Longing For Home

I’m having weird feelings. I just shared a competition on Facebook for a stay at a bush lodge near Knysna somewhere. And now my head is going: Imagine a nice cold few days, snuggled up in a lodge somewhere. Hot chocolate in hand. Book on lap. Electric blanket keeping me warm. Husband snuggled up next to me.

It’s the only time I love the cold. Inside those lovely cabins, with fireplaces that smell of warmth and smoke. And when the next trip through the bushes to discover more of our animals wonders is just around the corner. Scarves and jackets. Sherry. Home cooked meals waiting to be served. Fellow travellers in awe of the day’s sightings.

This particular picture in my head is one of my favourite things about “around here”. The cozy lodge with the animals just over there. The sound of nature. Sometimes even a lion roar. I particularly have our stay at at Hlosi Game Lodge in mind right now, but pretty much anywhere around here will do. Kragga Kamma Game Park would even work. They have so many new babies this year I really should get myself out there and say hi.

Bloody hell we live in a special place.

And so in this moment I find myself appreciating here with fervour. Because I do so love this part of the world that we call home. As much as I am dreaming of our next exotic destination, it’s good to remember how here is like comfort food.

And comfort food is the best kind of food, isn’t it…

This Thing That I Love

I miss my husband. How stupid. It’s not like he’s gone anywhere. No. This baffling creature, this kind soul, this giant love of my life is right here. And yet I miss him.

When our relationship started and the kids were younger, even though they all lived with us from the beginning, they tended to go away a little more often. They’d spend weekends and holidays with their other parents. Seamlessly flitting between two homes, giving us the alone-time to cultivate what I think is a pretty solid, albeit sometimes should we say volatile, marriage.

But the babies have grown. And their lives have settled quite firmly on our side of the fence. Which is fine, of course. It’s not like I’m under the impression that regular nuclear families are getting the weekends off from parenting. I’m aware that we were spoiled once upon a time, even though we aren’t so much anymore.

The thing is, though, that we miss being spoilt. Because being spoilt means “us” time and we love “us” time.

The other day, in the midst of a family vacation in Port Alfred, we wandered off for a walk on our own though. And it was quite glorious. That hour or so where we played with out camera’s and each other while taking in the sights around us and exploring someplace new. We strolled along the pier. Watched some oyster catchers. Observed the fisherman. And played photographer/model when we realised that the wind was doing crazy things to the dress I was wearing. Then I discovered the most infuriating setting on my bridge camera: Creative Mode (don’t do it – gosh you will go mad).

It was only for an hour and yet it was so good for us. And so I wonder if we should not perhaps just change our approach a little. Instead of thinking longingly of the days when our freedom was a little more flexible, we should instead look back on those days with gratitude (which we do) for those days played such a great role in turning us into the couple we are today. And then, instead of feeling sad, we should resolve to carve out new freedoms. More short walks, just the two of us. Because they still count.

Just because the “us” time doesn’t look the same as it used to doesn’t mean that it no longer exists.

We just need to embrace the change.

My Favourite Way to Celebrate

It seems my book blog and my personal blog are getting most of my attention these days. And here my poor main blog must be feeling neglected! Do blogs feel neglected? Or do they kind of quietly just go “oh thank goodness she’s left me alone a little”?

Probably…

I’ve been meaning to touch on this topic for almost a month now! On the 19th of February my momma bear turned 60. Instead of a party she chose to celebrate by sponsoring a trip to Port Alfred for the whole family. And there are 12 of us so my mom is like a superhero but better.

I kind of love the way my family is when we’re together because it’s always kind of casual with no expectations. You never feel like you’re about to screw up somehow and earn yourself a spot on the naughty list. It took me a while to figure it out but I have definitely learned that we are kind of lucky.

We’ve done a few “getaway” celebrations over the years. March brings back many honeymoon and anniversary memories for Ty and I. And then of course last year the two of us went to Turkey for (around) my 35th.

So trips instead of parties have kind of been on my mind, lately. Like yeah, this is a thing we should strive to keep doing. Celebrating with exploration. I hope we can manage to keep it up, as a couple as well as as a family.

Thanks Mom (and Dad) for spoiling US for your birthday this year, and for allowing us to have an extra getaway to indulge in for 2018. I hope we do this kind of thing more often in the future, all of us together. Because it was really damn nice! It was nice to just hang out and eat and chat. It was nice to be in a space where there were no expectations. I could nap and read all I wanted. Vanessa could knit her knitting. The boys watched sport or whatever. Folks went for walks and went swimming when they wanted to. Cameras were played with. Many selfies were taken. Games were played. It was glorious.

