Foreshadowing a humid day

Foreshadowing is a literary device in which an author hints certain plot developments that perhaps will come to be later in the story. It is used to arouse the reader, viewer or listener about how the story will proceed and mentally prepare them for how it will unfold.

The Magnificent Mist covered Xian Wall
The Magnificent Mist covered Xian Wall

Exploring the magnificent city walls of Xian during our China Odyssey was definitely an amazing adventure. Here is a taste of our mist covered morning spent on one of the most famous ancient city walls in China. Xian wall is the longest, the most intact and best-preserved, and the largest in scale of the ancient defense systems in the world. This wall has a circumference of 13.74 kilometers which you can walk, bike or for the soft option take a little “golf cart” trip. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Twisted Barbed Wire

Barbed Wire is definitely something twisted, something that doesn’t maintain a straight line. Between the old and beautiful buildings of South-Africa you can often find spikes and barbed wire, intended to keep people safe. It does look like some places go to extremes for safety but I guess it is necessary in some cases. In the military science of fortification, wire obstacles are defensive obstacles made from barbed wire, barbed tape or concertina wire. They are designed to disrupt, delay and generally slow down an attacking enemy. They are definitely not desined to be beautiful or appealing.

To think that the use of barbed wire was intended in war situations and is now being used to protect houses or alleyways. Barbed wire is undeniably an invention that has changed property and ranching, prisons and concentration camps, and defence and snares.

I wish they could invent something “prettier” to don the gates and walls of properties. What would be even better, would be if this twisted wire were not needed anymore.

Barbed Wire Defence
Twisted Barbed Wire

Why the Floating Markets of Thailand should be on your Bucket List

One of my biggest highlights while visiting Thailand, was getting to visit the floating markets just outside Bangkok. This was one of the only outings that I had booked long in advance and I couldn’t wait to see this bustling market. It is quite a long trip and you have to get up ridiculously early but don’t let that discourage you. The trip is worth every penny you pay, which might be quite a lot as visiting the floating markets are on more than a couple of bucket-lists.

The most famous of the floating markets is the 100 yeal old Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. The original canals which now make up the Floating Market were built in 1866 on demand of His Majesty the King of Thailand to help ease communication in the province.

After a 40 minute bus ride we all clamber onto longboats that take up along the canals to the market. The roar of the boat engine disturbs the quiet as the boat glides down the narrow canals with small wooden houses on stilts covering the banks. The boat driver slowed down to let us appreciate the winding waterways and get a brief glimpse of those who live on the river. The journey took around 20 minutes and it’s great to enjoy the peace before the hectic pace of the market. It feels quite overcrowded with visitors and sellers bringing noise and colour to the area.

A large part of the Floating Market is now a souvenir stand filled with hordes of tourists from all over the world. This in itself can be a fascinating insight into Thai culture, as the vast majority of tourists here are Thais. Most of these boats are mobile food stores piled high with tropical fruit and vegetables, fresh, ready-to-drink coconut juice and local food cooked from floating kitchens located right on the boat. I sampled quite a couple of the different delicacies that were on offer. Each dish with its own strange tastes and smells that enhances the whole market experience.

The fruit and vegetable are super fresh and mostly grown by the people who live densely along both sides of the canal. Unlike most of the other floating markets, the popularity of Damnoen Saduak attracts many fruit sellers rowing their boats along the narrow canals, meaning that you’re guaranteed great pictures.

If you are ever in Bangkok, make sure you visit a floating market and be sure to do it on an empty stomach!

Floating Markets of Thailand
The Floating Market is such a unique place

Making my Dream a Reality

 Sometimes it is difficult to make your dream a reality, and sometimes the reality is not exactly what you dreamed it would be. If you are lucky the reality is even better than what you dreamed. Since I can remember my biggest dream has always been to travel and to see the whole world. I couldn’t wait to make this a reality and jumped at the first chance I got to travel abroad. Since then I haven’t really stopped.

I have taken a short break from travelling and have been living in Cape Town, South-Africa for 4 years now. But the travel bug has awoken from hibernation and it is time to pack my bags and go on another big adventure again. Personally I see travelling not only as visiting a new place but also as living there and immersing myself into the new culture! So this meant that I had to sit down and choose a new country in which I would like to live for a year or two. Not the easiest thing to do.

“Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams die, Life is a broken-winged bird, That cannot fly”.  ― Langston Hughes

This is how I decided where to go next:

1. Make a list of the countries with interesting cultures, countries that are not at all similar to where I grew up. For me these countries have to be different in culture, language and even beliefs. I know that countries like these pose a challenge and culture shock but that is what makes travelling exciting!!

2. Choose a continent, as the list of countries to go to would otherwise be never-ending. I have decided in Asia, as I love travelling in Asia and would love to go back.

3. Research the culture of each country on my list and eliminate the countries I feel I wouldn’t want to live in for a year or two. Countries that might be quite similar to ones I have lived in before or that are not very accommodating towards woman travelling alone. I previously lived and worked in Vietnam, Japan and South-Korea so they were not even on my list to start with.

4. Next, I looked at the travel prospects. which places within each country would I like to explore and how easy is it to travel to other countries from there.

5. I then researched job opportunities in each country on my list and created a short-list. I ended up with China, Hong-Kong, and Taiwan on my short list.

6. When planning on living in a country for a while, knowing the living cost could be a big deciding factor. Seeing as the living cost in Hong-Kong is extremely high it got scrapped from my list.

7. I was still deciding between China and Taiwan when an earthquake hit Taiwan. So that made up my mind for me. China it will be!!

The secret to change is one step at a time.” —Mark Twain

This is how I am making this travel dream a reality:

1. Focus. I have written down this dream to keep it fresh in my mind.

2. Getting organized and coming up with a strategic plan. I have made a checklist of what I will need to do in the coming days or weeks to realize my dream. Rather than just dreaming about it and hoping one day it comes to pass, create a plan that you could use to actually see it become reality. With a check list I can see what I have done and keep track of when I need to do certain things.

3. They always say that if you want something to become a reality, that you should tell people about it. I have now told my family and closest friends so that I will have a support system while I am trying to reach my dream. I do think it is sometimes harder to make a dream a reality on your own. By sharing my goals and dreams It helps me to stay encouraged and excited.

4. Apply for jobs!! To make my own life easier for me I have decided to find a job through an agency this time round. There are many job agencies out there so I had to do some research and found one that I really liked and connected with.

5 Believe in yourself and your abilities completely, that you will get that job you want!! In the simple but powerful words of Peter Pan: “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.”

6. Make a decision and then stick to it. There are so many different kinds of jobs out there and when you start getting offers it is quite difficult to decide which one to accept. And once you have accepted an offer it is normal to doubt yourself. But that doubt just dampen the excitement of getting a new job, so once you have decided, trust in your decision and don’t look back.

7. Getting excited and enjoying the moment!! I can not wait to move to China and to start another big adventure in Asia.

Again I am making lists. Now of things I need to do to get my work visa, things to do before moving abroad, things I need to buy like plane tickets and so much more….But I am trying to not let the stress dampen my excitement.

And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

The colourful Cape Minstrels Street Parade

The Cape Minstrels take over the streets of the Mother City each year for the annual and historic Second New Year Street Parade, a colourful procession also known as Second New Year. Spirited cultural music and dance celebration explodes onto the Mother City’s streets in a flurry of colour, song, drumbeats and movement every year. The colours are bright and fibrant and the minstrels often end up being just ‘a face in the crowd‘ on photos of this even..

People line the streets from early morning, some even camping since the previous night just to get good spots. You can spend all day here as there are between 50 and 70 minstrel groups performing, each a spectacular show on their own. I squeezed in between some people and got to watch a big part of the procession before the heat of the day got too much for me. The Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, consists out of thousands of members of the Cape coloured community who are divided into several well-rehearsed minstrel troupes.

This yearly parade dates back to the mid-nineteenth century when the slaves in Cape Town were given one day off in the year (2 January). To celebrate, groups would dress up as minstrels, waving parasols, strumming banjos and making merry with music, dance and a parade from the District Six area through to the city centre. Many of the songs still sung today date back to the 1800s. Aside from honouring these classic tunes, repertoires are also laden with interpretations of modern pop songs to keep all ages entertained.

It is truly a vibrant and cheerful sight. An event every Cape-Tonian should attend at least once as it is part of the history and culture that formed cape Town.

 

Pros and Cons of Travelling Solo

Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa

Traveling alone can be very daunting for most people and I do agree that it is not the easiest thing to do. I have been traveling solo most of the time and have learnt a couple of things through my travels. You always end up meeting lots of people while traveling alone, and I have often enjoyed a big collection of fun temporary friends throughout my trips.

Traveling solo has its pros and cons — and for me, the pros far outweigh the cons and here are some of the pros.

