The Bucket List Blog – Chapter 3: Zanzibar

Four years went by before we travelled again in August 2010. We bought a house and carried on partying in the beautiful surrounds of Cape Town.  However, when it became known that a trance festival was being organised on Mafia Island, just off the coast of Tanzania (so just around the corner really) our ears perked up.  The party was organised months in advance and was so far along in the preparation – so far along that people we knew had been living on the island for a few months, building the set and the rig for the party.  Tickets to the party were bought and tickets to the island were bought, leave from work was scheduled; we were amped and ready.

Then everything fell through.  The party organisers could not get the correct permissions from the government despite trying every possible avenue – and the party was shut down.  I can’t remember how close to the date of the party this all happened, but it was pretty close.  So all of a sudden there was a crew of a couple of hundred people from Cape Town who had tickets to this party and to the island but no party to go to.  The travel agent who was doing the bookings for all the party goers managed to change our bookings so that instead of going to Mafia Island we would go to Zanzibar.  Over a couple of days she managed to book our accommodation on Zanzibar instead.  And in hindsight, again, if we had just gone to Mafia Island (which is a tiny island where nothing much happens) all we would have seen was a tiny bit of a tiny island and a great big party.

In the end Zanzibar turned out to be more of a party than an actual party would have been I think.  We spent our days on the beach, playing frisbee, drinking margaritas, chatting and laughing.  I will never forget the time we were lying on the beach in our lounge chairs at around 11am and we ordered Margaritas from the waiter.  A while later he came back with Margarita pizzas!  I guess at 11 in the morning one should specify what kind of Margarita one wants! 😉  In the end we ate the Margaritas to line our stomachs and specified that the next few rounds needed to be drinks!

I can’t say for sure that this was the day of the margharita pizzas because we pretty much did this every day we were there!

That holiday epitomised for me what a holiday should be.  The Turkish holiday was amazing on so many levels but was also hard work.  This holiday, first and foremost, was enjoyed with my closest friends in the world.  The only grey part of it was that ex-husband No. 2 and I were already not seeing eye to eye on things and the excessive partying was not conducive to things moving along in a respectful and calm manner.  We also lost our camera to the tides that holiday.  We left all of our belongings on a sandbank that was completely dry and took a very short walk only to come back to see that the tide had turned and where once there was sand, were now waves.  Everything was lost including all our photos. 😦  So all photos here courtesy of best friend Tania.

Fun and lots of laughs with these crazy chicks!

As mentioned in my Bazaruto Island post there is another diving story to tell and that happened on this trip.  To be honest, I cannot rightly say why I thought it was a good idea to dive again but I guess it was because we were in Zanzibar, one of the most beautiful places in the world to dive.  Remember I said that after not diving for a while one needs to do a refresher course.  So we duly went about doing this.  It entailed diving in the shallows – literally – we were on our stomachs and could feel the sand beneath, breathing underwater with our tanks for about 10 minutes and the dive master said that was refresher course training done.

I will never forget how nervous I was going out on the boat that day.  I had not dived in five years and so was technically a severely nervous, neurotic novice.  The day was grey and not really a good day for diving but I seem to recall it was the only day we could do it – it was probably the only day we were half sober enough to do it more than likely.  Trying to remember the event is quite hazy – I think its because my brain has tried to block it out of my memory as it was pretty traumatic.  Anyway, eventually our guide chose a place to anchor the boat.  He said that we would need to go down and then swim towards the pretty part – again I’m not entirely sure why.  So when we went down it was literally just sea and sand.  There was nothing pretty to see at all.  When you dive, you have to always have a buddy so that if anything goes wrong they can help you.  I was buddied up with the dive master or maybe I chose to be with him because I didn’t want to slow anyone else up.  Anyway, we went really far down, I want to say 18 m but maybe it wasn’t that far – however, if you looked up, you could not see the surface, that’s how far down we were.  I started lagging behind and all of a sudden I was alone in the water.  Everyone had swum ahead and I was all alone!!  Thanks buddy!  I was losing air so fast because I was hyperventilating and started panicking that I would run out of air all the way down there and then proceeded to have a full blown panic attack, the first and last one I’ve ever had!

So, I did the only thing I could think of and swam for the surface!  Anyone who knows anything about diving knows that if you are so far down you cannot just swim to the surface as you get the benz because it doesn’t give your body enough time to acclimatise to the change in pressure.  I knew this and I thought about this at the time but I didn’t care.  My life literally flashed before my eyes. I saw my kids, I saw my life, all in quick snapshot motion.  That was the only time in my life where I really did think that I might die.  Scary stuff!!!  That swim to the top felt like it took 5 minutes but was probably 30 seconds.  When I emerged at the top I was pretty far from the boat and was in complete panic mode.  Luckily the dive master was obviously not as far away from me as I thought as he came up quite quickly after me to find out how I was.  So in hindsight I’m wondering if because we had not been down under for very long, that was what allowed us to surface so quickly with no ill effects.   He helped me back to the boat and I spent the next hour in the boat, very cold and very traumatised lying in the fetal position waiting for the others to complete the dive.

