Monday, 25 May 2009

The Proposal

We had a fabulous day last Wednesday. As the weather has been so good lately we woke really early, packed a picnic and set of for Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa.

Elaine was unaware that I had a plan for the day!

We enjoyed the ride out towards Caledon and stopped for some coffee and picnic provisions at the quaint town of Napier. Recharged and finally awake we carried on towards our destination in the blazing sunshine.

Finally we could see the large red and white lighthouse that showed us we were nearly there.

A short dirt road drive later and we were as far south as it is possible to be in Africa without getting wet toes! We had a walk out to the monument identifying the southernmost point and the joining of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

Time to put the plan into action! We found ourselves on the top of the moment looking at a small starfish that Elaine had found and the time felt right. I dropped to one knee and asked the big question! Happily Elaine said yes straight away and burst into tears (though she now claims that this was due to the Atlantic wind)!

Luckily the ring fits perfectly, though it is a temporary one until we can get a permanent one designed and made. I never knew that glass could sparkle quite that much!

Back in the 'bakkie' I had hidden a chilled bottle of champagne amongst the picnic items so we cracked it open and drank it admiring both the view and the sight of a ring on Elaine's finger.

We had a great day exploring the coast nearby, even getting the 'bakkie' stuck on a dune in Arniston requiring the help of some locals (and Elaine) to push us back onto firmer ground!

After a very happy day we got back to Stellenbosch at around 1900hrs just in time for Elaine to go to Bookclub and gossip with the 'aunties'!

We've had a great few days since then with lots of celebrating and late nights. Thanks to all of you for your kind wishes. Now we've just got to find a venue and organise a wedding, which I think should be pretty straightforward!!!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Bo-Kaap, V&A and Rick's Cafe

Last week (12th May) we went to Cape Town for the day to do some admin, explore a little and meet up with some of Elaine’s old school friends for the evening.

First up on a fantastically warm and sunny autumn day (a nice change from rain) was a visit to the Traffic Department for Elaine to deliver a letter claiming against her traffic fine of R500 (£35) for running a red light near Strand a few months ago. Incidentally this is her third fine since we’ve been here compared to my 1 very minor speeding fine! Having seen the photo accompanying the fine I can safely say that she is guilty as charged! Elaine though (of course) does not agree, claiming that yellow (amber to us) means GO and not STOP if safe to do so! We will keep our fingers crossed that the fine is reduced or withdrawn but I for one am not holding my breath!

Next we decided to spend a little time exploring the Bo-Kaap neighbourhood of Cape Town, nestled on the slopes of Signal Hill on the edge of the City Centre this area was founded by the Muslim slaves brought to the Cape by the Dutch in the 1700s. The area is home to the first Mosque in South Africa and is known for its brightly painted buildings, vibrant atmosphere and welcoming locals, the ‘Cape Malays’.

We drove up the cobbled streets until we could go no further and enjoyed the panoramic views of Cape Town and Table Mountain. This truly is a stunning city, you can see Table Mountain from just about everywhere and the natural ‘bowl’ (hence City Bowl?) it creates between its foothills and the sea are the perfect location to live. For me this goes a long way to explaining the special energy that Cape Town has and the relaxed attitude of the locals (obviously speaking in general).
Next we drove back down into the narrow cobbled streets of Bo-Kaap and spent some time walking the streets, photographing the buildings and speaking to some of the friendly locals.

The whole area has a creative feel, compounded by the fact that Carol Boyes (Elaine’s favourite cutlery manufacturer) has her studio there as do the amazing wire artists of Streetwires. If anybody has a spare R1000 (£65) we like this one from the Nguni Cow range!

After exploring Bo-Kaap we went to the V&A Waterfront for a bit of shopping (though not at Gucci, Prada or Jimmy Choo obviously) and some lunch. After wandering the shopping mall and having a long and fascinating chat to Steve Bull (originally from Bournemouth, UK) at The Waterfront Woodturners in the Red Shed Craft Centre we decided on a seafood platter for two at Ocean Basket, giving Elaine the opportunity to pretend to use Table Mountain as a real table!