  • When you’re on your own, you’re independent and in control of the when and where of your travels.
  • You can travel at your own pace, spend as much time as you want browsing through shops or sitting at a cafe enjoying a cappuccino and a good book. You can spend hours in an art museum or at the market getting to know the people of the city.
  • You can do the things that interest you and dont have to come to a compromise with your travel partner.
  • You’ll meet a lot of people as you’re seen as more approachable because you are sitting there all alone. If you stay in hostels, you’ll have a built-in family and there will always be someone who would like to join you.
  • You can eat where and when you like and nobody is going to make you feel guilty about having chocolate mouse for dinner.
  • Another benefit is that your mistakes are your own, and your triumphs all the more exciting. There’s no worrying that your insistence on trekking all the way across town to a museum that was closed ruined your partner’s day; it’s your own day to salvage or chalk up to a learning experience
  •  A lovely advantage is that you can splurge where and on what you want. You can spent the afternoon looking for the perfect souveneir or bag in the market and not feel as if somebody is willing you to hurry up.
  • You don’t have to wait for your partner to pack up, which while traveling with my mom I learned can take quite a while.
  • There is no need to negotiate when to call it a day or feel guilty about wanting to take a midday nap.
  • Traveling on your own allows you to be more present, absorb your surroundings and indulge in the new culture without distractions.
  • Solo travel is intensely personal. You end up discovering more about yourself at the same time as you’re discovering more about the country your traveling through.
  • Traveling on your own is fun, challenging, vivid, and exhilarating. Realizing that you have what it takes to be your own guide is a thrill known only to solo travelers.

Of course, there are downsides to traveling alone and everything is not always roses and sunshine.

  • When you’re on your own, you don’t have a built-in dining companion. I usually spend my meals dividing my attention between my food and my book. I have found that good book,or even just postcards to write or your travel journal to jot in – are all legitimate activities at a bar or restaurant if you get to feeling a little bored/lonely/exposed, so carry one of them with you at all times.
  • You’ve got no one to send ahead while you wait in line, or stand in line while you go to the bathroom. Believe me that can be torture.
  • You have to figure out the bus schedule and train times on your own and this way end up at some very strange places.
  • There is nobody to help you when things go wrong or someone other than yourself to blame for taking the wrong bus or train.
  • Traveling by yourself is usually more expensive as you have to pay a single supplement in hotels. The supplement can range anywhere from 25 to 100 percent of the trip cost, meaning that you could end up paying twice as much as someone traveling with a partner.
  • Other things become cheaper too when you’re splitting costs, such as groceries, guidebooks, taxis, storage lockers, and more.
  • In much of the world, solo travellers – and single people in general – are seen as strange, even a bit unfortunate.
  • Sometimes, especially in more hospitable and foreigner-fascinated cultures like Egypt and Turkey, I’ve found the attention I got as a solo traveller to be a little intense. I had to learn how to say “no, thank you” in the local language, as well as “absolutely not” – plus the local nonverbal gesture for no, which was often more effective than both.
  • You are on hardly any of your holiday photos unless you ask a stranger to please take a photos of you. So definitely get a camera with a time delay setting as that way you at least have a couple of photos with you on them.

I can imagine what you’re thinking. You’ll be lonely, isolated, it’s dangerous, and only the young Birkenstock types travel by themselves. Think again.   If I can travel solo, anyone can. I’ve never been lonely, bored or felt threatened. Traveling solo is not necessarily more dangerous than going to the movies and dinner by yourself in your home town.

Tour Guide: Street art

I am an avid art lover and in the past couple of years have come to learn about and appreciate street art. This is a small taste of the beautiful street art that the City of Cape town in South-Africa has to offer.

While you can absolutely take yourself on a street art walking tour of Woodstock, the experience is enriched with the correct context applied to each work.

Woodstock, South-Africa, street art walking tour
The regeneration of Woodstock comes in part thanks to the Woodstock street art project that began in 2009, where locals like our walking tour guide, decided to take art from its traditional setting indoors, to the great outdoors.

As you walk through the streets of Woodstock in Cape Town you will be amazed at the amount of street art you will find. It is quite difficult to choose a favourite artist or even a favourite piece of art. The best way to see the art and learn about the artists is to so a guided street art tour. I have now done this twice and would gladly do it again.

All the pieces here are done by the street artists Wayne BKS, of which Conform is but one of his aliases. He is South-African born and loves painting pieces with a minimalist African/south American feel.