Luckily the next day we went on a boat trip and we FINALLY snorkelled and it was amazing!  I doubt very much that I will ever don a wet-suit and diving gear in my life again.

Look how happy I am that we are going snorkelling 🙂

For the snorkelling trip we were taken by dhow to this little island, it was amazing!
A dhow from afar – pretty much the only mode of sea transport in Zanzibar.

We went into Stone Town on one of the days which is a must do – again, to get a feel for the culture and people of the place you are visiting.  Like most African cities, Stone Town is busy and vibrant and colourful and cheap.  We hired a scooter to get around the town which was amazing and we picked up some awesome crafted wooden photo frames.  (Because that was all we could fit in our suitcases).  The craftsmanship there is second to none and very reasonably priced.

Funny sign saying Good Deals for a Fassel Free trip!!  Hope it’s hassle free too!

We did also spend a couple of nights on Mafia Island but like I said before, it’s a tiny little island with not much happening. But again, in the spirit of seeing as much as we could we were happy to be there.  We also spent a night in the capital of Tanzania, Dar-es-Salaam.  Not a good place to spend the night if you want to drink alcohol.  There was none, anywhere!  Not sure if things have changed since then but there was literally not a drop to be found, not even in the nice hotel we were staying at.  We were not impressed!!!

If living in South Africa, Zanzibar is a relatively cheap holiday destination.  Pretty much ALL the places to stay are right on the beach and you can get really good, cheap accommodation.  You can see from the photos just how close we were to the beach – we were literally ON the beach and it didn’t cost us an arm and a leg.

 

Our villa
Our view from the villa

Me 7 years ago and 7 kgs lighter! 😉

The Bucket List Blog – Chapter 2: The UK & Turkey

The next adventure was overseas!  And not long after the first time – in March/April 2006.  As I said the bug had bit and we were amped.  There were two factors to the next trip.  Ex-husband No. 2’s mom lived in London and she had been wanting us to visit for a while, and, well, more importantly to us at the time, there was to be a full solar eclipse in Turkey.  At the time we were avid trance heads, going to as many parties as we could with a small child and limited cash.  But as most people know, if you have a passion for something, you generally make a plan.  So when it became known that a trance festival was being held in Turkey for the solar eclipse we thought it the perfect opportunity to attend a massive SEVEN DAY festival, see the solar eclipse and see a bit of London.  The plan evolved into taking our son with us, who was three at the time, dropping him off in London with his nana while we went and partied hard for seven days.

Unfortunately all the photos I have of that trip are actual photos and if there are digital copies, I don’t know where they are.  Said actual photos being somewhere in a box in South Africa. So I will need to regale you, avid readers, through imagination and wit.  And a little help from the video below.

We spent 4 days in London before leaving for Turkey and had an amazing time.  That was my very first time in the UK and I was hooked the moment I arrived.  It was late March and all the blossoms were out as were the daffodils and it was just so different to South Africa.  I suddenly realised that I had an affinity with old buildings and architecture, something I didn’t realise before.  We did all the touristy things you can do with a three year old.  So it was the Natural History Museum where we saw the life-size, life-like dinosaurs – I will never forget Nic’s face when he saw the dinosaurs move.  It was a boat ride on the Thames, it was Trafalgar Square to look at the pigeons.  It was the Science Museum for a ride in the rocket shuttle and we even managed to go and see a play at the West End (Les Mis), which was obviously without the three old.  We packed a lot into those few days but finally we were off on our festival holiday and we could not wait.

After a 3 hour flight and a bus ride, we arrived at the venue, where we had to complete the last leg of the journey in an open air truck – think woollen scarves and hats and frozen faces and smiles by the time we got there – it was late March in Europe after all, not that warm!  Dawn was breaking when we were dropped off with our tents and backpacks and as romantic as that sounds you must remember that we had been doing trance parties for a fair amount of years now so sunrise was a time of day we were quite used to 😉  Dawn in Turkey looked exactly like dawn in Elgin or Grabouw or Stanford or Caledon.  I felt like I had travelled 6 000 miles to a place that looked exactly like every other trance party I had ever gone to.  It was a let down to say the least.  I think it’s because the entire travel had been done in the dark so there was no sense of looking out of the plane onto foreign landscape; it literally felt like we had been transported back to a party in our backyard.  Then, to make matters worse, about three hours after we arrived, and erected the tent and were just getting into the party vibe, the heavens opened and the entire party flooded, not just rain but hail the size of grapes nogal!  (If you have three minutes to spare, please watch the first three minutes of this video which gives a graphic, blow by blow account of how bad this flash flood was).  It was so bad that the main stage was completely destroyed and for the first four days of the party a smaller rig and set up was used while they fixed it.

