Windhoek to Cape Town to Hermanus

Just after midnight the power went off at our hotel, the House on Olof Palme, in Windhoek. In fact, the power went off in the entire surrounding neighbourhood. We woke up a couple of times during the night and the power was off all night. That meant no air-conditioning. That meant that when our 5:00am alarms went off, we were completely in the dark. Luckily Sue had packed our suitcase the evening before.

The woman of the hotel was up — and boiling water on her gas stove in order for us to have a cup of coffee before we left. I felt a bit sorry for her — this was beyond her control, happened relatively infrequently (according to her), and made her a little worried for her own security. Her husband was out of town on one of his regular ‘game-hunting’ trips; the rows of electric fencing around the top of the 7-foot wall surrounding her place was now dead — and although she had TOLD us there was not a lot of crime in Windhoek, you could sense that she was worried also for her safety.

Air Namibia aircraftWe backed the truck out of its parking stall in the dark and headed toward the airport. By the time we got to the filling station next to the airport and topped up the diesel in our tank, the morning sun was already warming up the day. We checked in. Customs again. We had plenty of time to sit in the big airport and have a coffee. While I was in the washroom the power went out. Total darkness. Lots of comments about this being the ‘worst airport in the world’. Finally the backup generator kicked in.

The flight back was good — hot breakfast, some black dude causing a big disturbance a few rows back, a bit of turbulence just before we landed in Cape Town. We disembark. Queue up for the passport control again. Pick up our luggage and walk out. I used my phone app to get an Uber taxi. “Head for Meeting Point #3.” I could see the little car icon on my phone driving around the loops, right near where the arrow showed we were. No car. Could not connect. Cancel taxi. Try again. Same, same. Other passengers around us walking around staring at the Uber app on their phones, then up at the signage, then around at the cars, then back to their phones. This is not working. Cancel again. This is pissing me off. I’m sure I’m getting charged for each of these cancellations. We walked back to main lobby and the first guy we see we order a taxi. He contacts James, a cab driver, and soon our stuff is in the trunk of the car and we are heading back into Cape Town to our apartment. The meter ticks along as James wants to make friendly. Don’t we want to hire him to drive us all the way to Hermanus (an hour and a half ride)? Much cheaper and better than having our own car. Bla, bla, bla… and the meter is ticking along at nearly DOUBLE what it should be! When we get to our apartment we scold him properly, and pay him 50% more than what it should have been.

Now we get a couple of sandwiches from Giovanni’s and have lunch in our apartment. Re-pack a bit and load up the small trunk of our Volvo. Robert and Arlene squeeze into the back seat of our 2-door, holding packs on their laps, and we’re off.

Happy hour in HermanusThe drive to Hermanus is amazing! WAY nicer than Sue or I recall. After we’ve passed all the shanty-towns that line the road from the suburbs of Cape Town to the airport, we pass through green fields, orchards and vineyards, over a mountain pass, past a golf course, through some beach towns, and finally end up in Hermanus. Our B&B is just a few blocks DOWN (closer to the beach) from Paul and Shirley’s house. We park the car, empty the trunk, register, get our rooms. Reconvene upstairs at the bar on a large balcony that gives us a clear view of the miles of white sand beaches just below us, and the green fynbos growing on the mountainside behind our place. Spectacular! Beer and wine is available on the ‘honour’ system here — take what you want, mark it down, pay for it later.

Back in our room Sue has a little nap. I finagle with my devices, trying to get everything plugged in with my various adapters and then fighting with a weak wifi signal. We Skype with our kids — doing our best to catch bits of what they are saying and looking at pixelated jerky images of them on our screen. Oh well, maybe tomorrow when we switch to an upstairs room we’ll have a stronger signal.

Paul & Shirley's yardAt quarter to seven we are all dressed up and heading up the street to Paul and Shirley’s for dinner. They greet us outside when they see us coming. For Robert and Arlene this is a visit to a former ‘home’ — they’ve stayed at this house for a couple of weeks twice before, about 8 years ago. We get a quick tour of the house and the yard — it is LOVELY. Paul has a wood fire going on his large braai outside, Shirley is making a salad in the big kitchen. We drink wines Paul has selected from his large wine cellar. After a short while we are joined by Meghan and Casper, friends of the Martens’s whom Robert and Arlene met and got to know on their previous visits here.

After an hour of barbecued ‘wurst‘ and drinks we go inside and are seated at the large wooden dining table. Potatoes, salad, chicken, steak — all done just right and so delicious. And we talk. Later we have dishes of assorted ice creams, followed by plates of cheese and crackers. It is a lovely evening and a lovely visit.

