Thursday 26 December 2013

I'm not enjoying Christmas

My 14yo returns to the UK on January 10th after a 3 week visit. My 18yo leaves home on a one way ticket the same day.

Rather than enjoying the time with them, I'm counting down the days till they go. I'm not enjoying Christmas because I realise it will be our last as a family, but as they reminded me they usually spend Christmas with their Dad anyway for the past 13 years.

2007 and was the last time we had all 5 of Children together at the same time. With 3 in Gloucestershire, 1 in Leeds and the 18yo joining the Marines and us in South Africa, the logisitcs with their work, our flights, school holidays and distance, I have no idea when we'll next, if ever get more than 2-3 of them together at anyone time.

I've loved the last 3 years of us being together as a family with the 2 youngest knowing that the older 3, who had already left home before we moved, are settled, been out to visit and we've visited them.

But from now on our family dynamics will change, it'll be just hubby and I from now on with the youngest visiting for his school holidays.

I should be enjoying the next 2 weeks, enjoying every moment, but all I feel like doing is just crying and wishing things didn't have to change.

Friday 20 December 2013

Holiday in South Africa

The last foreign place we visited for a holiday was Las Vegas in October 2010 prior to moving to South Africa. All our holidays since then have been either here or in the UK. We drove the Garden Route last year to Cape Town, but I was in the middle of a bout of depression and didn't really take it in. I did blog about the differences between the north and the south of the country last year which you can read here but on this trip I realised that the South of South Africa is a different country all together. One of my twitter friends emailed to ask for advice on his parents forthcoming holiday and I started to put together a list of do's and don'ts, then I found out they were visiting Cape Town and the Garden Route so my advice changed to 'have a fab holiday and pack a jumper it gets chilly in the evenings.'

We left home in Pretoria on November 30th and arrived home on the 17th December having driven 5028kms on a route that took us to Durban, The Wild Coast, Addo (near Port Elizabeth) The Garden Route via Tsistikamma, Mossel Bay, Agulhas, Hermanus and finishing with 5 nights in Cape Town and a 2 day drive home through the Karoo.

We had the most amazing holiday, stayed in some wonderful places, with amazing views and made the most precious memories. Add your comments as to what you think makes a good B&B/Guest House/Hotel here.

November 30th - December 2nd
We travelled the wild coast from Durban to Addo and spent 2 nights at the Addo Elephant National Park We also visited the Penguin Sanctuary in Port Elizabeth

December 3rd-5th
Tsistikamma on the garden route and that's where we were when we heard Nelson Mandela had died December 6th-10th
2 nights in Mossel Bay, followed by a night in Agulhas, the Southernmost Tip of Africa and a night in Hermanus, with a failed attempt to Whale watch.

December 11th-15th
We collected our son from the airport in Cape Town and hit the ground running. We went to the top of Table Mountain our son climbed down. We went on a Wine Tour, drove to the Cape of Good Hope and visited the Two Oceans Aquarium.

I hope you've enjoyed reading the posts and viewing our pictures. This is the last time we will holiday with kids as the last one leaves for the UK on January 10th.

Our next trip is to Dubai on the 26th January-2nd February 2014, just hubby and I, he will be working in the day so I'm hoping some of you can give me some suggestions on what I might like to do and places I must see while I'm there.















Thursday 19 December 2013

What makes a good B&B/Guest House/Hotel Room?


Over the past 2 weeks we have stayed in many as we travelled The West Coast and the Garden Route to Cape Town via Durban from Johannesburg.

We have stayed in some beautiful places.

We've had some amazing views.


The first 4 days were spent on the road, travelling between 7-9 hours a day, with occasional stops on route before reaching our accommodation for the night, a bite to eat, shower, sleep, recharge appliances, have breakfast, pack and set off to the next destination.

The location of the accommodation was chosen for its location, apart from Coffee Bay as we wanted to have a ‘quick look’ to see if it was worth visiting another time for longer.

Our criteria for the rooms was the price, location, Wi Fi and the usual expectations of what the room should be like.

The most common complaint I have about most types of accommodation is the lack of lighting and enough plug sockets. It isn’t hard to check that lamps work and actually have bulbs in them. For example I don’t wish to move furniture to access a plug, nor do I want to dry my hair facing a wall because the nearest plug socket is the opposite end of the room from the mirror. Or simple things like curtains above the bed that don't block out the light.

I’ve never had issues with towels and or bedding, surprisingly they have all been clean, changed and in plentiful supply.

It’s the simple things like if it is stated there is a TV in all rooms, make sure there is and make sure it is working, the same with tea/coffee facilities. A kettle and cup is not enough on its own, there needs to be the actual tea/coffee/milk/sugar and even a spoon available, make sure they’re clean and re stocked please.

As a guest I find I can always let one or even 2 issues go, but when you arrive at a place that a) looks grotty from the outside (a bit of weeding and a repaint wouldn’t go amiss) b) plug sockets don’t work c) no TV or tea/coffee facilities d) no hot water and e) during the night when it rained the ceiling leaked. One starts to get a little bit annoyed with the situation. But rather than write a negative response online, why not tackle the owners. Ok they couldn’t do much after the event with the lack of hot water, but they acknowledged it. One hotel we stayed in told us there was hot water and they needed to come and check we’d turned on the right tap, duh!!!!! We actually thought of running the cold tap in case they were labelled wrong, but the staff still denied the water wasn’t hot.