See what I mean?  As you can imagine, this did not put me in the best of spirits.  The rest of the party remained muddy and no amount of party essentials could really completely take me away from the fact that I was living in a soggy tent, all my clothes were wet and I was going to be there for the next seven days.  To top it off, the toilets were disgusting and the queues for everything were long.

The piece de resistance and what made the whole party was the amazing solar eclipse and to be there for that made the whole journey worth it.  (Minutes 7 to 8 on the video although I don’t feel this video really captures the essence of what was such an amazing celestial happening).  Some solar eclipses, even though they are full, can be very quick and can also occur towards the beginning or the end of the day when the light is not at its fullest anyway.  This eclipse was at around 1 pm and the full eclipse lasted about 4 minutes with the entire process taking a couple of hours.  The music was stopped when the eclipse took place and the birds started chirping as the ‘sun went down’.  It was such an amazing experience and to be surrounded by thousands of like minded people was mind blowing.  After the eclipse was over the music was mental – the whole South African crew that went to the party, all converged at the river for an afternoon of connection, love and light.

The eclipse was on day 2 of the seven day experience.  I lasted 4 days and tried really hard to enjoy it and lose my mind but when the drugs stopped working (and I had had enough of the filthy toilets and the freezing cold nights) and started thinking about the fact that here I am in Turkey and I am not going to see anything except this forest, I told ex-husband No. 2 that if he didn’t get me out of there and into the City to see some sights, there would be huge issues.  He must have been feeling the same way because soon we were on a bus to Antalya where we found a cheapish hotel which was all inclusive.  I have NEVER been so happy to see a proper toilet in my life.  And NEVER been so happy to have food in my belly.  That experience had been harrowing.  Thank god there is a solar eclipse experience as a reason to have done an international trance party because if there wasn’t I would feel very foolish to have made that journey just for a party.

I managed to find two photos of me at the party on my Facebook.   I’m looking happy so I’m sure they were taken either on the first day or the last day when I knew we were leaving!!!

We had three days left and we made the most of them.  We hired a car and went to all sorts of ruins.  We found a really cool cheap apartment and wondered around, going into shops and drinking apple tea with the proprietors.  We went on a tour to a leather factory and a diamond factory and I swam in the Mediterranean.  The memories are a bit hazy after 10 years but I know I felt relieved and grateful that we had managed to see a bit of the city we were so close to and so close to not actually seeing.

Birds eye view of Antalya – imagine we had missed seeing this!

The Bucket List Blog – Chapter 1: Bazaruto Island

I feel very fortunate to have travelled as much as I have in the twelve years since I first travelled out of South Africa.  While it might not seem like a lot to some, having a house, mortgage, kids and all the trappings that come with that i.e. school fees, home maintenance etc., I feel like I did rather well.  While I was younger and raising my children, the thought of an overseas trip was incomprehensible.  It wasn’t even on my radar as something I particularly wanted to do.  Now, it’s first and foremost in my mind as to what trip and which country I want to see and do next.  My next few posts are going to be about travel I have already done and then the finale will be my bucket list of where I still want to go.

My first trip out of South Africa was when I was already 32 years old in 2005.  My youngest child was only 2 years old but ex-husband No. 2’s oldest friend was getting married on Bazaruto Island and it was important that we attend as he was one of the best men – Andrew couldn’t choose so he had three best men!  Because the couple were dive instructors and diving was their passion, going to the wedding also meant getting PADI certified so we could go diving every day.  Sounds like a holiday straight from heaven right?  WRONG!  First of all, the wedding was in May so we had to do the dive preparation in Cape Town in April.  This entailed getting into freezing cold water Atlantic seaboard water in order to get the certification – there was no way around it.  Hours and hours of this plus an exam had to be passed.  This all with a very challenging 2 year old who never slept. Looking back if I had to do it all again I would have put my foot down and demanded that snorkeling was good enough for me.  I did not take well to diving.  The whole process just seemed like too much effort for something you could see anyway, with a snorkel.

Anyway, the week we spent there, bar the diving, was magical.  And to be fair, on the one day we dived we got up close and personal with a whale shark which was just surreal and probably one of the most tranquil, otherworldly experiences of my life.  It’s very rare to see one whilst diving so even I, with all my bitching and moaning about the diving, was suitably awe-inspired with that experience.

