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And high-fives were exchanged

After a late start today, we hauled ourselves down to a spa to get groomed. Andrew got a hot towel shave, and I got both my hair and my face trimmed. Both of us got these weird wax things in our noses and ears which pulled out almost all the hairs. It was pretty great. Especially tired and hung over as we were.

From thence we headed to Company Gardens. Which was very pretty, and thankfully very shady, because it was paritcularly hot today. We strolled for a bit, drank some water, did some reading, and visited a statue of Uncle Cecil. Since we could only park for an hour, we then headed up to Long Street in search of Royale, which was recommended by our coworker Adam and which served us delicious hamburgers–avocado, bacon and cheese for Andrew, and something called the fat bastard for me. The fat bastard included two patties, double cheese, double bacon and a fried egg. Given how much we’ve been eating, I think it’s my eponymous burger at this point. The sweet potato fries were very good.

When we got back to the house we both took naps. Then, just as Andrew was about to start jumping rope, I realised something. Our dinner booking–which I had mistakenly remembered being for 10.15 pm–was actually at 7.15. So we rapidly got changed and headed to The Greenhouse at the Cellars-Hohenort in Constantia, another AdCo recommendation. It was one of the top 10 meals we’ve ever had, viz.,

Goat’s Cheese & Beetroot Lollies
Klein Constantia Brut 2009


Crayfish Custard
with warm sweet potato mousse, crayfish & leeks
Graham Beck NV Rose


Fish Masaic Wrapped in Madagascan Prawn
with watermelon cucumber salad, creme fraiche ice-cream and crispy seaweed
Eagles Nest Sauvignon Blanc 2010


Du Toits Kloof Salmon Trout Mi Cuit
with aparagus ‘risotto’, chorizo, smoked potato and sweet corn chowder
Groot Constantia White Blend 2011


Seared Diver Scallops
with sultana puree, grilled cauliflower, and coconut curry sauce
Tamboerskloof Voignier 2011 (very very good)


Soudough Bread-Crusted Hake
with seared abalone, caper-tongue vinaigrette, lemon marmalade, and red wine butter sauce
Yardstick Pinot Noir 2010


 Smoked Chocolate & Peanut Gateaux
with maple crumble, cherry, dark chocolate crackle, and bourbon ice-cream
Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2006 (very very good)

The Hake was Andrew’s favourite course. Mine was the scallops. Andrew didn’t get the wine pairings on account of having to drive us 35 minutes back home through mountain roads, a motorway and city streets, but he tasted my wines. It was FANTASTIC.

Back in Cape Town

Another late one last night, so I’m posting this morning. We got up relatively early yesterday and had our breakfast at the hotel before packing it all up and into the car and headed off for Cape Town.

This, as some of you will know, is a 6 hour drive. And since Andrew had driven it just a few days before, I offered to drive on the way back…on one condition: that we listen to Ani DiFranco. He said no. Sigh. So he drove the 6 hours back to Cape Town.

This time we’re staying at a guest house called The Clarendon, in Bantry Bay. It’s fantastic. That link will show you some pictures, but when we get home and collate all our photos I’ll put some more up as well. It has a great view of the Atlantic, and the pool is nice, and our shower is giant, and there are floor-to-ceiling window/door things. We’re really enjoying it.

We walked down to Clifton 3rd beach to check out the scene, after which Andrew went for a run along the water and I walked back to the house. After his run (at which point he was STARVING) we walked down to Salt, where we were having dinner. Dinner was very good. And salty (not the food…but the air: it’s perched on a cliff just above the water). Andrew had a caprese tart followed by salmon. I had delicious mustard-encrusted quail followed by even more delicious duck confit. We had a bottle of Harte Riesling that was very good, as well as a glass of South African dessert wine.

After dinner we went to a bar called Amsterdam, where we met strangers who knew some of our coworkers in Hamburg and Berlin. That was fun. And we ended up at the same place we ended up on NYE, but had less fun this time. Also we went to bed far too late for my taste, but oh well.

Breakfast this morning was great. They even put cheese in my scrambled eggs for me.

I’m on a boat

We got up early today–7.30–and had a quick breakfast at the hotel before heading down to the central beach for our sea kayaking. It was pretty great. We were in a tandem kayak. There were 2 other kayaks on our trip (a family from Joburg whose daughter is at boarding school in Stirling). It turns out I’m rubbish at steering a sea kayak.  I got better over time, but it’s definitely NOT in my primary skill set. It didn’t help that the rudder was very far from true, but most of the blame must lie with me.

