The Long Report: South Africa, Botswana and Namibia

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Jul 5th, 2004, 07:50 AM
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The Long Report: South Africa, Botswana and Namibia

This is going to take me quite some time but here's the first day's report. Let me know if there are any questions.

Our light to Cape Town with BA was fine though due to new seat configurations it's becoming harder and harder to be assigned extra legroom seating, even if one checks in very early. Given Pete's 6 foot 6 inches height the check in lady eventually assigned us a row (with an empty seat between us) where one of the three seats had extra legroom but required the legs to be positioned towards one side. Luckily we overheard a couple who had been assigned the emergency exit seats talking to a stewardess about moving to different seats further away from the wings (they wanted a view). We spoke to her about it and she came by later to offer us those seats, mentioning that we should move fast as she'd had to disappoint a number of other passengers who had made the same request! The flight left late not only due to late boarding passengers but also because of a discrepancy between numbers on board and boarding lists. We had already taxied for take off when we were called back to the gate to rectify this. Eventually they worked out that one passenger had checked in both on the e-terminals and also at check in and had two boarding cards! Sheesh!

During check in we had met a Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Africa Board website friend (an American I'd met recently in London and who was also heading to Africa). As her plans were last minute we had no idea we were on the same flight and celebrated by clinking plastic glasses once airborne! For most of the rest of the flight I was lucky to be able to sleep fairly well.

On arrival we made our way to the Avis desk. I was very cross to learn that I had been misadvised on sale that the cost of upgrade to Supercover for collision damage and theft (to reduce the excess) was over twice what I had been told. The lady was unable to do anything about that but did offer us an upgrade to an Automatic with CD player instead of manual with tape deck! After some confusing instructions in which we finally realised that robots were traffic lights and that Cape Town was not utilising some bladerunner form of traffic control we made our way to our guesthouse, pausing only to get some cash out at an airport ATM.

Arrived at Jambo at 10 am and met Barry, the owner, who showed us around the house and to our room. We had booked the beautiful garden suite which is in it's own wing of the house and opens out onto the pretty garden. The suite is lovely with a four poster bed, sofa and chairs, a raised dining table area and a pretty bathroom with whirpool bath. The only downside might be that it is beneath the bar but since the bar was very quiet during our stay this did not become an issue for us. Because of the season, Barry offered us a 25% discount which made this a reasonable price, though still the most expensive bed and breakfast we selected. We were also offered the standard rooms at the same discount.

Whilst the room was lovely I was disappointed to learn that Barry and his wife, Mina, were due to leave within an hour for the Indaba (Travel Industry event) in Durban and would not be back at all during our 6 night stay. They did leave us in the capable hands of their friend, Ivan but, in my opinion, a bed and breakfast is chosen not only on room details but also on the friendliness and personalities of the hosts and I felt that their absence, planned for some time, should have been mentioned on booking or afterwards, especially since I had been in touch with Barry only days before our arrival.

Note that breakfast consists of a generous continental with tea, coffee, juices, fresh breads, croissants, cheeses, hams, yogurts, cereal and fruit. A cooked breakfast can be arranged at a supplement but we felt the spread provided was perfectly adequate.

Before they left for Durban Mina spent some time going through some local maps with us and also recommended a number of their favourite restaurants.

Because the weather was so good we decided to take the cable car up Table Mountain and headed off in our car to do so. We had no problem parking though this might be more difficult at busier times of year. Taxis are easy to find in CT but be aware that all do not offer the same rate. On the sides of all taxis you will see their rate printed clearly ? anything from 7 Rand per kilometre to 10 or more.

The return trip on the Cable Car cost 80 Rand per adult and we were soon standing inside the round ready to make the ascent. The Cape Town Cable Car ascends very quickly and very steeply. It was certainly one of the more exciting cable car journeys I have taken. The revolving floor ensures that all passengers benefit from the wonderful views.

All too soon we reached the top and began to explore the surface of the mountain. The immediate area around the cable car station is beautifully landscaped with paths, safety walls and lots of large boulders and planted areas. It's very attractive and not too crowded.

We notice the point from which one can abseil down the side of the mountain ? something my sister did a couple of months previously but which appeals to neither Pete nor myself at all.

We pause for a quick, cheap lunch in the cafeteria (food is acceptable and cheap) and then spend some time walking further out over the table top along the clearly marked and well maintained paths.

On descending we tip the man who has been guarding our car and make the short drive back to Greenpoint. We are very pleased with the location of our accommodation and really pleased we went for Greenpoint over both the waterfront and less central locations such as Clifton, Seapoint, Camps Bay etc.

The rest of the afternoon is spent relaxing before our dinner at Madame Zingara's. We asked Barry to make a reservation for us. The receptionist said they were fully booked for that evening but suggested calling back for cancellations, which Ivan did while we were out and was able to reserve us a table.

