Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Fish and Chips at Hout Bay -Sunday, January 27th, 08

I realize that most of my photos involve people sitting round a table ready to eat. Or else beaches and mountains. More coming.

Brin and Sherida fetched me at around 10 am. It was already blazing hot. I had a swim suit on under my shorts and was eagerly anticipating a swim in the warmer waters on the south-west side of the peninsula. We picked up Sandra, Sherida’s sister, who lives on High Level Road in a flat with an amazing view out over the ocean, and the 4 of us drove out to Hout Bay.

I remembered it as a quiet small village where people used to drive out to for tea on a Sunday afternoon. Then it went through a period of being the “in-“ place to stay and some magnificent homes were built out there. In the last ten years horrendous squatters’ camps have metastasized up the mountainside. Polluted water drains down into the bay and even the water on the beach has an unclean brownish appearance.

The living conditions in these squatters’ areas and in the “townships” just off the main roadways are horrendous – corrugated iron shacks with no running water.. Illegally linked wires tap electricity from the main grid contributing to the major energy crisis. I wonder how many people have been electrocuted just trying to hook up these power lines?

Anyway the drive around the mountain to Hout Bay was as always stunning in the sheer magnificence of mountain and ocean but the wind howled and beat at the bushes and trees. At the beach we went ahead with our plans to go for a long walk but the combination of howling wind and polluted water put an end to any thought of swimming in my mind. What a shame. W ell, we are planning to go to The Boulders and Muizenberg on Wednesday, very early in the morning. Hopefully I will get at least one ocean swim in before I leave.

We were going to drive a way along Chapman’s Peak, another stunningly beautiful drive, but came to a toll road. Apparently there were major rock falls and a tourist was killed a few years ago by a falling rock. So they decided to do preventative work including putting nets up although told that they would be ineffective. The tolls are to pay for this supposedly. So there are signs up warning about the dangers –like we have at home. We decided to turn around and go to the fish and chips place. The fish is called hake- a firm white fish- and again great chips. Ok how can you not eat chips at a fish and chip stand? Hopefully my body will acknowledge the reality of that thought and not maliciously use the chips to re-expand my waistline just as I was back to my pre-travel svelte (really!) state.The heat was quite draining and we drove back to Sea Point . I meant to write a bit but instead fell into a semi-stupor.

Carole had arranged for the Lockitch cousins of our generation who are still living in Cape Town to come over for a light supper. With the present day diaspora, most went to Sydney, Australia (Gerda, Ricky, Judy, Linda and Leslie), then Vancouver (Bob), London (Blanche) and Tel Aviv (Alan). So the cousins in Cape Town are Barry and Brin, Avril and Jeff, and Steve. Apart from Carole and Sherida, the partners were Len, Bev and Celeste. So there were eleven of us around the table. I learned some things about the previous Lockitch generation from Avril. Her mother, Sadie, and her first husband Barney were apparently excellent ballroom dancers, as were Bob’s parents. So that’s where Bob got his great sense of rhythm and loved of dancing from. Who knew?

An “African” Experience - Saturday, January 26th, 08

Maybe it was just the heat but I was not very impressed with any of the wines that I tasted today. I found the white wines, mainly sauvignon blanc and chenin blancs very thin for want of a better word and I am not much of a red wine drinker. So after the second tasting we decided to go back to Sea Point for a rest and shower before driving back to Stellenbosch to Moyo, the restaurant at Spiers.

Brin drove Sherida, Barry, Carole and me out and we met Nathan and Edina who came in their own car. We were seated round a large table outside the main tent in a tree sheltered courtyard, which we appreciated. A breeze kept us reasonably cool.

They have a very extensive buffet with stations identified as fish, salads, venison etc. The meats were very interesting. There were gemsbok steaks, ostrich brochettes, sausages made of game as well as beef, lamb chops, curries: it just went on and on. They served three kinds of bread rolls to start- an onion-coconut topping looked promising but the breads were dry and not very flavourful. The salads were plentiful as were the desserts. I avoided the sweet stuff and thank heavens there was a variety of fruit.

African singers and dancers provided entertainment. They have some one there who paints your face. The pained expression on my face in the picture is because it had just occurred to me that she just dips the brush in the paint and then touches your face with it. No cleaning in between victims. Not very hygienic!

An interesting evening. It was nice to have some time with Nathan and Edina, who is just about at term. Hopefully I will see the new baby before I leave.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A tropical heat wave- Saturday, January 26th, 08

The heat here has been unrelenting with highs over 35 degrees. Fortunately the humidity is not too bad. We had planned to drive out to wine country for some tastings and Carole had booked for dinner at Moyo, an African restaurant at Speirs, one of the large wine farms near Stellenbosch. So the idea was to drive out in the morning and visit a number of wineries before dinner. But in view of the extreme heat we decided that we would drive back into town to shower and change before going out for dinner.

Left around 10 to drive out to Fransch Hoek with the objective of having lunch at a restaurant called Reubens. Carole told me that this was voted the best restaurant in South Africa two years ago. I was skeptical. I googled the list and found it on Eat Out in a list of the top 10 restaurants in SA in 2006. Pretty impressive for a place in a country town of about 13,000 population. But reading further it appears as if Fransch Hoek has made a gourmet name for itself with several top restaurants located there.

I remember when a trip to Stellenbosch or Fransch Hoek was at the very least a week-end outing. Ok I guess I am dating myself! But now the roads are great and it’s about an hour’s drive from Sea Point. So I can see how folks would drive out there for dinner. Carole was not sure if we would be able to get in without a reservation but since it was lunch we thought we would take a chance. The efficient hostess seated us in the courtyard with no delay. A breeze (euphemism) kept the temperature comfortable and thank heavens no one was smoking.

I loved the menu. It’s always great when the descriptions of the food make you want to try everything. I settled for the bluecheese/marscapone (onion?) tart in puff pastry with salad followed by roast yellowtail (another SA fish species) with portato puree and steamed asparagus while Carole started with the warm duck salad with honey-mint-chili dressing. Hmmm…

In no time a platter with a delicious multigrain bread appeared and our appetizers followed shortly. One bite of the tart and my skepticism vanished into the air. It was simply the best food I have had since arriving in SA. I savoured every taste. The blue cheese just melted on the tongue.

The main course was a little less inspiring. Yellowtail is a firm fish a little like tuna but not as firm. It was perfectly cooked, moist and flavourful. The asparagus were also done to perfection. However I was not impressed by the potato puree which was bland and seemingly swimming in oil. The presentation was beautiful as you can see but the oil a bit much. Replete, we debated whether to do some wine tasting. It was very hot! However Carole wanted to show me a wine farm where she and Barry had spent a weekend as a birthday gift from her kids, and really loved it. So off we drove.