Woodstock, South-Africa, street art walking tour
The success of the Woodstock street art project is evident in the vibrant atmosphere to be found in the streets and converted warehouses, which are filled with young professionals, urban hipsters and plenty of tourists.

What do you love about where you live?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Weathered

I look at these relics from the past and wonder what they’ve been witness to over the years: from horses and buggies, to buses and cars. From trilbies and fedoras, to baseball caps and beanies. They’ve survived decades of sun, wind, rain, storms, and even floods. I love how the typefaces evoke different eras in time, a reminder that there’s beauty to be found in the ephemeral and impermanent.

The Shlisselburg fortress  in Russia is one of these weathered relics from the past.  The first fortification was built in 1299 and the times of Imperial Russia, the fortress was used as a notorious political prison. Ivan VI of Russia was murdered in the fortress in 1764, and Lenin’s brother, Aleksandr Ulyanov, was hanged there too. But todat this fortress is in ruins.

Some Fun things to know about Penguins

Did you know there are Penguins down in South Africa that live on the beach? I visited the penguin colony at Betty’s bay in the Western cape and got a lot of penguin photos!!

Penguins are some of the most unique and amazing birds because of their physical adaptations to survive in unusual climates and to live mostly at sea.

1.Penguins lost the ability to fly millions of years ago, but their powerful flippers and streamlined bodies make them very accomplished swimmers. They are the fastest swimming bird species and can stay underwater up to 20 minutes at a time.

2. The light front and dark back tuxedo-like colouration of classic penguin plumage is called countershading. This stark colour pattern provides superb camouflage from above and below to protect penguins and to disguise them from their prey

Betty's Bay Penguins
Such weird looking creatures!

3. Penguins’ eyes work better underwater than they do in the air, giving them superior eyesight to spot prey while hunting, even in cloudy, dark or murky water, or where water is turbulent.

4. Penguins are highly social, birds that form breeding colonies called rookeries, numbering in the tens of thousands. They may use the same nesting grounds for thousands of years and many penguins are monogamous.

Betty's Bay Penguins
Such loving creatures!

5. Penguins lose a lot of heat through their feet and flippers, so they have a highly developed vascular system to minimise this heat loss. However, this adaptation could cause penguins to overheat in areas of higher temperatures. Thus species in warmed places, such as South Africa, have large flippers and bare areas on their faces.

And lastly, a lot of these penguins in the photos look a bit strange as they are molting. During penguin molting, every single baby feather on their body is replaced with a new adult one. This process is often called a “catastrophic moltbecause all the feathers are replaced at once.

WPC: Cheecky tortoises

The challenge Cheecky brought to mind my visit to the Cango Wildlife Ranch and the very horny tortoises I saw there Tortoises reach sexual maturity between the ages of 12 and 20 and usually mate from spring to fall, mostly during the summer. 

Cango Wildlife Ranch
I heard it is very rare to actually get to see tortoises mating, I count myself quite lucky!!

Male tortoises have glands that release secretions that can potentially attract a mate. Males also bob their head and make grunting or hissing sounds that coincide with courtship. A male will also bite at a female’s legs before mating, and if a female accepts the mate, she will allow him to mount her. I got to hear these small grunts emitted by the male tortoise while mating.

 I felt quite lucky to actually get to see this happening! Although it did feel like I was imposing on this very sensual moment…watching some animal porn.

5 Random facts about the “Bloukop Koggelmander”

Blue Headed Lizard
He is looking so happy and cheeky!

Did You Know “Bloukop Koggelmander” is Afrikaans for Blue Headed lizard? Well here are a couple of more random facts.

Fact 1: The male Blue Headed Lizard lizards fight amongst themselves to gain supremacy over a territory, and only the winner gets to mate with the females in his group.

Fact 2: In Southern Africa these lizards live in small colonies on rocky outcrops, and the males are very conspicuous for their bright blue heads.

Fact 3: The dominant male displays bright coloring during the mating season, while the females appear dull and pale.

Blue Headed Lizard
Blue Headed Lizard is a “Bloukop Koggelmander” in Afrikaans

Fact 4: Their tongue tip is covered by mucous glands, which makes it sticky, and helps them hold on to smaller insects like ants and termites. They even leap in the air to catch their prey as they also eat caterpillars, moths, beetles, and flies.

Fact 5: Blue Headed Lizard have strong limbs. Their bodies are compact and spiny. The scales on the body are small and keeled, with those along the back larger and mixed with scattered, enlarged, spiny scales.