It’s after eleven when we say goodbye. We’ve sort of arranged to meet again, maybe do a wine tour with Paul and Shirley. The four of us walk down the street in the quiet darkness, back to our Lavender Manor Lodge. Tired. Windhoek to Cape Town to Hermanus. It’s been a LONG (we’ve been up since five!) but very enjoyable day.

Hermanus ‘cliff walk’

Breakfast at the Lavender Lodge is great: bacon and sausages and eggs any style and toast and fruit and coffee, etc. It’s going to be a week of Saturdays for the Nikkels.

After breakfast we went on our first ‘cliff walk’. Robert joined us, Arlene stayed in bed to try to sleep away her stomach problems. Our first stop was at a little ‘OK convenience store’ not far from our place, where I ‘topped up’ my phone card — so now I’m good for another month. We went back across the street and headed for the cliff walk along the ocean. We walked for 3 or 4 kms until Robert thought he’d better go back and check on Arlene. Sue and I continued. The walk was mostly paved or cemented path in and amongst the rocks on the shoreline, sometimes weaving a little farther away from the shoreline, back through the fynbos that grows in the wild here.

At one point we headed back to the main road for a short stretch, but soon we were back down along the shoreline. After just over 6kms we were near the end of our walk — and we’d arrived at what we believe is the very apartment block where we stayed in December of 2001, and from where we’d watched the big Southern Right whales playing

Marine Court apartments
Marine Court — we rented an apartment here when we stayed in Hermanus in 2001

in the bay with their calves.  I took a picture of the apartment building, for “old time’s sake”.

We walked around the little markets in this part of the city and finally we sat down under one of the big umbrellas at an outside ‘food court’ and had lunch: Hake and fries and a draught and a cappuccino. We did a bit of scouting around after lunch, even checking in with a real estate office to see how /what are the opportunities for us to perhaps rent a furnished apartment for 3 months here next winter — just checking.

After that we started on our walk back to our place. It took about an hour and a half to get back home, but once we did we made ourselves comfortable out on our balcony (over looking our parking lot, but looking out to the big mountain behind our place. Robert came up and joined us for happy hour.

After drinks and a quick shower it was time for supper. I’d called Lizette’s Kitchen to reserve a table for four for 7:00. We took the car the 10 blocks down our road and parked in the parking lot. We got a table — and a good thing that we’d reserved because the restaurant appeared to be fully booked. We had just put in our food order when Sue noticed Paul and Shirley getting off their little Vespa motorcycle outside. Ho, ho!

They join us, and the six of us move to a smaller room in the back of the restaurant for dinner. Paul and Shirley have brought 3 ‘new’ bottles of wine with them — this is a ‘tasting’ evening — they are making some decisions regarding what kinds of wine they will want to export to Manitoba — that is the business they are in. And tonight we will get to help them ‘choose’!

We share a lovely evening with them — and their wine. When, at around 10:00, we get up and say goodbye, we’ve arranged to run up a trail on the mountain behind our place together with them tomorrow after breakfast. And we’ll be going on a wine tour of some of the wineries they deal with on the day after tomorrow. This will be fun!

We all squeeze back into our Volvo 2-door and head back to our house, 10 blocks back up along 10th Street. I park the car and soon we’re joined by Robert and Arlene back on our patio. The evening is cool, but very comfortable. We can hear the crashing of the waves, and sometimes catch a whiff of the salty sea from our place up here, too.

By eleven the Dycks have said goodnight, and it’s Rudy and Sue alone in our first floor hotel room. We have a small old-style Sony TV — we watch a bit of CNN. I write in my journal and Sue reads her iPad until we are both tired and ready for bed. The cool breeze is blowing through the slatted shutters of our ‘patio door’. Let’s hope it’s a good day weather-wise tomorrow — I’m looking forward to climbing that big mountain.

Over berg and dale

After another fine breakfast at the Lavender Manor Lodge we got ourselves ready for a hike up the ‘Overberg’ mountains just up the street from us. Paul and Shirley had offered to lead us up to the top — Robert and Arlene decided they would not go up today and rather wait until Arlene was feeling a bit better. We also wondered if we should go — it was very misty outside, the top of the mountain was shrouded in dark grey clouds, and there was a bit of rain on and off. Maybe the trail would be too wet? So we sent a text to the Martenses — no, they were ready to go!

We set off up the road at 9:30. The road leads up to the base of the mountain and from there we took a short turn and then followed the path as it ‘zig-zagged’ up to the top. The mist was cool and a bit uncomfortable — we were soon sopping wet, water dripping down our faces and shirts soaked right through — but this was still a lot more comfortable than a super hot day!

