Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Art Caffe

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
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In my last post I talk about the first half of my 24 hour day in Nairobi, Kenya. I spent it visiting orphaned elephants. Now it’s time for giraffes! Erica and I took our taxi to the Giraffe Center next. We hired a taxi for the day to take us around Nairobi. Split between the two of us it was an affordable flat rate and the most time saving way to see as much as possible in our 24hrs. When you meet a local driver you trust, be sure to get their phone number and call them when you need rides. Erica met a driver she liked when she was first in Nairobi so it was easy to call and get a quote for a day of touring around the city.

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We arrived at the African Fund For Endangered Wildlife Kenya (or the Giraffe Center), and paid 1000 Kshs ($11.50 USD) to enter. The center includes a cafe, gift shop and feeding platform. The photo above is the feeding platform and it is amazing. It puts you right at the height of the adult giraffes.

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Look at the feet of the giraffe above, and you can see the giraffes buddy: the warthog. The warthogs hang around the feet of the giraffes hoping to catch their scraps.

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You can see the feeding platform sits along the perimeter of a large area reserved for giraffes. Look at them eating off in the distance. They are just so gentle and sweet.

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“When I was a young warthog!!” – The Lion King

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Once I got up on the platform, an employed hands you many food pellets that the giraffes love. This giraffe came galloping over when he saw arms with pellets extended.

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That’s my hand on the left and the giraffe just grabbed a pellet from my hand with his tongue. I was nervous to feed them at first, but once you see that they don’t want to bite you, it becomes more fun. You can even pet their fur when they lean their head in.

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They have a purplish/black tongue and it’s super long. They can grab the food pellets out of your hand from a wide distance using it.

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There’s something called “kissing the giraffe”. The workers encourage doing this and it’s one of those must-do things for visiting the giraffes. Apparently giraffe’s will eat those pellets from anywhere…. anywhere. If you hold a pellet loosely between your lips, they can use their tongue to grab it. Erica got a face full of tongue above!

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Such a cutie.

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Me feeding my friend 🙂

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Next to the Giraffe Center is an expensive private hotel called Giraffe Manor. This hotel is also a feeding area for the giraffes. Supposedly they come right up to your hotel room windows and stick their heads in. You can also feed them from your dinner table. Knowing that this $12 Center is right next door, which gives you a similar yet much more affordable experience, I recommend it over spending all that money to stay in the hotel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the manor’s amazing but it’s so expensive and has to be booked so many months (years?) in advance.

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After feeding the giraffes and many “giraffe kisses”, we bid farewell to our animal friends and took our cab to the Karen Blixen Museum. Have you read the book or seen the movie Out of Africa? Karen Blixen wrote the book which is based on her life in Kenya. The museum is her actual home in Nairobi where most of the book takes place. Some of the Meryl Streep movie Out Of Africa was even filmed on these grounds.

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Much of the tour takes place inside the home, although no photos are allowed inside which is why I only included exterior photos here. The house inside is just as beautiful as you can imagine and they even have some of the clothing/props from the film.

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Karen Blixen (photo above) was a friend of the Kenyan people. She employed many people and often helped the community. Many locals would visit seeking medical and personal advice. She was loved by the Kenyan community.

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Karen owned a very large piece of property and even grew coffee beans. The above machine is used in the process of preparing the coffee.

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Once our tour ended, our taxi driver made a quick stop back at the Galleria Mall so we could get a dinner to go from Artcaffe (Erica’s favorite local restaurant good for Americans). Just a warning, security is tight at the malls in Nairobi. These malls are not nearly the size of a typical American mall, but are very large and fancy by local standards. Due to the terror attack at the Westgate Mall in 2013, there is a strong police presence at the mall. Also like many places in Africa, photography around the mall is not allowed.

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We had to try one of the Artcaffe cakes 🙂 It was delicious.

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Just to give you a sense of where we went for our 24 hours in Nairobi, Kenya, here’s a map and LINK to the directions.
A) The Nairobi Airport Stopover Hotel
B) The Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage
C) The Giraffe Center
D) The Karen Blixen Museum
E) The Galleria Mall – Artcaffe

Do This Today: Willy Wonka at the Skirball Cultural Center

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(photo via here)

It’s time for another midday activity! Willy Wonka is screening on the big screen at the Skirball Cultural Center. Check it out!

