The Sound of a Cock Porping

These memorable words were uttered by me during the delicious dinner that our house guests had treated us to, on the last evening of their recent stay chez nous.  Rosemary and James had taken us to the Hotel Fuchsias, an establishment we are fortunate to have just five minutes along our road.  Screw-top wines are pretty much unheard of in France and the sound of a cork as it is drawn from a wine bottle is unmistakeable and presages the deeply satisfying experience of the first sip of good French wine.  Unless, of course, the wine is ‘cocked’.  Which it wasn’t 🙂

Our guests are on their way to Mayenne, an area we had not heard of, and after people make landfall at Cherbourg we at St Vaast La Hougue are ideally placed for friends and family who plan a stay further afield in France and would like to make a stopover to see us.  Our dinner had followed a very agreeable afternoon spent at le Jardin botanique du Chateau de Vauville. 452c52c6c31516534ac43ea259824176 The garden was begun in 1947 and wanders over four hectares on a windy site within 300 metres of the sea.  Wikipedia tells me that it contains more than 900 semi-tropical species of plants from the southern hemisphere set within windbreaks of diverse Eucalyptus and bamboo. Collections include Aloe, Phlomis, Euphorbia, Hemerocallis, Agapanthus, Gunnera, Echium pininana, and  palm trees.

The gardens are one of the first destinations we visited when we first moved to France.  On one occasion we went there with Pam and Andrew Tompsett and the impression we gained from Andrew was that here was a garden in need of rather better management.  This time it was rather sad to see that the owners appear to have decided, but perhaps by default, to run with all the plants that will grow like topsy, and diversity has dropped considerably.  They are also allowing space to adventives such as Iris foetidissima.  IMG_6471 (2)40 I still think that two of the most impressive ‘rooms’ are the Bamboo Theatre and the High Forest of Palms.  IMG_6466 (2)40Throughout there are still wonderful trees there, notably statuesque Eucalyptus and interesting conifers.  Earlier in the year you can enjoy the Camellia, Rhododendron and Azalea and now it is the turn of the Hydrangea which are just beginning to flower. IMG_6477 (2)40

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There are many unusual shrubs too but the under-storey is now very depleted.  There is just one tiny colourful corner where some unusual flowers abound. It was lovely to find Bletilla in flower. IMG_6497 (2)40 I should love to try this in my garden.   I doubt the garden still boasts 900 plant species.  Even the circular lawn which used to be ringed by Agapanthus and Hemerocallis has changed shape and character and there are rather too many spiky Cordyline.  And then there are the water bodies which have been completely taken over by Gunnera.  Happily one of the ponds at Le Jardin de la Sagesse had a population of cute little frogs whose colours were metallic in appearance.  I don’t think they are native species.IMG_6494 (3)40 There are stone seats and some sculptures.  My favourite stone feature is the Green Man who is carved into the wall by the Chemin des Fougeres and whose perimeter is clad by Trachelospermum jasminoidesIMG_6482 (2)40To the best of my belief the chateau itself has not been opened to the public and remains a private residence.  IMG_6488 (2)40You get glimpses of it above the high walls and there is a corner where you can peer over a picket fence which runs along a wall by a back gate.  We’ve been visiting Jardin du Chateau on and off since we came here in 2005 and it has been interesting to observe the ecological succession that has taken place.  Aided and abetted I think by a lack of resources, human and financial, on the part of the owners to stay on the case…………… But it still makes a good afternoon outing.

 

Two Good Walks and Parting Shots

It’s to be a weekend of exercise and as much restrained eating as I can manage.  It’s a simple equation: x calories in and y calories out.  My x and y values must be equal at the very least and preferably the value of y should exceed the value of x.