The fynbos vegetation was lush and green. We visited all the way up, so the actual climb was probably less challenging than what we had imagined — but TALKING and hiking at the same time does present some extra difficulties. Not to be deterred, I just kept yapping away for most of the morning hike.

We got to the pole at the top of one of the craggy hills — time for a photo before turning around and heading back. It actually cleared up a little as we made our way down, but by the time we dropped off Paul and Shirley at their house and got back to our B&B it was raining again. So we had to take off our shoes and tip-toe up to our room and get showered and changed. We hung our wet clothes on the adirondack chairs on our rooftop patio and hoped the sun would come out sometime later today so things would dry out.

In the meantime, Robert and Arlene had put on their raincoats and walked the cliff walk all the way to town. Now we got a text asking if we’d like to join them. It was still raining and I figured they would probably want a ride back. So as soon as we’d showered we hopped into the car and drove to the point. We found the Dycks sitting at the Auberge Burgundy restaurant. They were waiting for us.

Sue and I shared a plate of calamari. The rain seemed to have stopped, but it looked like it might fall again any minute. We all got into the car for the ride back to our B&B. Back at the room, Sue had a bit of a nap. I worked on my Namibia desert photos — selecting and uploading them to my journal entrees from a few days ago. I had a LOT of photos, but managed to whittle things down to a more manageable size. (You can check out my photos here — Kulala Day 1 and here — Kulala Day 2).

Soon it was time for happy hour up in the lounge. Then we got our jackets and headed out, down our street to “The Grotto Beach”. We found our restaurant, “Dutchies”, and got a table for four inside. We ordered. The girls had kingclip, a local fish, and thought it was very tasty.

After dinner we walked back up the hill to our hotel. I got a text from Paul and Shirley — we’re all set for a ‘wine-tasting’ excursion, leaving from their house at 10:30 tomorrow morning. Yes!

Wine Tour

Another great ‘Saturday’-style breakfast at our B&B — scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes. Then at 10:30 we squeezed into our car and drove up the five blocks to Paul and Shirley’s house. From there they led us out of Hermanus and out into the surrounding countryside for a day of wine-tasting. Shirley had made a few cheese-cakes which she was delivering to some of the vintners whose wine the Martenses import into Manitoba.

Our first stop was at the Bouchard Finlayson Winery. There we were introduced to the owner, Mr Peter Finlayson. He was working in the back, but when asked if he would do a tasting with us he immediately left what he was doing and took us to the tasting room. He asked for the ‘big’ glasses, even though we’d been instructed not to swallow, to use the ‘spittoons’ on the table or we might not make it through the day! The Martenses credit Peter with ‘opening doors’ for them when they first started in the import business. He sat at the end of the table and called for one wine after the next. He had a quiet demeanor, and as we tasted the various wines, gradually working up to some very expensive vintages, he would make comments about each one and ask for our ‘opinions’. Peter reminded me of Ernest Hemingway, and it felt a bit like we were in a movie, sitting around a big wooden table, with the godfather at the head.

Bouchard Finlayson

Because of the big traffic jam on the main highway into Hermanus, we had changed our route this morning. To get to the next winery we took a ‘shortcut’, or at least an alternative road. We drove through some very beautiful country, but quite bumpy gravel roads, for about 45 minutes. After passing through the tiny town of Bot River, we turned into the driveway to the farm and the home of Luddite Wines. A big truck was just delivering a load of grapes to the wine press. It is harvest time in the wine region; we are visiting wineries at their busiest ‘work’ time of the year.

We parked and walked up to the home of Niels and Penny Verburg. They welcomed us warmly and introduced us to their friends, Melissa and Ewen, who were joining us for a homestyle dinner. All ten of us sat around their big dining room table. Niels, who came in from the shop wearing big rubber boots and grape-stained shorts, began pouring glasses of wine for us to taste. He also told us how he started making wine 16 years ago, after working with wine-makers around the world. Niels is a big burly, sunburned, cheerful South African. He LOVES making wine ‘the old way’. Less technology, less additives and manipulation and interference of the process, and smaller batches. His newest wine, Saboteur, is a bit of a surprise hit, and there is a sense (and maybe a bit of regret) that it may force the Luddite winery to scale up their production. Niels said he didn’t care about the money, he just wanted to live a good life on his farm, make wine and play golf. I believed him.

After several glasses had been poured it was time for lunch. Penny served the delicious cold tomato gazpacho soup she’d made. Fresh bread. Two huge platters of salad with barbecued steak, tomatoes, feta on a bed of lettuce. Paul and Ewan were sent down to Niels’s wine cellar to select a dessert wine to go along with the homemade cheesecake Shirley and Paul had brought. We felt like we were part of a big family here — everyone sharing stories, laughing and talking, and getting to know each other.