Can you see which one is me? Yes, the one who couldn’t maintain her balance under water, having not mastered the level of air to keep in (or out) of my backpack thingie. As you can probably tell, its been a while since I dived, hence one needing to do refresher course if you don’t often dive (more about that in a future post!)

The resort we stayed at was right on the beach and every day we were there was luxurious, chilled and fun.

OK, yes, this is a photo off the website as I don’t have one of my own but this is exactly the scene that awaited us when we got there. Can you imagine how great it was after two months of stressing, in freezing cold water, weekend after weekend, to be met with this sight?
The rest of the photos were taken by me. And they still look like they are photo shopped don’t they? View from our front door.

The wedding itself was also the most magical, amazing wedding I have ever attended.  The best part was that everyone was barefoot!  We partied hard into the night and I am sad to say that a whole day on the island was wasted the next day due to the most severest of hangovers. 😦

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wedding party was there for two weeks but we couldn’t afford to stay for that long because of money and also because we had 3 kids at home so we had to leave before everyone else, which was horrible.  We did however, manage to spend a night on the mainland, in a little Mozambican village called Vilanculous.   We stayed in a tiny rondavel (hut) for the night, covered in a mosquito net with a bucket to pee in because well, to get to the nearest toilet was a challenge at best.  I’m not sure if it was the greatest idea to end our resort holiday like that but it was definitely the beginning of my travel bug and my realisation that to go to a resort for a holiday and not experience anything else of the culture of the country you are visiting, was not a good idea and a bit of a waste of money.  Vilanculous showed us the real Mocambique with a taste of the real people.  Very poor, very friendly and the cashew nuts could be bought for a steal!

Perfecting the long distance relationship

For those who know me and Daniel, you know that we have been together for almost five years and of those five years, we have spent probably half of them living in different countries.  To say that ours is an unconventional relationship would be putting it mildly.  If after a year of being together, someone had asked me to put money on whether or not we would still be together, I would most definitely have bet for not, and lost.  We have been through a lot in the last few years – both my parents passed away and Daniel’s mom and grandfather too.  Daniel’s mom’s passing was especially tragic as it was cancer, it was quick and she was only 49.  So we have been through stuff.  I have watched Dan grow from a computer game obsessed young man who would get to bed at 3am every night into a man who now owns his own business.  It’s funny that one of the main reasons he started his own business was so that he could sleep late and not have to negotiate heavy traffic and taxis every morning and evening.  Yet, he is up at 6:30 every morning now raring to go.  He has bought a bike and so even if he does have to ‘go into the office’ he can do so with ease.

I thought that everyone who is in a long distance relationship would have thought about the things we do to keep the relationship alive but apparently not.  Everyone I tell thinks it’s completely unique and cute (or else they are vomiting behind our backs, who knows?).  But in the interest of keeping a long distance relationship going strong here are some tips to keep the romance alive.

The long and the short of it is this – when you are not out and about with friends, which of course should still happen as it would in the normal course of events, do everything together.  With the technology we have today this is completely doable.  You can cook together, shower together and then get into bed and talk, choose a movie or a series and watch together, just as you would if at home..  Once in bed at the end of the day, Dan and I Skype for a while and catch up on our days.  Then we put the same movie/series on on Netflix, get to the same point in the show and then press play.  Skype minimises to the top right hand corner and voila, you are watching a movie together.  In some ways it’s better as both of you can fart in the bed and it doesn’t affect the other! 😉

OK, so there is the very real problem of missing the physical aspect of the relationship and yes, that’s the worst part about being separated, no mistake!  But we all know that there are ways around that and while there can never be physical touching while apart there are loads of ways to enjoy each other’s company and still keep the romance alive.  Like taking him into the shower with you.  Or going sexy underwear shopping with the whatsapp camera on.  And then getting home and putting it on.  We have called it the ‘laptop dance’ and it works wonders for keeping things exciting! 😉

For most people in long distance relationships, they are apart for a reason that is important for the future, the goal is that you will be together again and the end goal is making a life together.  Otherwise you would not do it.  As its hard.  But these days the time apart does not have to be a negative thing.  It can be a time of spicing things up, enjoying yourselves in a way you might not be able to when eventually together.

A few weekends ago a band that we both really like played a show in London and he asked me to go and ‘take him with me’.  As it was last minute and a pretty obscure band, no one I knew wanted to go with me so I essentially did go alone. That was a huge ask but I did it because I knew that he would appreciate it, and he did.  Even though I kept muting the sound by mistake when sending videos and the wifi was not great on the Whatsapp call, it was certainly a unique and memorable experience.  It got me out and about to a place and a show I had not seen before and it was worth it for having given Daniel the experience too, albeit a bit smudgy and wonky.

