Friday, September 20, 2013

Ghana, I love you!!! Why in the world would I stay in a hotel when there's GraceyVille?!!!

Ghana Flag Map

Ghana is, by far, my favorite destination in the entire world. It is actually much more than a destination.  It is my second home, my resting place, my love affair.  I guess it all started back in the 70's when my uncle, aunt (my father's elder sister), and my cousin went to live in Ghana, because my uncle worked for some US agricultural agency.  I was so distraught that I couldn't go with them.  Then my paternal grandmother went to visit them for a whole month.  She brought back some wonderful gifts for my sister and me, including PanAm bags.  My aunt also sent and brought back some really nice, interesting goodies for us, including the book (below), which I've managed to keep all these years...

My late aunt brought this book back from Ghana in 1974.
GraceyVille (Devtraco Estates, Community 18) is the real reason why I'm writing this blog.  I gave a bit above and below because I got excited about discovering how to add pictures to this blog, and then I had the nerve to figure out how to add captions and position the pictures.

It must have been less than a month before I was due to depart the USA for my third trip to Ghana in March 2010. (I was previously in Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and Ghana in October 2008 with a return to Ghana in March/April 2009.)  I was in a bit of a panic, because I had waited so late to make accommodation.  I was determined not to use the vacation rental company from my first two trips to Ghana (that's a whole other story, not worthy of mention here).  So, I kept searching the Internet for vacation rentals in Ghana.  I really wanted to deal directly with the homeowner.  A certain property seemed quite appealing to me.  By the way, I've never stayed in a hotel in Ghana, and I don't think I ever will.  I don't have anything against hotels, but I enjoy the comfort and space of an actual home.  Plus, most hotels are more expensive than renting a vacation rental.  As far as Ghana is concerned, I will always live in the midst of the people whom I love so much.  As I kept digging for information, I discovered the direct website with the owner's information, rental requirements, and plenty of great pictures:  Check the website at your leisure.

March 2010 was my first stay at GraceyVille, and then I returned January/February 2011, November/December 2011, and September/October 2012.  I am definitely trying to break some kind of record here.  Ghana has taken over my life!  Needless to say, I highly recommend GraceyVille, which is a villa on Devtraco Estates.  GraceyVille's owner is simply the best.  I wouldn't trade doing business with Mrs. Grace Yartey aka Maa Grace for anything.  Maa Grace saw to it that all of my stays were wonderful. I like the fact that the estate and the villa are secure and safe.  The neighborhood is full of really great people and plenty shops, taxis, and food.  Food is important!!!

In terms of convenience, Kotoka International Airport in Accra (Ghana's capital city) is about a 30-minute drive to Devtraco Estates.  Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive.  It is always good to agree on a price before entering a taxi.

GraceyVille patio
Inside GraceyVille Compound

Another view of GraceyVille's patio
Sneak peak of living room from dining room
Local, delicious food from Gratia Flavours Restaurant, which is just past Community 18 Police Station (a short walk from GraceyVille)

Bojo Beach is another experience worth going to Ghana for, especially if you like a clean beach with local fisherman gathering their nets, school children passing by on their way to their village(s), and very few tourists.  I prefer Bojo Beach over the crowded beaches in Accra.  Plus, Bojo Beach is quite an enchanting, unique place.  I think I owe Bojo Beach, and a few other interesting spots, its own blog.  When visiting Bojo, Kokrobite Beach is just a short drive west. 

Crossing Densu River to reach Bojo Beach in the background.  What a unique piece of nature! The water is not always this calm, and I have a problem with boats and water, but I made it! Kwame, with outstretched arms, is one of the best drivers in Ghana!!!

Fishermen drawing their nets.  I like watching this.  Maybe I will ask to join next time.
Bojo Beach's Densu River side.  The Atlantic is just on the other side of the sand.  Amazing!!!