It’s the second Saturday in the month and with typical village rigour this means it’s a day for the Winterborne Walkers.  Sheila has planned us a route that starts from The Woodpecker pub in Charlton Marshall.  The walk makes a circuit back to the pub and will start with a bit of a climb to Spetisbury Rings then loops round taking in Crawford Bridge and a lovely little church with Medieval wall paintings,  tucked into a secluded corner of countryside.  The beautiful of Crawford Bridge (listed as a scheduled monument in 1955) gives us a wonderful view of clear water, swans including a family with five fluffy pale mink-coloured cygnets, and a heron.  IMG_6433 (2)40

Later we arrive at the St-Mary-the-Virgin Church at Tarrant Crawford.  This simple church dates back to the 12th century, and is all that remains of a wealthy Cistercian nunnery – the 13th century Tarrant Abbey – to which it may have been a lay chapel. Our way takes past several water bodies and across a raised path with railings which incline pleasantly outwards.  The environs appear to be part of a large landscaped garden but although we have passed several residential properties it is not clear to whom this garden might belong.IMG_6451 (2)40 As we continue we also get a second sighting of a swan family below a small bridge, Aand as we watch the birds it is fascinating to see that the young mimic the body posture of the adult who appears to be in charge.  Must be the mother……..IMG_6442 (2)40The walk route we have taken is very agreeable and later when I surf to look for a particular bit of information I come across this website, which describes several walks taking The Woodpecker as the starting point.

The following day we have planned to walk with Maddy and Andrew on Portland, at Church Ope.  As a spontaneous and last minute decision son Dan and Jake had booked into The Old Workshop overnight with a view to climbing at The Cuttings on Portland.  Unlike a lot of Portland, the limestone walls at The Cuttings are not natural; as the name suggests, they are the remains of an old railway cuttings. The railway itself, which serviced the island’s quarries, is now long gone, but it has left a crag with easy access.  Dan and Jake head off after breakfast to stake their claim and we rendez vous with M and A in the carpark opposite the Museum at 11.

We walk along the cliff top, following the track of the old railway until we can progress no further, our passage being prevented by The Verne.  Instead we clamber down onto the area known as Penn’s Weare, as described by the blogger on this website.  The topography is undulating but a bit craggy too and the area is popular for those who like to go bouldering.  This is a lovely area to walk, the flora is wonderful and diverse.  I see several spent ‘flowerheads’ of a Broomrape and eventually find one in perfect condition. There are 200 species of Orobanche so I feel I have little hope of identifying my specimens although there is one species O. hederae which parasitizes ivy exclusively and there was certainly some ivy around.  IMG_6464 (2)40 The tiny florets of Pyramidal orchids are just beginning to open. IMG_6457 (2)40 We continue until we come to the cliff top on the eastern margin of Church Ope Cove.  We scramble down a narrow steep track with my enemy ‘scree’ very much in evidence.  Thank goodness for my walking pole which gives me a third leg.  And for the hand of Nick.

The steps up from the cove are a bit taxing but welcome…………….. calories out.  The four of us head for the Cove Inn at Chesil where we order lunch (calories in and too many!) and are shortly joined by the climbers.  Dan treats us all to lunch.

The following day is a busy one, I must prepare the garden for our leave of absence (which means moving a number of pots to sites where they will not bake), drive into Dorchester to collect a couple of items, visit my mother.  Nick adds a bit more wood to the pergola he is constructing in the garden.  In the afternoon Joy and Tricia pay us a visit and I must abandon them to Nick.  We are getting dab hands at this commuting business.  Just before supper and with the early evening sun smiling down upon the garden, I take a few photos.

We go to bed not too late and rise an hour earlier than we normally do in order to leave the house feeling calm and collected.  We achieve this.

 

An Oasis of Calm

Nestled between towering mountains in the beautiful Cape winelands lies the magnificent Franschhoek Valley. It is reputed to be the food and wine heartland of the country with its splendid wine estates and top chefs create world-class cuisine. The scenery is breath-taking on a grand scale.

Spectacular vineyards cover the mountain slopes and the valley, settled more than 300 years ago by the Huguenots, who brought with them their age-old French wine and food culture.