Thankfully, that meant that what should have been an 8-mile round trip to the Robberg Peninsula was probably more like 11 miles. We were like a little photon, moving in a wave and being particulate. We saw a penguin and several seals en route, and when we got to the peninsula we were able to get quite close to the rocks where around 30,000 seals live. They don’t smell great, but they’re tons of fun to watch.

I suspect I’ll be pretty sore tomorrow.

For lunch we went to the Lookout Deck, which (for being an obvious tourist trap) was actually very good. We had a fantastic view from our table, and we even saw two men catch (and return) a ray. Srsly. We shared some somosas and spring rolls. Andrew had a seared tuna salad & a cheeseburger. I had a halloumi salad and seared tuna. We both had beers.

We then drove to bungee jumping (which Andrew wanted to do), but there was no room for us at the inn, so we gave birth to our first born son, wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and lay him in a manger.

Not really, we just headed back to the hotel. We both had great naps, and then Andrew went for a run. We headed back into Plett for diner at Cornuti al Mare. They told us it was going to be an hour wait, but thankfully it was more like 20 minutes. Andrew had a GIANT chicken salad to start, and then a ‘Mexican’ pizza. I started with zucchini fritti, and then had veal picatta. Everything was delicious, especially our second try at a South African bubbly: Giselle Method Cap Classique 2009. The service was quite good too.

Up in the trees

We slept in today. In fact, I got in trouble for letting Andrew sleep in while I read The Art of Racing in the Rain. But he looked to be enjoying his sleep so so much. Anyway, he ended up waking at 10.30, well after when the hotel stopped serving breakfast. We drove to Stormsriver Village to do a canopy tour. The drive there was definitely the prettiest part of the Garden Route we’ve seen.

The tours are run by a really interesting social enterprise–which is a complicated way of saying that the activity included lunch at a locally owned and run restaurant. Since we were 90 minutes early, we then walked around the (very small) village. The zip line tour was enjoyable. It was certainly a different view on the forest. There were 10 lines–some fast, some slow; some long, some short. We saw chameleons and lots of different types of birds, but thankfully no snakes. We were with an Indian family from Joburg, but we didn’t talk to them all that much. It wasn’t nearly athletic enough for Andrew.

We went straight from Stormsriver into Plett for dinner. We tried at first to go to a place called the fu.shi, which (as I said in my Google Places review) had the worst service I’ve ever experienced at a restaurant. We waited 30 minutes without being seated and given menus and no one ever came back to speak to us. So after 2 drinks (which we’d already paid for at the bar) we left. Shocking.

Every dark cloud, though: we went across the street to The Table, which was very good. We had and Unplugged 62 Shiraz (of which I drank far too much). Andrew had a pasta with shrimp and squid. I had a pasta with ham & a cream sauce. Very good, though I will saw there are WAY too many pizza/pasta joints in South Africa. We must start deliberately avoiding them.

Now we’re back home and Andrew is jumping rope out on our balcony.

Relaxing morning, strenuous afternoon

We got up early today to go sea kayaking, but it was too windy, so we changed plans. We had breakfast in the hotel (omelet with sausage and cheese along with 2 breakfast sandwiches for Andrew, scrambled eggs and bacon for me), then we went down to the central beach in Plett, where we learned about the wind problem and decided to sit and read on the beach for a a few hours. I finished both Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow (which I’ll write a separate post on because I learned so much from it) and Muriel Spark’s The Finishing School (which, as the LRB review points out, reads like the brief outline of a more substantial novel). Still I enjoyed it.

Once we’d both finished our books, we went to Cafe Europa as a delaying tactic before lunch. We read the newspapers (lots of bad stuff seems to happen in ZA, though on the hilarious side they file gossip about US celebrities under “World News”. We had lunch at a place called Kitchen. It was very good, and the view out over the bay was lovely. We shared a salmon sushi platter, and then Andrew had a chicken, bacon and cranberry pizza, and I had a salad with avocado and pumpkin seeds.

We went home and changed quickly before heading to the Robberg Peninsula, where we did an 7.5 mile hike down to the point and back. There were way more steep bits than I had anticipated (according to My Tracks we climbed 1 mile vertically), but the views were amazing. Pictures forthcoming, I hope. The hike was a giant loop, starting on the Plettenberg Bay side (where we saw hundreds if not thousands of seals), and then up on the Indian Ocean side, where there were GIANT waves. It reminded me a lot of the Cinque Terre. They said the hike would take 4 hours, but it only took 2:45. Go us.

We went back to the hotel, showered and got dressed for dinner, had a little talk, and watched the Downton Behind the Scenes special. I also started reading The Art of Racing in the Rain.