Event: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at Skirball Center (event link)
Location: Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd Los Angeles, CA
Time: Tuesday August 5, 2014, 1:30pm
Cost: Free – no reservations

Do This Today: LACMA Matinees: Labyrinth

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(photo via here)

I know what you’re thinking: who’s free at 1pm for a movie at the LACMA? Well if you’re funemployed and looking for cheap midday fun, hit up the LACMA today! $4 (in addition to admission to the museum) lets you see a screening of the AWESOME movie Labyrinth. You know you want to see David Bowie in those pants!

Event: LACMA Matinees: Labyrinth (event link)
Location: LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Time: Tuesday July 29, 2014, 1pm
Cost: $4 for general admission

Do This Today: Outstanding Art of TV Costume Design

exhibition-8th-annual-outstanding-art-of-television-costume-design (image via here)

Today visit the FIDM Museum downtown to see the opening of their exhibit Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design. Mary Rose (President of the Costume Designers Guild) is curating the exhibit. Expect to see costumes from your favorite nominated programs.

Event: Outstanding Art of TV Costume Design (event link)
Location: FIDM Museum & Galleries, 919 S. Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA
Time: Tuesday July 22, 2014, 10a – 4pm
Cost: Free!

BONUS Do This Today: LACMA Conversation with Michael Wilkinson: Superman- Costume Icon

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This is a tad pricy for the blog, but sounds cool. Check out the LACMA tonight to see Michael Wilkinson (who was nominated for an Oscar in Costume Design for American Hustle) in conversation with Bobi Garland. Warner Bros even loaned some of Wilkinson’s costume designs for the event. If you’re into wardrobe and costume design, this event is for you. It’s $35 for LACMA members, $25 for students, and $40 for the public.

Event: LACMA Conversation with Michael Wilkinson: Superman- Costuming an Icon (event link)
Location: LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Time: Tuesday March 4, 2014, 7pm
Cost: $40 for the public, $25 for students, $35 for LACMA members

Do This Today: Free Museum Day!

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Do you love visiting museums in Los Angeles but can’t take the hefty entrance fees? Alas! Today is Presidents’ Day, which means spend your day off at one of LA’s best museums. Check HERE for the full list of museums and details.

Event: Free Admission to Los Angeles Museums (event)
Location: See THIS list for the participating museums
Time: Monday February 17, 2014, All day
Cost: FREE

Israel XIII: Last Day in Israel

To catch you up to speed, check out these earlier posts about my trip:
Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv
Israel II: Jaffa (the Old City)
Israel III: Modern Art and Bauhaus Architecture
Israel IV: Caesarea and Haifa
Israel V: Acre (Akko)
Israel VI: The Sea of Galilee
Israel VII: Golan Heights
Israel VIII: Nazareth
Israel IX: Masada and the Dead Sea
Israel X: Old City Jerusalem at Night
Israel XI: Old City Jerusalem Daytime Part 1
Israel XII: Old City During the Day Part 2

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After 12 posts, we’ve finally caught up with my last day in Israel, which also happens to be Thanksgiving. We woke up in Jerusalem and spent the day there before cabbing it to Tel Aviv for a Thanksgiving feast at Orna and Elle on Shenkin St. with our friends Brian and Andy. Jerusalem is about 45 min to an hour from Tel Aviv, of course we left in the late afternoon traffic and it took us 2 hours. But we made it and had a lovely night with good friends. But let me step back and tell you how I decided to spend my last 5 hours in Jerusalem.

My uncle had a work meeting, my sister decided to take a day tour to Bethlehem, and I was free to see whatever I wanted to see. I decided to stay in Jerusalem and cross more items off my to-see list. At this point I’d seen so many sites from other religions, but not many from my own upbringing. Here’s a map of how I spent my day:

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I got all packed up and then walked from our hotel into the Jaffa Gate of the old city. I just love these pathways.

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I walked through the old city and excited through the Damascus Gate.

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The above photo is from the outside of the Old City looking at the Damascus Gate.

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Just outside and north of the Old City is the Garden Tomb. At Sunday school as a kid, this is where we were told that Jesus was buried and then resurrected.

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This is a small lovely site. It was so peaceful considering beyond the walls is a bustling city. Everything about this site is donation based. Even using their audio walking tour guide was free. Everyone working here was so nice and considerate. The whole vibe of this place was so different from all the other religious sites that I had seen. No one was kissing where Jesus touched. No one was selling religious trinkets. It was just such a lovely peaceful place.