Arriving at Val d’Or Wine estate we are drawn into a beautiful and tranquil setting at the foot of the Klein Drakenstein Mountains.  The reception area of the main house is pleasantly cool as we check in.  IMG_5797 (2)40We are shown to the villa, a serene and spacious building looking out to the vista of Groot Drakenstein Mountains on the other side of the valley.DSC01417 (2)40 Nick and I have a calming green bedroom which acts as a conduit to the hues of the foliage of plants, shrubs and trees and to the lush lawns of the garden outside our French doors.  The grounds are laid out to lawn, flower borders, shrubberies with two ponds adjacent to a swimming pool.  We are going to ‘eat in’ so Charlotte and Ryan drive along to Franschhoek to buy meats for a braai and salads.  We have the bubbly that we bought at Vergenoegd.  In the mellow warmth of the early evening, we eat by the pool. DSC01419 (2)

We wake on our first morning in this idyll and since we are in wine country a winery visit or two must be made.  But first we walk up to the main house to eat omelettes.  DSC01449 (2)40Thence into Franschhoek town which strikes me as oh so French and I then learn that the town’s name means ‘French Corner’.  Here there are lovely shops including several art galleries.  Teddy poses with another outside one of them.  IMG_5756 (2)40

In one of these the Perrymans find a pair of pictures which are, in fact, photographs with much of the detail stripped out.  One is of elephants, the other is a hippo.  They will sit very happily alongside other Africana that they have in their home in England.  In the same shop I see a occasional table which I like very much, made as it is out of plate glass shelves and driftwood.IMG_5761 (2)40

We have a drink in the bar which is the old Railway Station then visit La Motte which is one of the wineries on the main road into the town.  IMG_5782 (2)40Seated at hand-made tasting tables, a welcoming tasting counter or on comfortable sofas, visitors have an unimpeded view of the working and maturation cellars through large glass panels.  We paid a sum to taste seven different wines, probably drank far too much of each and ended up ordering two of the whites and one of the reds.  IMG_5766 (2)40Forty-eight bottles between us.  A bonus was that we could pay in Euros, which gave us a cheaper price and the wines could be delivered from Germany to France.IMG_5778 (2)40

Back at the villa we rested and then spent some time around the pool, accompanied by the lovely dog, Bagel, who belongs to the owner of the estate.  In the evening we went to a restaurant in Franschhoek specialising in South African cuisine.  Aptly named Ryan’s Kitchen the establishment rates no. 2 out of 51 on Trip Advisor.  Ever intrigued by new dishes I chose the Prawn Tapioca “Pudding”, prawn crackers, chopped chives, charred lemon gel to start with.

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I think I am probably one of the easiest people to feed that I know, but I did have to admit to myself that I found the frog-spawn appearance and imagined consistency a bit unnerving!  I know I am on safe territory when I choose Roast Duck Breast, Honey and Dukkah glaze, spiced chocolate & cashew nut puree’s, roast Kohlrabi for my main course.

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The following morning we must check out and return to Cape Town to take a flight to Johannesburg.  IMG_5792 (2)40The next stage of our holiday is going to begin.  Before we leave Val D’Or I take a walk around the grounds and take some photos.  IMG_5748 (2)40The most appealing area is focussed around the pond where there are numerous weaver bird nests suspended in the trees.  DSC01427 (2)40

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With my passion for basketry in all possible materials I find the bird-made structures beautiful.  I’d willingly give one houseroom.

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It’s time to give thanks and move on………………

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Close Encounters of the Elasmobranch Kind

We have to check out of the hotel in Hermanus very early.  We don’t even get breakfast because we are due to check in at 7 in the morning for our day with Shark Diving Unlimited run by Mike Rutzen who has spent more time free diving with Great White Sharks than any other person on the planet.  He is also one of only 3 people who are able to read and respond to Great White Shark body language.  It’s this respect and love he has for these animals, which he aims to share with his guests.