We take a taxi to the restaurant where we are seated in a quiet table in a sort of corridor area between two busier rooms. We look out over an internal courtyard and feel like we're in a special private space amongst all the buzz. The tables are strewn with petals and the décor is quirky and warm.

After some lovely home-made bread Pete started with beer battered deep fried camembert with red wine, tomato, basil and oregano coulis. I enjoyed phylo (sic) parcels stuffed with smoked chicken, mozarella and spinach and served over diced white mushrooms and onions in a cream, garlic and white wine sauce. For our mains Pete had the dish for which Madame Zingara's is well known ? the chocolate chilli steak. Having an aversion to sweet sauces with his meat I was surprised at his choice and he was even more surprised at how very much he enjoyed it. The chocolate was dark and bitter and not too sweet and the chilli was quite subtle. It was rich and velvety and went very well with the top quality beef. I had a steak stuffed with bacon and blue cheese which was also delicious. For dessert I tried the chocolate cigars which were deep fried and served with vanilla ice-cream dribbled with rose-water essence. Pete saved space for Misty's Bliss which was a meringue piled high with fresh cream, summer fruits and a fruit coulis. With a bottle of cabernet sauvignon the bill came to 373 plus tip.

Our waitress called us a taxi and we returned home to fall into a deep and very comfortable sleep indeed.
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Jul 5th, 2004, 08:26 AM
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Excuse typos and mixed tenses... sigh.
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Jul 5th, 2004, 02:13 PM
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welcome back! I was actually thinking of you earlier today - hoping you had a fantastic time. Eager to hear the rest of your days!
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Jul 6th, 2004, 12:28 PM
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7th May

After breakfast we set off for the Waterfront Clock Tower area and headed straight for the Nelson Mandela Gateway. We arrived at 10 am and were able to buy tickets for the next departure at 11 am. Tickets are 150 Rand per adult. Since we had some time before we needed to board the ferry we stopped to look at the Art Gallery inside the Gateway building which sells Nelson Mandela's work. None of the items were original paintings, all were limited edition prints and yet prices were as high as £10,000 UK for one piece. I particularly liked the two designs featuring hand prints, one with several adult and child handprints and another with a single print of Mandela's hand in which the gap in the centre where his hand didn't touch paper forms an outline of Africa itself. I also liked the Struggle series and a picture from Series 1 called The Window. In fact I liked The Window so much that I really wanted to buy a bookplate size limited edition (much less expensive than the large size prints). But it was still a higher price than I had ever paid for art and Pete and I decided to think on it, since we would be in Cape Town for some days and there were plenty of prints remaining.

At 10.45 we boarded the catamaran. If you want an outside seat I advise queuing and boarding as early as possible since the boats are very crowded. We were seated outside and enjoyed wonderful views of the harbour and of the city as we left. The journey is about 20 minutes long and we let the crowd stampede off before disembarking ourselves. I further delayed us by joining the end of the queue for the ladies, all of which meant that, by the time I came out, the bus standing by to commence the island tour was full. Significantly less than half the boat load remained and we were directed to the prison area to do the prison tour first. This worked out much better for us since we were able to spend more time with our guide in the prison and less time than normally allotted on the bus tour of the island afterwards.

Our guide was a young ex-prisoner called Derek Parson/ Passon who was sentenced to 7 years for sabotage and served 5.5 of that. He served only part of that sentence at Robben Island and the rest at other prisons around the country. He first took us to a large communal cell and told us about the history of the prison, the life the inmates lived, his experiences as an inmate and the issues that were most relevant to him and his fellow prisoners. These included the limited and heavily censured mail service, the inadequate bedding and food and the privilege system. Derek lives on the island, as do many other ex-prisoner and ex-warden guides. He felt positive about the reconciliation between the two groups and for the social reconciliation of South Africa, though was quick to point out that economic equality was a long way ahead. This is an issue that was in my thoughts a great deal throughout my 5 weeks in Africa as I raged against the current situation of many South Africans, a situation exaggerated by years of apartheid, and yet knew too that there were no easy solutions. Mugabe has proved that redistribution isn't a straightforward concept. Derek explained that he didn't particularly want to live on the island but that he could afford the rent there more readily than on the mainland, where some staff live. His dream was to establish a career and save for his own home off Robben Island but he didn't seem hopeful about his chances of success. Next Derek took us to the yard where Mandela created his garden and to B block where political leaders were kept isolated. After the tour we thanked Derek and tipped him. I was surprised at how few visitors did so since he gave so much of his personal story for our benefit and education. Some drifted off without even a farewell or thanks.