We’re having a heat wave -Friday, January 25th, 08

Not much to report other than the heat. Although my dance class started at nine it was already hot. Had a great class- worked on rumba, samba and foxtrot and really felt I was making progress. Took a Rikki back uneventfully

When Carole came back from work we drove around to pick up fish and other groceries and checked out some clothing stores. I am just not a particularly compulsive shopper- nothing much appealed though the prices are good.

We were all tired and spent a quiet evening at home talking and reading. I am now reading Mansfield Park, one of the Jane Austen books I have not read, and not one of her best, in my opinion as far as I have read. I think its because the heroine, Fanny, is such a wimp! She irritates me - in contrast to spunky Elizabeth Bennett. Thats why everyone knows Pride and Prejudice and probably far fewer people read Mansfield Park.

On Broadway - Thursday, January 24th, 08

That evening I asked Barry and Carole to join me at another dinner theatre show downtown. The venue was a club called On Broadway. It’s a long room with a row of tables on a raised dais lining each long wall and many more tables in the central well of the room. We were about three tables back from the raised stage and had an excellent view. The show was called “Strictly Come Jazz”, a play on the title of “Strictly Come Dancing” which is the UK and SA version of our “Dancing with the Stars”.

The food was on a par with the other dinner shows. I had a snoek pate to start. Snoek is a fish which I have only heard about in the South African context. I don’t know whether it is just the local term for a fish that is also found elsewhere. I guess I should google that if I really care!

The show consisted of three singers, two men and a woman with a voice that ranged from a smoky honey timbre to a pure sweet tone. The show was loosely constructed around the idea of audition, production and performance but they could have dropped that idea. It added nothing to the production which consisted of simply choreographed jazz evergreens, beautifully sung by all three performers. Standout songs were Francois Lliam’s “Mack the Knife” and just about everything sung by Monique Hellenberg. The third performer Jaco Norval was also a good singer but seemed to be a trifle distracted by a table of 4 next to us, who may have been friends as they laughed and applauded excessively loudly at everything he did.

I enjoyed the show – the choice of songs was perfect for our generation. They ended with a cheesy shtick of getting three women from the audience to join them “dancing” on stage with ostrich feather boas around their necks. It was tolerable until they played a cha-cha and none of the women had a clue! That finished it off for me. The show would have been good enough without the “audience participation” which turned it into a cheesy non-professional gig. Pity.

Ride into Danger? - Thursday, January 24th, 08

On his way to work, Barry dropped me off at the Scout Hall for my dance class at 9. I was sitting on a bench trying to figure out the cell phone Carole had loaned me when Edwin arrived. He gave me a strict warning about never using the cell phone in the street or in an exposed environment. Apparently it is a very common occurrence that phones will be snatched out of one’s hands. Nice. And I was just beginning to feel a greater sense of security.

After class I phoned for a Rikki to pick me up at Carluccis, just down the road. They said 5 minutes. About 15 minutes later a Rikki pulled up across the road and someone got out. I assumed that this was the one I was waiting for (South African time being what it is) so when he pulled around in front of the restaurant, I got in. I was the only passenger. As we drove off the driver said to me “if your phone rings don’t answer it”. “Why?” says I, suddenly anxious. After Edwin’s dire warnings about always being aware of one’s surroundings had I unwittingly done something foolish and dangerous? Broken some unwritten law of Rikki riding? Was I about to be "taken for a ride" and disappear into the vast unknown beyond the local twenty rand fare zone?

Stopped at a traffic light (robot in SouthAfricaspeak) the gaunt, white haired, sunken eyed driver twisted around and said “I stole a ride, don’t answer your phone.”

So it turned out that he was just dropping the other guy off and saw the opportunity to pick up another passenger and the poor driver who was dispatched to pick me up was now waiting outside Carlucci’s and his fare was gone. I could hear the radio crackling and the voice of the other driver saying "I'm at Carlucci's and there is no one here!"

"Oh dear” I thought, “am I now going to be on some Rikki hotlist of passengers never to be picked up again?”. Fortunately my phone did not ring so I guess I can use the cell phone again to call a Rikki with no fear of retribution. Anyway I was dropped off safely in front of the flat and went inside vowing to be more alert next time.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Catching up on sleep – Wednesday, January 23rd, 08

Caught a Rikki out to Orange Street for my dance lesson at nine. Brin took a day off work and picked me up at the hall. Two hours of very vigorous dance ending with jive, in the Cape Town heat - and I thought I really needed a shower to cool down and re-energise. So after a stop over at the flat we headed back into town to visit the newly enhanced South African Jewish Museum, and the Holocaust Centre. Amidst the photos and documentation of that awful stage of history, what sticks indelibly in the memory are the first hand testimonials of survivors, recorded on video.

From there we drove down to Plein Street to a shop that sells locally manufactured dance shoes and I finally found a pair of shoes that feels comfortable on both the right and left foot. A miracle. And with the conversion from rand to dollar a veritable steal.

Next stop was to check out the surf to see if Brin should get out his board but the sea was not right for that particular day so surfing was off the agenda. We arranged to visit Brin’s little grandchildren whom I had never seen. I collected the books that I got for then the other day as gifts and we drove up the mountainside to their house that has magnificent view of the ocean. Of course the kids were quite adorable.

Since everyone was tired after our late night at Madam Zingara’s, combined with the heat, we all decided a quiet evening was called for. Chatted to Alo on Skype. Have not been able to connect with MJ yet. I finished yet another book on the Sony Reader and had a relatively early night.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Madame Zingara’s – dinner theatre with a difference - Tuesday, Jan 22,08.

So apparently one of the things one MUST do as a tourist in Cape Town at the moment is go to Madame Zingara’s. Newly relocated in a huge tent near the Canal Walk area, this is dinner and a circus-like entertainment. The original restaurant gained fame for its signature dish of Chocolate Chilli Steak. I must say I had my doubts- the combination of chocolate and steak is not something I would routinely fry up at home.

We had to be out there to be seated by 7:30 so we all packed into Brin’s car and took off. The tent I learned seats 420 at capacity although there were about 350 there last night for the show. At each table was a centerpiece which can be seen min the picture. What you cant see clearly is the barbie-doll dressed in little but pasties on the chest, lolling among the apples! Ok leaving the cheesy centerpiece aside, the y had a DJ whose music was absolutely terrific. Fresh from a 2 hour dance lesson I could hardly keep my feet still as the music ranged from a pounding rock beat to a cha-cha and then a romantic ballad style song.

The set menu started with a delicious vegetable cream soup that tasted like roasted red pepper or tomato, antipasto, pasta and then an entrée – one of the choices was the famous chocolate chilli (yes they spell it with 2 lls) steak – which actually was quite an interesting flavour, and then dessert- which I did not eat but seemed to be enjoyed by everyone.

