Best travel experiences:What was South Africa like? I think they qualify under my palm tree rule
Ireland (Cork, Dublin)
Italy (Rome, Florence, Naples)
Belgium (Leuven, Brussels)
Worst travel experiences:
South Africa is not a place I'd recommend unless you know people there, or can afford to hire a tour / guide.
I was in the Jo-burg area. It's a fairly dangerous city (every house in the city, including in the suburbs, has an 8-foot safety wall / gate to keep out drifters and burglars), and the public transit system isn't very good. From what the locals told me, there are lots of car-jackings of taxis (including by taxi drivers) and the busses are death traps. Not a good scene. Thus, why it's good having somebody there to drive you around (we had my brother's in-laws).
So, yeah, safety isn't great. However, the rest of it was very cool. It's an absolutely beautiful country, and some of the wildlife-oriented activities you can do are phenomenal. My favorite was a lion park, where you drive around and lions literally attack your car. It was crazy. We went to a monkey park, too, where we were walking on a suspension bridge which was probably 300 feet above the ground, straight out of Indiana Jones. While we're crossing that, monkeys are trying to get on our shoulders, etc.
The food is great: lots of beef, steak, burgers, etc. It's very Americanized in that regard. The locals -- at least, the ones descended from the British -- seemed cool. Lots of drinking and sports and carrying on.
I don't know, it's hard to sum up, but it's a place I would totally go back to, but again, I'd have to be hosted. I hear Cape Town is nicer than Jo-burg, so that's another option I'd probably check out.
Hey, if you're ever going, I can put you in touch with my brother (who currently lives there).