Into Africa: Nairobi Sights and Bites

by spiceaholic on December 18, 2011

It’s been 3 weeks since we’ve returned from our trip and I’m still working on going through photos and figuring how to best re-cap the trip.

Rather than go day-by-day, I’ve decided to break it up based on where we stayed.  So up first is Nairobi!

We arrived in the very wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 3 am! Our Friendly Planet Travel representatives in Kenya, Vintage Africa, met our group at the airport and shuttled us away to our hotel.  Once we were all checked in, we were told to meet everyone at 2pm, giving us time to rest and explore if we wanted.  Most people went to bed, but Mr. Spice and I couldn’t sleep and decided to stay up a few more hours, grab some breakfast in the hotel, and then take a nap before we met up with everyone.

While in Nairobi at the beginning and end of our Kenya trip, we stayed at the InterContinental Nairobi, which was very conveniently located.  And yes, I was a dork and took pictures of our room.

Since it was only a couple hours until breakfast began at 6 am, we stayed up watching tv and reading.  I don’t remember our reason for staying up to eat and then going to sleep instead of crashing and then waking up to eat later.  Chalk it up to travel-brain!

Not a bad way to start the morning!

Breakfast was buffet-style, which I love since it lets me try out different things depending on what I’m in the mood for. I wasn’t in the mood for anything in particular so I just tried a little of this and a little of that.

I was looking for local breakfast items and the closest I came was mandazi, which is a fried bread – I think this is because the hotel we stayed at is geared towards foreign travelers, so most of the food was your typical Western-style offerings.

Loved this display of passionfruit and some other fruits!

We headed back up to nap for a few hours before we needed to meet everyone.  I thought I set the alarm to give us enough time to get ready but I had my time difference wrong, resulting in a call at 2:15 asking where we were when I thought it was only 1:15 and we had plenty of time!  Oops!

On the agenda for our first day was a visit to the Langata Giraffe Centre, run by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, which houses endangered Rothschild Giraffes.  Visitors can get very up-close and personal with the giraffes via a raised observation deck that allows you to touch, pet, feed, or get licked by the very friendly giraffes.

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I fed one of the giraffes and that’s as far as it went for me and my germo-phobe self, even though apparently giraffe saliva has antibacterial qualities.  Sorry, getting it on my hands was enough, I wasn’t about to hold food in my mouth and let the giraffes kiss it off me, unlike the lady above.  🙂

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There were also some warthogs enjoying the sun and attention.

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Up next was the Karen Blixen Museum, which was the former home of Karen Blixen, the famed Danish author of “Out of Africa.”  I confess to never having read the book or seen the movie before our trip, but plan to do so now that we’ve been there!  We weren’t allowed to take photographs inside the museum, but it was fascinating to learn more about Blixen and her life in Africa.

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We managed to see quite a bit on our first day!  We were on our own for dinner once we returned to the hotel and Mr. Spice and I ended up tagging along with a small group.  I’m so glad we did, because we all ended up hanging out with each other for the rest of our trip!

I hadn’t done a lot of pre-trip research about where to eat in Nairobi, but I had heard of the restaurant we were going to – Tamarind, which is known for their seafood.

This little guy and his friends were at the front to greet us as we walked in.

It was very dark in the restaurant, and I had just started to learn about the ISO settings on my camera, so it was interesting trying to get low-light pictures to come out okay. So excuse the bad pics – I had to tweak a few after the fact so you could see the images.

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As we perused the menu, we were given some pre-appetizers to sample.  I don’t remember what the first two were exactly, but I think the 2nd one was some kind of crab ball.  And garlic bread needs no explanation!

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The waiter was very eager for us to try dawa, which he told us was the national drink of Kenya.  I declined this time around and instead got a fruity non-alcoholic drink.

For my appetizer, I got the Spanish grilled king prawns, which were very simply prepared with olive oil and herbs.

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Continuing the prawn theme, I decided to get the prawns piri piri for my entree.  I was trying to decide between these, the red snapper and prawns harissa, or the Bombay fish and prawns.  To understand my dilemma, check out the menu!

My prawns came with a yellow-coconut rice and some piri piri sauce on the side.  These prawns were huge, so I was glad to share them.

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I applied a long-used tactic of mine and convinced Mr. Spice to order the Bombay fish and prawns so I could try it too!  And I actually ended up liking his more than mine.

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We weren’t about to end the night without some dessert!  I got the chocolate explosion, which was your basic chocolate molten cake with ice cream on top.  I loved the personalized messages they wrote on our dessert plates (even if they left the “H” off the end of my name!).  My dessert message was “Gratitude is Heaven Itself.”

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After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to continue the fun – there was a live band playing out by the pool so we sat out there chit-chatting and getting to know each other better until we decided it was way past our bed-times!

I was very pleasantly surprised by the offerings at breakfast the next day!  It shouldn’t have been such a surprise to me, since there is a sizeable Indian population in Kenya, courtesy of its British colonial heritage.  Still, I was happy to see roti and a chicken dish in the buffet – I love hearty breakfasts and this hit the spot.

And mark my words, this won’t be the last time you see Indian food on my plate during this trip!

On tap for our 2nd day was a visit to the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage on our way to Lake Naivasha. We packed all our things since we would be staying overnight in Lake Naivasha and then moving on to Masai Mara for the next few days.

Here’s Mr. Spice looking all snazzy in his safari hat, which we all received on our first day.

The Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage is part of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and is home to young elephants orphaned mostly as a result of poaching. They receive one-on-one care from the staff and are eventually rehabilitated into the wild. Our visit was timed so that we could watch the elephant calves being fed.

What do baby elephants drink? Baby formula! Just in a much bigger bottle!

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Ready to see the baby elephants?  You have to play Henry Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk” while you look at the pictures.  Yes, yes, you have to!  And I need to get Mr. Spice to do some kind of slide-show to the song!

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This little one was only 2 weeks old!  Because it was so young, it had to wear a blanket to keep it warm.

Now we’re going to fast-forward about 3 days, to the end of our Kenya trip.  After a few days of safari, we came back to Nairobi for a few hours before our flight to Istanbul.

On the way back from Masai Mara, we stopped at the Kazuri Bead factory in Karen, which is a suburb of Nairobi (and formerly part of the Karen Blixen Estate.)  The Kazuri factory produces hand-made ceramic pottery and beads and provides employment to women, usually from single-income families.

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And of course, no tour of a factory is complete without a trip to the gift shop!  Mr. Spice knew the drill from our China trip — just find somewhere to sit while I shopped!  I had to stop myself from going crazy buying stuff, but narrowed it down to some bracelets for gifts.  Of course, I always kinda knew that while I was buying them as gifts, that some of them would end up being for myself!

After our tour, we went back to the InterContinental Nairobi to check in for a few hours to rest up before our flight at 3 am.  But before that we had a group farewell dinner at Carnivore, a restaurant renowned for its all-you-can-eat meat (as evidenced by its name).  If you’ve been to a Brazilian steak-house, where they walk around with slabs of meat to cut at your plate, then this is exactly what that’s like.   It’s apparently one of the 50 best restaurants in the world!

It was VERY dark inside, so I didn’t get a lot of pictures of our food. I managed to get some shots at the front of the restaurant, where all the action was.

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Dawa! I succumbed to it, finally! The name means “medicine” in Swahili. I don’t know about that and I don’t think it made me feel any better after drinking it.

Say cheese!

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Up next on our Kenyan adventure is our stay at Lake Naivasha!

If you want to see more of our Kenya pics, please feel free to check out my Kenya set on Flickr!  There’s almost 750 pics in there already, and I’m sure I’ll be adding some more.

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