Sunday, 29 November 2015

Holiday snaps part 1

At last I can post some of my holiday pics... don't worry, I won't post them all!

There was a slight hold-up as I couldn't find the cable to take the pics from my camera to my computer, but then had a brainwave and discovered the errant cable in a 'safe place'. Just possibly a touch too safe!

Anyway, here goes:

I'm going to start with a pic of where I was staying in the Malay Quarter in Cape Town. No. 91 Wale Street is the bright yellow house and every day there were films being taken across the street and also of my building. It was very central and a great place to stay.

I stayed in the bright yellow house in the colourful Malay Quarter of Cape Town

A film crew across the street. This lot were doing an advert for shoes.

Next is the aquarium. This pic made me laugh. It's of the 'predator exhibit' and I hope you can see the divers in there. They invite people to dive with the sharks and other fish, but I did have this wonder as to whether the people knew they were part of the exhibit.

Who are the real predators?

Then I went of to Bird Land and, although I found it a bit sad in places as the cages seemed quite small, I thought the red ibis where pretty gorgeous.

Red ibis

This next is from Beau Constantia, a wine place that I stopped at for lunch. What I found rather hysterical about this (and you have to look hard to spot it) is the couple who were on a romantic date (at least that's how they started) were on their phones for most of the meal, but her phone cover was a pink plastic hand mirror. For some reason I thought it was hysterically funny!

Can you spot her pink mirror?

These next pics are from when I went to Kirstenbosch Gardens with friends of my mother. They were very kind to me and Wilhelmina was very good for my ego as she told me she couldn't believe she was only 6 years older than me.

Wilhelmina and me at the cheetah sculpture in Kirstenbosch

Views across the gardens

The next one is from the tourist bus looking back over Camps Bay. The colour of the sea was unbelievable.

View from the tourist bus

Next is just a couple from skydiving. If you're my friend on Facebook you'll already have seen these (and a few more)... the first one is of me and Rob freefalling and the second is safe on the ground and feeling pretty damn good.

Freefalling over South Africa
Feeling great!

Here's a rather lovely pic of the harbour at Saldahna where we had lunch. We were overlooking this semi-sunken boat that had been there for some time as loads of birds had made their nests on the masts.

The harbour at Saldahna

And then from there we went off to Tracy's friend Debbie, who lives in Blauberg, in a super modern house which overlooks Table Mountain across the water.

The view from Debbie's house in Blauberg

A walk on the beach and an iconic view of Table Mountain as the sun was beginning to go down

The next day we went to Robben Island. Here's a pic of the two of us with (yes, again) Table Mountain in the background.

On Robben Island

And then we were off to Cape of Good Hope, stopping off on the way to see the penguins and then onto the Cape itself.

Penguins on a rock. The sea is such an incredible colour

On our way to the Cape... what a view!

Tracy heading out to the actual point of the Cape. She's done quite a bit of rock climbing. I wasn't going there!

We went off to Signal Hill after the Cape to watch the sunset as Table Mountain was closed as it was too windy. The sky was amazing.

Looking over Cape Town from Signal Hill

How gorgeous is this?

 And then we actually went to Table Mountain. Here's a pic of Signal Hill going up in the cable car

Signal Hill from on high

If you've read my holiday blog posts you'll know I met the French couple I skydived with on the top. Totally surreal!

Skydive buddies
There were some very cheeky birds at the cafe.

Waiting for us to share our crisps!

And that evening we went to the outdoor cinema at Kirstenbosch Gardens.

Waiting for Breakfast at Tiffany's to start

After this, it was time to leave Cape Town and head on up to Port Elizabeth. I'll post some more pics in a day or so.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The journey back

After an tiring 24 hours, I'm home. Can't say I'm thrilled as there I was yesterday, before leaving for Port Elizabeth airport, sunning myself one last time in Tracy's garden. I arrived home to 7 degrees (and bleeping freezing it feels too) as I watch my tan fade by the second.