Niels’s day had started off a bit late when the first truckload of grapes arrived at noon instead of at 9 in the morning. He needed to get back out there. So we said goodbye to our new friends and headed out to the shop to have a quick tour before going on to our next winery. Again, Niels took time to show us the workings of his small-scale operation. As busy as he was, there was always time for friends, even if they are new ‘friends of friends’ as we were.

Niels and Sue

Our last tasting was at Gabrielskloof. Peter-Allen is the son of Peter Finlayson, the owner of the first winery we’d visited today. Paul and Shirley describe him as one of the new young ‘rock stars’ of the South African wine industry. Again, he was busy working in the shop when we arrived, but immediately volunteered to take us for a tasting and a tour, not doubt due to the promise of some of Paul and Shirley’s homemade cheesecake. We again sat around a large wooden table in one of his big luxurious tasting rooms and began another round of swishing and spitting. We each had 3 big glasses in front of us, and Peter-Allen poured 3 whites followed by 3 reds for us to taste.

Then we left the tasting room and headed for the ‘factory’. Where Niels’s operation was all-natural and back-to-basics, this one was all high-tech and big volumes. We walked through 3 floors of all-steel refrigerated vats and new oak barrels and crates and palettes of bottles. Peter-Allen pulled a big syringe of wine from assorted barrels and squirted a sample into each of our glasses for us to taste. Spit into the gutter, move on, do it again. I think we tasted nearly a dozen wines at the Gabrielskloof Estate.


Paul and Shirley had one more winery to visit (and deliver cheesecake to) but it was after 4 o’clock and the Dycks and Nikkels were tired from all that ‘hard work’ and ready to head back to our hotel. We retraced our route through the countryside and got back to Hermanus around 5:00. Just in time for happy hour in the big common room over-looking the ocean. For once we could sip our glass of wine and not spit!

What should we do for supper? Our lady suggested Harbour Rock and offered to call them to make a reservation for us. So at 7:30 we were at this busy ocean-front seafood restaurant at the ‘New Harbour’ in downtown Hermanus. The girls ordered fresh prawns, Robert had a seafood platter, and I had sushi. We were nearly finished our dinner when my phone chimed — a text from Paul and Shirley: Casper and Meghan have invited all of us to their house for dinner Friday night! Wow! How can you help but not fall in love with this country? Good food, great wines, and marvellous friends!

Shopping in Hermanus

Sue and I slept in this morning. We almost missed breakfast, and that would be a BIG mistake! Although Sue gave me a little talk this morning about how I would need to make friends with our treadmill again when we go home, I could not help myself and ordered the full breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, and white toast) when I sat down at our table. Everyone else showed some restraint, so I felt a bit bad about that.

The sun tried to work its way through the clouds and mist that hid the mountains behind our B&B from view for much of the morning.

It was raining again when we woke up and it looked like it might be cloudy and rainy for much of the day. What to do? Well, one old guy (by that I mean a LOT older than us) and his wife, upon leaving the breakfast room, recommended we go visit the Lembu Art Gallery in town. Why not!

When we met the Dycks downstairs, all ready to go — they were wearing their snazzy red and green rain jackets and had hiking poles in hand. What’s this? Are we walking to town? No, let’s take the car.

We parked near the center of town and headed for the art gallery. Not NEARLY as exciting as Mr Old Guy made it sound, although Sue did come out with a little shopping bag in her hands. We wandered around for a while, and then decided that this would be the perfect time and place to look for rain jackets for Sue and me. And after not too much ‘shopping’ we found some!

Well, after all that ‘work’ it was time for lunch. We’ve been looking through some discount coupons we got from our friend Helene (in Sea Point, Cape Town) and we found a coupon for a restaurant called ‘Lemon Butta’. The menu looked okay. We went up the stairs and got a good table where all four of us could sit and look out into the bay (where big Right Whales play in October and November). All we saw were divers looking for crayfish and a misty horizon. We ordered fish (Hake) and chips — except for Sue, who ordered a salad. A couple of old-timers at the next table interrupted our conversation a few times, giving us some ‘advice’ and sharing some local insights.

After lunch we took a short walk around the bend from the point and saw a few ‘dassies’ (Rock Hyrax, or rock badger) relaxing and playing on the cliffs. Robert and Arlene took the car to go look for some special ‘port’ while Sue and I started along the cliff walk heading back to our B&B. It was cloudy, not hot, very comfortable for a walk. Along the way I got a Facetime call from Alex and Max — it’s Thursday morning at home. They are leaving for Grand Forks after school today. Max was happy and interested in seeing the vegetation and the ocean and beaches on our walk, and was quite talkative. It was great to visit a bit and show him where we were.

