-5. Pia and Isabella does not quite have the same track record with their volleyball team, but they are getting better, have an engaged coach and we will be mighty surprised not to see them win one or two games in the near future. Good luck! The eight graders hosted Sunday mass so maybe they’ll have an extra hand next weekend…

Adriana is staying busy with Premier. She’s into it and it’s a good outlet for all her energy. She’ll start competition soon and had to have her picture taken today for the application. Bella is also active with her cheer but spend part of her weekend cleaning the bay together with some of her class mates.

John made it to Boston once since the last update, but overall there’s hardly been any travel since late July, and the calendar contains only two more trips before New Year.

20140922 Adriana Premier Studio Burlingame

The spiders are ready!

The house is decorated for Halloween. The candy box is ready although the lid seems to open on its own and the amount of candy is disappearing ahead of time. Hopefully there’ll be something left for the spooky ones. There is still a bit of indecision when it comes to costumes, but we’re sure the kids will be ready in time. The Christmas lights went up yesterday, but the house is a little less lit up this year, as the (new) solar panels are in the way. Still looks nice though and we’re ready for snow…

Inside the bathroom is down and the final inspection is done. Girls are loving it and Olivia did a great job choosing tiles, sink, lights and all the other things. It made quite a difference and the tub will not be missed. Two to go… Bella and Pia’s rooms are also done. Pia (and Adriana) got rid of the desk during the garage sale, and exchanged it for storage space and a place to look themselves in the mirror. Bella got a new bed and art on the walls, so the second floor needs no work until the new Nest fire alarms arrive.

John is still traveling quite a bit. He came back from Washington D.C. last friday. United managed to lose the reservation after he had checked in, but in the end all turned out well, and he was happy to fly home. As always. The week before was partly spent in Beverly Hills together with many of the movie studios and organizations he deals with working for Akamai. Yesterday was the last day in the San Mateo. Akamai is moving partly to San Francisco and partly to Santa Clare. So starting this coming Monday it’s back on the train like the days at Adobe and Dolby.

This weekend has been spent playing volleyball (won) and soccer (lost). Adriana went to a birthday party and returned with a face painting that extended all the way to her arms. John, Olivia and Adrian snug away for a brisk and chilly walk at the dog park in Foster City. Adriana saw it as warmup for the the 10 rounds she has signed up for at Burlingame High School participating in Relay for Life. Pia and Isabella are each doing 16. That’s at least what they have committed to. They hosted the church service a couple of weeks back – both read in front of the congregation and Pia’s worried that she would say “deceased” instead of “diseased” turned out to be without merit. They did great.

Bella took the PSAT on Saturday and wasn’t sure what to think of the whole thing. Results in December. Isabella and Pia sat through the IOWA test once again a week or two ago. so only Adriana escaped the claws of standardized tests these past weeks. Olivia missed her school gathering but Johannesburg turned out to be a bit too far way with everything else going on. Luckily Facebook and Instagram brought her a little closed but nothing beats the real thing and both John and Olivia and bummed that 2013 was the first year they didn’t make it back to Africa.

In the midst of it all we’ve managed to have dinner with Penny and Adrian and also enjoyed a BBQ at Sandy and David. Cousin Nick has made it back from High Point College on the East Coast. Good to see him, Andrew and Jilly.

FosterCity

Summer travel – 2013

The six of us left for Denmark on June 26 on the direct flight to Copenhagen. Had fantastic weather while we walked about town trying to stay up until it got at least a little bit darker. Walked through Tivoli and enjoyed sharwarma on “Strøget” before we took the Metro back to the hotel. Slept well and was ready to meet John’s mom in Tivoli for lunch the day after. Had a great lunch at Cafe Ultimo and it was good for the girls to finally meet that side of John’s family.

Friday evening was the day before John turned 40 (again…) and we celebrated it together with 30 other people at “Grøften” in Tivoli. Great times and it was good to see so many of our friends. Thanks to all that showed up! We eventually got kicked out around midnight and we were all very tired on the train ride back to the airport.

Left for Stockholm on June 29 and the group mushroomed into 20 people in just a few hours. Some left for their room, some for an early dinner, while Olivia and John snug away to celebrate a bit of birthday on their own.

We had a great guide from “Stockholm our way” taking us around the Swedish capital and we spent most of June 30 sightseeing. We visited the city hall, the old town, Djurgaarden, and of course Vasa – or the remains.

We boarded the Seven Seas Voyager on July 1 and set “sails” for Helsinki. Walked into town and saw the Lutheran Cathedral, the Uspenski Cathedral and the very impressive Rock Church. Still don’t understand much of what they say, but beautiful harbor front and once again the weather showed a very nice side of itself.

The longest stop on the trip was St. Petersburg – we stayed a total of three days, and as none of held Russian visas, we had to stay with the pre-arranged tours. St. Petersburg is an amazing place and the art collection and palaces are well worth a visit. John and Olivia had signed up for a Metro trip into the city and got to walk a bit around on the last day. First land-based cafe latte in days. Good stuff!

Tallinn was one of the biggest surprises of the trip. Very charming city and all had a great time in the old town. Some went walking – some took the mountain bike tour. We were there on a Saturday and really enjoyed the old stalls. Only John made it up in the church tower; which for many years were the tallest structure in the world. We passed the beautiful monument for the 852 people who died on September 28, 1994 when the Estonia ferry catastrophe happened.

We arrived in Riga the day after together with about 5,000 singers from all over Latvia and found ourselves in the middle of an event that only happens every five years. All the beautiful costumes and flowers really lit up the city and it was amazing to hear the choirs sing and celebrate mid-summer. Riga itself was very charming and we were once more very lucky with the weather.

20130627 Bellamy family cruise 088

Gdansk was next on the list and with that a visit to a WWII concentration camp (Stuffhoff). Always a very somber experience but good for the kids to see. We spent a few hours in Gdansk itself and got to see St. Mary’s Church which can hold 25,000 people, and also got to see some of the shipyard sites where the Lech Walesa and many others changed Poland forever.

Short stop in Rønne which is the main city on Bornholm – an island belonging to Denmark. Not too much to see as the stop was relatively short by we found hotdogs, ice cream and beer. Walked the streets and bought some pottery – it’s the thing to do. The island is nicknamed “The Sunshine Island” and although the fog started rolling in just before takeoff, the morning was gorgeous.

From Bornholm to Warnemunde where we quickly jumped in a bus and drove to Berlin. We had only six hours there and they quickly disappeared by the time we have seen the Brandenburger Tor, Checkpoint Charlie and large sections of The Wall. Mixed success with the lunches but Haribo candy was a complete hit both coming and going.

We were back in Copenhagen July 11 and got picked up in a tiny bus that had no room for our luggage. But we made the best of it, and got dropped in the middle of Copenhagen. Made it up the Round Tower before rickshaws picked us up and took us sightseeing. Great lunch in the King’s Garden that was organized but Shout.dk. The kids loved being back on the shore and ran around until the very last minutes of the day. The first evening ended at Stick’n’Sushi.

Day two took us to Frederiksborg Castle – stunning and using funds from Carlsberg, the castle has been beautifully restored after a fire destroyed large parts of it. We had lunch at Restaurant Sletten in a small Danish harbor and gave everyone the afternoon off to relax or do a bit of shopping. We were lucky to get a private room at Cafe Ultimo for our last dinner together, and most of us stayed in Tivoli until the very end. Many left for San Francisco the following morning while the other half stayed behind for a few more days.

We so appreciate Adrian and Penny’s generosity and feel incredibly lucky that they let us experience the world together as a group.

Congratulations on making it to the end. There are pictures here.