The Rejuvenating Effect of Small Towns

13530793_10157173065070094_1707521580_nI live in Port Elizabeth these days, but up until I was 17 years old I lived in the teeny tiny town of Molteno. Don’t know where that is? No worries, neither does the rest of the country! Maybe it’s just me, but coming from a small town makes it seem weird as hell to go on holiday to a small town. That’s just nuts, man! Holidays? Holidays need bright lights, or something. Or the sea, at least. No?

13522519_10157173066300094_141075267_nLately I must admit to feeling a LOT differently.  Is it age? Is it that the time I lived in Molteno and the time that I have lived in Port Elizabeth are about to become equal? I don’t know…but I’m falling in love with the small towns around our country, and while I don’t think I will easily go back to small town life, I certainly am enjoying indulging in it as a visitor from time to time. There’s beautiful architecture to be found – especially the churches and old municipal buildings. There are quirks. There are sweet people. There are exceptional views. Rolling mountains. Vast plains. Fresh air.  Starry skies beyond your wildest imagination. Silence. *sigh*

It is no wonder that these small places get visitors from city folk so often. This last weekend (gosh it’s already a new weekend and I’m only getting around to this now!) I moseyed on through Jansenville, Graaff Reinet, and Nieu Bethesda and despite their smallness I do kind of wish I had had far more time to take all they have to offer in. They are life and energy of a different sort. They offer sensory pleasures that our cluttered city minds sometimes forget to indulge in. They are a feast for body, soul, and mind.

And I really should make a point to explore all of these little places more often…

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Flamingoes in the Bay

DSCN4658I had a bit of a daft experience last week. Every time I drive back into Port Elizabeth from the Grahamstown side of town I peer through the car window and look longingly into the Cerebos salt pans, searching for flamingoes and wishing I could get a closer look at all those beautiful pink spots and photograph them to my hearts content. After returning from our trip to Port Alfred a couple of weeks ago, the husband and I actually tried to get closer – much to the polite annoyance of the security guard at Kouga – but we failed.

DSCN4681Well, last week when we set out on our little #larteradamsroadtrip I didn’t expect for there to be flamingoes on the menu, but as we drove along the road between Port Elizabeth and Redhouse, we came across the salt pans situated on the side of the road and guess what? FLAMINGOES! And yes, I know maybe it’s silly, but I didn’t know they were there so it was kind of exciting to stumble upon them by accident. Of course, I finally got to photograph them and made an absolute mess of the whole thing because it was really cold and windy outside so I just shot them from the car. Them’s some bland pictures!

It’s ok though. I know they’re there now, and I’m trying to get to know my town better, so I’ll definitely be back there to explore a little more closely. Next time I might even look up some interesting facts to share with the kids so that I don’t have to just point and go “Look at the pretty birdies, guys!”

Flamingoes, you guys!!

It’s so damn cool!

 

Exploration and Good Vibes with the Minis

13467745_10157159166085094_1899616964_oCan I tell you a bit of a parent shame I have? I enjoy being away from the kids. And I really like that Ty and I don’t have any kids together because it kind of means that we get a parent break regularly. These breaks keep me sane. Sure, we miss the kids a little. But it’s a nice missing. It makes the whole “should I have another kid” question super complicated and tough to answer, but that’s a story for some other time.

The thing is, because our children have two families, it tends to be a little too easy for Ty and I to indulge in getting away as a couple – or just staying in as a couple for that matter. We do take the kids with us on a little holiday from time to time – but it’s one of those things that only comes about if timing works out properly. Obviously we don’t like to take away from the kids’ time with their other parents because that wouldn’t be fair, but let’s face it: when it comes to getting away, the biggest reason for leaving the kids behind is that it’s a LOT easier to get the most out of a vacation without them. Setting aside the fact that taking the kids with tends to more than double the costs of getting away, the biggest difficulty when it comes to family travel is that sometimes the kids are assholes. And yeah, I know we’re not supposed to admit that kids are assholes, but they are. And often, after you’ve spent a whole crapton of money that you can’t afford on a family trip that you only sort-of want to take, at least one of them will turn into a sulkmonster (or similar) and kind of spoil the break for everyone. This is a thousand times worse than when they are just being jerks at home. For me, at least. (more…)

Our Two Day Getaway to Port Alfred

-Postcard_of_Die_Boschoek_-20000000009471107-500x375It’s Thursday already and I’m only getting to posting this now. The husband and I decided to spend a night in Port Alfred at The Royal St. Andrews Hotel last weekend. I’m trying to get better at just living life and relaxing a little bit on that whole being permanently stressed about life thing. I’ve slowly been putting together a small fund that is exclusively for “life”. Not real life. Life life. The life part that makes you Keep Passing the Open Windows! Funny how having it has made it easier to be strict on the budget where we need to be strict. I’ve even been spending WAY LESS on books lately, which is beyond miraculous. Granted there are still a few places where I need to learn to curb my spending a little better, but at least I’m getting better at trying.