I miss my partner immensely but we are basically together at every opportunity chatting and catching up, our lives are still very much intertwined. My heart is full.  I feel lucky to be in London with a boyfriend who is happy for me to be here and who understands that my life is here now and that he needs to make the move over here and live with me eventually.  I understand that may take a while because he has a business to grow and that making the move to the UK might be a challenge.  It’s also great to know that while that is our immediate future goal, our long-term future is still fluid.  I will admit that its not always easy.  I have had to practice patience which is not my strong suit.  It gets tiring always going out on your own even though you have a partner.  But its also fun to go and then be able to tell them all about it afterwards.  I guess there are loads of couples out there who wish for the day they could get some distance in their relationship.  I guess its all relative and we need to do what feels right.  In the past I fought this relationship every step of the way because I thought that the age-gap was too big, or that he didn’t love me enough or that I wasn’t sure I wanted to DO love again being the cynical, jaded person I am now.  But he changed that.  He showed me that the gap is irrelevant and that his love for me has grown in such a way that its apparent.  I feel happy, safe and secure.  Still don’t feel patient though! 😉

My soul bestie
This is a pic of me and Dan – can you see Dan in this at all?
Dan and I having a laugh on one of our last nights before I left for the UK last year!
One of the very first pics I took of him – 4 years ago
Dan in London – when I wasn’t – 3 years ago.
Dan cooking me my fav on the braai – Woolies steak!
When your man thinks its funny to dress up in your clothes … I must say the colour really suits him!!

If anyone has any other tips to keep things exciting and funny please let me know, I would love to hear from you.

Home for the holidays

Before Portugal I went back to Cape Town for 2 weeks to visit my boyfriend, family and friends.  It was my first trip back since I left in July last year (except for that one hectic week when I went back for my dad’s funeral) so was looking forward to seeing everyone and catching up.  So for starters, two weeks was not enough!  You need one week to get settled, then another week to actually start enjoying yourself and get into the Cape Town vibe and then another week to be at one with it all.  So next time, definitely three weeks or more! 🙂

I crammed so much into that time!  First of all, the boyfriend had acquired a motorbike since the last time I was there and was very excited for me to ride with him.  I, on the other hand was slightly nervous and had all sorts of scenarios flashing through my mind, not least of them was that I have no medical aid in South Africa anymore so if something happened …. Anyway, I bit the bullet and feel like I gave off a very unanxious vibe throughout the holiday.  I’m sure the boyfriend would tell you otherwise. But seriously, by the end of the holiday I was not squeezing his midriff so tight he could hardly breath and was able to hold onto the handles on the side quite comfortably without feeling like I was going to fall off.  And truth be told we did some amazing rides.  On the one Saturday we did the entire Peninsula.  Started in Glencairn, went up through the Navy barracks; I sat on a cannon.  We found Just Nuisance’s grave and went for a long walk there – saw Simon’s Town from an angle I have never seen it from before which was actually amazing.  You live in a place your whole life and you think you have seen everything so it’s uber cool when you discover something new!  Then we went all the way around Cape Point and ended up at the 2’6 for a pint (half a pint for Dan as he was driving). Then we went back through Scarborough, down to the beach and then to the Jolly Skollie (Camel Rock Restaurant) for a bite to eat.  That was the best bike day.  We also went to Hout Bay which was the day we went the fastest we ever went (on the M3).  160kmph and weaving through the cars!!!!!  Let’s just say that I preferred the sedate coastal drive. 😉

Trying to look sexy & confident while shitting myself 😉
Me at one with a very big cannon (and a helmet)
Just Nuisances Grave
The view from the top! Absolutely stunning!
One of the very few couple selfies I was permitted to take on my trip

Other highlights of the holiday include:

Staying at Monkey Valley for 2 nights.  I’ve spent a bit of time there and got married there once upon a time; yet I never get over its beauty.  That view is just one of the best you will ever see in the world.  It was extra special that I got to invite all my special peeps over for a braai on one of the nights.  However, it was far too short and if we go again, 3 nights or more is a must (Dan, take note!).

View from our chalet

My besties birthday – we drank champagne from morning until night non-stop and we didn’t even get drunk! Still not quite sure how that happened.  Now that I think about it, Cathy was making the mixes in the beginning, hmmmmm, maybe the key was that not much champers was going into those first mixes.  That would explain things!!! 😉  Anyway, whatever happened it worked, because it was just a fun, chilled, awesome day, hanging with good people and good vibes.

Happy, shiny, beautiful people!
Ok, so the night did END somewhat sketchily with us dancing all over the house, in passageways for example

My get-together at the Glencairn Hotel –  another fun-filled afternoon seeing people I haven’t seen in ages and managing to see family too (thank you for coming, you know who you are).  (Did not take one picture there, silly me).  However, afterwards went back for 2 nights at an absolutely stunning home in Glencairn courtesy of a friend who could not make it to my get-together as she was away.  Thank you so much Adrian and OMG did the threesome have fun that night braaiing and played Heads Up.  I want to choke with laughter every time I think about it.