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These above markings are what help indicate that this is the site of the tomb described in the bible. The only bummer is that on the other side of this fence is a bus depot, so it’s smokey and loud at this edge. It’s quite a juxtaposition to be looking at these Biblical markings from Jesus time with buses pulling in and out right below it.

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This is the tomb where Jesus body was placed and then gone the next morning.

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Since I was the only one at this portion of the garden (there were tour groups spread around the different garden stations), I couldn’t tell if it was okay if I went into the tomb. So I tippy-toed in hoping not to get yelled at.

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It was so interesting being inside the tomb. Wow.

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I went back into the Old City and cut through the Muslim Quarter to the Lion’s Gate.

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It’s hard to tell that the Lion’s Gate exit is a steep decline.

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This is the land on the east side of the Old City.

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This is the Church of Gethsemane. This was on the must-see list for Israel.

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It is so beautiful, but know that the tour buses empty out here, so it’s always packed with people.

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The Garden of Gethsemane sits to the north of the church, and is where Jesus and his Disciples prayed the night before Jesus was crucified.

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Inside the church, I wasn’t willing to wait in the long line to touch the place Jesus sat. Instead I sat and a pew and took in the space. The mural on the wall shows Jesus sitting on the rock that everyone touches. I’m sure in Jesus time, this area was all rocks so how is this rock “the” rock? It’s the same with all the religious spots.

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More of the garden.

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Right by the garden is the Grotto of Gethsemane.

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I also really enjoyed this place. It was not crowded at all, which is good because it’s a tiny room buried below. This is supposedly where Judas betrayed Jesus and the guards found him here.

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Next to the grotto is the Tomb of the Virgin Mary.

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The tomb is at the bottom of these stairs. It’s very smokey in here from all the incense.

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I continued up the hill (right next to Mount of Olives).

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I stopped to see the Church of Mary Magdalene. Several female saints are buried here.

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Afterword I headed back into the Old City where I saw this grafiti. Religious graffiti.

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I had to stop into this tiny pastry shop which came highly recommended. It’s called Zalatimo’s and it’s at the south east corner of the Church of the Sepulcher. It’s right at the bottom of a stairwell that connects the market level to the upper level of the church. It’s a one man operation, he makes one item (mutabak), and it’s been passed down for generations. Stop in this place if you can find it and chat with him while he bakes. He only spoke a little English, but we managed to have a conversation which was fun.

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After picking up this treat, I headed back to the hotel where my Uncle and I check out and headed for a very quick trip to the Israel Museum. Above is the roof of the building which contains the Dead Sea Scrolls. So interesting.

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There’s also a scaled model of the Old City of Jerusalem (not as it currently is). Look how large it is compared to the people.

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It was a very short stop, and after 45 min we had to head off to Tel Aviv. I really look forward to coming back to Israel at some point. I enjoyed it so much that I know Ill be back. If I had more time I would have walked the top wall of the Old City, visited where the last supper supposedly took place and I would have gone to Bethlehem.

Thanksgiving dinner was a lot of fun back in Tel Aviv. We all had an early wakeup call in the morning, as we headed to the airport with Andy and Brian to take off to Istanbul, Turkey! The adventure continues!

Do This Today: LA Art Book Fair at MOCA Geffen

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The Geffen MOCA is holding an opening for their LA Art Book Fair exhibit tonight, with the exhibit going through February 2. These art openings are always fun, so why not check it out. Check THIS page out for all the deets.

Event: LA Art Book Fair 2014 (link)
Location: MOCA Geffen, 152 N. Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Time: Thursday Jan 30, 2014, 6pm – 9pm
Cost: FREE!

BONUS Do This Today: Free Museum Day!

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Do you love visiting museums in Los Angeles but can’t take the hefty entrance fees? Alas! This weekend is a free admission weekend for most museums! Do you want to visit the Hammer Museum, The LACMA, the Skirball Cultural Center or about 20 other museums? Do it this rainy weekend. Check out HERE for the full list of museums and details.

Event: Free Admission to Los Angeles Museums (event)
Location: See THIS list for the participating museums
Time: Saturday January 25, 2014, All day
Cost: FREE