We then boarded a bus for a tour of the island. The views from the island coastal road were spectacular. Dan told us more of the island's history and showed us the leper cemetery, various churches, hospitals, asylums and homes, the building in which Sobukwe served his house arrest and the quarry where Block B prisoners did their manual labour. He pointed out the latrine that the prisoners had dug into the quarry wall and which became the only place in which they could hold classes to educate each other without interference from the guards.

After our return to the boat for our 2 pm crossing back to Cape Town we stopped for a delicious lunch at Rooti's, a cape malay restaurant just next to the Gateway. We shared a bobotie (a lightly spiced mince loaf coated in a kind of omelette topping) and a well flavoured chicken curry and rooti (which is basically an Indian roti/ chapati). I enjoyed a freshly made apple milkshake. Our bill was only 132 Rand.

Having talked about it and talked about it we went back to view the print and decided to go ahead and buy it. It took a while to fill in the forms, pay, print receipts, have it wrapped and so forth.

Carefully carrying our new purchase we returned to Jambo, measured our painting and dropped into the shopping mall at the waterfront (in order to buy wrapping/ boxing in which to post it home) but we failed to find what we needed and instead ended up with a cool box (for later in the trip) which was on sale for only 70 Rand.

For dinner we drove to Camps Bay and, after a walk along the shore, selected the Tides restaurant which my sister had recommended. I particularly enjoyed stopping for a drink in Traders Bar, just outside the restaurant, an elegant and peaceful bar with a view over the ocean. We enjoyed drinks with complimentary snacks of feta cheese and olives and perused the menu.

The menu works on a prix fixe basis, 125 for 2 courses or 155 for 3 courses. Very hard to select from such a tempting menu. Before our choices were served we were presented with amuse bouche mini starters of spinach and brie parcels with raspberries and raspberry coulis. We were also given a light fruit sorbet which I think was before our main starters but may have been between starters and mains. I opted for a roast butternut and apple soup with papaya salsa and deep fried camembert. Pete went for the smoked ostrich with roast beetroot, wild rocket, parmesan shavings and horseradish dressing. For my main I had the pistachio-lemon crusted line fish (fish of the day) which was Cape Salmon, served with ginger scented rice, winter vegetables and a lime butter sauce. Pete had pan roasted loin of warthog with bacon and sweet potato gratin, red cabbage-apple sauté and a balsamic sauce. Unfortunately the excitement of the day started to catch up with me, not to mention the full meal and I suddenly crashed. Instead of dessert and/ or coffee we paid the bill and made a swift exit and drove home for an early night.


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Jul 6th, 2004, 01:14 PM
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Kavey -- Have been looking forward to your trip report with anticipation for quite some time now -- welcome home!
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Jul 7th, 2004, 01:38 AM
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Kavey said: "a bed and breakfast is chosen not only on room details but also on the friendliness and personalities of the hosts and I felt that their absence, planned for some time, should have been mentioned on booking or afterwards, especially since I had been in touch with Barry only days before our arrival."

I agree and I think it was intentional that he did not mention it to you. It is unfortunate because yes, you are definitely contracting for these particular hosts, not some friend who isn't making it his life's work to host others.

We were also surprised that very few people tipped our guide at Robben Island.

Looking forward to the rest of the report when it's ready!
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Jul 9th, 2004, 08:37 AM
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8th May

After an early shower and breakfast Pete and I are collected at Jambo by Selwyn, a Fodors Africa friend and a South African tour guide based in Cape Town. It's great to finally meet him and any doubts about whether we'd get on in person vanish within seconds. We bundle into the minivan (Pete in front next to Selwyn so that his long, long legs fit in and me behind in the passenger area) and set off to pick up Diane and Steve just around the corner. I have known Diane for a few years, having originally got to know each other on the Fodors Europe board and we had previously met twice when she and Steve visited London. Next stop is a little further away and AlisonV and her husband Larry, son Andrew and daughter Rachel climb onboard.

We start off driving through the centre of CT and Selwyn points out various buildings and statues as he tells us all about some of the stuff the guide books don't include (such as the wind sensors for the water fountains along a main road and the story of Clinton's security guards and their run in with the Mount Nelson). He also takes us into suburbs we would never usually bother to include purely because of the wonderful panoramic views of the city below that we are afforded from their streets.

We leave CT and head for the Paarl Afrikaans language monument. Hearing about the meanings behind the design is interesting but what fascinates me more is Selwyn's insight into the way non Afrikaans people feel about the monument, about it's place in a modern South Africa and about the strength of feeling of the Afrikaaners for it.

A quick stop in Mooiberg farm allows us to stock up on dried fruit (which we enjoyed very much during the self-catering part of our trip) and to try and buy some unusual berry liqueurs.