I love you guys all so much.

 

Dear Friends, You’re Always Welcome Here

For the last couple of weeks India has been on my timeline, and so of course I’ve been thinking about how while I was in India I met the most fantastic couple: Ella & Jack. Silly, I know. In reality we only spent a couple of hours together, exploring the Taj Mahal on Valentine’s Day, but I love those two so much! One of my absolute favourite things about traveling is that there is always something so special about the people I meet while doing it. As someone who spends a lot of time feeling a bit out of place no matter where she is, it’s a big deal for me to ever be in the sort of space where I feel like I (*gasp*) fit in. I do recognize that this is no more or less true within travel circles than it is outside of those circles, but feelings are feelings and the good ones should not be denied.

Of course I have met people from all over, not just in India. Many of you have a special place in my heart and I appreciate the small amount of time that I shared with you out there in the big wide world. I think of you often and wonder after your wellbeing. I find my mind drifts towards a number of you as I get nostalgic about past travels or start making plans towards the next adventure. I find myself wondering if your next adventure is on the horizon, or if you know just how wonderful my little part of the world is. And if you do know, would you considering visiting it? (more…)

Everybody Gets a Strawberry

So last weekend I found myself lucky enough to have an entire day in which there were no kids present and I immediately insisted that my husband take me to Mooihoek Strawberry Farm to pick strawberries. Partly because I really wanted to pick strawberries, but mostly because we were in serious need of getting out of the house and away from real life – just the two of us – and this was a kind of cheap and quick way to do it.

Of course, like mine was, all of your timelines for the last month have been filled with strawberry pickers, so you know what I’m talking about. But I wonder if any of you have marvelled at the success of this exercise the way I have. I actually haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, and quite frankly, being impressed by it all. It was such a great reminder of the power of social media and how so much can be achieved just by offering people an experience. I absolutely LOVED that “picking strawberries” was something both locals and guests of Port Elizabeth could add to their holiday itinerary this year. And I mostly loved that it was such a cost effective and “different” option. Is it weird to be so pleased at the success of someone else? Hmmm….

I think today is the last day that you can get yourself a strawberry or two from Mooihoek, so I have done a terrible job of being an influencer in this regard haha (unless any of you were re-tempted to get your strawberry on by my Instagram Timeline) but I do truly hope that the successes experienced by Mooihoek Strawberry Farm might inspire a few more similar experiences to start popping up around/near The Bay.

And why do I say this? Because what Mooihoek had to offer was doable. It didn’t cost the earth to take your kids out to the farm for an hour or two (petrol and R30 per punnet of self-picked strawberries). And you learn a thing or two while harvesting your own food. Things like “my goodness I really should be more grateful to all the people who are involved in putting food on my table because even though this is kind of fun for an hour it is actually seriously hard work and this hard work is what keeps our nation fed” which is a super important thing to acknowledge. I did also learn that factor 30 is no match for the sun beating down on Hankey… I really should practice being out in the sun more.

Granted I probably should have taken my kids with us like all the other “good” parents we encountered during our visit. You know so they could learn some of these things and pick their own strawberries so that I didn’t have to share… Hopefully this will happen again next year and we will somehow manage to go as a group (my older kids have a job now so they’re never home though!)

I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to have a point in mind when I start writing these posts. I guess the point is this: Sometimes simple is really awesome. And observing the success of something so simple was kind of cool. Inspiring. So much of the awesomeness that our little part of the world provides gives me the warm and fuzzies. This was one of those things.

Did you enjoy your Mooihoek Strawberry farm experience?

Eastern Cape Tourism for the People

A week ago I was sitting in a presentation given by Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism at The Atheneum and feeling kind of friggen excited. You see, there was a lady there called Nopasika Mxunyelwa and she mostly spoke of how their goals were driven towards making tourism more accessible to locals. Of course, she is now one of my favourite people even though she has never met me. Probably I should make an effort to be less of a creeper…

But you see, this particular topic means something to me. In fact it is probably my favourite topic when it comes to tourism. In fact I was having a serious debate about this topic with my non-responsive husband when the man asked me to marry him. I’m still grumpy that he refused to contribute to my ramblings that night!

Like you probably do to, I continuously myself what we can do in terms of weekend getaways that doesn’t require 6 months worth of savings or selling a lung on the black market. Why on earth did I have to fall in love with travel and adventure? It costs so much! Could I not rather have fallen in love with something like taking long walks in the neighborhood and petting strange dogs? You know…something cheap!