They are beautiful creatures and often spotted out and about on a sunny day.

Weekly photo challenge: Transformation through Seasons

It is true that Nature is notoriously inconstant and often comes to mind when I hear the word transformation. The transformation of Nature through the seasons in Russia is marked quite drastically and each has its own magic.

Seasonal change is, on the surface, marked by loss: the fall of spent flower blossoms in summer, the loss of leaves from trees in autumn, the final snowmelt in spring. But all of these changes mark a transformation.

Here are four photos depicting the transformation that takes place in Russia as the seasons change:

You know it is winter when…

Winter in Moscow is ice-cold and the perfect time to build a snow man!

…the whole world outside is covered in snow and looks like a fairy wonderland!!

When your days get short and gloomy, filled with cold ice winds it is the beauty of everything covered in snow that makes it bearable.

You know it is spring when…

Tulips are found all over Moscow in spring time!

….all the parks in Russia is filled with tulips and colour.

You know it is summer when…

Summer is hot and beautiful in Russia

….the fountains in the parks are turned on and you would rather be sitting in it than looking at it!!

You know it is autumn/fall when…

Autumn in Russia is rainy and cold but the colours of autumn are so warm

….the leaves all turn orange and you suddenly need a scarf and hat against the icy wind that start blowing all over Russia.

Friday Facts: Sagrada Família

Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is like a blast from the past as it was in 2005 that I had a quick glimpse of this amazing building.

Did you know….

The La Sagrada Família will take longer to complete than the Egyptian pyramids. It started in 1882 and is expected to be completed in 2026. The Great Pyramid, by comparison, only took 20 years. But like the Pyramids this Cathedral also doubles as a buriel place.  Antoni Gaudi, the chief designer, is buried in the crypt below the church.

Gaudí disliked straight lines and angles because they don’t often appear naturally. Instead, he based his design on the swirling curves of nature. If you’re a keen observer, you’ll find trees, water flows, flowers, sunlight, etc. everywhere in the interior.

Sagrada Família
Rene and me on one of the walkways of Sagrada Família

It is the most visited tourist attraction in Spain with 2-3 million tourists a year! It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.

 

The Blood sport Bullfighting should be banned.

Bullfighting in Spain is deeply controversial. It is called a “fine art” by its supporters and a “blood sport” by its critics.

Years ago, during the famous bullrun, I had the opportunity to watch a live bullfight in Pamplona, Spain. I have always associated Spain with bullfights so it came as no surprise that I would want to watch a bullfight while being in Spain. I thought that I knew what happened during a bullfight, but seeing it live opened my eyes. After watching this gruesome ‘sport’ up close I will never recommend it or even condone it again.

So that you can decide for yourself whether you want to see one when you are in Spain I will tell you a bit about what happens during a bullfight. 

The bullfight started with a parade in the ring where everybody involved in the bullfight presented themselves to the public. It looked like they were getting ready for a show. Moments later a door opened and the first bull entered and the spectacle started for real. It was cruel and I had to force myself to watch and not to leave.

The bullfighter entered on horseback, armed with barbed sticks. He then proceeded to tease the bull and stuck these small barbed sticks into the charging bull’s back. By the time the bullfighter had finished with this ‘ritual’, blood was dripping down the bulls back and you could see that he was in pain.

Next the bullfighter armed himself with a lance which he stuck into the flank of the bull. Only after the bull had been tired out and stuck full of holes did the bullfighter get off his horse and take up his muleta. A muleta is the red cloth that he used to coax the bull.

The bullfight ended quite bloody when the bullfighter used his sword to kill the bull. Personally I thing there is nothing noble or sportsman like about this.

Here are the Arguments For Bullfighting.

  • Bullfighting is an art form that should be seen as an equivalent to dance, or music.
  • It is a traditional in many areas and in places like Spain, it is living history. Bullfighting has existed for much of human history, and within Spain it dates back at least 1,000 years.
  • Bullfighters are skilful and behind all the pomp and ritual, the bull is actually being killed in a very efficient manner.
  • The bull is usually eaten after a fight, so its death is not in vain.
  • Far more bulls are killed to be eaten by abattoirs than die in the bullring.
  • In some places bullfighting is perceived as being an integral part of the regional culture.