Next we dash through Stellenbosch and on to a wine tasting at Ruste en Vrede. Because of his relationship with the vineyard they allow him to conduct his own tastings and we sit out at a table in the garden for our lessons. For lesson time it is as Selwyn makes use of both oranges and cheese and has us pinching shut our nostrils in a bed to improve our tasting experience. Sadly, I'm not won over to the world of wine but Pete assures me the wine is jolly nice.

After our tasting we stop on the grass at an estate near Spiers and enjoy a wonderful picnic that Selwyn has brought with him. Smoked snoek fish with the traditional red and green cooked and uncooked salsas, fantastic mild and spicy versions of fishcakes, lemon meringue pie and milk custard flan and some wonderful semi-sweet pink sparkling wine make up our feast. Selwyn even teaches Andrew how to open the sparkling wine bottle by slicing off ha;f the glass neck, with cork still inside.

Our next stop is to Kayamundi township where we collect Mzwake and begin our wonderful visit. I won't go into much detail about this visit but I strongly recommend any visitor to Cape Town hook up with Selwyn and make the visit for themselves. Visiting people as guests of a dear friend of theirs and being able to learn about the history of the township from the people who live it is surely a better experience than touring with some tourguide who has no links with the township in question. Highlights include a visit to Shumi's church and home, a visit to Nozandile's home (in both cases we learn about the lives and achievments of these remarkable women), meeting many of the young kids of the township and helping Selwyn and Mzwake distribute fruit as part of the new Trash for Fruit project and watching, listening to and joining in with the wonderful Bana Ba Kgotso kid's choir who gave us a wonderful show. Selwyn is too modest to speak much of his efforts and commitment to his friends in Kayamundi but the friendship and mutual respect he and they hold for each other is very evident.

We drive again through Stellenbosch and learn more about the history of a little statuette of a cat before continuing to Moyo. Selwyn has reserved us a table up in a tree house and it's just magical. The place is lit by hundreds of candles, oil drum fires and tree lanterns. Tables are located under canvas, up in trees and arranged around the trunk of one huge old tree. Entertainment is varied with face painting, touring singers and a band on stage too. The meal is buffet style and reasonably good with nice variety. The buffet and drinks menu are excellent value. We have a great evening together.

After our long drive home we finally say goodbye to Selwyn after 1 am with a huge hug and happy hearts. Selwyn, thank you once again for your generosity of time and spirit. We had the most marvellous experience and enjoyed every minute.
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Jul 11th, 2004, 11:25 AM
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More, Kavey!
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Jul 11th, 2004, 11:28 AM
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Kavey: I am anxiously awaiting the next installment ... you have me in the palm of your hand, girl!
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Jul 12th, 2004, 03:47 AM
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Sorry, coming, coming. (At client site today so no installments today).

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Jul 13th, 2004, 10:43 AM
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9th May

After a lie in and late breakfast we walked over to the Greenpoint Market just across the main road. I really enjoyed browsing this market and it offered a wonderful range of items since there were vendors selling locally produced goods as well as vendors from across the continent selling crafts more typical to their region of Africa..

I fell for some stone carved intertwined giraffes. I looked throughout the market at similar carvings before choosing the stall with the best quality stock (in my opinion). I was able to knock the price down by 50% easily. I am sure I could have pushed it down much further but didn't feel the need to since I was more than happy to pay the price I reached.

Look out for items such as wooden and stone carved animals (including some wonderful heavy stone bookends with the front half of a rhino or elephant forming one of the pair and the other back half forming the matching partner piece), beautiful polished wood bowls and serving trays, wooden masks and carvings of tall, stylised people, Ostrich eggs that have been carved, painted or had printed designs glued and glazed on to them, colourful metal and bead work in all sorts of shapes from bowls to chameleons to magazine racks, jewellery in every colour, design and material, clothes, belts, shoes?

After shopping (where I was very restrained having already spent on my Mandela print more than I intended on spending for shopping on the entire trip) we crossed the road for lunch in Wang Thai. We spotted Diane and Steve having lunch in a restaurant on the way and chatted for a while before digging into a delicious Thai meal. It was interesting to note that Thai food in South Africa is very similar indeed to Thai food in the UK. That's not as silly as it sounds since we've found Chinese food to vary in the UK, the USA and other European countries. Perhaps Thai restaurants have remained closer to the authentic recipes whereas Chinese food has gradually adapted to the palates of different countries?

After lunch we returned to Jambo for our car and headed to Kirstenbosch Gardens. The weather was a little overcast with occasional drizzle but this didn't spoil our enjoyment of these wonderful gardens. We walked around enjoying the planting and wonderful mountain backdrop though we only saw a fraction of the gardens. We really enjoyed the "glass house" and spent quite a lot of time there. We stopped in the tea shop and I enjoyed some of the best scones I have ever had, complete with clotted cream and strawberry jam, and we paused in the shop for some postcards and stamps. The stamps I was given were in booklets of 10 and were 2 each of paintings of the Big Five. Very pretty stamps.