We arrive and find an array of good things to eat, such as mushroom and egg muffins,  before we embark.  We head out to sea; it is a 15-minute run out to the cage which will be attached to the side of the boat and which will accommodate 7 shark observers at a time.  The cage looks robust enough although the mesh seems quite large to me.  As I struggle into a wet suit for the first time in ages I am still allowing myself the option to duck out at the last minute!  DSC01348 (2)40The skipper explains the drill and I naturally step back when he calls for the first trippers to volunteer to enter one of the small compartments in the cage.  He says that if he observes anyone putting their hands outside the cage……… as if!…………. the boat will turn round and head straight back to the port.

The sharks – Great Whites of course – are drawn into the environs of the boat with tuna head baits.  These are attached to a rope and cast out then hauled towards the boat as the shark approaches.  DSC01350 (2)40 Fairly basic stuff.  A 3.5 metre female comes within our influence and stays with the boat for the duration of the trip.  All those who want to experience the thrills get two turns in the cage.  When the moment comes for me to take my turn it is easier to clamber into the cage than lose face and dip out.

The technique is simple enough and as the shark comes close to the cage and swims past it, the occupants of the cage are instructed to duck below the surface.  We hold our breath and sink down, viewing the shark through a mask as she passes along the cage.  She is very close. DSC01381 (3)40 Perhaps my best view and experience is when I am slow to duck, getting a chance to see the shark at the surface as she makes to grab the bait.  Exhilarating has to be the word!

Charlotte has opted not to dive on this trip and she sits up top with Ted, camera in hand and gets a bird’s eye view of the show.  The boat’s skipper is a competent man, he directs the proceedings and also records the experience as a video.  DSC01410 (2)40When we get back to the office there is coffee, and more of the food to be enjoyed and whilst we eat Mike processes and edits the video.  We then sit down, there and then, to relive our own close encounters.

After a super thrilling morning we pile into our vehicle and head for the Franschhoek area.  We will stay here for two nights before heading back to Cape Town to take a flight north.

Runner Ducks and Robben Island

At the end of our first week we check out of Chapman’s Peak Hotel which has served us really well.  Great breakfasts, if a little slow and relaxing evenings in the verandah restaurant eating seafood and always, in Ted’s case, rare red meat.  We are now to head for Wine Country via Hermanus where we have an overnight stay with an exciting booking for the following day.

Our journey will take us past the Vergenoegd Wine Estate in Stellenbosch and it is here that we stop to find something to eat and drink.  The formal restaurant is fully booked but this does not matter because there are tables and benches and an open grassy area with filled sacking bales to sit on. DSC01313 (2) There is a small market with some fast food outlets serving South African specialities, such as Potjike for example. DSC01311 (2) Nick and I have a plate of this and we all drink fizz.  Whilst we are there we witness the wonderful spectacle of the Indian Runner Ducks setting off to work._The_ducks_parading_-a-17_1460715828275 (2)  The image of a vineyard that most of us have is perhaps neatly trellised rows of lush green vines with their leaves gently waving in the wind.  We will see these when we arrive at Franschoek.  This wine estate is different however because each day a veritable army of ducks is set loose amongst the vines for farm work. 33338E2700000578-0-image-a-22_1460715847705DuckParade (2) This work consists of picking off snails and other pests which can plague the vines.   A byproduct of this activity must inevitably result in adding to the fertility of the soil.  These ducks have been carrying out this service in the vineyards since 1984.   By now the estate has its own breeding programme for the birds.  Unsurprisingly the name of the company is Runner Duck Wine.

So we spend a very happy interlude in the sunshine.  As well as feeding ourselves we are able to buy a bag of food to feed the ducks 🙂  DSC01321 (2) We buy a bit of bubbly to take with us and then rejoin the main road that will take us through to Hermanus.  Originally called Hermanuspietersfontein, but shortened in 1902 as the name was too long for the postal service, this is a town on the southern coast of the Western Cape. It is famous for  whale-watching and is a popular retirement town. The whales can be seen from the cliffs in the town centre as early as June and usually depart in early December. They were once hunted in the nearby town of Betty’s Bay, but are now protected to ensure the survival of the species.  We are booked into the Harbour House Hotel which has a lovely position on the seafront although the rooms we are allocated are not particularly well positioned to enjoy views and such like.  But we are only here for one night and it is late afternoon when we check in.