Dinner was at Emily Moon’s, which is a stone’s throw from our hotel, up on a hill with a beautiful view of the river below. If we ever come back to this part of the world, we’re staying at the lodge there. We started with G&Ts on the veranda before moving inside and sharking a bottle of SA bubbly (Krone Cap Classic 2008), which was wonderful. For food, we again shared a sushi platter. Andrew had spring rolls and an ‘Asian red beef curry’, followed by fresh mint tea. I had a caprese salad, kudu steak with raspberry puree & mash, followed by vanilla crème brûlée. All of it was fantastic (as was the service)

Now we’re back home reading before bed.

A beach town

Two posts in one day! We took a slightly scenic route to Plettenberg Bay–off the main highway and along the whale route. We didn’t see any whales, but there was plenty of beautiful scenery.

Finding breakfast proved more difficult than we had anticipated, but we finally made it back to our hotel, where they had quite a good buffet. Andrew had an omelet with ham & cheese, and tons of fruit. I finally found some yogurt, and also sampled all 6 varieties of sausage they had on offer.

We got to our hotel here (the NH Plettenberg Bay) at about 5pm. It’s fine. Nothing to right home about. Not my best hotel choice in history, but oh well. It’s clean and our room is giant and has a private terrace…though I really do think hotels should warn you that their “king” beds are just two singles pushed together. I’d rather be in a queen at that point. Anyway.

We read by the pool for 90 minutes then Andrew went for a run into town, then we ate in the hotel restaurant. Also meh. Andrew had calamari and a sirloin steak with onion gravy. I had tomato soup (which was actually very good) and a rib eye with blue cheese. The wine was a very good Leaping Leopard Shiraz. We even bought an extra bottle to take back to our room.

We just watched the Downton Abbey Christmas special. We both cried. It was pretty great. Now time for bed.

A world of pain

Yesterday was what one might call a world of pain. We went to a place in the Waterfront called Den Anker for lunch. The food was good but the service was abysmal. Andrew had goat’s cheese wrapped in cured bacon, followed by kingclip & pasta. I had cheese croquettes followed by steak tartare. It took almost 3 hours. Srsly.

After lunch we went the the aquarium (joy of  joys!), but the length of lunch meant we missed the feeding of the penguins AND the sea turtles AND the sharks (sorrow of sorrows!). Still, we saw baby sea turtles (“Look, you’re really cute, kid, but I don’t know what you’re saying!”) AND box jellies AND baby rag tooth sharks AND giant crabs AND 2 typs of penguins aAND rays. And then outside we saw some seals on a dock.

We then went for a run together. I think I’ve had enough of this working out thing for the time being. Maybe hikes and outdoor activities and stuff, but no more running. It’s simply too hot here–I top out at 26c/79f.

We had dinner at Thai Cafe in the Cape Quarter. Solid but not outstanding. As always, we ordered about twice as much food as they thought we should, and they strenuously recommended we reduce our order, but we showed them. We had a larb gai, mussaman curry with beef, penang curry with chicken, stir-fried basil with pork, and pad mee leung with chicken. We finished with sticky rice and lychees. We ran into one of our new friends from NYE (dirk) at the restaurant.

We tried to get up early this morning to climb lion’s head, but there are low clouds, so we’re just going to track down some breakfast and drive to Plettenberg Bay, which should take 6 or 7 hours. Thankfully we have tons of podcasts (both NPR and In Our Time) to listen to.


Happy New Year

Oh wow. That was a night. I think we got home at 6.30am. I think. I know it was light. But there you go. I think I need some Advil and a nap. And then maybe I’ll face the day, but first: a recap of our first full day of honeymoon…

We got up at around 10.30. Luxuriously late unless you count the jet lag, which I do. We had breakfast in the Waterfront at Cafe San Marco. It was fine. Nothing to write home about. We split some grilled halloumi.  Andrew had scrambled eggs with parma ham, mozarella and tomato. I had an omelet with ham, cheese and tomatoes. And a caffe latte.

After breakfast we went to the gym in the hotel for a little vanity pump. Then we went to the pool party at the Glen Hotel. It was, without a doubt, the gayest thing I’ve ever done in my life. That said, there were lots of men with great bodies in skimpy swimsuits. So I didn’t complain. We got lost on the way there (well, not lost: Google Maps shows the marker for the hotel about a mile from where the hotel actually is). That was annoying, but as a result, we met a whole bunch of other saps who had relied on Google Maps to get them there. There were 5 of them, all from France and Germany, and it ended up being fortuitous, as they had tips on where to go later in the evening, and we ended up meeting up with them again later.

We were at the pool part from about 3.30 to 7. Shockingly neither of us got sunburned (thanks, liberally applied SPF 30!). We even met two gay couples from Seattle who are currently living in London.

After the pool party we got dinner at  a restaurant across from our hotel: Sloppy Sam. It was better than average. We got hummus and kofte to start, followed by a braised lamb shank for Andrew and a lamb stew for me.

