A lovely garden on a very very hot day

mountain view

In preparation for a series of blog entries on my business site, I spent a few hours in the Company’s Garden yesterday. I needed good quality photos so I asked my friend Sheila to come along and take some. I bribed her with the promise of lunch at the new restaurant in the Garden.

Being vegan, Sheila always has to pick her way through menus to see what she can eat. Sadly, vegans are not well catered for. Even vegetarians have complained so you can imagine how vegans fare. I understand what vegans are all about but I don’t know if I could live without cheese and eggs. Meat, possibly, but seeing as my idea of heaven for breakfast is a good Eggs Benedict … no, not going vegan any time soon.

The restaurant doesn’t have soya milk – despite this being a common request, according to one of our many waitresses, and the entire range of sandwiches from which Sheila could’ve chosen something (sans one or two animal items) was not available yesterday. So she settled for a plate of chips. Seeing as we’d decided to have brunch instead of lunch, a plate of chips for breakfast is not exactly ideal. Sheila took some awesome photos so I feel I still owe her lunch.

Despite my earlier feelings about this restaurant  and their lack of sensitivity towards the history of colonialism in the Cape I have now eaten there three times and I must admit it is very nice (even with their very bad attitude towards tour guides) and anyway if you’re in the Garden you have no other choice for a meal unless you go into the CBD. The food is good and if you want a light lunch you can get a top quality sandwich for under R50 which includes fries and a salad. The service is usually good (yesterday we had about 7 different waitresses – possibly because we sat at the ‘loungers’ and not a table), and the setting couldn’t be more lovely. Birds, ducks and squirrels scurrying all over the place, a magnificent garden with some of the oldest planted trees in the country, and the sounds of kids playing in the play area which I suspect is what is drawing all the locals.

I previously had my doubts about a giant tree that may or may not have fallen over in a storm but it turns out that no foul play took place and the tree did succumb to a severe storm – I’ve investigated this.

nest

These ‘nests’ are very popular with kids.

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Too much shade for a good photo – but the shade is divine.

tree stump

The famous tree stump – the restaurant owners decided to replant the stump in memory of the tree.

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Some of the wood from the fallen tree. I’m not sure if they intend doing anything further with it or if they will leave it there like that. Sheila liked it like that, something arty or other.

After our brunch we spent a happy 3 hours strolling from cool shade to sweltering heat, with me directing Sheila to what I needed. We spotted a pigeon in distress so that distracted us for a few moments while Sheila picked it up and we tried to revive it with water only to find the poor thing had a broken neck. We couldn’t bring ourselves to put it out of its misery so we laid it down in the shade. When we returned later it had gone to heaven so we buried it under some leaves.

pigeon and sheila

Poor little pigeon being comforted by Sheila. We also gave it water.

how we found pigeon

This is how we found it after a couple of hours. It had literally rolled over and died. We turned it over and …

leaves for pigeon

… buried it under a pile of leaves.

The new vegetable garden is coming along beautifully, but I was surprised to find out that it is not supplying the restaurant as previously stated, and instead all the produce is being sold at the (in)famous Oranjezicht City Farm Market.

veg garden

sheila in rose garden

The Rose Garden is not the best aspect of this entire garden but the sprinkler was a big attraction for us as we took turns allowing it to cool us down. That’s Sheila.

Sheila then went off to protest outside a circus and I went home to fetch Vida the 4-legged wonder and took her to the beach for a late afternoon walk. I finally managed to cool down.

These are all my photos – Sheila’s will feature elsewhere.

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Lovely walk on the beach.

 

Between the mountains and the deep blue sea

Noordhoek pano

Noordhoek Beach. This is the view that always surprises visitors as they round the last curve of Chapman’s Peak Drive.

I don’t know if I could live anywhere that doesn’t have mountains or ocean.  I have both so I’ve been spoilt. I don’t climb the mountains often (does it count that I use the cable car to the top of Table Mountain quite often?) and I seldom swim in the icy waters of the ocean these days,  but I want to be able to see them, every day if possible. Luckily, showing it off to clients allows me to do this very regularly. My favourite tour in Cape Town is the round trip of the peninsula – I never get bored with it.

Lions Head

Lion’s Head from the top of Table Mountain. A national park surrounded by a city.

This narrow strip of land surrounded by water on 3 sides that we call the Cape Peninsula consists of the Table Mountain National Park extending from the city all the way down to Cape Point and the mythical Cape of Good Hope and covers 25,000 hectares. Because of the urban development, the park is broken into several different areas some of which are pay points but most of it is free and open, which makes it the most visited park of all South Africa’s 21 national parks. Click here to learn more about all the parks – that website should keep you very distracted for several hours.