My last few days in PE were great, though we had a strange one on Saturday when temperatures plummeted to 14 degrees and the wind picked up and it rained. We were so cold we even put a log fire on that evening, but not before going to Kragga Kamma game park (more on this in another post) and then a bonsai exhibition. We even braved it to a giant shopping mall (not one of either my nor Tracy's favourite things to do) and picked up a cozzie at a very reasonable price all ready for my next adventures to hot climes, which will be Thailand next year.

Sunday saw the weather back to normal and we went off to Addo Elephant National Park. If you've never been to it I really suggest you make an effort to go if you're in that neck of the woods as it's a fab place for ele spotting. We saw loads, but again, that will all be covered in another post, once I've got the photos from my camera and I have the energy to write about it all on here.

So, yesterday Tracy took me to the airport after dropping her pooch at the parlour for a short, back and sides. He wasn't at all thrilled at the prospect and had to be carried in as he was determined he wouldn't go in under his own steam.

Tracy and I sat at the airport and had a last snack together and then it was time for off. Leaving PE behind was sad as I've had such a fab time. It took just over an hour and there we were landing in Cape Town. I then had to wait 2.5 hours for the check-in to open.

Once at check-in I discovered they'd given my seat to someone else and there was no room in the quiet of upstairs, so I got a window seat in the business class section downstairs. I wasn't thrilled as I was looking forward to the peace and quiet of the upstairs section, but hey ho. I then spent the rest of my time waiting for the flight to be called in the British Airways Lounge and very comfy it was too.

Eventually the flight was called and as I got on board I was immediately attacked by a woman who asked if I'd change seats with her as I was sitting adjacent (but with a screen between us) to her husband. I declined as she was in the through traffic area and could actually talk to him better where she was and I was looking forward to hiding myself behind my screen. Every time I got up to walk about or go to the loo she stared daggers at me. I noticed she never bothered to ask the person the other side of her to change with her husband. Anyway, once ensconced in my seat, behind my screen, it was like being in my own little world and the flight passed well enough. I even managed a reasonable night's sleep and the flight crew took a liking to me and kept coming to ask if I needed anything.

There was one slight moment of frisson though as when we were about to take off we did a turnaround and headed back to the stand as the plane had some kind of fault. Not the best way to start a long haul flight! Also, as time was tight to getting my connecting flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh, I was a touch concerned we'd be late, but after 20 minutes or so we did go and we made up time in the air. However, I had less than an hour to get off the plane, get on over to Terminal 5 (we landed at Terminal 3) and get through passport control, security and get to my plane. The woman who stared daggers at me wasn't at all pleased as the staff insisted that I (and another couple of people who also had flights to get) were let off the plane first.

I did make my flight, but with one minute to spare. It was not the way I like to travel and I hope I don't have to do that again in a hurry. I did, however, have a bus all to myself as the woman driver sped off to get me to Terminal 5 without waiting for anyone else! But the queues at passport control and security were a nightmare and in the end those of us on the flight to Edinburgh were rushed through a special channel.

And then, in just over an hour, I landed at Edinburgh. Luckily my trusty 'Beast' was 4th off the carousel and so by just after 8 am this morning I was on the bus heading into town to pick up my car and dump some goodies for the Sons.

I've bought food, so I shan't go hungry and tomorrow I pick up Vespa, which I'm looking forward to immensely. So now it's time to put my feet up before getting a hot shower and an early night. I'm exhausted!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015


The last few days have been just wonderful. From walking on the beach first thing in the morning to sunning myself by the pool in Tracy's garden, going for a walk around the neighbourhood and reading books. Real downtime. Are you envious yet?

This is the view from the porch when I have my breakfast.

Gorgeous view with breakfast

As you can see, hardly a cloud in the sky and that's how it remains for the day. I only stay out sunning myself for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon as it's too hot (and stupid) to stay out for longer. My tan is coming along very nicely, though I'm aware that it'll probably fade within hours of hitting the UK, but at least all that vitamin D is making me feel great.

Senge is just adorable and we spend our days together with him cuddled up to me while I'm reading and then he goes and sits in the shade for the time I'm outside.