The dinner show was quite good – a lot of aerial work, shapely girls hanging by ankles or wrists from bars and cages and stuff, an incredible pair of strong men with unbelievable muscle control and balance, and an Asian woman who folded her body into the most complex positions. I wondered for about a millisecond whether if I had stretched properly from infancy I could have been able to contort my spine into those shapes- and then I found myself wondering what the incidence of early osteoarthritis is in those performers. The Tons were three large women with voices that matched their girth but they and another featured singer had the place rocking. Good fun. Dance lesson at 9 tomorrow so need to get to bed sson.

No Power - Tuesday, January 22nd, 08

Headlines in this evening’s paper are about a failure of the cable car that takes people to the top of Table Mountain. It seems that, following a power failure, the cars got stuck and it took hours or so to get them moving again. Apparently people were stranded on the mountain overnight. Apart from the obvious scary thing about being trapped in a metal cage 1000 metres or about 3200 ft up in the air, one has to ask the questions –why did the power company not notify the station that they were going to cut the power, and why does the cable station not have back up generators?

Before you think I am totally deranged- after all why would anyone cut the power deliberately?, apparently there is a major crisis with power generating capacity in this country, like the California crisis two years, but here the Government controlled power company, Eskom, apparently has a “Load Shedding” program- talk about euphemisms. What that means is that they just cut power to a part of the city or whatever. And although there is supposed to be advance warning, often the stated times don’t match reality. I am very glad I am not staying in a high rise tower!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Reflections – Tuesday, January 22nd, 08

Time is speeding by – I have already been here 6 days. I decided to take some quiet time so Barry and Carole headed off to work this morning and I sat down with my coffee and my PDA phone list to try to contact old friends who I have not seen for a decade. But before that I finally managed to get through to BA at Cape Town airport, who did not seem at all surprised by my tale of suitcase theft. In fact they have a section for “pilfered” luggage! Sad isn’t it. I wonder if the same thing exists at YVR and Heathrow. Its just that the items stolen were so petty!

Some time to catch up on impressions. One thing that surprised me was how quickly my Afrikaans speaking came back. I was never a great scholar in Afrikaans but on the other hand we started learning it in kindergarten or Grade 1, so I guess those memory patterns get laid down very solidly. Although I find myself occasionally searching for a word, surprisingly the grammatical construction is still there. Still, I am hardly discussing profound philosophical ideas so the words I am scrambling to remember are pretty basic – like laundry or super market. But I think the accent is ok and people seem to understand me.

I see a lot of changes from my last visit here in ’98. At that time the country was very much in transition from the previous socio-political reality and the impressions that I had were of a crowded dirty city with chaotic traffic and crime everywhere. I had come here for my Med School reunion and stayed for a couple of days in a major downtown hotel, before the family arrived to join me. While I was checking in one of the hotel guests staggered through the front door having been mugged a block from the hotel in broad daylight. Today the Sea Point beach front is less crowded and at least during the day I see people jogging by themselves or walking alone carrying purses and shopping bags. Ironically I have just read on the internet about yet another restaurant shooting in Vancouver – so violent crime is a problem everywhere. I certainly do not have the intense sense of insecurity that I remember from my previous visit. In the quiet surroundings of Sea Point it is relatively easy to overlook the staggering crime statistics in the city.

There has been a lot of construction since my last visit. The huge shopping centres would fit right in to the poshest areas in North America. For many things the rand against the dollar makes things very cheap for visitors and I guess for people from Britain and Europe it is an absolute steal. Every time I think how expensive something is I divide by 6 and realize that relative to Vancouver its quite cheap. So a meal for three that comes to 360 rand, very expensive for a local, is only 60 dollars C – not bad at all for the quality.

Anyway, time to have lunch and try to catch a Rikki to my class in Orange Street. Tonight we are going to “Madame Zingara’s (don’t ask!) for dinner. Its supposed to be quite an experience. Will report back later.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Who could ask for anything more? Monday January 21,08

Bookstores and dance class- my idea of bliss. Really - who could ask for anything more?

Barry and I were out on the beach front just before 8 this morning. It was the perfect temperature, warm but not humid, sea breeze. We passed joggers, walkers and people walking their dogs. The sea was that deep violet blue, almost black, that brings to mind Homer’s “wine-red sea” and the surf was crashing against the rocks. We just don’t get that sound of crashing waves in False Creek.

Back for a quick shower and healthy breakfast of –yogurt, fruit and nuts – I really am too predictable. Then off to a children’s bookstore called A for Apple. There are 4 cousins born or on the way and I thought that books were the ideal gifts. So I was shopping for 2 five year old boys, 3 and 2 year old girls and 2 babies. Saw some really interesting books that I have not seen in N.America – with African themes and stories, so I got a few for CJ as well.

Then we went for lunch with Gavin at Pigalle, the 6 star restaurant where he is one of the managers, and busy revamping the wine list. We are planning to come back one evening for dinner and dance there, next week.

Later I was off to a hall in Camps Bay for a dance class. The temperature here today was 33 degrees and although the hall was large and airy it was still very warm. The lesson ended up being two and a half hours. We worked on foxtrot and waltz, then some quickstep and ended up with 15 minutes of jive. I am beginning to feel back to normal – even though it will probably take a few more days to work off the effect of those chips! It’s interesting how much one’s body becomes accustomed to exercise and how lumpish you can feel after missing out on your regimen for a few days.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Paternoster- further up the west coast - Sunday, January 20th, 08

Paternoster - residences on the beach Marvellous beach- freezing water -oh well!

Barry and I were up and off for our beach walk at Langebaan quite early this morning. The wind was not quite as strong morning but for the first part of the walk along the water’s edge the wind was in our faces. There is something about the tang of sea air that is not like any other wind. Maybe it raises vestigial memories of the waters our progenitors emerged from millions of years ago. Have I got my time frame right? I know it’s not 6,000 years – oops, no sarcasm, this is a travelblogue not a polemic on evolution and intelligent design. Anyway for whatever reason, wind blowing off the sea is specially invigorating.

Back to the cottage for coffee and my yogurt, fruit and nuts – a creature of habit, I confess. And then we set off for an hour drive up the coast to visit Paternoster, a fishing village, which, like most of these places is undergoing major development. Ironically, the style of housing is more like the Greek island villas than the Mykonos development we visited yesterday. The beach shown here is at Paternoster.

Now we are back at the cottage and packing up to return to Cape Town. Tonight Brin is cooking his spaghetti Bolognese specialty with a meat sauce to die for! I decided its about time I read the manual for my camera – so ciao till later.