imageSo! Early Saturday morning (almost on time – yay for saved marriages!) we set off and ambled down The Sunshine Coast, stopping at farm stalls, spending too much money on unnecessary things like koeksisters and cheese. Oops! I’m going to have to do a little work on not doing silly things like that too much if we want to do this kind of thing more often! But, we live and learn, right? Come to think of it though… Koeksisters and cheese actually seem quite necessary…

We discovered the sweetest gems between Port Elizabeth and Port Alfred and it was really nice to just go with the flow. We stopped to stroll through a graveyard (because that’s what normal folks do on adventures, right?) and we drove through those sleepy seaside towns that seem almost dormant during the winter months. We gave some hitchhikers a lift because we really should just do that more often considering we have the space! And yeah yeah before you tell me all about this one movie you watched about hitchhikers this one time, I’ve probably seen it. Plus, aside from the usual CSIs and such, I’ve pretty much watched all the crime shows out there. And read all the books. I’m still picking up the damn hitchhiker when I feel like it though.

imageMy favourite part was when we randomly decided to detour into Alexandria a bit and we came upon Maureen Quin’s Scupture Garden. What a beautiful oasis in the middle of nowhere. And how lovely to be able to witness how someone has so gracefully just dedicated their whole life to their art form. Absolutely gorgeous! Did I mention the word inspiring yet? I should have… *sigh*

-Postcard_of_The_Royal_St_-20000000009471114-500x375Our hotel was lovely, though admittedly we could only afford it because they’re currently running a special. You should check that out. It comes with breakfast. Really really good breakfast. And like all the amenities work and you don’t ever look around and think, “wow I wish I was just a little richer so I could do this travel thing on a tiny bit less of a budget” so that’s a bonus when you’re like us.

I have to admit that even though it was supposed to be a weekend in Port Alfred we didn’t spend any time there! We took all day to get there, first of all. And then napped when we arrived because what else are you supposed to do on a Saturday afternoon? But then on Sunday we kind of drove around a bit and the whole place seemed a bit…well…closed. So we moved on to Bathurst where we had some tea and cake and a mosey through their little Sunday market and then we went home.

It was fun but I think we need to do a do-over sometime soon and take the kids with us!

 

Naps & Books

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After a busy day of checking out what the little towns around the Port Alfred area have to offer the ambling traveller,  Im happy to be snuggled up in my hotel bed, fresh from a nap (husband says you cant have naps after 5pm – pffft!) and ready to get stuck into some coffee and rusks and this little book I brought with me. It was kind of tough to decide what to pack to read for such a short weekend trip, but I reckon I made a good choice. A collection of short stories means that I get to do some decent reading without having to worry that my adventure will steal me from my book or that my book will steal my adventure.

Maintaining real life and book life is a balancing act sometimes,  my friends. Now if I can just get my husband to stop trying to discuss the rugby game with me then my content will be complete…

As for the travelling stuff? Ill tell you about that later!

New Instagramming Material

imageI was glancing through my Instagram this morning and holy monkeys on tree swings there are way too many selfies with cats on there at the moment. So… I’m definitely looking forward to a bit of A Short Road Trip with the husband tomorrow because at least I’ll have some new things to take pictures of. Knowing that I tend to enter all the accommodation competitions that I find, a friend pointed out that The Royal St Andrews Hotel in Port Alfred is having just such a competition so I entered it. Then I thought, oh buggerit I don’t have time to win competitions I need to go somewhere NOW so now we’re going there now. If we win then double yay because we’re going on our Anniversary Road Trip in August so we could use it then.

Anyway: the point is that I’m eager to get a little exploring done between here and Port Alfred over the next two days. I’ve been through Port Alfred on the odd occasion but I’ve never really meandered through it much at all. And to be perfectly honest: we need it. Gosh this real life this is an ass boil sometimes and this last week needs to be lanced!

Now if I can just get this slight little flu tickle to GO AWAY! (read that in Moaning Myrtle’s voice please) then I can move on and get packing and be ready to leave here as early as possible in the morning…

Some of Us are Todos Locos

imageI’m a little on the sleepy side this morning after joining my friend Joe for supper at the new Todos Locos (totally crazy) last night. It’s a Spanish place that serves tapas which I love.  Of course there was wine, but we bypassed the sangria which was wise of us because if we hadn’t I reckon I’d be a little more tender this morning. For those of you who haven’t noticed: Booze + Sugar = Hangover of Note. Sangria is awesome though…. And now I want sangria.