We did have 2 nights in one guest house where we unable to fault a single thing, not that we were looking but when we checked out and the owner asked ‘did you enjoy your stay? Was everything OK?’ we both responded ‘Yes’

Our rather expensive stay in Agulhas got off to a bad start when the receptionists informed us as we arrived that they’d had no Internet for a week and we HAD to pay cash or make an EFT payment. How do I transfer money online without the internet and as we were at the Southernmost Tip of Africa the 3G wasn’t the best. She then added we must chose now what we want for breakfast and exactly what time we wanted it in the morning. Everywhere else we’ve stayed, even where we’ve been the only guests, breakfast has been served between 7 & 10.30am. We’re on holiday, not rushing off to some meeting or another.

A week long stay in a self catering apartment in Cape Town was perfect, facilities, laundry, closeness to the beach, restaurants and shops, with a view of Robben Island and the Atlantic Ocean.

The stop over on the way home was dreaded by hubby and I. The guest house owner phoned before we left stating we must cancel with or pay her commission costs, she had changed our bookings because she said 2 people could share a room, despite us telling her that the 2 people were 18 and 75, Granny and Grandson. I asked her for confirmation via email and she wanted me to cancel with, but wouldn’t confirm in writing our new reservation and/or price and that she wouldn’t deduct the cancelation charges. So a few days before we arrived I called her to say she still hadn’t emailed me the new booking and she told me to ‘calm down and stop making a fuss’ when we arrived I was slightly amused to discover there was no door to the bathroom and before going out in the evening I asked her for a key to the room. She smirked at me and said 'no one has ever needed one before, you can trust us' so I enquired if she could vouch for the other guests and received another smirk. We weren't worried about our possessions, just wanted some privacy, after all what was stopping another guest wandering in? Needless to say she received a poor review on


Wednesday 18 December 2013

Two Oceans Aquarium

This was supposed to be a blog post about Robben Island, but we didn't book far enough in advance and with the death of Nelson Mandela the tour was booked until the end of next week.
So instead we went to the Two Oceans Aquarium. The only downside was the number of children and their volume. My 18yo son complained none stop about the other kids behavious and the lack of parental control. We reminded him he is one of 5 children and they all behaved like that, despite our best efforts to control it.
I guess it was payback time for us all.
We found Nemo

Mermaids purse, complete with baby shark.

 Giant Crab
 Fish stuck to glass
Crab on stilts

Baby Abalones

Happy friendly guy

Penguins for girls

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point

Free entry with our Wild Card or R105 per person and every cent, well spent.

it's a very moving feeling to know you're at the bottom of Africa, where the 2 great Oceans, the Indian and the Atlantic meet, knowing that when you look north, the rest of the great continent and Europe is 'just' up there.

The seas are very cold, felt like someone was slicing through my legs with a block of ice, but I loved every second of it.

We still haven't actually seen the two waters meet and the seas were a lot calmer than we had thought they would be, even for the summer.

Some amazing wildlife to view and unspoilt beaches, a café and restaurant on Cape Point and a well stocked gift shop.

Monday 16 December 2013

Wine Tours in the Western Cape


There are plenty of pre booked tours, bus, cycle or self drive. Every vineyard has a restaurant or a cafe and offers wine tasting, tours, pre booked picnics, but how do you chose where to go, which wines to sample? Who to book with?

There seems to be an assumption on arrival at a vineyard that:

a. You know where you are going

b. You know what you’re doing

Some places offer a tour with tasting, others offer just a tasting session.

A typical tasting session is around R35 and R50 if it is accompanied with either cheese or chocolate. Usually sampling 6 wines.

There is definitely no pressure on you, although the tours and tastings are led by a member of staff and therefore do draw to a natural end, the staff are very informative and there is no pressure to purchase any wines before you leave.

I’m not knowledgeable about wines, but I tend to know what I like and what I don’t like and it’s not only a fun way to spend an afternoon or even a whole day, it’s a good way to know what to look out for in your local supermarket.

Fascinating facts about growing wine.

·         1 barrel of wine equals 1800 glasses

·         It takes a ton of grapes to make 720 bottles of wine

·         1 vine produces enough grapes to make between 24 and 36 glasses of wine

·         1 bottle of wine contains 1.5kg of grapes

·         Each vine contains 35-60 clusters of grapes

·         1 hectare of land (approx ¾ of a football pitch) can contain between 3000 and 6000 vines

If you live in the UK and want to experience South African wine at reasonable prices including customs and delivery charges. I can strongly recommend the vineyard, Franschhoek Cellars, we visited today.


This is NOT a sponsored post



Sunday 15 December 2013

Goodbye Mandela

Before leaving Cape Town I signed the book of remembrance.
'Thank you for the opportunity to live freely and safely in South Africa for the past 3 years'

Saturday 14 December 2013

Table Mountain

You can see Table Mountain from everywhere

 And from the top of Table Mountain, you can see just about everywhere

We opted to travel up and down in the cable car for R215 per person, book online and save 10% or use your wild card for a bigger saving. The queues for the ticket office were non-existent, however the queue for the journey down was around a 20 minutes wait. We enjoyed lunch and drinks on the top, with a quick visit to the well stocked gift shop before our downward journey.

However the 18yo decided he was going to walk down, it took him just over an hour. It's around 2 hours to trek up.