Blow ye winter winds, ye cataracts and hurricanes – Saturday January 19th, 08

The view at Mykonos resort, Langebaan View from the restaurant

Ok I have here neither my copy of Lear nor access to Google but I think that was how he began his rant - sort of. Suffice it to say that the wind on the west cost howls like a banshee. Undeterred however, Barry and I set out early to walk down to the beach and had a brisk invigorating stroll (hmmm… can you stroll briskly? Oxymoron? Oh whatever) - a brisk invigorating stroll along the seemingly endless white sand. It was packed quite firm – a nice smooth hard surface – like a dance floor. Maybe tomorrow my IPOD will accompany me and I can get a nice workout on the beach.

Back to the house for coffee and a bowl of creamy (low-fat) Bulgarian yogurt with fruit and nuts, and then off to visit some of the massive resort developments that have been built in this area. There is a time-share resort/ Casino development called Mykonos, supposedly built in the style of the Greek Islands. Apart from names like the Athene conference centre and the Agora Market it did not look specially Greek to me. No calamari and octopus drying on the roof tops or…

For lunch at the local restaurant I decided to break out of the fish and chips mould and try an ostrich steak. Supposedly the meat is very low in cholesterol. Whether or not that’s true it was an interesting meat, moist, tender and very flavorful. Wonder if they sell ostrich at Urban Fare?

We spent a relaxed afternoon at the cottage. I was restless. Wrote some blogue, studied the bridge book, played some hands on the computer to see if I was absorbing the lessons, did a couple of sudoku and was horrified by the time it took me to complete then so did a couple more; 22 then 16 then 10 minutes, did some logic puzzles, got restless, pulled out my walkman and worked out to the music from Fame – the TV show, and then settled down to read a novel on my Sony reader till it was time to go for dinner.

We went to an old hotel called The Farmhouse hotel which had a highly recommended restaurant. The food was fine. I tried a fish called butterfish which was supposed to be very rich but did not seem so to me.

I ordered a wine blended from gewurtztraminer and a varietal I had not heard of called buttekau or something like that. The wine was good, semi sweet with just enough acidity. Need to look up the varietal when I get back to internet access.

No, you really can’t go home again. Friday Jan18, 08

Good Hope Seminary High School

The exterior of Rosecourt - where it all began

The Scout Hall - dance place

In the area near the Scout Hall were several places of historical import to me and Barry took me on a little tour down memory lane before my dance class.

Good Hope Seminary was the all girls high school I attended for my last two years before matriculation. I was sent to boarding school in standard 9 (the equivalent of grade 11) by my exasperated parents in the hopes that I would forget about being a social butterfly – well I was wild about dancing even then – and once again become the academic star I was before I discovered boys! It worked. There was really nothing else to do at boarding school but study, so during my sojourn at Good Hope my grades improved so much that I made it into UCT Medical School.

The picture of the school building is Good Hope and if my memory serves me right, the windows on the top floor where the dormitories used to be. Bob nearly got me expelled by throwing stones against the window late one night to attract me to the window so we could talk. Unfortunately it was the wrong window and I slept through all the noise, so next day when we were all questioned about the incident I could honestly proclaim total innocence.

The next stop on the tour through memory lane was where I realized Wolfe was right. You can’t go home again. We stopped outside Rosecourt, which, in my teens, was a hall where the local kids used to go to dances. I went there only once against my parents’ wishes as I was just getting over a cold. That was the night I met Bob. I was fifteen. I sometimes used to wonder what would have happened if I had been a more obedient and malleable person and not defied my mother. Would we have met elsewhere? On the beach at Muizenberg, maybe? Anyway I went to the dance at Rosecourt, met Bob there, and by the end of our first date a while later, I knew that was the man I wanted to marry. Six years later when I was half way through medical school and he was working as an engineer, we tied that knot!

So there I was outside Rosecourt, trembling with excitement – (ok I exaggerate) – but anyway hopeful that I could see the hall where we had actually met. We pressed the bell and were invited into the building but it had long ago been remodeled. Only a narrow passage leading up a few steps to what had been the bandstand, remained. Oh well, the memory is filed in my mental archive.

Time for dance lesson number 2. We decided to focus on tango – another dance in which I felt the movement was awkward for me. I made up my mind in advance that I was going to get out of my head and just feel the movement. One of the things I realized about practicing a lot by yourself – although important to learn the steps- is that one anticipates rather than responds, and then one is leading oneself rather than dancing WITH and responding to, one’s partner’s lead. Anyway by the end of the hour I felt as though I was moving like a tango dancer with none of the strained awkwardness I usually feel in this dance. The CBM just came naturally. And the hour finished too fast. I am beginning to understand the theory of relativity!

To get back to the flat I decided to follow Sherida’s advice and call a Rikki. It’s like a small London taxi, with a flat rate of 20 rand within the downtown zone. Twenty minutes later it arrived and I hopped in. After a few minutes even my geographically challenged mind told me we were going in an odd direction but just as I was getting a little uneasy he stopped and a second passenger climbed in. Then I realized that they pick up multiple passengers where possible – that’s how they keep the prices down I guess.

Number 2 passenger turned out to be visiting from Ireland, on his way to spend a year in Australia so we chatted about Cape Town sights and things to see and do in Australia. Then I noticed we were heading over Kloof Nek Road and descending the other side of the mountain with stunning views of the beaches and the intense blue ocean. We picked up passenger 3, a local man who lived in a gated residence high up on the slopes, and then zoomed down to drop off Irishman at Number 4 Beach Clifton. I looked at his fair skin and suggested he use a ton of sunscreen. The sun is quite merciless on those white sand beaches.

Back at the flat, we waited for Carole to return from work and then packed the car to drive to spend the weekend in a holiday house at Langebaan , up the west coast. It took about 2 hours because of weekend traffic.

By the time we got organized it was time for dinner. We drove to Friday Island, another small resataur ant for yet another excellent fish supper. This time I had the Cape Salmon AKA Geelbek (which means yellow mouth) which bears no resemblance to our Pacific or Atlantic Salmon but is a white fish. Yummy. We also polished off a bottle of Chenin Blanc.

Then Carole beat me embarrassingly in a game of Scrabble – I kept getting sets of tiles like ZXQBTCD with nary a vowel in sight. Mind you I did manage ADZE on a double word score but all in all not a shining hour for a woman of many words! I retired to bed in a state of abject humility.