Senge looking cute

I can't believe I've only got 4 days left before I get on the plane to go back to the Scottish winter. Can't say I'm really looking forward to it. Still, I have to make the best of it while I can. Tonight we're out with friends to a braai (barbecue for those that don't know) complete with a jacuzzi and tomorrow I have a small piece of work to do in the form of a Qiqong class I'm teaching for a couple of friends... given that I've done no work at all for a while, I'm kind of looking forward to doing that small piece. At least it'll make me feel like I'm earning my keep just a touch.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Cape Town to Port Elizabeth

As predicted before I came to South Africa, I've had little time to write on here. It's been a pretty full on week.

I had a wonderful dinner with my new Cape Town best friends, Johann and Eddie from La Petite Tarte coffee shop. They wouldn't hear of me paying for anything, so I gave the staff a big tip, which seemed to please all concerned. It turned out that, apart from being gay, Johann and I had a huge amount in common from our mothers to our last partners, so we had lots to talk about. Sadly Johann was off to hospital on the Monday, but I promised I'd take Tracy for coffee and cake before I left Cape Town and wished him safely over his op.

Day 4: Sunday all is pretty much closed in Cape Town apart from tourist things, so I headed out to Camps Bay for lunch and ate in the sunshine before it was time for me to go back to the Guest House to wait for Tracy. It was lovely to see her in person again. We skype a lot, but it's not quite the same and it's been 4 years since we were last together. We had loads to catch up on as we found our accommodation (Tracy had booked us into a self contained, 2 bedroom apartment overlooking Green Bay), which was fab. We went down to the Victoria and Alfred dock to have our dinner chatting away until time to go and get back to go to bed and dream of skydiving.

Me on the deck of 11 Chepstow Road with Green Bay stadium in the background and you can see I used my phone and not my camera so, for once, I actually have photos!

Tracy on the deck

Day 5: We were up early and ready for the off. Tracy turned 40 this year and wanted to skydive as her birthday present, so I decided (after quite a bit of saying 'no' to be honest) to join her. It took us a while to get to our jumping point and then there was a bit of sitting about, deciding we would have photos, deciding we wouldn't have a video and then it was time to get kitted up. The only problem was that they take 3 people up at one go and we were split up. I was paired with a lovely young French couple (who didn't speak much English) and was due to go first, so Tracy took pics. Of course I didn't have my phone, just my camera, so all the pics I took of her will have to wait til I get back to the UK.

Me getting kitted up

We went 9000 feet up in the air in a teeny, tiny plane - all 6 jumpers and the pilot. It was pretty cramped and freezing cold and with only a fold down plastic door between me and the great blue yonder (pics when I get home). Rob, the guy I was to be attached to, was taking photos all the time (I ended up with about 150!) and then I had to scoot round on my hands and knees, sit in his lap while he attached me to him and then he opened the plastic fold down door and we shuffled over and then out we went.

It's hard to describe, but the sound was incredible. We free fell for about 25 seconds before he pulled the parachute open and then there was this almighty jolt and the harness was pretty uncomfortable around my boobs (they don't tell you this bit!) and we then wheeled around in the very quiet, fresh air while Rob showed me the sights of Cape Town from on high. It was pretty amazing. Tracy took a few pics of me coming down, but then had to shoot off herself for her turn.

Rob did a slight miscalculation on our landing and the guy that was supposed to be catching us was running backwards and missed us. I landed on my arse, which I thought was pretty funny. Poor Rob was a bit embarrassed, but hey, we landed and all in one piece.

Me skydiving!

The French couple and I had a group hug and then I waited for Tracy to get back to earth.

The photos Rob took are on a CD and I don't have a drive with me to be able to upload them, so I'm afraid you'll have to wait to see them. Don't worry I won't put all of them up, just one or two choice ones to give you a glimpse of how it was.

After that experience Tracy and I drove off to Saldahna for lunch on the quay, listening to the creaking of the jetty and watching the boats while trying to make sense of our skydive experience and from there we went to Tracy's friend Debbie's house in Blauberg Bay. The house is ultra modern and incredible - e.g. the lights even came on in the loo when you open the door - and has fab views over the bay to Table Mountain. We had a lovely afternoon and then walked along the beach with Debbie's dogs and then out for dinner before driving back to Cape Town and bed.