Wherever you are on the peninsula, you are no more than a few minutes away from a walking trail, a rock-climbing cliff, a mountain bike trail, a beach, a tidal pool, a rocky coastal stroll, or just a stunning view.  The mountain range is also a wonderful landmark. I never stress if I realise I’ve taken a wrong turning, even in the dodgiest areas, because all I have to do is use the mountains to get back on track. Put me down in Johannesburg or any other South African city and I’m hopelessly lost without GPS. I still don’t understand why I have to drive for miles and miles through built-up suburbs from the national road to reach the beach in Port Elizabeth when the map shows it’s right there!

I’m not too sure what this blog entry is about except to say that I’m glad I live near the mountain and the sea. And I like the corny title, very much.

Scarborough pano

Witsand near Scarborough. Deep south of the peninsula, on what I call the Turquoise Route because of the colour of the water.

 

Sharing the tourism love

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Last year the New York Times published a travel blog list of 52 places to visit and Cape Town was listed at number one. This is fabulous because of course the NYT is a publication with a huge following. This gave the tourism industry in South Africa something major to brag about and social media mentions must have ranked in the millions.

Today, another list gives the city of Durban the thumbs-up and everyone is crying into their morning coffee that Cape Town is ‘no longer the world’s favourite tourist city’. Huh?? How long was I in a coma for that I missed Cape Town receiving this award? It’s just lists of suggested places to visit!!

Wake up, people! We are NOT the centre of the universe! We receive a huge number of tourists and the stats show an increase year on year – all fabulous news because tourism is this city’s booming new growth industry (and I make my living from tourism!) but we have a long way to go before we beat the likes of Paris and Barcelona and New York and many others that have been popular tourist destinations for far longer than our mere 20 years.

We will grow from strength to strength but we have some work to do on the infrastructure and mechanism of tourism first:

– public transport is still not as handy and frequent as it should be, and it  doesn’t cover the entire region yet. You can’t even get a bus back from Kirstenbosch after the Sunday evening concerts.

– restaurants mostly offer excellent food but good service is not as consistent as it should be. Waiting on tables needs to be respected as a career, not a job for students.

– many wine estates close too early in summer. They’re ignoring the large number of visitors who might want to continue tasting wines between 5pm and 8pm when the sun sets.

– we are not being marketed properly! No-one seems to know how and where the budget is spent and SA Tourism is often accused of not doing a good job.

– the perception that crime is a deterrent. It isn’t really but it only takes a few people to spread a negative perception that tourists are all in danger. Yes, our crime rate is high but no, tourists are not in any specific danger if they just take common-sense precautions, as they should in all major cities.

– the industry is not regulated properly, if at all, and government is not seen as taking it as seriously as it should. A closer look at working conditions and the labour laws would be a good start.

– things that can’t be helped: we’re far away! Far from everywhere, the end of the world, air fares are therefore high, you can’t really nip down here for a week’s holiday.

So let’s not freak out at one list suddenly mentioning Durban as a great place – it is fabulous, we’re not losing anything, and we can share the tourists with that city (where the water is warm enough to swim in) .. and others, like Johannesburg where the country’s only Apartheid Museum is located, and the Kruger National Park which is the world’s most fabulous natural park for game viewing, and the Garden Route which is so aptly named, and the Wild Coast which is still wild and wonderful, and the West Coast which bursts into flower annually and isn’t built-up, and and and …

I was shocked to see how quick some people were to share this article with comments that almost gleefully highlight Cape Town’s omission from the list instead of being happy that Durban gets recognition. South Africans are often accused of self-loathing and this seems to show something like that.

Here’s the blog entry where Durban is mentioned. Note how Cuba is number 2 on the list. Does that make it the world’s second most popular city? I think not! Check out how they compiled the list here. It’s opinion-based for suggested destinations, not a list of places most visited. So Cape Town has never been the world’s favourite tourist city to visit and Durban is still not the world’s 7th most popular tourist city to visit – as one person on Twitter was adamant to state as ‘fact’.

And here are world tourism rankings – actual stats that show which places get the most visitors.

Perspective, okay?

cape of good hope

 

 

Tipping point

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I am sick and tired of the debate over tipping for restaurant service. It’s been going on for years and all that happens is the debate goes round and round without anything changing. The more people discuss it, the more you get to see who’s a cheapskate and which restaurants are abusing their staff.

Restaurants pay their wait staff unbelievably low wages because it’s assumed they will make up their earnings with tips. This is usually the case in the top restaurants where patrons are classy individuals who tip and tip well. But there are only a few of those restaurants, the rest are run-of-the mill and patrons range from good tippers to mean buggers who refuse to part with a cent that they are not obliged to part with. Restaurant owners ignore this and quote the good tippers as the norm.