Dance at Last – Thursday, January 17,08

Being away for nearly a month, I was concerned about keeping up my level of fitness and not putting on weight – what with no gym, no dance classes, and having to try all the new and exciting restaurants in Cape Town. I was also concerned about withdrawal symptoms from my growing dance addiction. So being a trained researcher and all that, I used the Internet back in Vancouver, to find a dance instructor in Cape Town who taught international dancing. I found someone that sounded promising and gave Brin his cell phone number. Brin had phoned him a couple of weeks ago to find out where he taught. Edwin had suggested that I call him once I reached Cape Town – and that was the first thought on my mind when I woke up today to bright Cape sunshine. I guess normal people would first think "beach" but not me.

Since 6 am was a mite early to be calling anyone, Barry and I went for a walk along the beach front before coming back to the flat (apartment in Canadaspeak) for breakfast. By just after 9 I reached Edwin by phone and we arranged that I would meet him at the Scout Hall in Orangezicht, one of the two locations where he teaches for an hour lesson at 1:30. Then we would see how it worked out and plan further lessons if it seemed right.

The hall was located in an area of the city which held lots of personal interest for me. On the way to the hall Barry drove me around the steep narrow streets while I tried to retrieve long buried memories of time and place from the poorly annotated archives of my mind. Who knows while you live life that it would be useful 40 years later if you deliberately make mental index cards for your daily activities. More later, with pictures!

So, to Edwin. Imagine intensely serious and bubbly personality all in one, he works with competitive dancers and only teaches private lessons – although he is building a studio where he will offer group classes, I guess. Anyway, we decided to go with the first lesson and then figure out a plan. I had brought the routines for the 8 dances I was working on for the bronze level tests (Waltz, quickstep, slow foxtrot, tango, rumba, cha-cha, samba and jive for the non-dancers among you). We decided to start with rumba. After a cursory glance to see what comprised the routine, he gave back the sheets and said we would be working on dancing, not “a dance”. I took that to mean technique – movement, posture, etc. Just what I wanted, actually.

Within the first 5 minutes I knew that his teaching style was going to be great for me. He uses an interesting mix of metaphor and demonstration to access the mental dance component but is very hands on to access muscle memory. The hour sped by and I realized that he had almost effortlessly got me to move in the way I had been trying to achieve before by copying what I thought I was supposed to do. Yet whereas I had been trying so hard that the end result felt strained, now I simply stopped thinking and just let the music and the movement settle into my body . Bingo - the sense of unnaturalness disappeared. Good teacher, I thought. We set the time for the next class at Friday 10 am.

Carole and Adina (newly wed to Nathan, Carole and Barry’s oldest) fetched me and we headed off to do some shopping for baby stuff first at Access Park (an outlet shop centre) and then at Canal Walk. The latter place has a huge mall with shops ranging from the very elegant to the mundane.Back at the flat as the sun was getting lower, Brin, Sherida and I took off on a “power walk” along the beachfront. This involved brisk walking with stops for push-ups and stepping, in between. It was a beautiful walk but not as energetic as my usual early morning 40 minutes on the elliptical. Guess I am going to have to go the “control the intake” route – bummer!

Then Barry, Carole and I drove down to The Waterfront complex to have supper at the Ocean Basket. They served grilled fish in a pan. The fish here has so far been uniformly good, never overcooked. Darn it- I could not resist the chips. Oh well there is always tomorrow- and I have not stepped on a scale yet so why worry?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Coming Home? Part 2. Wednesday, Jan 16th, 08

After a long walk on the white sand beach, occasionally letting tiny icy wavelets ripple over our bare feet, we met up with surfer dude and headed off to Jimmy’s Restaurant for an excellent lunch. I had grilled calamari and shrimp, and I confess – the chips/fries that were cooked to perfection. SA knows its chips!

Back at the apartment it was time to unpack my suitcase. Hung up clothes, packed things neatly in the drawers and then paused, perplexed. There were three things missing from my bag. Weird! One was my super-duper international adapter which rotated on both sides to make any combination of adaptors for Africa, Asia, Europe or America. I had picked it up on a trip to Hong Kong a few years ago and it had saved me and my laptop in many countries since. Item number two was a hairstyling.brush that I use whenever I wash my hair. I clearly remembered exactly where in the suitcase I packed them in the London hotel. The third item I had not even taken out of my suitcase in London. It was my carefully selected 3 week supply of vitamins. Bizarre. I mentioned this to my sister in law half expecting that I would be scoffed at, but no. Apparently his has been a problem at the airport – items stolen from suitcases. And I was using the special combination lock hat you need for American customs so its not inconceivable that these people have figured out how to open it. But what bizarre things to take. My copy of The History Boys script, signed by Alan Bennett, and my nice CD collection of Ballroom music I acquired in London were left intact. I guess the thieves are not admirers of British Theatre – or ballroom dancers.

I took a walk up to the supermarket with Barry, and thought I might as well pick up some vitamins while I was there. I was told “we keep them locked up because the people steal vitamins”. Hmmmm I thought. Ok.

That evening my three of my nieces and nephews came for dinner so there was a crowd around the table – great to see them specially since it was about 15 years since I had seen Nathan, who had just returned from several years as a Diving Instructor for one of the Caribbean cruise lines.

Tumbled into bed around midnight and slept as soundly as though I was at home in my own bed. Minimal problems with the time change so far. Hope it will be the same when I get back to Canada.

Coming Home? - Wednesday, Jan 16th, 08

Emerging from Customs into the warm slightly humid Cape air, I wondered how I would feel. My first visit to the place of my earliest memories, in almost 10 years – and the first time returning alone to Cape Town. Would there be a sense of returning home? Probably no. Vancouver has been home for a long time now.

But standing at the barrier were my two brothers-in-law, Barry and Brin, whom I have known since I was a teenager, madly in love with their older brother, and Brin’s wife, Sherida – and immediately it felt as if I had never been away. We drove to Barry and Carole’s place, in the same building as Brin and Sherida, with a great view of the ocean, Atlantic Ocean that is. Carole was still at work but the others had taken the day off and we decided to drive out to the Blauberg Strand area so Brin could surf. And we could take a long walk on the beach. For the non-Afrikaans speakers among you, Blauberg means blue mountain and Strand is the word for beach.

I am going to post this now to see whether my photos will load or if I have to compress them.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

BA Club World- a comparison- Tuesday, Jan 15th,08

It was quite interesting to compare the configurations of the seating in Club world with the newly configured seating in the AC Executive Class. Both have seats that recline to fully horizontal and for a petite frame they are quite a comfortable length. While AC has chosen to incline the personal spaces in parallel, BA alternates them sort of like a yin and yang arrangement. Although there is a privacy shield that you can raise between adjoining seats while it is up you are kind of face to face with – if you are traveling alone- a stranger! Luckily my stranger was a very pleasant man from Germany who worked in marine mining – a most interesting topic.