Here are some Arguments Against Bullfighting

  • The practice is barbaric. Essentially, bullfighting is ritually slaughtering an animal purely for fun.
  • Tradition and recognition does not make it art. Other once-traditional animal sports, from the fierce lion-tiger battles of Ancient Rome to medieval bear-baiting and cockfighting, are now deem wrong,so why is bullfighting any different.
  • As there is no competitive element, bullfighting cannot strictly be called a sport, but it is seen as an art form by its fans.
  • It is not just the bulls who suffer, horses are also injured and suffer death (not to mention the bullfighters themselves, who can be maimed or killed as well).
  • The death of the bull is extended and painful, making it unnecessarily cruel. The argument that the bullfighter kills the bull efficiently is clearly questionable, if anything, the customs of the spectacle demand that the animal’s death is drawn out, rather than quick.
  • People who are for bullfighting play down the amount of bulls killed, but figures gathered by animal rights groups suggest that 2,500 bulls are killed in Portugal each year and in Spain the figure is closer to 30,000.
  • Bullfighting inflicts unspeakable suffering on the animals, from the confusion and panic created by the crowd noise to the physical abuse the bull will sustain throughout the spectacle. The death might be quick, but the fight is barbaric.

Compassionate people understand that this cruel and bloody spectacle is needless and unjustifiable violence, and opposition to bullfighting is growing both within Spain and around the world. And each year there has been a decline in the number of bullfights.

What do you think?

Are you for or against bullfighting?

Friday Facts: Pinnacle Point Estate

 

Pinnacle Point Estate
My view when I woke up early morning when staying at Pinnacle Point Estate

Did you know:

Pinnacle Point a small promontory immediately south of Mossel Bay, on the southern coast of South Africa. It is located on four hundred hectares of prime land, of which 100 hectares is nature reserve, home to indigenous wildlife, birdlife and 264 varieties of fynbos! Set on a cliff-side overlooking the Indian Ocean, the spectacular golf course and expansive Estate, has unsurpassed 270 degree views of the Indian Ocean.

Excavations since the year 2000 of a series of caves at Pinnacle Point have revealed occupation by Middle Stone Age people between 170,000 and 40,000 years ago. Human remains have been recovered which are c. 100,000 years old.

Pinnacle Point Estate was recently voted South Africa’s Best Golf Course. This 18 hole championship golf course was designed by the well-known South African golf course architect Peter Matkovich who opened the course together with Top Irish Tour Golf Professional Darren Clarke in November 2006.

Pinnacle Point Estate is in the middle of everything that the Garden Route has to offer.

The Gardens of Waverley Hills estate

Waverley Hills estate
Waverley Hills estate

A while ago, while my parents and I were touring the wine district of the Western cape, we had lunch at the Waverley hills estate situated between Tulbagh and Ceres, close to Wolseley, South-Africa.

Waverley Hills estate
The beautiful view from the Waverley Hills estate

This estate entered the organic wine market in 2002 and now has hectares of vineyards and olives they grow organically. We had lunch in the beautiful restaurant with its views over the valley and rolling vineyards that lie at the foothills of the breathtaking Witzenberg Mountain Range. It was a cold, rainy day and the lit fireplace inside set the perfect mood for lunch accompanied by some of the estate’s own wines.

Exploring the gardens on this cold and wet afternoon was a fabulous experience. The gardens surrounding the restaurant are filled with indigenous fynbos. They have grown their own plants since 2007, and even have a Fynbos nursery where the public can purchase plants. I didn’t get the chance to see the nursery for myself, but will make a point of visiting it next time I am in the area.

Waverley Hills estate
Waverley Hills estate’s beautiful fynbos garden

The only thing that did bother me a bit while walking through the beautiful gardens were the snake warning signs. Knowing that they mostly come out when its hot and sunny didn’t take my fear away completely.

The Beauty of McGregor Valley

McGregor Valley
View of the beautiful McGregor Valley

McGregor is a small village in the mountains of the Western Cape, South Africa. It is roughly 150 km east of Cape Town and was one of our stops along our wine route adventure. McGregor is a unique, eccentric village away from the crowds where you can unwind, step back in time and just relax. The village is home to a vibrant community of artists and there are a couple of top-class galleries to choose out of. I will have to return again soon to visit all the galleries as I only had the chance to explore two or three galleries while we were here.

The Lord’s Guest house, McGregor Valley
The Lord’s Guest house, McGregor Valley

After spending the day with my parents looking at houses and properties for sale in the area we had a very relaxing evening at the Lord’s Guest house. The lush, abundant McGregor Valley is part of the Breede River Valley and is defined by its absolute beauty.