Headed home and Pete did an amazing job of creating customised boxes (one inside the other) from a huge potato chips box I'd obtained from a supermarket at the waterfront. We had also bought some bubble wrap and parcel tape and by the time he finished we knew our Mandela print would survive being posted home better than being carried around Africa for 7.5 weeks!

For dinner we went to Willoughby's in the waterfront. It's a very casual restaurant/ diner in the Waterfront which is frequented mostly by locals. It was recommended to us by a number of Capetonians as a place offering tasty and well-priced food in an unpretentious environment. I had a lovely tuna tempura dish and a half order of sashimi. Pete had some panzarotti pasta filled with spinach and ricotta and served in a tomato sauce. With a couple of drinks our bill was only 163 Rand.

We ended our evening having a drink with Ivan back in the little pub at Jambo.
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Jul 13th, 2004, 11:31 AM
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10 May

We get up and out early so we can post the Mandela print before heading off for the day. My initial intention is to use a courier service such as FedEx but when I ask them for a quote they say it will cost 980 Rand!!! I go to the post office who quietly tell me that FedEx actually bring everything to them to post anyway so I'm glad I didn't pay out. The post office charge 600 for the exact service that FedEx were selling or 170 for a slower air mail service. I choose that and add 40 Rand for insurance up to 2000 Rand value and point to the fact we've scrawled FRAGILE in large letters on every side of the parcel.

We get back in the car and head for Cape Point. We pass through numerous pretty towns including Muizenberg, St James and Kalk Bay, noticing the railway line that runs right on the coast between us and the water. That journey must offer great views!

We stop first at Boulders though we must have missed the first turn off (which allows you to park next to the visitor's centre) as we find ourselves by a the Penguin Restaurant (or something like that) and a smaller ticket booth. We stop and enjoy lattes at the restaurant before buying tickets and heading off towards the main area. It's quite a long walk but with beautiful views. When we arrive we find the wooden walkways somewhat busy ? a large coach load of Japanese tourists have arrived and I must admit to finding the very loud conversations somewhat intrusive and detrimental to the peaceful nature of the location. Still we focus on the penguins and their very sweet babies and take lots of pictures. Actually I don?t take too many as I realise I have forgotten my zoom lens but Pete videos them and I take a few snaps.

We head back to the beach near where we have parked our car and are pleased to find it virtually empty (a few people join us briefly but don't stay long). Pete stands back on the sand and starts videoing two penguins swimming in the sea. As he's filming they come out of the water, walk up to him and start pecking gently at his feet until he moves out of the way and then continue on around the rock and up onto some large boulders. They are absolutely habituated to humans and most seem to ignore us though this pair are obviously a little more forward than most!

We continue our drive on to Cape Point and enter the reserve after buying our tickets. We have a quick lunch at the Two Oceans restaurant. The food is as we expect, reasonable but nothing special and slightly over priced however it's convenient (given the time we arrived) and the views are nice. We have a moment of excitement when a large baboon dashes inside, grabs some food from a diner's plate before being chased loudly back outside again. Two tourists standing on the balcony abandon camera pouches (left open on a table) and retreat and the baboon grabs a lens case, dropping the lens onto the floor, before finally moving on.

We pay for a return trip on the furnicular up to the viewpoints at the top and walk arund admiring the scenes. Jagged rocks plunging down into slightly foaming turquoise and navy blue waters, occasional sweeps of golden beach, a range of plants and flowers clinging to the sides? beautiful.

As Pete climbs up towards the old lighthouse I stop for a rest in the building at the top of the furnicular where I run into Selwyn, who has Cookie and her daughter with him. We had no idea he would be here today, nor he us, so it's quite a surprise. Even more so when Alison, Larry, Andrew and Rachel suddenly appear on the arriving funicular! Pete comes back down from the light house and we have a little reunion! We also make plans to meet the Verkades for dinner in Franschhoek in a couple of nights time since we're all keen to try Selwyn's recommendation of Delicious, open for dinner on Wednesday's only.

We return to the car and take some of the circular drives off the main road in the reserve before exiting and heading back to Cape Town on the West coast of the peninsula. Just outside the entrance are some craft stalls. They are clearly not getting much passing trade at all and I'm delighted to find two stone soap dishes with little hippos "swimming" in each one ? both seem better in quality and detail of design than similar ones I saw at Greenpoint and I'm able to get them for a third of the opening price.

Shortly after this stop we encounter a huge stone carvings market with some really large pieces. This place is amazing. The range of designs is impressive (both modern and more traditional) and the quality excellent. We stop for a look around (and a few photos) before heading on.

The views along the coast are stunning, even before we take the Chapman's Peak drive (20 Rand per car). Workers are still labouring on upgrades to the road including protective walls to guard against landslides so there are many go-slow stretches but this suits us fine as the scenery is stunning and the drive slightly terrifying at any great speed.