I liked the compartment under the tray and personal video where you could stash a small purse. The earphones provided were the most effective at noise reduction that I have ever had on a plane. Overall I think I would give the BA configuration 8 out of 10 and the AC maybe 6 out of 10 for comfort.

The flight to Cape Town was about 11 and a half hours and I really tried to sleep – but eventually gave up and watched a movie. At just after 6:15 the plane touched down in Cape Town. Immigration was really rapid and I was impressed by the new shiny spacious trolleys for baggage. I waited expectantly at the luggage carousel. My bag had a Priority sticker from Club World and I expected it off fairly quickly – but no. As case after case rolled by and mine did not appear I began to get a bit anxious. Eventually as the cases began to thin out and I was starting to look around for the BA lost luggage counter, mine appeared. But this is not the end of this luggage saga as you will learn later!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

From the BA Lounge – Tuesday January 15th, 08

It will be really interesting to see how the Vancouver Airport-downtown line alters passenger patterns. My transport here from downtown London to Heathrow was really smooth. Taxi arrived promptly at the hotel at the exact time it was ordered. The drive to Paddington took not much more than 16 minutes although the lady cabbie warned that the rain and the traffic may make it take longer.

I already had my return ticket for the Heathrow Express and there was a train almost ready to depart. Fifteen minutes later we were at the Heathrow Central (terminals 1,2,3) and 4 minutes after that I was at Terminal 4.

I had already checked in on line so just dropped my bag off at the Club World bag drop where I picked up a boarding pass. My Fast Track boarding pass got me through the security check in about 5 minutes and 6 minutes after that I was seated in the BA Club World lounge, having a light lunch of cheese and fruit.

The plane leaves at 4:45 and boards at 4:20 so have some time to kill. Ok kids- I confess- actually a few hours to kill. But I had to check out of the hotel by 11 any way and its pouring here again so the airport is as good a place as any to wait out the time.

Signing off from London now. Next communication will be from sunny South Africa

Shopping, Bertorellis and The History Boys – Monday, January 14th,08

Woke again to the sound of howling wind and rain pounding against the window. Hmmmm… not much to tempt me to leave the hotel.

Headed down for a leisurely breakfast (continental included in the room fee). The staff are from everywhere but England – Polish, Russian, Middle Eastern, African.- and very pleasant and efficient. Its not a bad breakfast and the coffee is vastly improved from the last time I stayed here. It’s buffet style. For an extra 6 pounds or so you can have the egg/bacon stuff but the buffet was more than adequate. They had a good plain low fat yogurt, excellent fruit salad than was not all just melons, good cheese selection, and really good croissants and breads.

On the subject of the hotel, my room was a little more spacious though I am not used to sleeping in a single bed any more! Ok I admit I am somewhat spoiled when it comes to luxury accommodations. At home my shower has a numbered control where I can set the water temperature and not worry about it. Here the hot water was scalding (better than icy I guess) but the exact mix was hard to regulate. Under floor heating kept the bathroom floor warm and of course they have heated towel racks.

After breakfast I decided to do some writing and work on the travelblogue

And by noon the rain had stopped, the sun was out albeit tentatively and I headed off down Regent Street to Oxford Street with the real intent of shopping. I am not really an eager shopper but with all the 70% off signs I felt obligated to look.

This visit, at least in the area of London which I was in, I had a general feeling of affluence and well-being. Streets, stores and restaurants were crowded. There was an energetic air. People were walking around with stacks of parcels.

After half-heartedly poking around some of the clothing stores I made my way into the Oxford Street HMV which is supposed to be the largest record store in the world… and it is HUGE. I found a DVD of Talking Heads, the 12 TV shorts written by Alan Bennett but overall the prices even on sale were not that low.

On my way back to the hotel I decided to try the Italian Restaurant round the corner, Bertorellis. Their special entrée was pan-fried duck breast – ok there is a dining pattern here. It was not bad but I think a trifle overcooked.

Then a quick twenty minute walk down to the Wyndham Theatre to see The History Boys. It’s a neat little theatre and I had a seat near the back of the stalls but with a good view. It’s an interesting play with lots to think about education and “passing on” to the next generation. A good chunk of cynicism – the audience reacted loudly when the headmaster talked about “measuring and quantifying and accountability issues”. I guess this is an ongoing discussion everywhere there are schools. It certainly hit a chord with the audience. Probably a bunch of doctors there as well.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Chez Gerard - London food redeemed. Sunday January 13th, 08

Having carefully observed the changing street names I made my way back to the hotel in a record 25 minutes. Part of the reason was that it was really cold and despite my hoodie, the wind made my head ache – like eating ice cream or drinking really cold water too fast!

Decided that this was the night to treat myself to a good meal and Charlotte Street, round the corner from Rathbone has about ten restaurants in two blocks. I liked the look of Chez Gerard. When I walked in and asked for a table for one, the hostess/waitress dubiously warned me that they needed the table by 8:15. Since it was barely 7 I did not think there would be any problem with that!

So I was comfortably seated against the far wall where I could observe the action and eavesdrop on nearby conversations. Now before you leap to judgment about the eavesdropping bit, a very successful writer at a workshop I attended told us she got her best dialogue from overhearing conversations in restaurants and on the street. So I was not being nosy- just hard at work.

Actually the best bit of dialogue I overheard was at a table of 60-somethings, with accents ranging from Australian, South, French and Israeli to very proper English indeed. One of the men with a very audible voice leaned across the table to a small white-haired lady and said “So where did you learn about sex then? They didn’t teach you at school?” My ears pricked up – just my ears – but then I realized they were talking about sex education in schools. Not so interesting after all.

So back to the restaurant which was well laid out and had a pleasant ambience. The tables were nicely spaced so that quiet conversation was possible. They brought a basket of breads which the waiter said were baked in house, and served with a piquant anchovy butter. Really yummy. I was interested to see that they offered wine by the glass in two sizes – you could order a 175 ml or 250 ml glass. I decided on a Rosé from Beaulieu in Provence which was really pleasant.

The service was efficient and the wait staff just attentive enough. Since I live on salmon at home I figured a carnivorous evening would not hurt. Deciding to go authentic French dishes I chose the Terrine of Foie Gras to start (mentally thumbing my nose at the “ban foie gras” food police active in some North American cities) followed by Duck Confit.

I was savouring the last bite of duck when the man at the next table, who had just given his order, asked “So how’s the food?” Fortunately I could reply truthfully that it was excellent. It turned out that he was from Toronto, and an interesting discussion ensued on why the rest of Canada likes to complain about Toronto and on the isolationist tendencies of Vancouverites. He has an art gallery in Toronto about ten minutes walk from Amanda’s apartment which would be interesting to see the next time I visit.