It was funny really as during the skydive I was fine - not anxious or scared at all - but that night all I could do was think of freefalling as I was trying to get to sleep and it didn't make for a restful night!

Day 6: We got up early to get our boat to Robben Island. Our guide was Nthando (I didn't get his surname) a guy who'd spent quite a number of years as a prisoner. It was quite something listening to him, but both Tracy and I commented on how regimented the tour is. No time to wander or see things for ourselves. For me, I thought it was a shame that the focus is so much on Nelson Mandela (tho not surprising) and I wanted to hear more of Nthando's personal experience, but no time as we were whisked back onto the boat. We were lucky enough to see a whale on our return journey.

Me listening to Nthando on Robben Island

Once back in Cape Town we booked ourselves on the sunset ride up Table Mountain, which wasn't til after 6, so we set off down to Cape of Good Hope. It was pretty incredible, with all that oceanic crashing and bashing on the rocks, but loads of tourists were there so no time to sit and soak up the ambiance.

Me at Cape of Good Hope - what you can't see is the bucket load of tourists waiting to have their pic taken!

Then it was time to get ourselves back to Cape Town and Table Mountain. Our trip back was via the 'scenic route' and we didn't think we were going to make it, but we did... in time to realise that it was shut for the day as it was too windy to go up, so we decided to go to Signal Hill instead and watch the sunset from there. It was pretty cold while we were waiting (along with every other tourist in Cape Town it seemed!) and eventually we did get some spectacular sky photos (you'll have to wait for those) and then back to our digs for a sleep after an exhausting day.

Tracy and me waiting for sunset at Signal Hill

Signal Hill, overlooking the ocean as the sun is just beginning to go down

Day 7: For once we got up late and decided to treat ourselves to a coffee at La Petite Tarte. Tracy had carrot cake and said it was the best she'd had... of course I'm not a cake officianado so wouldn't know, but my coffee was good. Caught up on news from Johann and his op, which was successful, but painful and then time for our delayed Table Mountain trip from the day before.

Tracy's carrot cake and cappuccino and my espresso at La Petite Tarte

We got the cable car at the bottom in lovely warm sunshine and reached the top, shrouded in cloud and bloody cold. The thing that really got me was the silence. It was as though the cloud completely swallowed any sound. Some lovely birds and a rock dassie or two and then, unbelievably, I got a tap on my shoulder and there was the French couple I'd skydived with! It was such a delightful surprise, but what are the odds of that happening? We had another group hug and a photo opportunity (yup, you guessed it, you'll have to wait for that one too) and then went our separate ways, them to walk down the mountain (they were pretty fit as well as being young), while Tracy and I did the lazy person's route on the cable car.

From Table Mountain we drove out to Constantia to another friend of Tracy's, Sarah and her lovely old house (3 generations of her family have lived there) complete with dogs, horse, pot-bellied pig and 2 delightful children (Max, who's 12 and Chloe, 15) and then sat around on her porch eating strawberries and biscuits and dip before it was time to leave and go to the outdoor cinema at Kirstenbosch Gardens.

Tracy had booked this a while ago and it was a delight. We met up with Tracy's friend's daughter, Kelly and the 3 of us sat in the VIP area, which meant camping stools, a warm blanket and popcorn and cider while watching Breakfast At Tiffany's in the freezing cold. Another great Cape Town experience. Then back to our apartment for our last sleep before we hit the road to Port Elizabeth.

Day 8: After saying goodbye to our lovely landlady, Jenny and her dogs, we got into Tracy's car with all our bags and headed off to Hermanus, where we stopped for lunch. As we were eating our sushi we were aware that people were gathering on the foreshore and staring out into the bay and there, as we were eating, were a couple of whales. What a lovely moment. We finished our lunch and went to watch for a while, but our car meter was running out so decided to go on our way.