After arriving home we head to the waterfront where we have a reservation at Baia for dinner. We browse in the Red Shed craft warehouse first and buy a number of prints of watercolours that we really like. Priced at 35 Rand and 45 Rand depending on size we choose 5 altogether.

Dinner at Baia is excellent. Service is attentive and staff are friendly and helpful. I have grilled calamari and then panfried baby kingklip (that I ask the kitchen to debone for me) and Pete has a trio of steaks with different sauces ? ostrich, kudu and springbok. The portions are generous and the quality very good so he's relieved he didn't have a starter. My dishes are both very fresh and full of flavour. For dessert we share a chocolate pudding with ice cream and butterscotch and a heavenly amarula mousse. With a non alcoholic cocktail and a glass of wine the bill is 343 Rand. Baia is a very elegant restaurant, one where you could dress up a little and not feel out of place. (Many of CT's restaurants are quite casual).

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Jul 13th, 2004, 01:26 PM
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11th May

Enjoy a long leisurely breakfast chatting to fellow guests and offer them a lift to the waterfront since we are intending to pop by and buy some CDs from the CD Warehouse anyway and it's no trouble to drop them near Robben Island first. Most CDs are not far off prices in the UK but there is an entire section of compilation/ best of CDs of artists from the 1980s that we quite like such as Level 42, Go West etc. Buy 5 CDs at only 40 Rand each plus one full price (Duran's greatest hits; excellent car music!).

Also pop into Baia to pick up a photocopy of the menu and treat myself to a massage in the Blue Shed which has a number of stalls offering such treatments. As they are quiet I negotiate a half hour massage for only 100 Rand.

We enjoy lunch at Harry's Pancake House next to the Robben Island Gateway. It's absolutely delicious and even better than I had expected. The pancakes are really thick and yet very light and fluffy. Mine is stuffed with ostrich ragout and cheese sauce. Pete's is stuffed with Thai chicken. I even squeeze in a dessert pancake but really shouldn't have!

After lunch we drove to the Bo Kaap quarter for a look around. It's interesting to see the colourfully painted houses but there seemed to be few attractions in the area that merit staying long.

We also drove up to Signal Point but the fog came rolling in restricting our view so much that we couldn't even see the tops of the trees by the roadside ? the trunks just disappeared into the white fog.

We relaxed back at Jambo for most of the afternoon. We had intended to walk to a local eatery for dinner but when we did we just couldn't make a decision and ended up in the waterfront at a casual place called City Grill where we had burgers and beer before an early night.
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Jul 15th, 2004, 10:16 AM
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12th May

This morning we are checking out after breakfast so have the boring tasks of packing, paying etc. We bid farewell to Ivan and head off for Franschhoek, arriving at the Plumwood Inn early at 11.20.

However our room, the Vineyard room, is ready and waiting. The guest house is lovely. It's location couldn't be better ? on the outskirts of Franschhoek, overlooking vineyards and yet only a 2 minute walk into the centre of town and to several great restaurants. The bright yellow exterior is well maintained and very inviting and the room is lovely. Whilst not a large room the décor and furnishings are attractive and comfortable and the bathroom spacious with a bath tub for nice hot soaks. The living room is absolutely beautiful ? a double height room with a casual ambiance and large comfy leather sofas, it's a nice place to pause and read a book or chat to hosts Roel and Lucienne. They are a young Dutch couple who visited SA on holiday and decided to change careers and move continents. Roel offers as a tea/ coffee as we look through their information booklet on local restaurants and menus and review our existing bookings/ ideas. Lucienne kindly makes our new bookings for us (and cancels the existing one).

We drive to Cotage Fromage (in the Vrede en Lust estate) for lunch as I recall Selwyn recommending it on the Fodors board. I have breadcrumbed, deep fried gorgonzola which is served with ciabatta, biltong and berry sauce. Pete opts for the Connoisseur's Cheese Board for one person which has portions of 9 different cheeses. It's served with some lovely raisin bread, a balsamic and olive oil dip and 3 pots of deli salads ? mushrooms, olives and mixed vegetables. Pete also tries two different wines by the glass and I a hot chocolate and manage only a fraction of an immense slice of lemon cheesecake. As I'm struggling with that in walks Selwyn with Cookie and daughter! We motion for them to join us and enjoy catching up on our recent experiences before Pete and I settle the (very reasonable) bill and head on.

Since we're already there we stop for a tasting at Vrede en Lust. Pete judges their reds as good but needing time. If we were in France and could drive them home easily to store for a year or two he'd consider taking a few bottles but we're buying just for him to enjoy on the rest of the trip so we don't take any. We do enquire about shipping but it doubles the costs per bottle. Cheaper to simply buy what the wine merchants import back into the UK.