McGregor Valley
What a beautiful view of the mountains and McGregor Valley
The Lord’s Guest house, McGregor Valley
This is the perfect place to relax with a book

The Lord’s Guest house, was once a family-owned fruit farm, but is now managed by a group of passionate winos, who have made it their goal to produce superlative wines. Apart from its wines this guest house offers some of the most beautiful views of the McGregor Valley and the blue mountains beyond. The indigenous splendour is breath-taking with it’s rich in intriguing birdlife and beautiful vegetation.

The Lord’s Guest house, McGregor Valley
The stone buldings of The Lord’s Guest house, McGregor Valley
The Lord’s Guest house, McGregor Valley
Looking out over the valley after breakfast

Inspired by Scottish passion and the rough natural geometry of the rock of which it is built, each stone hand-selected and each item meticulously chosen, the result is a luxurious combination of age old craftsmanship and elegant convenience. The guest house takes one back to a time of extravagant luxury and exemplary refinement. With 4 star management and exquisite style I felt like royalty during our short stay.

The Lord’s Guest house, McGregor Valley
What an amazing view!!

At breakfast we enjoyed views of the mountains at the stunning sun terrace of the Lady Restaurant before we continued with our adventure.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Temporary Tulips in Moscow

Winters in Moscow are harsh and very long, but knowing that they are only temporary makes them bearable. You know Winter is over as soon as the first tulips start appearing all over the city.

I love how the city explodes in colour after the long cold winter!

All the parks and flower beds all over the city is covered in bright tulips come spring time!! These tulips are also just temporary and would soon be replaced by other flowers.

Friday facts: Canola or Rapeseed

Did you know…..

Each canola plant produces yellow flowers which, in turn, produce pods; similar in shape to pea pods but about 1/5th the size. Within the pods are tiny round seeds that are crushed to obtain canola oil.

Canola or Rapeseed fields in the Western Cape, South-Africa
Canola or Rapeseed fields in the Western Cape, South-Africa

Each seed contains approximately 40 percent oil. The remainder of the seed is processed into canola meal which is used as a high protein livestock feed.

Canola or Rapeseed fields in the Western Cape, South-Africa
Canola or Rapeseed fields in the Western Cape, South-Africa

It takes around 50 pounds of canola seed for the extraction of 10 liters of oil. Canola oil is used for cooking and as an ingredient of salads in human diet. This oil is very popular due to mild taste and nutrients that act beneficially on the human health.

Canola or Rapeseed fields in the Western Cape, South-Africa
Canola or Rapeseed fields in the Western Cape, South-Africa

Canola meal is rich source of proteins. It is used as animal feed for cows, horses, sheep, pigs and chickens.

Canola or Rapeseed fields in the Western Cape, South-Africa
Canola or Rapeseed fields in the Western Cape, South-Africa

80% of honey produced in Canada originates from nectar extracted from flowers of canola.

Dunstone, Wellington’s Tranquil winery

Wellington’s Tranquil Dunstone winery
Wellington’s Tranquil Dunstone winery

My parents and I went wine country exploring in the Western Cape and spent a very relaxing evening on the Dunstone estate in Wellington, South-Africa.  We spent most of our days wine tasting and exploring the tranquil scenery. In-between we were also looking at different properties available in the wine country. Trying to get a head start for when my parents retire and move to the area in a couple of years.

We spent a bit over a week driving and tasting our way through the beautiful Western Cape and never spent more than one evening in the same place. My favourite place was the tranquil Dunstone winery, situated at the foot of the Hawequa and Limiet Mountains. Walking around this tranquil estate is such a pleasure, and they even have a couple of horses for the animal lovers. There is also an orchard and a small pond with ducks and some pigs, whom I didn’t get to see.

Dunstone winery
Exploring the tranquil grounds of Dunstone winery before dinner
Dunstone winery
Me in the orchard

At this small family run vineyard the grapes are handpicked and sorted, pressed the traditional way and matured for 16 months. All the maintenance and care of the vineyard is done by hand so there was no sign of any machinery. You have to visit their restaurant, The Stone Kitchen as the cellar is situated within the Bistro!! The wine making process is on full display and all the wines can be tasted and purchased directly.  

Dunstone winery
Good morning Dunstone winery
Dunstone winery
Dunstone winery

I spent my evening with a good book, some tasty wine watching the sun setting before heading to the Bistro for dinner with my parents. At the Bistro you can also enjoy both South African and British favourite classic dishes. It has quite a lot of British dishes as the owners are originally from the UK.

