A Time for Reconnecting and Saying Goodbye

A couple of days after our return from South Africa Nick and I drive to Bath to meet up with one of Nick’s long-standing and very good friends.  He and Nick worked together, in the sense that John as a lawyer worked for companies that employed Nick over a period of years.  Think the old Stalin and Genghis Khan joke and you have their political standpoints.  The last time Stalin took on Genghis Khan was when we sailed with Nigel in Croatia…………  Ostensibly we are meeting in Bath so that we can eat fish and chips at John’s favourite chippie.  But first it seems right that we should sing for our supper so we meet at the gates of the National Trust Prior Park Landscape Garden with a view to walking. DSC00010 (2)40 It is a beautiful 18th century landscape garden with one of only four Palladian bridges of the Prior Park design in the world.   The garden was created by local entrepreneur Ralph Allen, with advice from ‘Capability’ Brown and the poet Alexander Pope.  The garden is set in a sweeping valley where visitors can enjoy magnificent views of Bath. Restoration of the ‘Wilderness’ has reinstated the Serpentine Lake, Cascade and Cabinet.

Afterwards we head back into the city for our date with Seafoods Traditional Fish and Chips.  We are a bit early so we find a bar and order the cocktail of the day.  It was over-priced and over the top and I cannot remember the ingredients although sitting here at the screen at something short of 5 p.m. I could really fancy one now.  The fish and chips lives up to expectations and we drive home after a spell of quality time with good friends.

The ensuing week is social because we have been away and have friends to reconnect with.   The day after our F&C moment we host a Bookish Lunch at TOW with the Shaxsons, Celia Cas and Jan D.  At the end of the week we do a Jigsaw Evening in which the McGoverns participate.  It’s the Bookish jigsaw, the fun bookshelves with Pun Titles.

There’s more Bookish stuff the following week when Chrissie hosts our soup lunch and chat.  Fellow conchologist and garrulant (you read this word here first) comes to visit on Tuesday.  We talk shells all day.  He lives in Lancashire and seldom travels south and is staying with mutual friends near Wimborne.  He invites us back for a curry at their home on Friday and we engineer that we can accept this on the basis that it will be an early meal and we will be done and dusted in time to pick up Anne P from Poole as she arrives from Cherbourg ready for our willow workshop with Kim.

The day after Ian’s visit I get up early to drive to Cornwall for the funeral of my dear friend Stella Turk.  It is a humanist ceremony which I so connect with.  No singing of hymns in thin reedy voices but readings and tributes from friends and family.  The wicker casket sits before us in the airy chapel perched on a hill and I look through the windows out onto the landscape that Stella knew so well because her cottage is a stone’s throw from where we are sitting. StellaTurkCrem There are many attendees and I meet up with some friends and associates from my marine biological recording days, Richard Warwick, Keith Hiscock, some great and good from the Cornish Wildlife Trust.  They all look so much older, I suppose they think the same of me.  Pam T finds me and points out Jayne Herbert, she who has compiled a selection of Stella’s verse and printed a few copies.

I am cornered several times and by the time I can escape so has Jayne.  We later establish contact via email.  We may collaborate on getting more of Stella’s verse into print.  For the time being Jayne has a page devoted to Stella’s poetry on her website.  At the end of a long day I drive back to Hawkchurch where I am fed and have a chance to catch up with my sister.  Before I leave the next morning we walk a bit in the private woodlands owned by her neighbour.

 

Feast and Family

Tuesday morning finds us in the dining room of the main house at Val D’Or ordering our breakfast.  A tomato and mushroom omelette has become my standard fare.  All this gourmandise must come to an end when we get back to England.  I am already aware of an expanding waistline. 

With our bags packed and loaded into the vehicle we head back to Cape Town and to the airport.  We are going to take a flight to Johannesburg to meet up with Ryan’s family.  We are crossing the lunching hour so we settle in Soaring Hawk Spur Steak Ranch, a carnivore’s delight.  I have developed quite a taste for peri peri chicken livers so I take the opportunity to order it yet another time, only to have my head blown off.  I am very fond of chilli and have a high tolerance but there are limits.  I won’t be ordering it again in a hurry!  Ted chooses a florid dessert, which evidently is much to his liking!  IMG_6775 (2)40.jpg

It is a short flight and once arrived we pick up another hire vehicle and drive out to Ruimsig where we are booked into the Afrique Boutique Hotel .  A sloping driveway takes us to the entrance to the hotel and we enter a building whose décor, ambiance and views suits us very well.  Nick and I have a suite which incorporates a bathroom area, all laid out in open plan.  Privacy will have to be booked with each other in advance!  There is a bottle of fizz and Quality Street chocolates, IMG_5807 (2)40a lovely retro touch and it rings the changes from the nougat that we have often found on our pillows elsewhere during this stay.

The Perryman clan are going to come to the hotel for dinner and they duly arrive.  Nick and I are meeting up with Des and Ron and meet for the first time Ryan’s sister Belinda, his brother in law John and their son Aidan.  The buffet meal is excellent and I could drown myself in the large tureen of creamy mussels 

The following day we are invited chez Perryman, a short drive to their home at Witpoortjie near Roodepoort and where we are given the mother of all stomach-stretching braais.  

It is a very convivial occasion we eat far too much and I end up having to leave some of my meat which pains me to do so.  It is a good family occasion and we return to the hotel for another night and tomorrow the best part of my South African adventure will begin.  I already know in advance it will be the best bit, fulfilling as it will, one of the items right at the top of my bucket list.

 

 

 

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.