Then we headed back to Crew Bar for their “Ibiza”-themed NYE party. The street was blocked off. There were [straight] gogo dancers all over the place. We started with jagerbombs (in honour of the wedding, obvs), but then stuck to beer. We danced for a while–it was awfully loud, so we were very glad to have remembered our earplugs. We ran into our new friends from the pool party, and they introduced us to other people, as well. Bizarrely, 3 different people came and asked to have their photo taken with us (?!).

When we eventually tired of dancing we went to a venue named after me for the rest of the night, but at that point everything turns into a bit of a blur.

New F!

First things first: we made it safely to Cape Town! Andrew is a champ for agreeing to drive our rental car. I need to improve my skills of a navigator. But otherwise things are great.

So, we flew down in first, which I’ll admit was a treat. And not only because Andrew and I each drank nearly our own volume in Comtes de Champagne. The food & wine onboard was, as always, fantastic. We both had pumpkin ravioli followed by a beef pie, and then the cheeses (insert cheeses/Jesus joke here), which were particularly good. I must track down the wine list, because both my port and Andrew’s vin santo were exquisite. Then we slept (obvs), and then we had breakfast (Andrew a smoked salmon & scrambled eggs thingy and I a full English).

Since the flight was on miles (plus my BA AmEx companion voucher), we could only get a ticket to Jo’burg at this time of year. So we spent about 4 hours in the Slow lounge at Jo’burg airport. It is, without question, the best 3rd-party lounge I’ve ever been in. Food was decent. Free booze. Nice decor. A barista. Generally great.

Flight to Cape Town was hot and croweded (we were back in coach), but we both slept the whole way. We picked up our rental car and made out way into town without incident. For our first stint in Cape Town we’re staying at the Protea Victoria Junction, in Der Waterkant…I figured if we had to spend New Year’s Eve with strangers, they might as well be gay strangers. The hotel is beautiful, as is our room (I’m particularly fond of the giant frosted-glass window that separates the room proper from the shower).

Anyway, tonight we went to a burger place near our hotel called Beefcakes, which my cousin Stephanie and her huband John went to their first night in Cape Town on honeymoon. To say it’s very gay would be a massive understatement. It’s camp as Christmas. But the burgers were legitimately good. We had nachos (middling). Andrew had a burger with cheddar, 2 patties, guac and salsa. I had a breakfast burger. Both were great. Then we headed to Crew Bar, where we danced for an hour. I called it short because I wanted to rest up before NYE, and so we’re just about to head to bed.

Let’s get this party started

So begins our honeymoon. Or as I like to call it, our happymoon (honey played a starring role in my stag party, the details of which I won’t bore you with, and so I have half-jokingly renamed this trip we’re taking.

For those of you who don’t remember, we’ve decided to honeymoon in South Africa. Our thinking was threefold. Most importantly, it’s legal to be gay in South Africa (it’s even protected in their constitution). We visit lots of countries where it’s illegal to be gay, but our honeymoon seemed like a particularly appropriate time to support an economy that supports us. Secondly, it’s only a 2 hour time difference to London, which will minimize our jet lag when we eventually have to return to work (on 23 January: hurrah!). It won’t help with the  jet lag going there, though: I got back to London from Spokane yesterday, and Andrew flew in from Philadelphia overnight. Finally, it’s in the southern hemisphere, and so it’s sunny…and the toilets will flush backwards. Which is amazing. Oh, and there are penguins and sharks. Awesome.

Anyway, as soon as Andrew got home we did a bit of packing and we had a little talk and then we waled to the Delaunay for lunch, where Andrew had a delicious chopped chicken salad and a slightly less delicious Lancashire hot pot. I had a beetroot and goat’s cheese salad, which was very good, followed by wiener schnitzel (yum). I’m happy to say that, a few weeks in, they’ve worked out many of the kinks I noticed in earlier visits, and I’ll be happy to make it a regular place.

After the Delaunay. we walked to Brewer Street so that Andrew could get a haircut and I could have a caffe latte, then we stopped by Liberty to check out the sale. I was unimpressed, but we did bump into our coworkers Adam and Aaron, which was very nice. Then we walked home and Andrew took a little nap before our car picked us up.

Now we’re sitting in the Concorde room. We just had a little snack (Taittinger 2004, another goat’s cheese and beetroot salad, and a shared cheeseburger), and we’re about to board our plane. Also, I’m drinking a cup of steamed milk, which may be my new favourite thing ever.

I’ll try to post some pictures to Google+ while we’re there, and maybe even draft a blog post or two…and add photos to the blog posts when it’s easy to do so.