The food at Bojo Beach is delicious.  As you can see, it is well-served.  That was the seafood platter.
A nice view of Bojo Beach and the Atlantic Ocean

Ghana is my Home away from Home

Saturday, September 7, 2013

"Loyalty, Respect, Integrity, and Love" (Delta Airlines #1762 LAX to JFK Thursday 5 Sep 2013)

¶Loyalty, Respect, Integrity, and Love are the four essential components that I require in a relationship. I would dare say that, if they are not present, there is no hope. I know this does not sound much like a travel blog entry, but I think I have someone's attention (smile). I am loyal to Delta Airlines and SkyTeam.

¶Before I officially switched my exclusive travel to Delta, I had flown with the airline a few times, but I flew mostly with American Airlines and oneworld. However, I decided to give Delta my full attention when the carrier commenced flying to Accra, Ghana (followed by Lagos & Abuja, Nigeria; Dakar, Senegal; Cairo, Egypt; Luanda, Angola; Monrovia, Liberia; and, Cape Town & Johannesburg, South Africa. I was just so happy that an American carrier finally reconnected the USA (via JFK in New York and ATL in Atlanta) with various African nations via nonstop and/or direct* service. Some of the destinations listed above are no longer being serviced by Delta. I hope to see them resurrected (Luanda,  Cairo, and Abuja) and joined by Malabo, Equatorial Guinea and Nairobi, Kenya. Once the revered, historic, and highly-esteemed PanAm went out of service, there was no nonstop/direct commercial service between North America and Africa for many years by an American carrier.

¶Oops, I have definitely lost my way. At present,  I am basking in Delta's Business Elite from LAX to JFK, eating a wonderful omelet due to an upgrade, which is a perk from having Platinum Elite status. This also happened for me a little over a month ago from JFK to LAX, and this one was totally unexpected. The wide body Boeing 767-300ER aircraft is a great improvement and relief from the exclusive use of the Boeing 757 single-aisle aircraft on the nonstop run between my native New York (Brooklyn born and raised!) and my beloved Los Angeles where I currently reside.

¶In the voice of SNL character Stephan, let me tell you why Delta's Business Elite is a treat...the pleasant, attentive flight attendants; the full flat-bed seats; the entertainment system with wonderful headsets; the mimosas and other grown-up beverages; the food; the real-sized pillow and plush blanket; and, the overall service (including the gate agents).

¶Whew! I like mimosas! Regarding the four attributes (loyalty, respect, integrity, and love) of a successful, fulfilling relationship, Delta Airlines has shared all of them with me. I have flown with Delta throughout North America and to Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America in all classes of service. I am truly pleased with Delta's way of doing business. When I boarded this flight (Delta #1762, LAX to JFK, 5 Sep 2013), I was not thinking about blogging at all.

¶Oh no! I just came from the lavatory...there is a fresh mimosa awaiting me. What am I supposed to do with this? I am already feeling so happy about everything. I do not intend to offend the flight attendant who made the drink for me (good excuse to indulge). Now it is time to take a journey with C.S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet (the first book from his Space Trilogy). Sorry, Mr. Lewis. Once I sank into that full flat-bed seat, I drifted off into a dream about someone whom I love in Ghana.

*Direct service means that the aircraft makes a scheduled stop before reaching its actual destination. For example, if you have the pleasure of flying to Monrovia, the aircraft goes to Accra first.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Australia: Yes, It Is A Big Deal!!!

¶Well, traveling to Sydney, Australia (New South Wales) was a big deal for me and a dream that I made come true. I had decided that, when I relocated to Los Angeles, I would do a trip to Australia. Of course I flew my beloved SkyTeam member, Delta Airlines, nonstop from LAX to SYD (please learn your airport From LAX there are several airlines (United, VirginAustralia, and Qantas) that make the amazing nonstop journey. If I am missing a nonstop carrier, please let me know.