The hostess came to say that she did not need the table after all and to offer me the dessert and coffee menu. So I enjoyed an excellent cup of decaffeinated coffee and a spirited discussion ranging from art, about which I confessed ignorance, to theatre and dance, as well as politics, rights versus responsibilities, and the politics of Africa. Feeling pleasantly satisfied gastronomically, intellectually, and also financially when my hotel card garnered me a 10% discount on the bill, I wandered back round the corner to the hotel to mull over my two theatrical experiences and write my travelblogue.

Then I curled up under the duvet to read the next chapter on my E-Book reader but my eyes kept closing - so to sleep. While the wind howls outside the window I drifted off, no alarm set for tomorrow.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Wifi Times and communications - Sunday Jan 13th, 08

Turns out that when they said 12 to 12 they actually meant noon to noon not midnight to midnight.
So I have to figure out the optimal way to use the internet time. With California being 8 hours behind London and Toronto and New York 5 hours behind it complicates things like using Skype to chat. Will try later anyway.

The Rain is not in Spain, it’s in London today Sunday Jan 13th, 08

Woke at the very respectable hour of 8 am (maybe my jetlag plan is working) to the sound of wind driving rain against the window. My breakfast assignment was for 9:40 so I took my time getting dressed while working through the mechanics of signing up for wifi internet service from my room. The cost is horrendous but then London is extraordinarily expensive – more later about that! They charge 6 pounds an hour or 15 pounds for 24 hours but the 24 hours runs only from 12 to 12. so if you sign up at 11 pm and work to 1 am that’s two separate days. Still 15 pounds does not seem too expensive until you realize that’s about 35 dollars Can. Not the Brits fault that our dollar is less than half the pound, I suppose.

The continental breakfast here was better than I remembered from last time. At least the coffee had some oomph in it. The wait staff are very polite and efficient. I asked for a pot of coffee to bring up to my room while I do some work and it appeared almost instantly. Caught up on my writing and listened to the wind howling. By 11 am the rain ceased, the sun had come out albeit briefly and I decided to see if I could get a ticket for the pm show of The Lion King. By 1:30 I had found my way to the Lyceum near Covent Garden and decided to try a pub lunch. The place was busy which seemed a good sign. Thinking of some of the fantastic sausages I had eaten in France and Italy I ordered the “World Renowned Sausage” special. In retrospect they did not say what it was world renowned for- but it was certainly not worth the cost of the plate, even on special. I thought all those TV chefs had improved the food over here.

The Lyceum Theatre was just down the street. Another of those irritating name changes where you walk down Bow Street, the map shows the theatre is on Bow Street but suddenly the street is called Wellington. You wonder if you missed the theatre but press on and there it is – on Wellington b.k.a Bow.. It is a huge old theatre. I estimated it must hold about 1800 people. There are three levels. This time I had a ticket in the dress circle which was steeply raked so I had a great view of the stage even though high up and quite distant. They had viewing glasses which you could rent for 50p and with those I could see the actors’ faces clearly.

The show was quite spectacular. Even though I remember it from the New York version, the set, costumes, the animal masks and the actor/animals were just as stunning as before. I enjoyed every minute. I will write more about the show in my Rants, Raves and Reviews from London, maybe tomorrow,

Oh Those Street Signs- Saturday, January 12th, 08

I decided to pick up some fruit and go back to the hotel before heading out to the show so called in at Sainsbury to pick up oranges and nuts - loading up on vitamin C and E. On my way I stopped at the Wyndham and picked up a ticket for The History Boys for Monday night.

During my last short stay here two years ago it happened that the theatres I visited, with the exception of The Globe, were clustered around Leicester Square so I had no sense of familiarity with the streets east of Covent Garden. It turned out that the Aldwych where Dirty Dancing is playing is in that area so I studied the theatre map carefully before setting out. It appeared that the quickest way was find Long Acre Street and walk to Drury Lane.

Three problems. It was already quite dark (with a biting wind); I had forgotten how badly the streets were signposted – so you have to crane your neck to read barely legible street names high up on the buildings; the street names change with no warning. So I speed walked down to the intersection where I thought from the map that I would find Long Acre- no luck. I found out next day that it starts out as Cranbourne but that is not shown on the map. So instead of a thirty minute walk it was nearly an hour before I found myself at the theatre. Luckily I had planned to find somewhere to get a sandwich before the show so I had plenty of time.

Saturday night in London. Restaurants, pubs and the streets were jammed full of people. But a couple of blocks away there was a small sandwich shop with seating for about 6 people. Two young men sat at a table against the wall and an older man sat near the window at a table with seating for four. I ordered my sandwich and sat down. Two women came in to ask for directions to the British Museum and the three diners and the counter staff got into an animated discussion of the best route. When the two women had left, I could not resist commenting on the difficulties of navigation with illegible street signs and names that suddenly change. That was the start of an interesting discussion about acting, theatre and films with the older man, who turned out to be an actor with a part in the show, Shadowlands, which was my second choice for Monday night. So my solitary sandwich turned into a pleasant hour before I made my way back to The Aldwych.

The Dirty Dancing musical was quite an experience. I will write more about it later but it was more like a rock concert than a play in that the audience applauded, wolf-whistled at Johnny and booed Robby (the dude who really messed Penny up, man). Anyway the music was great, the dancing phenomenal and despite my lack of sleep I did not yawn once. When I got out it was about 10:30 and I was a bit scared about getting lost again so decided to take the long but safe way back along the Strand to Trafalgar Square, up to Leicester Square and from there I would be familiar with the streets even in the dark. There were masses of people around so I did not feel unsafe but the rain was pelting down and the wind ice. Fortunately I had put on my sweater with a hoodie on under my raincoat . I pulled the hood up and even though I looked like a cross between a drowned rat and a convenience-store robber I did not care. That’s one advantage of being in a city where no one knows you!

I was famished by this time so on my way I stopped at a Hamburger Union and picked up the best hamburger and chips (alias fries) that I have had in ages. Of course in Vancouver I almost never indulge in fast food but hey! I am sure I will walk off the calories. So to bed by midnight and see how the jet lag is tomorrow.