View from the balcony
View from the braai
Our feet at the end of the night! Don’t ask!

The Farmhouse – watching Grassy Spark – one of our favourite SA bands! Going there was probably the most nostalgic I felt during my holiday. Have had such good times there and this time was no different.  The vibe was excellent, and the bands all put on such a good show.   The energy was top notch and I got to dance and jump and go mad with the sun on my face, my whole body energised.  Then afterwards, a divine braai with friends, which ended late and resulted in hangovers but totally worth it!!

Tania and her tribe, arriving at Grassy Spark. Excitement much!
So happy that Khaya came and joined in the fun. So much love for these chicks!
In our happy place!

Family nights with the kids – we had so many fun nights playing board games, eating sushi and braaiing (and yes, I believe one night was sushi and braai – why not!).  Nothing quite like having a braai, with your nearest and dearest, just chatting and catching up.

Nick guessing which famous person he is – check out the mullet wig
Daniel guessing which famous person he is – the mullet really suits him!

We even had a cultural evening and went to the theatre.  Kalk Bay Theatre is a must do if visiting the Deep South.  It is intimate and cosy (the complete opposite to most theatre experiences you would have in London). There is a restaurant at which you can eat beforehand with lovely (but not spoilt for choice) 3-course meals and of course as much tipple as you like.  You can even take it in with you to watch the show. The show we went to see featured the gorgeous Liam McDermott (Khaya’s boyfriend) and because the audience really is so very small we took up a 10th of the entire audience so you can imagine how much clapping and cheering was coming from our section.

Me and my beautiful daughter before the show!
Me and my beautiful friends after the show

As suspected, I did not do everything I would have liked to do while there. I missed going up Lions Head – but my ex-colleague wanted to do the usual mission and go at 5:30am before work.  I somehow could not get my head around doing that!  I missed seeing some of my friends that while we are not close, I would have loved to have seen.  I’m just grateful that I did get to spend time with my nearest and dearest.

Had some hilarious restaurant experiences where the service was just so awful you felt that surely there was a hidden camera somewhere playing a joke.  On the whole though the food was amazing.  We ate out a lot and ate a lot of calamari and seafood.  Hands down though, the best food we ate was at the Chapmans Peak Hotel in Hout Bay.  Baracuda’s in Fish Hoek was not bad either.  And the waffles, egg and bacon with syrup at Fish Hoek beach was top notch.

I do not feel drawn to South Africa at this time.  Especially after Portugal and the realisation that there is so much of this beautiful world to see. Yes, my kids are there but I’d rather see them over here or plan a trip to another country than go back to Fish Hoek again for a very long time. Fish Hoek/Deep South in general, you are truly magnificent and I appreciate your beauty but you will be just as beautiful as you are now next time I visit.  Actually more beautiful because by then hopefully all the vegetation and mountainside ravaged by the recent fires and the pending rain will have fallen (Please Universe, let it fall).

Beautiful sunset at Tania’s house
Beautiful day at Tania’s house – these are pics she sends me when I am already back in the UK to try and lure me back, tempting for sure!
Fish Hoek beach from the catwalk

Lisboa, you beauty!

Back at work after three weeks away.  I recently spent four days in Portugal and what an experience it was.  My friend Annabel and I had decided to go over Easter because it would be ‘free leave’.  Little did I know that I had botched my dates and had over booked myself so I had two weeks in South Africa, followed closely by this holiday in Portugal which required me to take unpaid leave so in the end that idea didn’t work out so well.  Therefore we were on a strict shoe-string budget.  Lisbon can be VERY cheap but the minute you want to be all touristy the prices climb.  Transport is not cheap there.  It is however, very easy to access and easy to understand and get around.  

So the holiday started off really well with me forgetting my UK pin code for my bank card.  (After all the swiping in SA I dinkum went and forgot my pin code for my UK card).  Therefore, Annabel was the wallet the whole trip which suited me well as she kept a firm handle on the amount of money we spent.  The first 2 days we spent a lot of money on transport so the third day we decided to just go to the beach … but wait, let me give a blow by blow account of each day of which there were sadly only 3 full ones.