But, folks? Bain Street and Stanley Street have changed! Gosh! My broke ass hasn’t been down there in AGES and nothing looks familiar anymore. I must admit though, my little trip into the out was a godsend. Joe has this way of accidentally swooping in at the last second and restoring my sane. Usually with wine. For this I love her a little extra. A shared bottle of wine and some gorgeous seafood tapas later and my smile has returned. And of course: the best creme brulee I have had in a while! Oh melt my foodie heart!

Sometimes I think gosh do I even have time to entertain/maintain friendships anymore. And then a shared cup of wine or coffee later and I remember: You don’t have time not to maintain friendships, Nadine. They are the spice of life. Especially when you’re lucky enough to have a few good ones in your corner! You know…the ones who know that creme brulee and wine fix everything…

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FYI: Cheap Flights to Vic Falls and Zanzibar

Photo on 2016-05-11 at 11.05 AMI mentioned the other day that I spent pretty much the whole of last weekend trolling various websites while I tried to figure out what kind of travel I would like to indulge in next. I also mentioned that the cheap flights to Zanzibar in August that I had been counting on using to celebrate our anniversary (seven years folks, and we still like each other!) were sold out by the time I was ready to take the plunge and pay for them.

Disappointments aside, I did find out some cool things while I was fiddling and I thought that I would share them with you, even though I won’t be able to take advantage of them myself.

I’d first like to say that I have fallen in love with Fast Jet and I recommend that if you’re a bit like me and are happy to travel just wherever as long as the flights are reasonable, then you should be trolling their page. And no: no one paid me to say it. I legit love them. (That said if there are any Fast Jet marketing folks out there wondering if they could get this dreamy-eyed travel blogger to say nice things about them in exchange for payment then the answer is yes yes yes a thousand times yes!) (more…)

Travel Plans and Crazy Schemes

Anniversary Road Trip

I’m not even kidding a little if I tell you that over the weekend, in an attempt to get a little better at this whole travel thing,  I spent about 15 hours fiddling on flight and hotel apps. I’m 97% sure that I did nothing else over the weekend actually. I watched….something. What was it? Oh yes… The whole of the IT Crowd series. It’s funny. When you pay attention between apps.

You see….

I made the decision this year that my salary (and it is not a big one) is now exclusively travel money. I am paying for absolutely nothing in this house. Nought. Nada. No.

That sounds terrible.

But…

We love to travel.

So. We decided that if we can make Ty’s salary work hard enough to cover “life” then my income can be used exclusively for fun. It’s hard. But we’re making it work.

Anyway,, my new “rule” is that whenever I pay off my credit card I’m allowed to buy flights to somewhere. We are trying to keep flight costs under 10k per person (not so easy when you have to add PE- JHB flights to any international flight) but we are determined to live the life that we want to live instead of constantly making excuses for why we can’t have what we want.

I had big plans to take us to Zanzibar for our Seven Year Anniversary this year (gotta combat that seven year itch!) and I had even found us super cheap flights on Fast Jet which I was more than excited about. But I didn’t want to get the tickets before I’d managed to properly pay off my credit card. Well, it’s almost done, but when I checked for tickets on my very specific dates, I discovered that the flights I was planning to use were full.

DEVASTATION!

This has been on my mind for a month. All the scheming. All the figuring out how to make it work. All the eating of lentils and chickpeas and turning down invitations for drinks because “I’m saving for a trip”. GAH!

Ok fine. Try other dates. Nope. Nothing around our anniversary works. At least not in the kind of time-efficient way that you need to employ in order to make the best of the husband’s leave.

So…

I decided to give my credit card a tiny little break and we are going to celebrate our first 7 years together with a long as hell road trip from POrt Elizabeth to Mozambique and back.

Why?

Because the bug has bitten, babies. And it’s not leaving any time soon.

 

The Hometown Tourist

imageI mentioned in one of my less controversial previous posts that on Freedom Day last week (It was last week, right?) my family and I went to an Instameet at the South End Museum, hosted by Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism. What I may have neglected to mention is that while I was at the museum, I realised that I know absolutely nothing about Port Elizabeth’s history. I grew up in Molteno, a small town about 400kms from here inbetween the mountains, and I vaguely remember learning a few things about coal and jewellery stores and artists and Dr. Lomax or something at school. I’m pretty sure that our education on our town’s history was solid, even if I don’t remember much of it. If I learned anything about Port Elizabeth during my years as a scholar I certainly can’t remember what it was. Now, I realise that I am the worst when it comes to history in general. I know nothing! My brain barely retains even the smallest of historical “facts”. But it seems a little sad that I know so little about the place I call home these days. Despite my hate for history at school, as a traveller I love learning about the places I visit as told by friendly tour guides and visitors’ booklets (why is it that as an adult learning is so much easier to love and yet so much harder to do?) and just from general ambling around new places. And so I thought to myself, I should probably make an effort to learn a few things about here, especially since here is where I spend most of my time.

