Since we had a phone in our room, we sent our parents the phone number yesterday. So my ‘rents called this morning at 6:00AM (11:00PM their time) to chat. It was so nice to hear their voices after almost a month and a half! We had nothing exciting to talk about as we’re all in contact via email, but it was nice to chat anyway.
Today was another errand-running day. First, we woke up and schlepped our dirty laundry to a cleaners on the other side of town. Then we went to the Terminal Hotel to see if they had any vacancies. While Thomas at the Terminal figured it out, Jon and I went to the “Dove Cage Restaurant” next door for breakfast. We had coffee/tea, toast, and omelettes for about $1.50 and it was good! After breakfast, we went back to Thomas who told us that he did have a room for us. So we went back to the 680 Hotel to pack and check out.
The Terminal Hotel
The Terminal Hotel is a “mid-range” budget hotel that can best be described as very old dorm rooms. The rooms are small and have thousands of layers of paint, no carpets, and the shower is in a closet-sized room. But they’re clean and there’s hot water 24/7. They’re also about $20/night. So no complaints!
Search for Lord of the Rings
We dropped off our stuff and then went in search of JRR Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings”. I thought I had seen it at one of the bookshops we were in yesterday. Unfortunately, this bookshop is at the far reaches of Nairobi. But that’s cool because – on the way there yesterday – we passed a HUGE outdoor market that was set up on the side of a freeway-like road. Random place for a market, I know. So we walked over to the market and – lo and behold – not a soul was there. It was as if we had imagined the whole thing! So strange. So we walked on to the bookshop, which is really a large textbook store. I went to pick up the book and found that, instead of “Lord of the Rings”, it was “Lord of the Flies”. Jon just stood there with a huge smirk on his face. My bad. We ended up finding two of the three volumes at a bookstore later in the day.
The Budget Travelers’ Guide to the Universe
The textbook store was in the same neighborhood as the famous Norfolk Hotel. Jon’s Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Mike stayed here a few years ago when they were in Nairobi and recommended it to us. Now we knew that it was way out of our price-range, but we thanked them for the suggestion and moved on. But since we were in the neighborhood we thought we’d stop by – especially since I had to go the toilet.
The key to high-end hotel mooching is to walk in as if you know exactly where you’re going. Since we’re relatively well-dressed and obviously tourists, it makes perfect sense that we might be staying there. This is how we got a complimentary map from the Hilton the other day. So we walked right in and through the lobby and found ourselves in the courtyard. Jon says quietly, “See any restroom signs?”. And I say quietly, “Nope”. But there was a sign for the pool up ahead so we kept walking. Each staff member greeted us cordially and we said “Jambo!” as if we hung out at the Norfolk every day.
On the way to the pool, we passed yet another restaurant/cafe. (Geez – this place has like five of them!) One of the waiters came out and said, “Hello! Let me welcome you to our fine pool restaurant!”. We said thank you but we were just going to check out the pool. So he offered to take us there. We happily situated ourselves in pool-side chairs, and each discreetly got up to use the toilets in the Health Club changing room. Then we sat around for about 15 minutes longer and eventually got up to leave. As we got up, our friendly guide was coming over to take our drink orders. We told him that we were going, and he seemed so disappointed! He said, “But you’ll be back?” and we said “Of course!”. On the way out, we had another staff member take a picture of us in one of the courtyards:
The day before we left the states, Aunt Jeanne called me and we chatted about the trip. She was disappointed that we weren’t staying at the Norfolk, but suggested that I take Jon here for his birthday dinner. Since we were in Moshi for his b-day it wasn’t possible, but now Jon and I thought it might be a nice treat for tonight. So we decided to check out some of the restaurants. “The Ibis” was much too pricey, but the “Lord Delamere Terrace” was a nice little splurge. Having taken care of all our business at the Norfolk, we walked out and turned down the road toward town.
Fish ‘n Chips
By now, it was past lunchtime and Jon had been talking about Fish ‘n Chips all day. There are plenty of places in Nairobi to get this, the trick is finding “the right place”. Lonely Planet suggested that we find the most crowded, so this is what we did. It was definitely a fast-food joint, but every local in town was there so we knew it would be good. Both orders were served wrapped in paper and was piping hot and scrumptious! Our meal total was 110 shillings – not even $2.00. But while eating this cheap is great, the food is VERY FRIED and not good for those of us who can’t eat like we’re 18 years old anymore. So we’ll probably stick to the mid-range eateries so that we don’t have heart attacks by the end of the trip.
As part of our quest to get rid of the white t-shirts, Jon decided weeks ago that he would get a Tusker Beer t-shirt from Nairobi. Now the search was on. Practically every shop and market stall has Tusker tees, but Jon had to find the perfect color, perfect size, and perfect price. So a seemingly easy errand turned into a two-hour task. But is was fun because we went through the market a few times and got to see lots of cool stuff. I mentioned to one vendor that I wanted a sarong with a tie on it, instead of the regular square sarongs. A half-hour later we had moved much further down the market to look at more t-shirts. But the sarong vendor had searched through his friends’ and families inventories and had found a selection of sarongs that I was looking for so he hunted me down and dragged me back to his stall. It was quite funny! Unfortunately, Jon wasn’t crazy about the sarongs so we decided to wait to see the selection in Cairo. After the market, I was much too tired to continue on the Tusker t-shirt crusade, so I went back to the hotel and left Jon on his own.
Lord Delamere Terrace at the Norfolk Hotel
Dinner was very nice. We each had soup and ordered the steak (of course!). There was a piano player to serenade us and white tablecloths and wonderfully cold beer. I definitely miss this way of traveling! We splurged for a dessert of roasted bananas and praline ice cream. Yummy!
The Norfolk Hotel has been in Nairobi since 1904 and boasts a long line of celebrities: Teddy Roosevelt, Elspeth Huxley, Baroness Karen Blixen, Lord Delamere himself, etc, etc. I guess the Norfolk was quite the place to be in the early 1900s! It’s interesting because Jon is almost finished with Blixen’s “Out of Africa” in which she mentions Lord Delamere and some other characters. So it’s cool to be reading a book about the same places we’re visiting.
After dinner we hopped in a taxi, picked up our laundry and went back to the hotel. Our taxi driver was a very old man driving a London-style taxi. He was very sweet and wanted to know if we needed a ride anywhere tomorrow. We said that no, we didn’t, but if he wanted to he could take us to the airport on Friday morning at 4:45am. He was so happy that you would have thought he just won a million dollars. I guess they don’t get many fares in Nairobi.
Terminal Hotel Nightlife
So we got back to the hotel to hear that the nightlife around here is quite happening. Our window overlooks the courtyard of the Dove Cage Restaurant where we had breakfast this morning. As mild-mannered as the restaurant seemed this morning, it is quite the local hangout in the evenings. A singer is set up with an electric piano and is singing his heart out. Most of the people in the bar area are singing along. But at least it’s not techno music! I can fall asleep to this, no problem.