Now, we live in a city that is fast becoming the hottest tourist destination on this continent and during summer it’s packed with tourists. After a bleak winter of poor earnings, waiters and waitresses (I refuse to use that other ridiculous name) are positively drooling at the thought of tourists enjoying the benefits of the exchange rate.

But some diners don’t tip or they tip badly. Instead of just accepting it or changing jobs to a restaurant with a better clientele or better working conditions, or, god forbid, improving their service and skills (which, yes, is often abysmal but that’s another story) … waiters/waitresses have found a new way to get good tips from their customers : they simply demand it. This is completely unacceptable. It happened to my clients this week at Karibu restaurant in the Waterfront. The waiter didn’t like the tip so he came back and demanded 10% !!! I’d like to see them try that with a table of South African diners.

If restaurants really want to do something for their staff (which we know they don’t – let’s be real here, they care zip-all for staff) they would get their act together, speak out as one voice and motivate for the entire industry to include service in all bills, in all restaurants. Obviously this is a large undertaking but if they cared, they would start the ball rolling.

While on that topic – when are we going to take the job of waiting on tables seriously enough to train people globally and pay them properly? Tourism is such an important industry, shouldn’t this be happening?

Rant over.

UPDATE 20 Jan/15: The restaurant in question contacted me about this. They advised that this is unacceptable and they will deal with the waitress in question. It’s a huge pity that she may lose her job but my clients will, I hope, go home knowing that we don’t accept such behaviour. It’s bad enough that it happened in the first place so let’s at least show we don’t agree to it! This particular group of people (5 of them) are all going home to share with their friends who have indicated an interest in coming to this country so the last thing we need is for them to remember only how they were ripped off!

Too much wine, too little time

wine intellectual part of a meal

I don’t understand something and no-one has been able to explain it in a way that makes any sense. Many people have agreed with me but I don’t see anyone making an effort to pressure the industry to change this.

Here’s the thing: wine estates in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek close much too early in summer.

There are plenty of other wine regions (where establishments also close early) but I’m mainly concerned with these two because they’re the ones tourists want to see the most and they’re the ones that are all over social media begging us to bring visitors. They hire expensive PR companies, they arrange great events, but for a simple wine tasting with the potential sales that this will encourage, it’s strictly short hours. Most open at 10:00 which makes sense because who wants to taste wine any earlier, but they almost all close at 17:00 and some even earlier.

Many visitors don’t realise how vast the regions are so they only set aside one day for wine tasting. This means that if you remove the time it takes to have lunch, visit the towns themselves – which would be crazy to miss, and get around, you have at most 3 hours for wine tastings and cellar-tours. Yet, by the time most places close there are 3 to 4 hours of daylight left!

Of course there are some estates that stay open later than others but there are too few of them and they’re not always the ones that clients want to visit – many visitors arrive with a bucket list of wines to taste after having researched in advance.

I need a place with magnificent views of the sunset where my clients can have a last tasting before heading back to town. It can’t be on Hellshoogte Pass because that’s too middle-of-the-day – closer to the N2 would work. I might have to build it myself.

Fairview goats blog pic

The most photographed goats in the Cape – at Fairview where the best cheese is made. A cheese and wine pairing is the highlight of a wine tour – but the latest booking is 15:30!

waterford

Chocolate and wine tasting at Waterford. Good wines, great setting, but the last full tasting (8 wines) is done at 16:30. Oh well, have a look at the gorgeous old vine in the background.

ken forrester blog pic 2

I love the casual setting for tastings at Ken Forrester – closes at 17:00.

Ken Forester blog pic

Sneaking in another one from Ken Forrester – this tiny house in the middle of the parking lot is too cute for words.

delaire graaf

Couldn’t resist sneaking in a pic of the fabulous view on Helshoogte Pass from Delaire-Graff, where it’s more about opulence than anything else.

The danger of selfies

First I saw the baboons. The 2 on the left, sitting on a rock watching the humans. The way they were sitting made me think of two people watching a show or something. I could almost hear them asking for popcorn to munch on while they watched the humans stopping their cars to gawk.

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We stopped to  gawk, too, and that’s when I realised the bloke in one of the cars had a problem. Turns out he had stopped to take a selfie with the baboons in the background but instead got stuck in the sand. As I arrived and stopped so did a few other cars, as well as the rangers whose job it is to ensure the baboons behave. So the baboons took off.  Last I saw, several people were trying to lift the car out of the sand after a tow rope had broken. I heard later that he finally managed to get out with the help of rocks. It’s not called the Cape of Good Hope for nothing. I never did ask if he actually got his selfie.

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The law is here, let’s gap it and find another party.

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Disclaimer

A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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