London Transport – Saturday, January 12th, 08

I am impressed. We went into a holding pattern around Heathrow but still landed almost on time. For about ten minutes we circled around. I could see the green crazy patchwork of fields and hedges, like a jigsaw puzzle without any of the round protruding pieces. I had one of those pink fast track folders so went through immigration in about two minutes, my suitcase was out in about five minutes and I was heading down the ramp to catch the Heathrow express which takes you into London in 15 minutes. Cost about 29 pounds for a return ticket. – actually why am I impressed? - that’s about 62 dollars, not cheap

At Paddington I took a cab. Unlike Vancouver the cabbie does not get out and put your case in the car. So I struggled with the suitcase and then more or less collapsed into the cab, backpack weighing me down and purse strangling my neck. The fare should have been about 10 pounds according to the driver. However, like Vancouver t here is street construction everywhere, and when we were stuck in traffic with the meter ticking on towards 12 pounds the driver suggested he drop me on Charing Cross Road and I could walk the rest of the way. So there I was lugging my suitcase, backpack bouncing on my back, purse round my neck… Anyway, my room was ready so I checked in, washed up and after briefly debating the merits of a nap, decided instead to head down to Leicester Square where I picked up a ticket for the 7:30 pm show of Dirty Dancing. I thought if I was to see a show after no sleep in 24 hours it should be something that would keep me awake and my toes tapping. Great choice as it turns out.

The New Executive Seats - Friday January 11th

Packed, downstairs, and chatting to my neighbours while waiting for the cab at 3 pm, I was feeling much more relaxed than my usual bleary-eyed 6 am-to-the-airport-self. The flights to Europe usually seem to be late afternoon so theoretically one should sleep for the nine hours and arrive refreshed and happy, thinking how wonderful the trip was, and book again with the airline for your next trip. Ah, but what about those of us who don’t sleep easily on planes?

Well Air Canada is in the process of revamping its seating in Executive class to create semi-private little cubicle like structures with seats that extend into an almost horizontal position like a bed. On the seating chart for my flight it appeared as if the flight had the old configuration still but when I entered the 767, surprise – it had the new f-angled seating configuration, complete with the personal touch screen video format.

“Great”, I thought, “maybe I will actually sleep on this flight”. The space is obviously much more comfortable than the middle seat in economy on a previous European trip – the one that made me vow “executive class or stay at home!” Settled in, took out my borrowed Sony E-book reader with its 23 books – thank you Michael – and anticipated the 9 hour flight with equanimity.

Decided to break my rule of no alcohol on flights in the hopes that a glass –or two - of wine would knock me out so together with the smoked salmon appetizer, pepper steak entrée and cheese/fruit dessert, I tossed back –hmmmm- I mean savoured a fine Pino Grigio from Italy and a mercifully un-oaked Chardonnay from the Ontario region. My brain felt suitably fuzzy just long enough for the trays to be cleared, the cabin to settle down and the lights to be dimmed. I reclined my seat, pulled the duvet up (yes, they provide a duvet in these personal oases instead of those scratchy blankets) and closed my eyes. Checked my brain – oh-oh – fuzziness gone! Instead of feeling sleepy I was wide awake. How the heck do all those snoring individuals around me do it? Ok I realize its only 8 pm for my body even though according to my watch (reset to London time) its 4 am but still. Time for strategy.

From the dim recesses of my interest in hypnosis and relaxation period, I recalled the techniques I learned. Stilling the mind, counting down the steps to the small private beach with the soft sounds of wavelets caressing the white sand and warm sunshine on my body – nope – immediately started thinking of all the beautiful beaches I had swim off round the world, and of one in particular in Cape Town that I hope to visit this trip.

Ok, plan B. On with the earphones of my IPod on which I had recorded my dance music. A series of slow foxtrot would surely be soothing. I skipped through the jive, chachas and sambas, turned the volume down low – and listened to the beginning strains of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkely Square.” Not smart either. The dance routines I have been working on so intensely took over and my whole body wanted to get up and move to the music. I could just see the headlines in the Sun, or worse, the National Post or Globe and Mail. “Crazy dancing doc forces plane to land at North Pole – says she can’t sit still when there is music playing.” Off with the Ipod.

Ok, admit temporary defeat – watch a movie till its really later Vancouver time. Tried the Jodie Foster revenge movie. Too dark – literally- not a comment on the movie. Then found the Johannson Nanny movie. That was sweet. Then a bit of writing – 9 hours passes slowly- specially when it seems everyone is asleep except you and the flight attendants- and the pilots hopefully.

Numbers, Statistics and other good info- Wednesday January 9th, 08

As my once excellent memory now needs regular tune-ups and then still does not work too well, I found that checking some information from my
last blog of travel to London and France came in quite helpful. I decided it was worth making a few notes for future travel.

Anyway this trip I am the most organized. Actually packed … almost… a day in advance. Remembering the embarrassment of squatting in front of my suitcase on
the floor of Gatwick Airport, trying to squeeze the contents of my backpack into my already jam packed case was not the most positive thought about that last trip. It was just after the big London crisis and the airlines had restricted the size of the one carry on bag allowed, to something about the size of a box of chocolates. Fortunately as I was meditating about carry on baggage there was a ping from my computer and BA informed me that as of now, 2008, two carry on items were being allowed on flights out of Britain. The maximum weight of an individual bag was 23 kgs which sounded like nothing till I realized it was almost 70 lbs. Since my bag of 24 lbs is pretty heavy, I don’t think that weight restriction will bother me much. Checked the carry on size through Heathrow is back to normal.

I checked the forecast for London expecting somehow that it would be colder than Vancouver but the predicted highs for the next few days range from 6 to 11 Celsius and lows from 3 to 9. For the same period here we expect highs of 2 to 8 and lows of 2 to 6. So a grey wet London – I guess I will have to pack an umbrella after all but at least then I won’t need boots that I have to lug with to SA.

I printed out a map of the London Theatres and of the most direct route from my hotel to Leicester Square. How did we manage before the age of the internet? Naturally none of the West End theatres seem to have Sunday shows. Would you not think in a rational world that some theatres would be dark Mondays or Tuesdays so that they can attract a Sunday audience.

Friday, January 4, 2008

This time I'm starting early

It is a few days before I leave to visit London and Cape Town. This trip I decided to be very organized- no frantic packing at the last minute. So I made my list, checked it twice- and began to implement. First thing was to sort out travel arrangements to my hotel in London, and next to check out what shows are on in the West End.

Signed onto the internet and read the headline: Hundreds of thousands of Britons afflicted with 'vomiting virus' . Great l I thought! Four days in Norwalk virus-infested London. Does that mean by the time I get on the plane for the Cape I will be mewling and puking? Sounds positively Shakespearian - but not As I Like It. So hand washing and no thumb sucking as my little grand-child knows when she has been playing outside. Masks? Gloves? Its really hard not to touch surfaces touched by thousands of other hands when you are travelling by train, plane and automobile.

Enough with the bad jokes already. And on to serious matters. Like the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station, cab to the hotel since I do not intend to lug my suitcase on the Tube. Need some pounds since GB is not using the Euro. So I trotted happily up Homer Street to the Thomas Cook Currency Exchange in Pacific Centre- whoops. It is no more. Replaced by Holt Renfrew I guess. So Oakridge is the next possibility.