So yes, I was happy to hear talk of boosting Eastern Cape Tourism with specific focus on affordability and I see now after popping on to the Visit Eastern Cape website that they spoke of that it’s not just all talk there are some seriously good deals on there.

Tourism really is for everyone, and it pains me that it is so far out of the leagues of many. Perhaps that is something that will slowly start to change.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in our lifetime we start to see a thriving experience-based economy with the power to uplift poorer communities and entice even more visitors to our beautiful province?

Tropical Eden Villas: the perfect place for a winter getaway

It’s Monday again and I’m still contemplating selling my belongings  and moving to a small town between the mountains. Anyone want to buy a thousand books and a really fat cat? Our recent trip to Patensie reminded me that small places don’t have to mean deathly winters, and it was actually quite a pleasant awakening.

When Jonker – Firefly the Travel Guy – fixed me up with Reneé from Tropical Eden Villas, I mentally prepared myself for a cold weekend. Now, a cold weekend I don’t mind – it’s a cold life that worries me a little! Unlike my husband, I am not someone who delights in cold weather, unless I can be tucked away inside, blissfully warm, while the cold rages on at my window, like a noisy reminder of how warm I am.

We got lucky in Patensie with the weather though, it was delightfully warm the entire time we were there. But it didn’t take me long to figure out that even if it was cold, we would have been just fine. The family suite at Tropical Eden Villas is so well kitted out that an indoor braai would help keep us all warm on even the coldest of nights, as well as make for an awesome social setting in even the foulest weather. Yes, we South Africans will braai in the rain if we have to, but it’s really nice to not have to get wet while doing it! Being at Tropical Eden Villas was just so easy. Absolutely everything we could even think of needing was available to us. I could quite happily have just stayed in my sunny bedroom and hibernated for three days!

 

The best part is that we had enough space to do our own thing while still being in each other’s company. And the even better best part was being able to happily let my kids go off for a walk (for as long as they wanted to) without feeling even a small twinge of worry about their wellbeing. Small places…I guess they make you comfortable….

I’d like to extend probably the 100th thank you to Reneé and Jonker for making this weekend possible for us.

The only problem is that I kind of want to move to Patensie now. So…uh…thanks for that…

Take Your Kids to the Countryside

As I said the other day, thanks to Firefly the Travel Guy and his friend Reneé, I’m still dreaming of the relaxing few days we spent at Tropical Eden Villas, nestled between the mountains and orange trees of the Bavianskloof. Now all I want to do is move to the countryside and raise goats and chickens. And turkeys. Because turkeys are magnificent. (Seriously: who needs someone to come and look after their farm? I’m there!)

The five of us spent a three day weekend exploring the roads between home and Patensie, eating way too many ice-creams and far too much braai food. We read books. We played games. We took a thousand photographs. And we had long conversations about really important things. (more…)

Connecting Around the Corner: An Adventure in Patensie

Yes. I’ve just come back from a ridiculously happy-making weekend in Patensie. Of all places. From Istanbul to Patensie? Isn’t that a little weird?

No. Of course it isn’t.

For the compulsive traveller, or for myself at least, the time after a big trip can be a challenge. Since getting home from Turkey in May I have  especially struggled. It’s my fault. I pushed our budget way too far and the post-apocalyptic fallout has been a little heavier than usual. It’s ok, it will get better soon.

The thing is, though, that travel doesn’t have to mean disappearing to far away (and therefore exotic) places. Especially not when you live in a country as diverse as ours. I do know this. So when my son said to me with the most hopeful sincerity, “Mom, I want us to go on a family holiday!” I decided that maybe I could make it happen over a weekend, somewhere close. Because how do you make a much-needed family getaway happen on a tight budget? You go just around the corner!

But where to start? There are so many corners around here! (more…)

Granny Mouse & the Marvelous Coincidence

I mentioned last week that I was lucky enough to be sponsored with some accommodation by AccommoDirect.com which is why my spoilt little butt was able to afford to dash off for a weekend of awesome Hogsback zen and some much needed canoodle time with the husband. Although “afford” is maybe pushing it a bit since I pretty much just charged the whole non-sponsored part of the weekend to my credit card – thank you Standard Bank! (I really should get back to being less irresponsible sometime….)