In the evening we go to a local restaurant, La Pentola, which is boasting Abalone on its menu.  You only eat the foot of an Ormer but it costs us an arm and a leg to do so!  And it is a delicious treat.  I am not surprised that abalone is offered for sale around these parts, although I understand there are fishing restrictions.  Driving along the rocky coasts there are extensive kelp forests and what is interesting to me is that you can see the fronds at all states of the tide.  Around the UK you only see stooped kelp fronds floating at the surface at low water spring tides.  They are called forests because in a sense the kelp stipes are like the trunks of underwater trees.  The kelp species common to the Cape Peninsula and the west coast of South Africa include Sea Bamboo – Ecklonia maxima, Split Fan Kelp – Laminaria pallida, and Bladder Kelp – Macrocystis angustifoliaabalone kelp forest The kelp canopy provides an important habitat for thousands of species of fish, invertebrates and other seaweeds. Kelp species are tough and resilient, and stretching into the sea, often for many kilometres, they help break the great force of the waves offering protection to the nearshore ecosystem.  Ormers can hunker down amonst the hard substrates on which the kelp stipes are attached.

I saw bleached, dead ormer shells on the beach by the small coffee shop on the southeast end of Robben Island when we made a day trip of pilgrimage.  A couple of Asian boys had picked up one or two as souvenirs to take away after we had made a stop by the coffee shop.  There were hundreds, thousands of shells cast up.  As we were loaded back onto the coach to complete the tour of the island the guide refused to allow them to keep the shells, which seemed churlish although I am only too well aware of the restrictions around taking live ormers.

Before we had left the Cape Town area we had made a boat trip to Robben Island.   It is a South African National Heritage Site as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  And with good reason.   Nobel Laureate and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned there for 18 of the 27 years he served behind bars before the fall of apartheid.    The island is situated in Table Bay, easily visible from the peak of Table Mountain.  It’s name is Dutch for ‘seal island’ and it is flat and only a few metres above sea level, as a result of an ancient erosion event. ( Not surprising then that empty shells and other rejectamenta are washed up onto the almost flat shores.)  The island is effectively a living museum and every year thousands of visitors take the ferry from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town for tours of the island and its former prison.

 

My first Baboons in the Wild – Ba-boom!

We’re still at Chapman’s Peak which means we still have our lovely beach walk to enjoy.  Ted finds yet another snail low on the shore.  We stop and watch it rebury itself.WP_20170401_09_47_39_Pro (2)

Today we are going to go to Cape Point, and on the way we will go to Simon’s Town for lunch and to browse the little market there.  Lots of purveyors of glass bead work.  Ted buys a   I am very tempted by the little nodding guinea fowl but resist.  We find a seafront restaurant and on our way to the table I notice someone eating a plate of large mussels.  The green-lipped kind.  They look wonderful in a creamy sauce so that is what I choose.

On our way to Cape Point we drive across the extensive Nature Reserve and it is here that Nick and I get our first sighting of baboons in the wild.  They are going about their business on the open ground to either side of the road as we drive past.   There will be more wildlife before the day is out.

Arriving at the car park we have two options: we can climb the slope to Cape Point and the lighthouse there, or, we can walk around the coast to the Cape of Good Hope.  The former is a promontory at the southeast corner of the Cape Peninsula, which is a mountainous and scenic landform that runs north-south for about thirty kilometres at the extreme southwestern tip of the African continent. The cape is located at about 2.3 kilometres east and a little north of the Cape of Good Hope on the southwest corner. Although these two rocky capes are very well known, neither cape is actually the southernmost point of the mainland of Africa; that is Cape Agulhas, approximately 150 kilometres (93 mi) to the east-southeast.  We opt to walk the route to the Cape of Good Hope which looks as if it will be scenic and will give us a good walk.  It really is too hot for me to climb.