Having achieved far less than intended on our day in the ‘Mother City’ it was soon time to head to the other side of town and the Casablanca inspired Rick’s Cafe to meet up with some of Elaine’s old school friends for a bit of an informal reunion. Fortunately for me there were some familiar faces in the form of Flippie, Lise, Jurg and Liezl as well as a few unfamiliar ones!

We had a great night, even though Elaine and I found it difficult to eat anything at all after our not so light lunch! The restaurant was great with good food (Moroccan influence) and cool staff. It was also interesting to see the huge Balthazar’s of red wine (12 litre bottles!) that were being used for decoration!

After a very enjoyable few hours we headed back to the ‘Bosch around midnight very tired but very happy!

Monday, 18 May 2009

The Stormers

Rugby is as big here as football is at home, it is the number one sport and people go mad for it. The biggest tournament is the Super 14 which sees 14 provincial teams from South Africa (5 teams), New Zealand (5 teams) and Australia (4 teams) compete against each other in a single league, playing each other once during the season. The top 4 teams then play off to decide the champion.

Our local team is the Stormers representing the Western Cape and playing their home games in Cape Town at the famous Newlands Stadium. This season has not been a great one for the Stormers but we still decided that it would be good to go and see them in their final home game against the Western Force from Australia on the evening of 9th May.

We had great seats in the Railway Stand with Radie and his friend Charles. We parked near to the ground and we had a few pre-match beers at Cubañas before making our way to the ground. The atmosphere was great, despite the below capacity crowd, just like going to an evening kick off for the football at home.

We bought some biltong, had another pre-match beer in the bar and found our seats. The stadium is a superb place to watch rugby, four tall stands tower over the pitch and make the crowd feel as if they are within touching distance.

The game was very entertaining, not least because of the high number of unforced errors, and we were treated to some end to end rugby. It was very easy to support the local team as South Africans have exactly the same feelings towards Australian sports teams as the Brits do - we both hate them! The Stormers should have had the game won by half time but thanks to two disallowed tries and the comedy error of the season when the centre Dylan Des Fountain dropped the ball unchallenged, whilst already over the line, they only led 15-7.

The second half continued in the same vain with the Stormers having yet another try disallowed and the Western Force threatening to get back into the game. Eventually the Stormers got more points on the board and despite intense pressure from the Western Force in the final 10 minutes they held on for a well deserved 25-24 victory.

We thoroughly enjoyed our first Super 14 experience and will definitely be back to support the Stormers in the future, especially as tickets are reasonably priced at R100 (£6.50)!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Some more beasties!

Just to keep the animal lovers happy here are a couple of pictures of some new sightings!

Blue Wildebeest


Hopefully there will be some more in the not too distant future!

Cape Point

As you have seen before we really love it on the Cape Peninsula but until 3rd May we hadn’t made it all the way to the end and Cape Point.

As the weather was good we decided to pack up some lunch and head off down the N2 and travel down through Muizenberg and Simon’s Town to get to the National Park entrance. As usual there were plenty of interesting sights to be seen on the way but this one at the side of the street in Muizenberg just has to be the winner!

Eventually we got to the entrance, paid our R60 (£4) and headed into the beautiful and unspoilt southern tip of the Peninsula. The scenery is simply breathtaking with the cliffs giving great views across False Bay back towards Strand, Somerset West and Stellenbosch.

We parked the car and started to walk up to the lighthouse at the point itself rather than take the funicular as apparently exercise is good for you! As we made our way up the steps we were treated to fantastic views of the Cape of Good Hope, actually a separate promontory to Cape Point and not just another name for the same place as I had assumed.

We continued the climb until we reached the old lighthouse, towering above the sea and looked back along the coast towards Cape Town.

The old lighthouse was replaced in 1919 as it was often obscured from view by mist and cloud. The new lighthouse really is at the very south-eastern tip of Africa, built out from the rock its light can be seen from 34 miles away and is South Africa’s most powerful. There is a walkway between the two lighthouses so we decided to have our lunch as near to the SE corner of Africa as possible and enjoy the uninterrupted views towards the South Pole!