We got back to our room, showered, changed into the clothes we’d bought in town earlier today. Then we joined Robert in our upstairs ‘lounge’ for happy hour. I called Lizette’s to make a 7:30 dinner reservation.

We headed out onto the street at 7:15, walking the 10 blocks to the restaurant. We got an outside table and ordered, but soon asked to be moved inside because it was cooling off outside. We got a text message from Paul and Shirley — they are on their way home from another day of wine-tasting and would be joining us in about half an hour. We’d finished our food by the time they arrived. True to form, they brought another fine bottle of wine with them and while they ate their food we visited and drank some of their wine.

At the end of the evening (10 o’clock) we arranged to meet Paul and Shirley down at the Grotto Beach tomorrow morning at 7:30 for a brisk 12km walk along the beach BEFORE our breakfast. Whoa! That means we will NOT be sleeping in tomorrow (like we have been most of our mornings here). We may even miss our great breakfast here at our hotel. But we’ll get to experience the beach, the sand at low tide, and a great walk.

A walk on the beach

Unlike yesterday morning, when we both slept in and nearly missed breakfast, this morning we were both up before 6am. We had set the alarm for 6:45 in order to meet Paul and Shirley down at the beach by 7:25 for a walk along the beach. The sun rose at 6:30 and low tide was at 7:35 today, and according to Paul and Shirley, going for a 12km walk on the firm sand left by the tide was one of the best things to do in Hermanus.

Robert and Arlene needed both their alarms to get up in time to join us. The four of us drove down to the beach parking lot where Paul and Shirley were waiting for us.

Jellyfish on the beach
A jellyfish in the sand

The plan was to go for a brisk walk along the beach until we reached ‘the rocks’ just over 6kms east, and then return to the parking lot. Along the way we saw thousands of mussel shells (the seagulls seem to have no issue with ‘red tides’ which have kept fresh mussels from being served at many of the restaurants we’ve visited). We saw other shells too, and a couple of stranded jellyfish. We even saw a dead seal that had been left behind by the tide. Although it was sunny at the hotel when we left, a heavy mist was rolling in from the ocean and for most of the walk we couldn’t see the mountains that run alongside the coast. So much for the scenery, but it sure made for a comfortable walking temperature.

Not too many other early-morning walkers out, although we DID meet a few, some taking their dogs for a run as well.

Hey, a fort!
Hey, a fort!

When we got to ‘the rocks’ there was another group (about 6 people) who were stopping there for a quick energy bar before continuing their walk. I climbed up to a ‘fort’ in the rocks — apparently someone actually lived there for a time during the war.

And then we walked back. It was nearly ten o’clock when we got back to the parking lot. The sun was doing its best to get through the fog and it was warming up. And there were quite a few more people out on the beach now.

We made it back to the B&B before they stopped serving breakfast (7:30 to 10:30). Good thing, too, because we’d worked up a powerful hunger with all that walking (and talking)! After a quick shower I headed down to the dining hall and had my scrambled eggs and sausages.

Our view of the sea -- from the 'big room' upstairs at our lodge.
Our view of the sea — from the ‘big room’ upstairs at our lodge.

We sat in the upstairs big room for part of the morning. Shirley Martens stopped by to drop off a bottle of Ratafia for Arlene. They had been looking for Ratafia yesterday but apparently the liquor store was sold out. After making a call to another wine store and confirming that they had a dozen bottles in stock, we decided to combine a Ratafia run with a visit to the town centre for our lunch stop.

And so we went to town. Parked the car, got the wine, and ended up at the ‘La Pentola’ restaurant which had been recommended to us by our B&B host as well as the couple behind the counter at the wine store. Good choice! Four lovely plates, good drink, nice friendly service, and a view of the ocean. THAT’S why we love South Africa.

By 4 o’clock we were back at the hotel — and still the rain forecast for 2pm had not arrived! But a cloudy, misty, windy afternoon, especially after a long lazy lunch with a glass of beer or wine, easily lends it self to a bit of meddach-schlop.

And then it was time for happy hour. Our host lady had tried to get dinner reservations at a few nice restaurants for us this morning, but it’s Friday — the weekend — and the restaurants she tried were all booked up. So I’d called ‘Dutchies’, the little beach restaurant a few hundred metres down from our place, and confirmed a 7:30 table.

As we sat in the big room, having a glass of wine, the rain started. A little late, but at least the iPad weather app was not a complete write-off. And it rained pretty hard. This would be a good test for our new ‘water-proof’ rain jackets! We decided to take the car down to the restaurant.