For much of the track there is a wooden boardwalk which makes it a friendly path to travel.  There are spectacular views around and notably a beautiful sandy beach which is virtually deserted.  Along the way we see mongooses, a pair of Gemsbok, a pair of Ostrich and later, up by the carpark, we see Hyrax.  We climb up to the highpoint and survey the surrounding sea- and landscape.  It is very beautiful and remote.IMG_5733 (2)

We drive a different route back to Chapman’s Peak.  Our way takes us through Scarborough and Kommetjie.  IMG_5737 (2)It has been a warm day, a bath is very welcome and we dine at the hotel.  I expect I chose Calamari again 🙂

Hint of Mint and a Gin Clear Experience

CJ, Ted and I took our preprandial walk along the sands below our hotel.  We all love this early morning fixture.  I do reflect that notwithstanding the good fortune of having a home by the sea it is the moment of stepping out of the front door and onto the beach which makes the experience special.  Ted has been finding the occasional sea snail washed up on the sands.  It is the same species each time, I need to find out what it is.  He finds one this morning.  

After breakfast we are going to drive to Llandudno beach and spend the morning there before going to Cape Town to do Table Mountain.  First we must pass by the Pik and Pay to buy a bucket and spade.  It is a fabulous day and arriving at the beach we hire some umbrellas and beach chairs and set up our little camp fairly high up on the shore.

The rollers are tumbling in, there is surf.  We will be tempted to the shore a bit later.  There is a nice little splash pool and Nick and I fool around making a string of mini-castles with moats to be fed by overflow from the standing water nearby.DSC01064 (2)IMG_5674 (2)

We munch on Droewors and other South African dried meat delights, crisps.  An ice cream vendor passes with his freezer box from time to time and on one round we buy something.  I choose a mint chocolate icecream, something I have not eaten in decades.  In this fashion lunch time comes and goes.

Venturing to the shore I cannot resist the feel of the icy frothy water round my ankles and calves.  There is a very strong undertow and coupled with the vigorous waves and the swirling surf I need to brace myself to stay upright. IMG_5669 (2) Ted goes in further and is joined by his mother.  Ted finds a stipe of kelp which he enjoys waving around.  DSC01076 (2)The sea really does feel cold but the clarity of the water, gin-clear, like liquid glass overcomes the chill factor and the pair of water-babies that they are, spend some good time jumping the waves and trying to time it just right such that the whole body is not drenched each time.  IMG_5685 (2)One wave manages to trip Ted up and he goes under. DSC01096 (3) It is a shock but he recovers from the shock and indignity and it can be filed away as a useful experience.IMG_5690 (2)

If we are going to get to Cape Town in time to go up Table Mountain we must leave the beach, although we would have happily spent a day there doing beachy things. DSC01095 (2).JPG Piling into the car we head for Cape Town and the road that winds up to the point where we will take the Aerial Cableway. IMG_5693 (2) We do not have to queue for long and we are soon being borne aloft.  The ride only lasts five minutes and we reach the summit which is 1,089 metres above Cape Town.  TableMountainSummitWe are drawn up into the small atrium which serves as the station. IMG_5700 (2) Once you are up on top of the world you can sit and soak up the commanding 360-degree views of Cape Town, Table Bay, the nearby peaks of the surrounding mountains and the rest of the Table Mountain National Park, a World Heritage Site.IMG_5698 (2) It is renowned for its flora, said to be the single richest floristic area in the world. There is a lot of fynbos vegetation on the mountain, with over 1 460 different species of plants. There are also plenty of Cape Hyrax (rock badgers), lizards, insects and birdlife.IMG_5720 (2)IMG_5711 (2)

The plan is to eat in the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town.  We do a quick change in our capacious vehicle then head out into the network of malls and pedestrian precincts.  Charlotte and I seek out shops that might sell a scarf that I saw in one of the shops adjacent to the Table Mountain ticket office, but failed to buy because I did not have any rand on me at the time.  Ted is also due for a treat, a Lego one and he finds a kit he will go on to make single-handed.  After this little bit of retail activity we rejoin Ry and Nick in Quay 4 for a drink then go on to Karibu for dinner.