And you see… This is why I kind of believe in the synchronicty that Julia Cameron speaks of in her books. As soon as you open yourself up to the idea of something, the Universe takes a step towards you and closes the gap. Yeah yeah, I know it’s a flighty sentiment, but damn folks, life is hard with spikes and double-edges swords.

What I didn’t know about the Instameet that we had at the museum included a hashtagged photo sharing competition to win a couple of Nelson Mandela Bay Passes. Of course I added the usual #sharethebay tag to my photographs because that’s what we were doing, and ended up winning myself two passes for my photograph entitled The Littlest Photographer. (more…)

Three Instameets in a Week

imageAs I mentioned in the previous post, last Sunday the husband and I decided to go to the Colours of You instameet in Govan Mbeki, and then on Wednesday we found ourselves at an instameet organised by Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism at the South End Museum. Well, yesterday we ended up at a third instameet at Baywest Mall with the City of PE folk because we somehow stumbled across an RNews article about how using the #OhSnapBaywest tag will lead to one lucky instagrammer winning themselves a EOS 100D Canon for their efforts. I have to admit that’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a mall (unless you count the one time I went a little nutsy in a bookstore and when I got to the counter to pay the guy I was dating at the time pulled out his credit card and paid for all of it) and it was good to mingle with yet another completely different group of instagrammers (am I supposed to be calling the – us – igers?) Clearly this town has way more artists milling around than I ever considered. I’m really feeling kind of inspired to explore even more of my own city. I admit I’m kind of bad at that, usually. I tend towards being a bit of a shut in some(most)times, expecially now that I am taking saving money for international travel even more seriously than before. But I am starting to realise that you don’t have to spend ridiculous amounts of money in order to enjoy the spaces around you. Silly that I already know this when I’m away from town. How come I don’t know it about being at home? Hmmmm…. Perhaps the hubby and I should go off and do our own instameet a little later… It’s ok to be addicted to taking pictures, right?

On Instameetings

imageSo I need to stop starting blog posts with the word “so” but it’s really hard…so for this one I’m not going to. Instead I’m just going to get straight into it and tell you a bit about the new little piece of happiness that I accidentally found.

When we went to India earlier this year I admitted to my husband that as far as social media goes, Instagram is by far my favourite platform. A bit strange perhaps as I haven’t been Instagramming for that long, but for the short while that I have been, I’ve really been enjoying it.

You see, for me, Instagram seems to be this beautiful place of positivity. Every time I post a picture of my cat, the “likes” I get seem to say “Oh wow, I’m so happy for you that you’re having a happy moment with your cat!” and if I post a picture of something that has caught my eye, a flower perhaps, the likes seem to say “Oh wow, I’m so glad that for a moment in your day you stopped to observe and appreciate something beautiful”. If I’m travelling somewhere, the likes seem to say “oh wow I’m so happy that you’re doing what you love”, and if I post a picture of my child, the likes tell me “Yes, motherhood has so many wonderful moments”.

imagePerhaps this makes me silly. Perhaps this makes me a bit of an attention hog, or something negative, but I absolutely cannot help but feel that Instagram is this place where all the social media love goes. I do realise that is a bit of a lofty, airy-fairy ideal, but the thought of it makes me happy. And, the thing is, whenever I tap on that little heart, what  am really saying is “That’s lovely! I am so happy for you!”

Last week my friend Marion invited me to a Colours of You Instameet happening in the CBD which took place on Sunday. I admit I was a little intimidated because honestly I have always struggled to exercise any sort of creativity within a group. That coupled with the idea of trying to be creative with my three kids around me? Ha! You must be joking!! Creativity must be saved for when they are nowhere to be found. I haven’t learned to balance family life with art. Be creative? In public? Ha! I’ll just come along and watch.

imageWell, I found myself nestled between this group of beautiful people, all filled with art and beauty, and I have to admit this kind of thing can feel like a relief to people like me. What an incredible opportunity to mingle with all sorts of different people. I did spend a LOT of time making sure that my kid didn’t just dart off into the road and get run over by a car, but even though my momness was on full alert, my arty happy person got to peek out a little too. And it was glorious.

The best part: my kids loved it! Do you know how hard I have been trying to get these kids to lose themselves in creativity? I have no ide ahow to inspire it. I fail at this every single time I try! And yet there they were, just plodding along, photographing any old thing like it was nothing.

I don’t know how to say thank you for that.

imageToday we went on another Instameet. It was a different group of people this time, and while much of the vibe was a little different to the raw creative energy of the Colours of You meet, the positive effect remained the same. We met at the South End Museum – a place I have never actually wandered through before – and we got to mingle with each other while taking photographs and having a few laughs and giggles.

Some things are just good for your soul. I’ve been looking for something to replace the hole that dancing left in my life for the last eight years. It might be a little early, but I can’t help but think I might have found it.

Is that silly? I hope not…