We passed Stanford and on to De Kelvers to see if we could see any more whales, but no luck. Another stop at Pearly Bay, but still no sightings, so we headed inland along some incredible dirt roads until we got to Cape Agulhas, which is the southernmost tip of Africa. We put our bags in our accommodation and then went down to watch the lighthouse as the sun went down. It was incredibly windy and cold so it was nice to get back to our digs and settle in, cooking our food and with a glass of vino and crisps and chat to finish our day.

Day 9: We got up, packed the car and drove straight down past the lighthouse to the point to spend some time actually at the tip of Africa. We made it before all the other tourists and it was lovely to be there, with the wind whipping our hair and the waves while we soaked up the drama of being at Cape Agulhas. As we were walking the 850 metres or so back to the car we saw lots of cars heading our way, so we were relieved to get out of there before the moment was spoiled.

From Agulhas we drove to Mossel Bay, stopping at Riviersonderend, which had the most amazing shop with all kinds of things from furniture to cheese. If you ever get to this part of South Africa I recommend a stop there. We had lunch in Mossel Bay in a tiny shack out on the harbour front and then drove to George for a cuppa with Tracy's friend Lydia and from there to Knysna where we'd booked our accommodation at the Wayside Inn. It cost us just under £15 per night per person and was pretty good. This was the first Inn/Hotel type rooms we'd had all trip, but we decided to go to the beach front at Knysna, where I'd eaten the last time I'd been there 4 years ago, for dinner rather than stay put. We had a lovely meal then back to the Inn for our final sleep before Port Elizabeth.

Day 10: After a lovely breakfast that was cooked for us and a real treat after the rest of our trip of 'do-it-ourselves' we hit the road one last time and drove the 3 hours to Tracy's house in Port Elizabeth. We got an almighty greeting from her Lhasa Apso pup, Senge, who's a real cutie. He's about a month older than Vespa and as far removed in dog term's as it gets. He's a ball of fluff but with real attitude!

Senge giving me a cuddle

Tracy was so pleased to see him. She'd left him with a dog sitter while she did her Cape Town bit so knew he was in good hands, but she'd missed him. It made me think of Vespa and wondering how he was getting on, but my motto is 'no news is good news' so haven't made any effort to find out.

Tracy bought this house at the beginning of the year and it's her first ever home of her own. It was when she told me she'd got it that we made plans for me to come out and see her in her new place. It's certainly lovely and even has a pool and it was great to sit on the porch eating crisps and drinking wine and having a dog to play with.

Day 11: We got up early to get to the beach for a walk with Tracy's landlady from when I last stayed. If you were reading my blog all those years ago, you'll know that Tracy used to live in the granny flat at one of South Africa's foremost ceramicists, Lynley Watson and she and I hit it off a treat, so she wanted to see me while I was here. We had a lovely time along Port Elizabeth's very windy shore with Senge and Lynley's dog, Honey, a yellow, not terribly obedient lab. After that it was time to go and get Tracy's gardener and then get home for breakfast. I was starving!

We then spent a pleasant morning weeding Tracy's back garden while the gardener sorted the plants, then lunch and unfortunately it started to rain so Tracy gave the gardener a lift back and now it's easy osy time til we start thinking about dinner. The joys of being on holiday.

Tomorrow, Tracy goes back to work and I dog sit for the next few days. The weather is supposed to improve so I'm hoping to lounge about, read some books, swim in the pool and play with the pup. A complete opposite to the frenetic first part of my South African trip!

Saturday, 7 November 2015

First few days

The first few days in Cape Town have been great.

Day 1: I arrived no problems and not even the incoming fog at Edinburgh airport could stop me from jetting out. I discovered that the guest house I booked is a real find (Rose Lodge) though I'm not actually staying in Rose Street, but in the owner's other guest house up the road at Wale Lodge in Wale Street. It's in the Malay quarter and is pretty groovy with it's brightly coloured houses (you'll have to wait for pics as they're in my camera and guess what I forgot!) and it seems like every day a new film or commercial is being shot across the street. My room is fab, with a great bathroom and comfy bed and it's very central.