Swimming with a pair of Jackasses

IMG_5577 (2)resizeAfter our first night in South Africa we set off from the hotel with a full and varied day ahead; we will enjoy some wonderful experiences.  As we leave Hout Bay and start the drive southwest around the coast, with cliffs on our landward side, we can look back into Hout Bay.  IMG_5581 (2)resize

We follow the headland round until we are below Chapman’s Peak and have a clear view of a long stretch of pale sands on the west coast of the Cape Peninsula.  This is Noordhoek which means ‘north corner’.  Noordhoek itself is a small scattered community of nice houses, often with sea views and has a large horse population as riding on the long sandy beach is a great attraction. Many artists live in Noordhoek.  We stop here and walk across the sands to the shoreline.  Ted finds a wide shallow pool at midtide level.  IMG_5588 (2)resizeThe breakers are beautiful as they roll onto the fine sands to dissipate, sweep clean and level the pristine surface of the beach.  And we are the only people on this beach to enjoy the expansive sunlit sands. Ted and I find random ‘detritus’: small bleached bones, a bird beak, large mussel shell clackers.  IMG_5610 (2)resize

We bundle ourselves into the car and continue our route to Kalk Bay.  Here the Perrymans will refind a previous haunt, The Brass Bell, a lively restaurant with a sea frontage in this quirky, arty harbour village.  There is a plunge pool and a roof restaurant.  We install ourselves where we can look down into the transparent waters of the intertidal and have a good view of the trains as they roll past.  IMG_5623 (2)resizeWe have a drink and a lunchtime bite then CJ, Ted and I leave the men to start up a conversation with adjacent diners whilst we do a quick tour of certain art shops to scout for pictures.  The Perrymans have some wall space to fill and they like to buy African.  We do see a very beautiful canvas of a rocky, kelpy seascape close to Hout Bay but it is possibly just too large to go on the chimney breast which CJ has in mind.  I buy a few cards and a bracelet with bone pieces which I will go on to wear during the holiday.

We return to find the men being thoroughly chatted up, extract them and then take the car to a place called Simon’s Town where, at Boulders Beach, there is a wild penguin colony.  IMG_5645 (2)resizeIt is a sheltered beach made up of inlets between granite boulders (540 million years old), from which the name originated. The penguins settled there in 1982. WP_20170328_16_23_43_Pro (2).jpgYou can observe these birds (Spheniscus demersus) at close range, as they wander freely.  IMG_5656 (2)resize From just two breeding pairs in 1982, the penguin colony has grown to about 3,000 birds in recent years. IMG_5651 (2)resizeThe penguins are best viewed from Foxy Beach, where newly constructed boardwalks take visitors to within a few meters of the birds.

At a small beach adjacent to the main penguin colony site we swam and were joined by a few penguins in the water!  WP_20170328_16_18_53_Pro (2)What an experience.

Calamari at Chapman’s Peak

Driving broadly southwest out of Cape Town we are heading for Hout Bay.  We are booked into the Chapman’s Peak Hotel, which will prove to be ideal on many fronts.   capetown_map

Our route will take us along the coast road, along frontages with some very smart properties at Bantry Bay and Camps Bay.  I notice that there are extensive kelp beds and it seems that, unlike native shores in the UK, the kelp is visible throughout the tidal cycle.  We arrive at the hotel and check into our rooms.  We have views from the balcony into Hout Bay.  The restaurant is well-known for its Calamari, and has a large terrace with  views across the bay, beach and valley. Calamari at The Chapmans Peak Hotel was voted “one of top 20 things to do in Cape Town”. Seafood platters and steaks are also popular items.  We ordered Calamari for dinner that first night; it was the best we had ever eaten.