We arrived around 7:30 in the evening and managed to find our way to the underground (Metro) easily – probably because it was just outside the airport building, heavily signposted. 🙂 We decided to go to the ticket seller to find out the best way to purchase tickets because the ticket dispenser was confusing – yes, even in English!  Anyway, as we get to the counter, the guy puts the ‘closed’ sign up! Annabel lost her shit and stormed off!  The guy got such a fright he pretended that he was only going to close after us – likely story.   Anyway, we got our tickets and set back off.  We got slightly lost on arriving but only because the directions we were given were inaccurate.  This of course we only figured out the next day when we got our bearings.  So by the time we got to the apartment we were late, tired and hungry.  The lady who met us gave us some suggestions of where to eat so we just put our bags down and went down in search of food.  The first place we happened upon was just down the road and looked very fancy.  So in we went.  Only to be told that all the empty tables were reserved.  I thought nothing of until Annabel suggested that he said that because of how we looked.  And I guess she must have been right.  It was 9:30 at night in an empty restaurant and we looked like hobos.  How funny!  Anyway, it was fine because he suggested another restaurant down the way which was SO cheap, eat as much as you can Japanese food which was absolutely amazing and just what we needed to fill our weary bodies.  

We got up bright and early on our first day and set off for Tram 28.  This tram is not a tourist tram but used by residents to get around.  However, it’s cheap and takes you to the same places as a tour would take you.  Well, apparently we didn’t get up early enough.  The queue for this tram was about 500m down the road.  The road was teeming with tuk-tuks (rickshaws with motors basically) all trying to get tourists to ride with them rather.  We almost succumbed because the queue was so long but when we were told the ‘very good out of season price’ we were happy to wait in the queue.  That experience really reminded me of a South African scene in that after waiting in the queue for about an hour a tram came on a different line and the driver started gesticulating that people must go over to his side and catch his tram.  So half the queue did – but not the front people as they had not seen the driver do this.  So half the people who went to the other side got on and jumped the queue and the rest had to wait for goodness knows how long. We didn’t mind though because it helped us and made our queue shorter and soon we were on!  It was meant to be a hop on / hop off affair to stop and check out various touristy things along the way, but the trams were SO full that it was best to stay put.  Best idea because it gave us such a good idea of where we were in relation to the town.  Eventually we had to get off as it was the end of the tram line so we walked a bit and ended up by the harbour, then we had some lunch (clams, pork and potatoes in a juis) and beers, lots of beer, watching all the traffic jams caused by trams, tuk-tuks and cars all trying to get around. However it was all done in a very chilled, relaxed way, at no point did I fear that someone would take out a gun or a knife to get their way, which was rather nice. After that we walked some more, then caught a taxi to the city centre and had a drink there and then caught the metro home.  Lots and lots and lots of walking.  So by the time we got home all we wanted was to find a nice little Portuguese place to eat.  Do you think we could find one in the centre of Lisbon, no!  Japanese, Chinese, seafood, Indian, everything but.  So we settled on a divine little Italian place which was actually magnificent.  The food was amazing and the waiters very attentive.  We even got a shot of the local Ginjinha which looks and tastes similar to Jagermeister, on the house!  

Car vs taxi – this happens ALL the time in Lisbon!
How cute and old fashioned are these trams! Watching the chaos that was Lisbon city centre over Easter – from the comfort of a road side restaurant – you can’t see the beer, but its there!
I love the old buildings and hilly alleyways
No explanation necessary!
Sangria on a hot summers day, life is goooood!

The next day we went to Sintra.  I was led to believe Sintra was a palace that was stunning and a tourist attraction.   I was very wrong.  Sintra is the town and the palace and the fortress are separate attractions there.  This is a definite must see but also a definite whole day mission.  We thought we could do it in 3 hours but there is no way.  Once there you need to be driven by tuk-tuk or taxi up this long and windy road which on its own takes the best part of an hour.  Once at the top you quickly realise that if you actually want to get a proper look at the palace, you have to pay another EUR14 plus walk 200m up the steepest hill in the world.  The castle/fortress only costs EUR8 and I think a better bet in terms of walking around.  It’s massive and seeped in history.  It was built in the 10th century and was actually built to protect the city and the people.  We managed to sneak in and so saw a little bit of it but it is definitely something I would spend a whole day on exploring.  By the time we had done all this it was already mid afternoon and by the time we got to the middle where all the restaurants were and had a bite to eat and of course some lovely Super Bock beer and then back down and then back on the train and then the Metro it was early evening already.  We discovered a Lidl just down the road – super cheap – so we bought some supplies and Annabel made a divine chicken and chirizo salad for supper which was amazing.

The long walk up or down, lots of walking but so green and beautiful
View of the palace from the castle
Me with the castle in the background
At the top of one of the many fortress type structures in and around the castle
Supper ala Annabel!