As the sun began to set we made our way back to the ‘bakkie’ and got someone to take the obligatory photo of us posing with the Cape Point sign – typical tourists!

There were now only a handful of people about and the local Baboon troop had started to move in, looking for food and other items left by that day’s visitors. Obviously accustomed to human beings they didn’t seem at all concerned at our presence and were more than happy to pose for pictures!

The sun set as we headed out of the National Park and on towards Kommetjie on the way back to Cape Town.

Another wonderful day in SA!

Saturday, 16 May 2009


Summer time in Europe is winter time here in South Africa and visa-versa. Whilst the Christian religious calendar stays the same, i.e. Christmas is on the same date, Easter is at the same time etc, celebrations linked to the natural environment and seasons do not, for obvious reasons.

The Celtic Pagan festival of Samhain celebrates the end of summer and the beginning of the ‘dark half’ of the year. Celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere on 31st October (though for Pagans it is a three day celebration starting on this date) the festival has become known as Hallowe’en. In the Southern Hemisphere it is celebrated six months earlier, at the end of April and at our house on 1st May.

Preparations started early, Nina donned her Chef’s hat with great success once again, Jon carved a pumpkin lantern and Elaine made jugs of cocktails and delicious pumpkin pancakes for the celebrations, though they were stolen by the rest of us throughout the afternoon!

As the evening approached people started arriving and the party got into full swing as the cocktails and mulled wine were consumed and the all important fire was lit.

We circled the fire and threw symbolic unwanted items into it before sitting down to Nina’s fabulous butternut soup, roast lamb, roast chicken and roasted veggies feast! Elaine’s cocktails did the trick and helped the party run into the wee small hours!

South African Cheese (and lots of wine) Festival

This is going back a while now but……..

The annual South African Cheese Festival was held just down the road near Paarl between 24th and 27th April and is a ‘must do’ on the local calendar. We went on Monday 27th which was a public holiday and enjoyed the ‘Indian summer’ conditions. It is now Autumn here and even though it is still mild by European standards the shorts have given way to jeans most of the time and even a jumper is required on occasions!

We booked some tickets with Shanien and her husband JF and planned a relaxing day sampling wine and cheese and whatever else was on offer!

Before we went Elaine’s parents (festival veterans) gave us some excellent advice – ‘don’t eat breakfast before you go’! Fortunately we listened to them because we didn’t stop ‘sampling’ for more than a few minutes during our entire stay!

There were literally thousands of cheeses of all imaginable types and flavours as well as wines and champagnes, mushrooms, olives, pâtés, spreads, meats, sausages, jams, breads, ice creams, chocolates etc etc. Foodie heaven and all for the price of a couple of pints back in the UK!

We probably only managed to get round about ¾ of the stalls during our time on site but as it was the last day the wines samples seemed to be much larger than usual. During the last hour it was normal for the wine stalls to actually fill your glass rather than just give you a taste!

As you can imagine we were all very ‘happy’ when we eventually made our way out, especially Elaine, who was even happier when she spotted the Fire & Rescue guys on the way out!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Baboon Warning

Where does the time go? It's been nearly two weeks since we added anything to the blog. It feels as if we've been in a time warp!

A couple of weeks ago we had a ride out to the Cape Peninsula and visited some of our favourite spots. Starting from Cape Town we went via Sea Point and Camps Bay to Hout Bay, then over to Constantia and Fish Hoek then back to Kommetjie to watch the sunset. A bit of a zig zag route but all very beautiful!

Always of amusement to us are the road signs warning of Baboons - we're not sure whether the sign manufacturers think that a Baboon looks like a Deer or not! There are lots around here and they are all the same!

After a nice drive and watching the sunset we headed over to Kalk Bay for something to eat at the very cool Cape to Cuba. This is where everything is for sale including the table and chairs, light fittings, paintings and cutlery!

Just a short Sunday drive to make the most of the last of the hot weather! We promise to add some more substance over the next few days!