Dunstone winery
Dunstone winery

Whether you’re a wine enthusiasts, adventurous at heart or just seeking a quiet get away, Dunstone Country Estate truly offers something for everyone.

Dunstone winery
Morning mist at Dunstone winery

Wordless Wednesday: Succulent garden

A cucculent Garden in Western Cape, South-Africa.

 

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Must visit in Cape Town: Green market square

The next place on my must visit list of Cape Town is one of Cape Town’s oldest markets, situated in Greenmarket Square. It is an open-air cobbled square in the centre of old Cape Town, South Africa. When I just moved to Cape town I would spend at least one morning a month here. I spent hours looking at the beautiful local art, crafts, fabrics and artefacts from almost every country on the African continent. The square is bordered by a selection of restaurants and cafés that provided ample opportunity to people-watch during the busy weekends. I have spent countless mornings here, just taking in the atmosphere while writing postcards or reading a book.

The square was originally built in 1696, and, whilst the square may originally have been for the wealthy and elite, today it is the stamping ground of people from all walks of life and a tribute to the vibrancy of Africa.

The square itself was originally used as a slave market and as a market for fruit and vegetables. During the apartheid era, Greenmarket Square was often the focus of political protests, due in part to its proximity to parliament, as well as the ethnicity of its traders and shoppers. Then after a period spent as a car park , the square has been returned to its original function as a market place. Today the square is a regular stop on the tourist itinerary, as the market sells tourist memorabilia from across Africa.

Greenmarket Square is where Cape Town caught a glimpse of its first electrical light and it is the central point from which the landscape of Cape Town was mapped out. Some people think of it as the very nucleus of our vibrant, Mother City.

Must visit in Cape Town: Green market square
Mom and I in Greenmarket square when she came to vitit me in Cape Town.

What is your favourite market in the Mother City?

Wordless Wednesday: The streets of Cape Town

Cape Town was appointed the best place in the world to visit by the New York Times in 2014.

Have you been?

5 Quick facts about Camps Bay in Cape Town

Camps Bay in Cape Town
Camps Bay in Cape Town

1. White Sandy beaches

The biggest attraction in Camps Bay is the white sandy beach which is edged with tropical palm trees. Whether you prefer to laze in the sun, take a dip in the chilly but refreshing Atlantic Ocean or simply relax with a beach picnic and perhaps a book, you are sure to find just the right beach. Two favourite activities are sunbathing and enjoying cocktails while the sun sets.

2. Proximity to Cape Town city centre

Camps Bay is in proximity to the Cape Town city centre. Less than 20 minutes from the City Centre puts you in easy reach of other nearby hotspots, including the world-renowned V&A Waterfront.

Camps Bay in Cape Town
The beaches at Camps Bay are always packed during the summer holidays.

3. Cafe culture

Victoria Road is always abuzz with activity. Along the road, there are plenty of cute little cafes and coffee shops, with outdoor seating that faces the beach. There are also ice cream shops and takeaway cafes for grabbing a bite to eat after a long, hard day at the beach. You can also grab an ice-cream on the go if you don’t want to sit down.

Camps Bay in Cape Town
Mountain backdrop if Camps Bay in Cape Town

4. The beautiful mountain backdrop

This part of the city is known for its properties that sit on the foothills of the scenic Twelve Apostles range, which forms part of Table Mountain. Wild flowers and natural vegetation provides even more scenic beauty to an already magnificent area, while also adding plenty to the photographic appeal of this picturesque suburb.

Camps Bay in Cape Town
One of the many beaches of Camps Bay in Cape Town

5. The epic sunsets

Much has been said about Camps Bay’s sunsets, of which there are too many to count. Each and every evening, the sun goes down over the azure waters of the ocean to dramatic effect. Once the sun sets over the ocean, Camps Bay transforms into a stylish destination that attracts a diversity of admirers in search of a good cocktail.

What is your favourite thing about Camps Bay?


Must visit in Cape Town: District Six Museum

District Six Museum
District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa

Number two on my must visit list of Cape Town is the District 6 Museum. It might not be the most cheerful place to visit, as it celebrates a lively multiracial area that was destroyed during apartheid in the 1960s and 1970s, but it is an integral part of what has formed Cape Town. I visited this museum with my parents while we were exploring Cape Town on one of the famous red bus tours. Don’t make this your last stop of the day as it can be a bit depressing and you will need a cheer-up after you have seen and read all about what once was District 6 and what happened to it.