The next day was our beach day to the seaside resort of CaisCais.  Also a bit of a mission.  First Metro, then train.  But the view was amazing and most of the train trip was along the coast.  It reminded me of being on a train between Fish Hoek and Muizenberg.  All I can say is that if we had more time in Portugal I would definitely have done the beach day again.  It was awesome.  The weather was great, the sea was the most perfect temperature.  Cold but not so cold so you could actually swim for ages.  And so crystal clear.  The vibe was good and the beers were cold – only if you drank them VERY fast though.  So we did! 🙂 Eventually at around 4pm we couldn’t hold out any longer and went in search of food.  We were really hoping to get some proper Portuguese fare this time but alas, alack, the menu did not contain the peri-peri chicken Annabel so desperately wanted.  It did however have my sardines but I also wanted the squid so I ordered both.  Needless to say, eyes bigger than stomach and 5 big sardines for a meal is a lot by anyones standards.  Definitely something to be shared in the future.  I love sardines but that was pushing it!  Because we could not find a decent Portuguese restaurant close to us and because we were tired and also knew how much it would cost to go out to eat if we still had to get there we stayed in again that night.  I don’t think I even ate supper, just collapsed. Sunning oneself all day is very hard work!

CaisCais beach – divine
I’m in my very happy place!

Eating again!

The next day was our last day so it was a day of rest.  Trying to do anything on that day would have just been too stressful.  The only thing we did before heading to the Metro for the airport was find some custard tarts (and beer of course) and sat in the sun in the busy bustling city one last time.  Custard tarts are a must in Portugal and I can taste why.  Crumbling pastry filled with the sweetest custard cream, glad we only discovered them as we were leaving else I fear I would have come back even porkier than I did.  

Awesome few days … if I had to do it again or recommend it to someone else thinking about going, I would definitely suggest a longer stay if at all possible, especially if you love the beach vibe.  Touristy holidays can be extremely tiring and I would recommend at least 2 beach days out of 5 to complement the busier ones.  Portugal is beautiful with so much history and vibe – I definitely want to go back.  Amsterdam next though!  Woohoo!!!  Oh wait, might even be Wales next – watch this space!

Dry February

After being in London for 6 months I can honestly say that the Heathrow Injection is a real thing.  The ‘Heathrow Injection’ is a metaphor for the weight one inevitably gains when one migrates to London for an extended stay. It is attributable to the face-paced lifestyle that leads one to eating mostly take-away and fast foods.

I can hardly say that my lifestyle is particularly fast-paced now, I walk a lot and I definitely do not eat a lot of take-out.  The reason for me putting on weight can be attributed to Tesco’s reduced shelf and beer and yes, the two are not mutually exclusive.   Because when drinking beer I thought to myself, oh well, if I’m drinking 3 loaves of bread a night, I might as well eat bread and sausage rolls for lunch.  Plus I walk 40 minutes a day so surely I will walk it all off.  Um, no.  I have picked up 1 kg for every month I’ve been here.  So, that coupled with my slight concern for my drinking habits led me to doing Dry February (the shortest month of the year and so hopefully the easiest to do).

Well, let me tell you, the first three weeks were hell!  I hated every minute of it.  I didn’t feel any better in the mornings and didn’t have more energy, and it all just seemed like nonsense.  But after three weeks whatever was supposed to kick in, did!  My skin suddenly started feeling so much better (and other people remarked on it so it wasn’t just me), I started making healthier food choices (and I could because I was saving SO much money on not drinking that I could afford to move out of the reduced shelf aisle and mosey into the unknown fruit and veg aisle, where I discovered a whole other shelf that supplies reduced food that is not carb intensive!!!  I also have loads more energy now and am spending my weekends in Richmond Park walking and running and cycling.  As soon as the days get longer I will be doing that every evening after work too!

I’ve read a few posts about other women who do this and they all seemed to do it for a two month stint.  Because everything only kicked in after three weeks for me, I think this is a good idea.  I’m starting to see slight weight lose and if I am going to start drinking again in a week’s time, I’ll just pack it all back on.  So, for all the ranting and moaning that I’ve been doing I am actually going to venture into March and see how long I can continue this for.

It’s also made me realise I have willpower of steel.  I honestly had a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other and the only reason I didn’t give in was because then I would have to admit to having a drinking problem.  Now I can say that I don’t!  (Even though I was thinking about alcohol pretty much all the time for 3 weeks).  😉 Another thing that made me deliriously happy was that I actually did quite a few things in February where other people were drinking.  In fact the very first weekend, only 3 days in, I went to my cousin for a night and he had other friends over.  We stayed up til 2:30 in the morning and I didn’t touch a drop, even though there were getting very merry.  And the best part was that I still had such a fun time!  In fact, all the functions I attended I enjoyed thoroughly.  For me it’s been the getting home after work and having a glass of wine times that I have missed the most.

February has proved to be a most challenging, thought-provoking and intense month.  I did it dry, I did it without a phone and my boyfriend and I rekindled our long distance relationship which I will now class as a romance!!!! There’s sure to be a blog post forthcoming out of THAT story soon!