When we got there we thought that likely the bad weather had scared off all the customers — there was nobody here! But after parking our car and opening the door to the restaurant we learned that bad weather was NOT bad for business! The place was full of customers!

We got a table in the corner and ordered our drinks. Then dinner. Not bad! We had a fine meal and even better dinner table conversations. Around 9:30 we finished our ice-cream dessert and got back in the car, headed for home.

We met again, this time in the ‘big room’, and shared a glass or two of Ratafia, from the bottle that Shirley had brought this morning for Arlene. It’s our second last night in Hermanus — our second last night together with the Dycks. It’s been fun. We’ll miss them when they go home on Sunday.

Saturday in Hermanus

It’s our last full day in Hermanus. The sky is slightly overcast; every once in a while we get a few sprinkles of rain but not enough to warrant wearing our new raincoats. After another nice breakfast at our Lavender Manor B&B the boys put on their ‘hiking’ shoes and prepare to ‘scale’ the craggy mountain behind our place; the girls will walk 6kms along the cliff walk to the town centre. We arrange to meet there for lunch.

Robert has walked this hike quite a few times when he was here in 2008 and 2009, and it’s on his ‘to-do’ list. Today’s his last chance; tomorrow the Dycks are going back to Cape Town for one last night before flying home on Monday morning. It’s not nearly as misty and foggy today as it was when Sue and I did this hike with Paul and Shirley early in the week. Still, with all that ‘experience’, Robert and I manage to take the ‘wrong’ path up the hill, going the ‘long way round’. No problem. Just a few more steps on my ‘MapMyRide’ distance tracker app. We have a nice walk up to the marker at the top, It’s still amazing that what from the ground seems like an incredibly high and nearly vertical climb is really quite a manageable and maybe even comfortable hike — it’s that “zig-zagging” back and forth that makes it so.

We’re nearly all the way back down, by another circuitous route that is NOT the way we intended (but you can’t REALLY go wrong here! just keep walking DOWNHILL!) when my phone dings. “Where are you at? Should we reserve a table at The Pear for lunch?”

Half an hour later Robert and I have showered and are driving the 6-minute drive into town. I park the Volvo next to a Maserati in the public parking lot (South Africa seems to have more than its fair share of expensive and exotic cars!) and head to the Pear restaurant. There are Sue and Arlene, sitting at a table under a big sun umbrella, waiting for us. It is noon, time for lunch. The Pear is a very nice restaurant. We are served by a sweet young girl. Hake and chips, beet-root salad, wasabi prawns, along with cold draught beers and a glass of wine. So civilized! So courteous and polite. It’s Saturday and lots of ‘locals’ are out and about, including school kids.

After lunch we go to the big Checkers grocery store. We’re in charge of the meat for tonight’s braai at Paul and Shirley’s. Robert and Sue select the lamb chops, chicken skewers, and Boer wurst. By 3 o’clock we’re back at our B&B. The nice lady who is our host gladly puts the meat in her fridge for us. Time for a bit of R&R in our rooms before we meet again in the big room for our last happy hour here.

At 5pm we head to the big room. The little lighthouse lamp on the bar is lit — that means the bar is open. Two small bowls of chips are on the bar, a jug of ice cubes, a lime — hey, i’ll have a G&T today! We sit and visit for an hour. Now there’s a text message from Shirley and Paul: Come on by!

The four of us set out, carrying a bag of meat for the braai and another with a couple of bottles of wine. When we get to Paul and Shirleys the braais are already lit and Meghan and Casper are already sipping a glass of wine in the backyard. We join them. Robert gets the ‘wurst’ going on the barbecue — it is delicious! Paul has set out a row of assorted wines and announces that all the bottles will be opened tonight — they all need to be tasted! So we have our work cut out for us! I ask for, and get, a tour of the house from Shirley. It’s a very nice house indeed!

Once we’ve eaten the wurst Robert gets the chicken skewers and lamb chops cooking on the braai. Soon we are all seated around the big table outside in the backyard. The food before us is fantastic! the meat is perfectly cooked, small potatoes and a big salad, and Casper has made a couple of braaibroodjie, a toasted sandwich of bread with tomato, onions, butter, salt and pepper (and it could have cheese, although these didn’t) that is toasted in a closed grid over mild coals on the braai. All the food (and drink) is delicious.

Paul is leaving tomorrow morning at 7, flying to Indonesia. Still, he seems unconcerned about that — and doesn’t act at all perturbed or anxious about leaving. That’s what we’ve come to know as ‘the South African way’.

We sat around the table and visited — talked about South Africa, the history and the direction its headed. A good visit that went on until about 10:30, when we took our leave.

When we got home I wrote my journal entry and went to bed. It’s been a great Saturday in Hermanus!