I decided on the hop on hop off tourist bus the day I arrived as sitting on a bus and going around the town seemed like a great way to start. I went on the red route to start and went past Table Mountain - I didn't go up as it's one of the things that Tracy and I plan to do together when she picks me up tomorrow (Sunday) - then all around via Camps Bay and back into town. I stopped off at the Aquarium and played with anemones, which was fun. I then got onto a blue bus and went off around by Kirstenbosch, Constantia and got off at World of Birds (a bit dowdy to be honest) and then back into Cape Town via Hout Bay and Camps Bay (again). At this point I decided to upgrade my ticket to cover the next day as I wanted to go to the vineyards at Constantia, but didn't have the time.

I finished off my day at a very upmarket Italian restaurant on Wale Street and then walked back to my guest house to sleep soundly.

Day 2: I met up with Lisa King, the woman who I buy shoes off on the internet. It was great to spend time with someone I've been communicating with for 4 years. She took me down to the V&A Waterfront and had coffee and met some pals of hers and then I scooted off for my bus trip to Constantia (by this time I knew the spiel pretty well and now feel I can almost give the guided tour myself), where I had a very leisurely lunch and wine tasting at Beau Constantia, which was lovely. It took 2 hours by which time I only had the time to get back on the bus and head back to my room to spruce up to go for dinner with my niece's husband, Barry - my niece actually jetted off to the UK the day I arrived as she has a wedding to go to - and we had a hilarious evening at Societi Bistro, with more delicious food and more wine.

Day 3: I went to pick up a pair of boots at Lisa's store not too far from where I'm staying and ended up having a coffee at La Petite Tarte, a cafe I'd been recommended close by. Bizarrely I got talking to the owner (a gay guy), who gave me a lift back to my guest house and invited me to have dinner tonight with him at his cafe along with his Brazilian partner (don't worry, I'll report all). From then I was picked up by my mother's friends (who are nearer my age than her's) and zipped off to Kirstenbosch Gardens for another leisurely lunch (with wine) followed by a walk around the gardens and then back to theirs for coffee and chat til it was time for me to get back to get myself ready for tonight.

So you can see... apart from being on buses I've spent a lot of time chatting, eating great food and enjoying the wine and no doubt more of all to come!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

It's holiday time!

Well that's me, ready for my hols. Pup is with his boarder for the next wee while as I jet off to the sunshine.

I'll try and keep this blog updated as I go, but will be dependent on 1) internet access and 2) time for me to actually write. The first is probably more likely than the latter as there's a whole raft of plans of all the things I'm supposed to be doing.

So take care one and all and I thought I'd leave you with a pic of my coffee plants as the largest has just been repotted and seems to be enjoying it's new abode.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Time for a change

I've lived in this house for 7 years and in all that time, in spite of buying lots of bags of sweets for kids coming by for trick or treating, I've never had a single one til last night.

Of course that was the one night when I'd only bought a very small bag of goodies and had to go into my car for my mint stash to make it up as I had loads of callers. Typical!

But the most lovely thing of all was a 7 year old boy from round the corner who took one look in the house and said, 'Wow, I love your house.' We then had quite a talk about where he lives and his dogs (Vespa had joined in on the act by that time) and I think I pretty much got his life story. It was so cute and I came away smiling.

Also I came away hoping I wasn't going to get too many more visitors as, for the second time in one evening, I was running out of sweets and had nothing more in my car to supplement. I began to think I was going to have to put my final 4 apples into the bowl, but luckily there were no more.

Each day this week I've had to get my act together and today was no different. I had a Mindfulness practice day to run at home and, after the day before's conference, it's felt pretty full on this week, which culminated in a riveting Rugby World Cup that I'm so thrilled to say The All Blacks won (sorry Australian friends, it's just one of those things), but not without my expending a huge amount of energy while watching even though Vespa was desperately trying to calm me down.

But now I have to turn my attentions away from all that kind of stuff and get my suitcase out and packed. Time to get ready for my hols. Yes, in 4 very short days I jet off to the other side of the world for fun, frolics and skydiving!