After the tasting I drive for the first time since we've arrived in South Africa. The brakes are very sensitive so I'm glad that the roads are so empty as we continue on to Stellenbosch.

Pete's next tastings are at the Warwick vineyard where we're greeted by an English ex-banker who has given up his career to study for a wine diploma. The wines are nice but still no purchases. We then drive to Muratie where Pete does buy two bottles of cabernet sauvignon and I taste and buy a dessert wine. Last on today's route is Kanonkop where we encounter a lively group of South Africans clearly well down the list of their chosen vineyards. Pete buys 1 bottle of the Kadette (an inexpensive blend) plus 2 bottles of the more expensive cabernet sauvignon. The lady here teaches us a little about the larger sizes of bottles available and how size of bottle impacts on the maturation and life of the wine inside.

We figure 4 sessions are quite enough for one day and head back to the lovely Plumwood to settle in and unpack. A while before we leave for dinner we join Roel and Lucienne in the living room for a port and a chat and Lucienne kindly shows me their larger superior room. It's a nice room, larger bed, more space and a bigger bathroom too but no more charming than the standard room that we're in.

After drinks we head for Delicious just a few minutes walk away. Owned and managed by the same people sa Le Quartier Francais, Delicious is a popular deli for takeaway and lunches and opens for dinner only one night a week. We've arranged to meet the Verkades there for dinner and find them waiting inside for us.

Conversation is lively and fun ? Canadian and British senses of humour have a lot in common ? and the food is great too. I have a cheese souffle with a rocket and walnut dressing followed by roasted sirloin on spring onion mash. Pete has deep fried brie followed by a stir fry chicken. My chocolate bread and butter pudding is delicious but Pete's keener on his white chocolate mousse. All excellent value and a very enjoyable evening.
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Jul 15th, 2004, 10:57 AM
  #15
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13 May

Breakfast at Plumwood is elegant and delicious. Alongside a spread of cereals, fruit and yoghurts we enjoy croissants fresh from the oven and some bacon and eggs too.

After that great start to the day we head off through the spectacular Franschhoek Pass. The views over the valleys are truly uplifting and I find myself just grinning in the car. We continue on through another mountain pass to Worcester via a dam and the resulting plain of ghostly dead trees.

Whilst Worcester's central square seems pretty enough we aren't tempted to stay and fail to locate any of the town's port vineyards. Just before we leave we stumble across The Barn Art Gallery & Coffee Shop and stop for a latte. The gallery isn't huge but has an attached store selling foodie gifts and I buy a little pot of olive jam for my mum.

We take the N1 back towards Cape Town so that we can drive through the Du Toit Pass. More breathtaking views! Even with all the reading and research I hadn't grasped quite how extensive the mountain ranges in this region are. Beautiful!

Heading back towards Franschhoek we stop at Le Petit Ferme for lunch where I have the slow roasted lamb wrapped in aubergine and Pete has the fillet of beef en croute (which is not so much in a crust as sitting on a crouton) served with brandy mushroom sauce. The bill including drinks is 193 Rand. The views are pretty but I'd advise booking in advance to secure a table by one of the windows with the best views. Our window table looked down onto another terrace of tables which themselves had window views out over the valley.

This afternoon it's my turn to taste and we head for vineyards listed in the local wine route guides as offering dessert wines. Graham Beck is a real contrast to most estates in the region as it's starkly modern and the gardens are dotted with some wonderful scultpures. We sign in, park and head for the tower tasting room. I really like their dessert wine very much and take a couple of bottles. Apparently the low prices reflect the simpler, shorter process of creating sweet wines and I'm all to happy to benefit.

Our next visit is to L'Ormarin which is a huge estate. After signing in it's a long, long drive to the spectacular tasting hall. This room has double height ceilings which are panelled in carved wood, ornate furniture and a beautiful floor. Unfortunately they have no dessert wine, just a port which I do enjoy but am not interested in buying.

We continue on to Dieu Donne which has no dessert wines ready for tasting. The setting of the tasting hall is just beautiful as it has garden tables just outside looking out over the valley below.

On the way home we pause at the Old Corkscrew ? no great surprise ? just lots of old corkscrews ? as the name implies and a selection of other antiques but a good photo opportunity nonetheless.

We pause at the chocolate "factory" but their tours for the next few days are already full so I buy a few consolation chocolates, browse a couple of arts and crafts gallery shops and we head back to Plumwood Inn.

We decide to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the pool and Roel kindly brings us a tray of tea and coffee. A little cold to swim but perfect weather to sit back on the loungers and read.