Anyway, I ended up at Granny Mouse House with the help of Toni who had zero judgement for my very strict adherence to a very low budget when it comes to accommodations. We’re all about the affordability around here – even when we’ve been lucky enough to have someone else picking up the tab! And when affordability and “oh my goodness this place is so lovely” meet then it is totally my favourite thing because that means that whenever one of you lovelies inboxes me for a recommendation then I get to excitedly steer you in the right direction with confidence.

I digress though…

Ty and I arrived at Granny Mouse House on Friday and promptly jumped into bed for a nap because sleep is everything. Madness, perhaps, to give in to sleep so easily instead of exploring immediately, but who knows? Maybe other people do it too? Maybe that bed was so comfortable that we just didn’t have a choice. Also maybe my alergies were acting up so hard I had to slip into an anti-histamine coma for a little while to recover from pollen overload…

Of course we did finally leave the warm coziness of our perfect cottage. We didn’t need to go far for our exploring instincts to kick in because the garden  we found ourselves in was a sight to behold all on its own! And I think that this sort of thing is possibly my favourite thing about exploring. The fact that you don’t always need to go far to be delighted by your surroundings.

And the coincidence? Well, it turned out that Ingrid, aka Granny Mouse, is the daughter of my godfather’s late best friend. A charming reminder, perhaps, that if you do enough exploring, the world becomes a very small place and the universe likes to show off by connecting us together…

Hogsback and Higher Powers

 

When I was about 12, or perhaps 13, my family went on a weekend trip to Hogsback where we got lost and couldn’t find our way home for about four hours after we were ready to be done with hiking. I remember some parts of the trip quite well. I remember the carved hiking sticks sold by entrepreneurs on the streets, and the little clay warthogs painted with white decals. I remember that I wore this little black shorts and t-shirt outfit that my friend Riëtte gave me. I remember that a lot of family closeness was born out of that weekend. I remember that in the midst of trying times we kind of just had this weekend that was so perfect. I remember it as one of the few times in my childhood when I felt content.

And I remember that the word “cool” became “cabbage” in my family that weekend. Because we are seriously just so ridiculously uncool. Yes, all weekend long (and sometimes it happens to this day) anything that could be referred to as “cool” was instead referred to as “cabbage”.

Can you figure out why? (I’ll sit here and *facepalm* while you figure it out) (more…)

A Life Saving Trip to Hlosi Game Lodge

whatsapp-image-2016-11-15-at-12-41-56-pmAt some point in the last two months I entered a competition to win a weekend stay at Hlosi Game Lodge which is situated inside the Amakala Game Reserve just outside of Grahamstown. I don’t remember entering this competition at all due to the fact that my wanderlusty self tends to enter any and all competitions that have anything to do with accommodation these days. Thank goodness for that.

Now I must admit, I was super thrilled to win the competition, but at the same time I was a little overwhelmed. Folks that frequent these places are fancy people. And we’re not fancy people. We’re choose the cheapest option for accommodation on booking.com people. That’s who we are. So going to such a fancy place, while exciting, made me a little anxious, but I have to admit that by the time we arrived at Hlosi I didn’t even care how unfancy we were in the fancy fancy place. I just wanted to crash and be anywhere outside of real life.

And that’s exactly what we got.

Hlosi ran the competition to promote their new tented accommodations. Of course a tent sounds mad, but glamping is fab! (I can’t believe I just typed that)

Hlosi GiraffeEven though it’s just a 40 minute drive from home, Hlosi felt like it was a whole world away and acted as a sort of quiet sanctuary for my tired soul this last weekend. We spent a total of 12 hours (2 morning drives, two evening drives) exploring the Amakala Game Reserve and falling even more in love with this beautiful country of ours. I cannot help but envy travellers who get to come here and experience this all for the first time. Aside from beautiful game drives and spectacular sightings (despite the cold, rain, and wind) we were spoilt with wonderful food, drinks aplenty, and an incredible room overlooking the open veld where wild animals roamed past. We even had a bath with a view!

Look, in real life places like Hlosi are not really an option for us because of severe budget restraints *stifles an uncomfortable giggle* so I am extra grateful for this particular experience. Despite being crazy far out of our league, I will admit that being at Hlosi inspired me even more to step outside of my own doorstep and take in the wonders of right here.

I think perhaps we need to start bringing our adventures in a little closer to home for 2017. 2016 was an incredible year of travel for us but it was a little too indulgent and the credit card is a bit upset right now. We need to figure out how to make these sorts of experiences more doable. If we can figure out how to take trips to strange lands across the world, we can certainly figure out how to enjoy the land right under our feet to the fullest.

Yes. I think we’ll do that.

Pics: #nayesexploreshlosiamakhala