Goodbye Hermanus, Hello Cape Town

Sunday morning, our last day at the Lavender Manor hotel. Might as well have the “full” breakfast again today (scrambled eggs with sausages AND bacon!). After paying our account we loaded up the car (and I mean LOADED UP THE CAR!) and headed outta town. There were paragliders circling over the tops of the mountains — quite a few; probably ideal conditions for that today: a bit of cloud cover, not too hot, and not too much wind.

robert-with-car-at-shore-driveInstead of taking the direct route to the Cape Town airport, we followed the southern coastline; we did not need to hurry since Robert and Arlene’s flight is only tomorrow morning, and we had all day to kill — so why not enjoy some of the great South African scenery and do a coastal drive. And it was worth it! Good roads, a bit of up and down, lots of motorcycles, cyclists, and expensive cars taking advantage of the weekend. We were lucky to get only ‘GOs’ at all the ‘Stop and Gos’ (single-lane construction roadblocks) just outside of Hermanus.

south-shoreThe scenery along our route, especially for the first hour, was fantastic: the ocean, the sky, the fynbos growing on the side of the road. I was hoping to find a string of ‘beach cafes’ once we hit Gordon’s Bay and the Strand, but surprisingly, we drove right through those towns and couldn’t seem to find a decent restaurant. Finally, deep in a residential area, we stopped and asked another motorist for a recommendation. Without hesitation he suggested a winery-restaurant that he had worked at, the Waterkloof Estate. We put that into our Google Maps GPS and proceeded to drive the 20 minutes UP a hill to the winery.

waterkloof-winery-in-somersetAt the top of the hill was a very modern-looking building. We parked and went inside. Sorry, without reservations we would not eat there — they were all booked. Quite a fancy place it was, too. Okay, what next? Could the lady at the winery recommend something — perhaps even call for us just to make sure we’d get in? Pleasure! Yeah, except every place she called was booked. Finally she found a place on the beach front that did not take reservations but suggested that we’d get in. We paused for a picture outside the ‘restaurant in the sky’ before heading back down the hill and into Somerset West.

By now it seemed that we knew the layout of the town — we’d probably driven every main road at least once before! It was around 2 o’clock when we found the restaurant, De Brasserie, right on Beach Road. Nice too. The lunch was great, and then Robert and Arlene paid for us to boot!

And then it was time to head for the airport hotel. We dropped off our friends — they are flying to Munich tomorrow, then home the next day. We only felt a little sorry for them — they are only going to be at home for a short time before they head off on their next holiday! We said goodbye — it has been a very fun couple of weeks travelling together with Robert and Arlene and we’ll miss them.

A half hour drive from there back to our apartment in Green Point, Cape Town. Home Sweet Home, my dad would say. We parked in the garage and hauled our suitcase full of dirty laundry up to our room. Open a few windows, let some air in. Water the plants on the balcony. Make a grocery list. Watch a bit of TV. Listen to the action down on the street below.

At 6:30 we went out to “Wooly’s”, the grocery store down the street, and came back with two big bags of supplies. Then I went to the “Big Route” pizza place around the corner and brought back another of those great-tasting pizzas. Supper at our table. A clink of our glasses, “Pula!”, with a nod to Robert and Arlene who taught us that toast.

After supper I hooked up my computer to the TV and we (finally!) watched the first episode of the 5th season of Homeland. Pretty good, although, true to form, by the end of the hour (9:30, for goodness sake!) we were both nodding our heads and doing our best to keep our eyes open!. But we finished it! And then Sue poured us each a glass of Ratafia (thanks, Arlene!) that was in our box of bottles in the trunk of the car. (I think Arlene probably meant to keep that partial bottle for THEIR final night in South Africa, but again, the best we could do was offer another toast to Robert and Arlene (“Pula!”) and then drink their wine.

And that was Sunday. Time to go to bed — we have an early tee time at ‘our’ Metropolitan golf course tomorrow morning.

Back to Hermanus

After our usual fruit — oh wait! no toast today! Sue went to get chocolate croissants from Giovanni’s this morning! Must be a special breakfast — oh yeah, we have a guest in our house. Jessica Dyck is staying with us until Monday morning.

Soon after breakfast we packed a few things into our overnight bag and headed out in the Volvo. Turned left at the traffic circle and pointed the car south. We went over Chapman’s Peak and down across the peninsula through Simon’s Town. Just past that, we saw the signs for Boulder’s Beach, where we were hoping to see some penguins. We parked the car and started down the boardwalk. We saw quite a few penguins ‘nesting’ on the other side of the fence along our walk. But we could see that there was a spot up ahead where LOTS of people were gathered and taking photos. THAT was what we were heading for.