We enjoy another lovely drink and chat with Roel and Lucienne before heading out to Le Bon Vivante. What can I tell you? I absolutely loved this restaurant and definitely had one of the most memorable meals I have ever had here. The restaurant was very quiet (which never bothers me as much as it does some folk) and we sat at a table right by the huge glass window into the kitchen. That meant we could watch owner-chef Pierre crafting our meals which was certainly fascinating. Before our order arrives we are served a little amuse bouche each of tomato ravioli filled with camembert served in an espresso cup with potato froth and a little crispbread on top. Next comes the bread layered through with dutch cumin cheese and served with a selection of dips. Pete's starter is cube shaped fried blue cheese croquettes. Mine is more complex as I opted for the "combination of hot and cold starters". My plate has a tempura prawn on a bed of diced mushrooms, some poached trout and marinated trout, a tiny serving of courgette soup, some feta cheese croquettes with pears and red sauce and a serving of springbok shank and marinated sprinbok. This sounds rather filling but whilst each item is bursting with flavour the tiny servings mean I still have space for the main course. Which is just as well as I love my fillet of roast duck which comes not only with a selection of vegetables but with a little portion of duck stew served in a hen egg shell! Pete has gemsbok venison with vegetables and mushroom penne ? each tube of penne is stuffed with diced mushrooms. Somehow we squeeze in desserts and enjoy a chocolate parfait with grape sorbet and a coffee mousse with melon balls and coulis. Delicious! I haven't written down the bill but I am confident it was less than 400 Rand - absolutely excellent value for such an education in flavours, textures and presentation.

As we walk back to Plumwood we gaze up at the incredible African night sky and spot what we're sure is a planet. We make a guess based on it's uneven shape that it's Saturn with it's rings but find out later that it's Jupiter with it's moons. Whatever we're looking at you can be sure we don't get skies like this in London!
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Jul 20th, 2004, 06:03 AM
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14 May

Today's breakfast is even more delicious as Lucienne has tried a scone recipe from a new recipe book she has just bought and the results are wonderful. Alongside some fruit, bacon and eggs it's the perfect start to the day.

We set off on the scenic drive to Hermanus which takes us again through the stunning Franschhoek Pass (where we encounter baboon troops on the road) and then through Villiersdop and on to Hermanus.

We arrive just before noon and park the car before strolling along the coast and in the town. There is a small craft market set up on the ground by the car park and we browse without buying before deciding it's time for lunch.

We choose to have an inexpensive lunch in Ocean Basket and I have calamari and chips, Pete has "feesh and chips" which turns out to be a nice bit of hake.

After lunch we head back along a different route that takes us across the TheesWaterKloof Dam.

When we reach Franschhoek we head for Rickety Bridge vineyards. We proceed down the beautiful driveway and follow the signs along long avenues lined with golden trees, ooohing at the spectacular mountain backdrop and the quaint white-painted dutch cape houses.

We came after Pete enjoyed an inexpensive red called Duncan's Creek at dinner last night but on tasting he's tempted by their Paulina's Reserve. The sales lady is very busy on the phone but does tell us we can purchase the wines direct in the UK from Le Roque Bistro in Newbury.

We stop to rest over lattes and cakes at Café Bordeaux (their helpings are a little too generous but very delicious) and browse a few galleries before retiring to Plumwood Inn.

Tonight, after drinks in the lounge, we head to Topsi & Co. We are the only customers and so we're able to engage in long chats with Topsi herself along with her sous-chef Leonard who only 2 months previously was a manager in a CD shop! His parrot Oscar hops around the floor by our feet but Topsi's own African Grey is feeling shy and we only hear him from the back room.

I have a smoked trout and goat's cheese sauce starter followed by calves liver with basil and coconut rice. Pete has a chicken liver terrine followed by smoked angelfish with a blue cheese sauce, served with pok choi and pickled carrots. The restaurant doesn't have an alcohol license so we bring our own wine with us.

The food is not actually as good as I'd hoped but the conservations with Topsi, who tells us all about her career and experiences, is a great draw.

On our return to Plumwood Inn we chat again to Roel and Lucienne and finish our open bottles of wine.
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Jul 20th, 2004, 04:45 PM
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"bottles" -- as in plural? Kavita, have you finally become a wine drinker? Did those tasty South African webs wiggle their way into your tastebuds?
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Jul 20th, 2004, 04:51 PM
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that was supposed to say South African REDS... (I think I've partaken of too much Pinot Noir myself, this evening....it was a rough day at work!)
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Jul 21st, 2004, 12:21 AM
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Nope, can't stand red wine, I took a SWEEEET wine with me - a dessert wine that no one else but me would drink WITH dinner!
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Jul 21st, 2004, 04:52 AM
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SWEEEET wine with dinner - Yuch! What a shame with all those lovely webs awound you in Fwanschhoek. <hic>

Vewy pwoudly part of the wonderful nation of South Afwica <hic>



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