The following morning Charlotte and Teddy knocked on our door and suggested we pull our curtains.  Behold a sandy bay, with a few walkers enjoying the early morning tranquility of a sparsely populated beach.  CJ, Ted and I went down to the coffee shop, bought a carry-out drink and walked the sands as a pre-breakfast treat.  There was an isolated rock just offshore, with large blue sea anemones attached but which was encircled by a potentially treacherous moat, masked as it was by the turbid water.  Too deep to approach that morning I intended to investigate on another occasion.  Were the anemones this species?7108177501_dd402cf00d_zblueanemone

Ted and I walked barefoot at the water’s edge, watching the wavelets as they came, gobbling up the sand grains, and scrabbling up the beach.  I am minded now of John Betjeman’s poem ‘Beside the Seaside’:

And all the time the waves, the waves, the waves
Chase, intersect and flatten on the sand
As they have done for centuries, as they will …
When England is not England, when mankind
Has blown himself to pieces. Still the sea,
Consolingly disastrous, will return
While the strange starfish, hugely magnified,
Waits in the jewelled basin of a pool.”

Nick watched us with his camera from the balcony of our room ……..DSC01241 (2)resize

At breakfast we were greeted by the owner of the hotel, Carlos, who has been in business here for fifty years.  He tells us that his calamari is world-renowned, that the Clintons visited the hotel specifically to dine on it some years previously.  The roads round about had to be closed off during their visit, apparently. 17554087_10154263567936126_3834364302247283591_nHoutBay

Before we head off for the day some of us check out the outdoor pool, it’s a bit chilly!

We’re in Business

Today is the first day of a life’s wish fulfilment.  I am going to South Africa with Nick and our daughter’s family.  We are going to fly comfortably with Emirates.  It will be a treat.  Picked up from the door we are driven to the airport where we check in and clear security without too much chagrin.  IMG_5563 (2)Soon we are waiting in the lounge where we can drink champagne and enjoy some of the hot and cold dishes at the buffet.  We have a glass too of Puligny Montrachet.  Nick and Ry compare notes on their tablets.  IMG_5565 (2)I eat a little bit of smoked salmon, a small plate of curry and some roasted vegetables.  Barns phones, we talk.  Charlotte and Ted chill out.  IMG_5568 (2)On the ‘plane we find our seats, cubicles really, with screens if we want to use them and the option to convert the seat into a bed for which a mattress and necessary comforts are provided.  I watch Bryan Cranston in The Infiltrator and eat game terrine, prawn makhanwala.  I’m still drinking.  There are macarons 🙂

We land in Dubai about 6 hours later and have a spell in the Emirates lounge.  More delicious bites to tempt, I really must pace my eating.  On the flight I accept wine I really do not want or need, there is a little snack of lamb pie.  This is the flight to sleep.  My bed is comfortable and the cabin crew are delightful and solicitous and it is all just luxurious.  I think I sleep about three hours.  When we land in Johannesburg we are going to take a connecting flight to Cape Town.  Passport control is a cold experience with complete lack of eye contact.  We have shenanigans over our luggage and the weight, we think we might be in the presence of ‘jobsworth’ but in the end it works out.  We find a place to get a snack and I try for the first time, Peri peri chicken livers.  I love it and will return to this dish again…..  Ted and I start one of the dot to dots in a book I have brought along but really it is no competition for a ‘device’!  The flight to Cape Town is shorter and we touch down at 5 p.m. local time  We’ve been travelling for over 24 hours.  Ryan is going to hire a people carrier so we load up our luggage and head out of Cape Town for Hout Bay where we are booked into Chapman’s Peak Hotel.  I get my first sight of a township and this will be in stark contrast to the centre of Cape Town and the waterside shopping centre when we head for the malls a day or two later.