Before we could get there we had to pay admission at the counter in order to walk down the long boardwalk, out towards the ocean, and see the ‘real’ penguins. Lots of them. Waddling around. And tourists. Pose, click. Another pose, click. Selfie. Click.

After the penguins tour was checked off our list we drove the short way back into Simon’s Town. Found a parking spot. Found a small restaurant. Found a table on the patio overlooking the harbour. Lunch. The girls went a did a bit of shopping while I went to check out the pier. Took a few photos of boats. Back in the car. Back on the road.


The next hour of driving was along the coast, with the ocean on our right and big sand dunes on our left. A bit of road work gave us a chance to pause every once in a while so the slower big trucks could catch up with us. We were making pretty good time and had sent Shirley in Hermanus a text letting her know that we were about half an hour away. And then we hit a “Stop and Go” that was mostly “stop”. And we sat there for 15 minutes, in a long line of cars and trucks. So close, and yet so far.

IMG_2450We arrived at Paul and Shirley’s at around 4 o’clock. Shirley welcomed us and showed us to our rooms. Great house! Great host! Not a lot of time for us to get changed and head out to the beach for our ‘low tide beach walk’. But we made it. Unfortunately for Jessica, the weather was cool and very misty, obscuring the mountain and the fynbos on our walk. But it was good to get a bit of exercise after sitting in our car for a good part of the day.

Back at the house we showered and got ready to head out to Megan and Casper’s for dinner. Shirley packed a half-dozen bottles of assorted wines and we all got into her Land Rover. When we arrived at Casper’s the table inside their lovely black and white (everything inside was decorated in black and white) home was all set. And another couple, Brian and Joy — neighbours of theirs, were there for supper as well. Shirley walked us down to the beach to let us see the great yard.

Casper showing some of the wild flowers growing in his backyard.
Casper showing some of the wild flowers growing in his backyard.

Unfortunately, due to the cool weather, we would not be having drinks out there at one of the several eating and braai areas. So we made our way back to the house and sat down to enjoy appetizers and wine.

Megan's table.
Megan’s table.

Megan made several Malay dishes for the eight of us, including lamb curry with rice. We enjoyed the meal and the conversations around the table. A highlight was Jessica telling us about her less than pleasant introduction to life in Malawi when she and her roommate were visited by thieves in the middle of the night in their apartment! We also talked about the political and economic problems here in South Africa, and it was good to hear how the people who have lived here for all of their life see the prospects for the future. We helped Shirley get rid of some of her wine, tasting and offering opinions and trying different varieties with different foods to see how one enhanced the flavour of the other. Casper hauled out a couple of chocolate bars and we all thought that wine and chocolate were a very nice combination to cap off the evening.

Shirley, who had been tasting and ‘spitting’, drove us back to her place at around 10:30. We were all tired and went directly to bed. A good day in Hermanus.

Back from Hermanus

Shirley, the consummate host, had coffee and fruit and toast waiting for us when we got up. (Although bread is NOT part of the ‘Banting diet’, she had bought bread for us.) The day was the opposite of the afternoon before: sunny, warm, no mist or fog. We could see the mountain behind the house and the ocean and the beach from the front balcony where we sat and ate our breakfast.

And then it was time to get our walking shoes back on. We were going for a ‘cliff walk’. Sue was excited to take Jessica for this walk, to show her what we thought was such a highlight of our time in Hermanus. We walked about 4 or 5 kms along the walk, then back again, stopping to dip our feet in the surf at Grotto Beach before heading back to the house.


IMG_2468We showered and then Jessica, Sue, and I drove down to the town center to check out the shops and restaurants. We parked the car and walked around. Shirley had recommended a lunch at a winery restaurant just out of the city and had made reservations for the four of us for after one o’clock. So after a bit of walking around downtown, we drove up into the scenic Hemel-en-Aarde area, to Creation Winery and Restaurant. Shirley joined us there just after 1:30 and for the next two-and-a-half hours we were introduced to 8 different Creation wines, each one paired with a beautiful plate of delicious tapas.

After a great afternoon, we said goodbye to Shirley — she was also heading into Cape Town for a weekend with friends — and got into the car and headed west along the N2 highway. We were finally home after 7pm — the traffic into Cape Town was quite busy. We unpacked and unwound, sitting around. Since we’d been eating all afternoon, none of us was very hungry, so we stayed home and had a light snack and watched TV. Jessica recommended the documentary “Somm” which follows four wine stewards as they prepare to take the Master Sommelier Exam; very appropriate after our wine tasting experience. While the girls went to bed at around midnight, I ended up working on my computer for a couple more hours.