¶I was at home on a July 2012 afternoon feeling like I really needed to see at least Sydney immediately. And I convinced myself that I would leave in three days, stay for three nights, and touch the amazing Sydney Opera House.
So, I went online and purchased the required visa for US citizens, which cost about $20. It was all internal. Once the Australian government approved my online application, they emailed me a confirmation. Everything is computerized, so I never had to send or take my passport to the embassy or consulate. When I arrived at LAX on the evening of July 31st for departure, the Delta desk agent was able to see my approved visa (valid for a year with multiple entries) in the computer system upon swiping my passport. What a neat system! I booked a room at a Sofitel: the price for three nights was very reasonable for a 5-star hotel, and its proximity to the Sydney Opera House (with a host of other unexpected delights) is exactly what I needed for such a short trip.

¶As I awaited boarding, I was overcome with excitement and self-amazement that I was really on my way to Australia, which would complete my lifelong goal of touching all six inhabited continents. My flight departed on time, and I was lucky enough to be able to stretch across three seats for the almost 14-hour flight. Keep in mind that this flight left LAX on the evening of July 31st, but it landed at SYD very early in the morning on August 2nd! That's the magic of losing an entire day when crossing the infamous, invisible international dateline.

¶Once on the ground at SYD, I was extremely overjoyed at and anxious about being in a new country. So I focused my energy to exchange US dollars for Australian dollars. Then I found the entrance to the Sydney subway (forgive me, I'm a New Yorker...underground, metro, etc.). All along I was looking at people and listening to the various accents and languages, loving every minute of it. I bought a 7-day unlimited pass since I knew I was going to become quite familiar with the trains and using them to take several random trips at the behest of my active, inquisitive mind. The ride from the airport to my hotel station was not long at all. I found it interesting that all the trains in the system are tri-level people movers.

¶I checked in at the beautiful Sofitel Sydney Wentworth (61-101 Phillip St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia), showered and hit the streets. Although I was tired, I wanted to stay awake with the sun, so that I would sleep like a baby at night. There are plenty shops, eateries, public buildings (nice library with free Internet using huge, state-of-the-art monitors), two different train lines and respective stations, lots of greenery, taxis, and buses.

¶I made my way to the famed Sydney Opera House as if I was going to meet royalty. I laughed to myself, because I knew this structure was the real reason why I made this epic journey. It was awesome. I remember seeing this opera house on PBS when I was an innocent schoolboy. I fell in love immediately. I also became fascinated with Dame Joan Sutherland at that time. So finally I made it! Amazing! While at the opera house, I discovered an amazing fact, i.e, Queen Elizabeth opened the Sydney Opera House on my 7th birthday in 1973. For me, that explained my almost lifelong attraction. Maybe I will get into more details about the opera house experience in a future blog.

¶Besides Sydney Opera House, the harbor area contains several hotels, a nice ferry terminal (all the ferries were included in my 7-day pass), and The Rocks, which I kept hearing about on the hotel TV. The Rocks is the place to be, especially if you like cobblestone streets/alleyways full of people and quaint stores coupled with open markets and nice outdoor cafes. By the way I failed to mention that I took a random ferry ride, and the water in Sydney Harbour is a pristine emerald color...quite pleasing to the senses. I can't wait to return to Australia to explore Sydney even more. I would also like to experience Darwin, Cairns, Melbourne, and Perth. Of course I will plan to stay much longer than three nights.

¶Reminder:  Do not forget your Target Up&Up Toddler Wipes (I prefer wipes over toilet paper any day), body spray of a citrus extraction, and something to keep your breath fresh!

Thank God for dreams, desires, goals, and aspirations!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

My first travel blog entry...finally!!!

Since this is my first official blog EVER, I want to keep it very short and simple.  I feel such a sense of freedom and accomplishment just from getting started with this blogging thing.

I would consider myself an avid, consummate, sometimes compulsive traveler.  There are a few items I would never travel without:  flushable wipes, body spray (something very clean-smelling and of a citrus nature), and mouth freshener (gum, mints, etc.).

In my next blog, stay tuned for detailed information about the benefits and joys of the items mentioned above.  Yippy!!!  I have finally begun this journey.