Saturday 20 June 2009

The final days

We are currently sitting at OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, waiting for our flight back to Heathrow.

After finishing up in the Western Cape we flew back up here a few days ago. After a last minute cancellation from our hotel in Pretoria we had to quickly rearrange two nights accomodation. We managed a real stroke of luck, finding a house which could be rented by the day (although the location, North of Pretoria, was not as good as the original hotel). Peter's asthma has not been good over the last few weeks and we had to take him to the medical centre at the airport when we arrived for 10minutes on a nebulizer (not a particularly cheap thing in an airport). So when we arrived at our fully equiped three bedroom house with lounge, private garden and full time maid we decided that we would spend a restful couple of days at 'home'. The furthest we managed to venture was to the local shopping mall, 3km away!

After a couple of days we left (much to the relief of the maid who I think was tired of cleaning up after Luke and Joe) and headed down to Johannesburg to visit some friends of ours from Guernsey who now live and work there - and have a 1 year old son (Daniel) who we had not met yet. They had just arrived back from three weeks in Europe and we had delayed our flight back by a couple of days to make sure we could see them. We hade a more active time (but also spent a fair bit of time enjoying their beautiful big garden). The highlight was a trip to a small game reserve where we got up VERY close to lions, giraffes and zebra. We also went to a kids play area at a nearby garden centre which had fairground rids, a train ride, sand pit etc. Earlier this evening Ronald cooked up a lovely Braai for dinner after which we sat out in the sun before we had to head off to the airport.

What a quick 10 months it has been (but looking back at the blog we did squeeze in a pretty good amount). We have a few weeks in Scotland to look forward to before we go back to the world of employment - in Jersey.


Wednesday 17 June 2009

The Western Cape

With the clouds and rain forecast to clear after our first weekend in Cape Town we decided to get up early on Monday morning to head up for the views from Table Mountain. As we drove clear of the highrise buildings of the city we had a crystal clear view of Table Mountain for the first time since we arrived.

The highlight of Table Mountain for the kids is the cable car ride which takes you to the top. Once on top we were pestered with “can we go back down now” from the kids (to which the answer was “do you know how much it cost us to get up here?”). We had a very short walk on top, where it was quite cold, and enjoyed the views down to the City and Harbour before retreating to the cafe for refreshments and riding the cable car back down. We also took a quick drive to Signal Hill,another of the major hills in the city, where we enjoyed more spectacular views and some warm sunshine.

On another day we went out to Melkbosstrand (north of the city) to visit Ann and Rod (Dean's parents). The last time we had visited them was when Nicola was pregnant with Luke. We spent a relaxing day with them at their house and took a little walk down to the nearby beach. Rod and, particularly, Ann are really great with kids and the boys all quickly felt at home. We also saw Ann and Rod again this week when they came out to visit us at our vineyard guesthouse in Stellenbosch where we visited a nearby Cheetahs park and went out for a lovely lunch.

The other highlights of our time in Cape Town were a half-day trip to Robben Island, one time island-prison home of a number of high profile political prisoners (most famously Nelson Mandela), and a road trip down the Western Cape to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. On the road trip we tried to re-create the route we took on our last visit (which wasn't quite possible due to road closures) including a lovely lunch stop in Simonstown and a visit to the African Penguins at Boulders Beach.

When the rain returned again at the weekend we took refuge at the Cape Town Book Fair (which opened on Saturday) where Joe and Luke got to meet Noddy, who gave them lots of free books. Peter, being too old for Noddy, hid at the back of the room and read several Ben 10 books. Peter also bought his favourite Percy Jackson book at the fair (one he has borrowed and read twice before from the library!).

On Saturday afternoon we moved on to a new apartment out in the wine region of Stellenbosch for three nights. We were worried that it might be a disappointment after the beautiful place we had in Cape Town, but while it wasn't quite at the same level it was nice and, best of all, the boys had a bed each. Saturday and Sunday were a washout but on Monday we finally got to see the scenery and managed a couple of decent walks around the vineyard. On our morning walk we were followed by the farm dog which Joe soon named Scrufty. In the afternoon the boys insisted that we try to find Scrufty before we headed out for our walk, but sadly he was nowhere to be seen. Luke suggested that instead we might be able to find a cat to go walking with us (again no luck there). It was a nice place, but next time we hope to visit when the weather is better (and the vines are full of grapes).

Our next stop is Johannesberg/Pretoria and is the last before we head back over to Scotland.

Photos from The Western Cape are here and from Robben Island here.


Tuesday 9 June 2009

Weekend with Hatish and Asha

We spent our first couple of days in Cape Town trying to adjust to the new time zone and as the weather was a bit overcast and wet we had a quiet few days.  We did venture out for a couple of walks, but the weather meant that there was not much to see...Table Mountain was hidden from view behind low clouds.  The highlight of these first few days was a trip to the aquarium, where Luke enjoyed seeing penguin and Peter and Joe were delighted to be able to get close to a shark!

Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny and we felt we had finally recovered from our flight over as we headed off to meet Hatish and Asha (old friends from Guernsey) for the day.  We hadn't seen them since they left Guernsey nearly four years ago, but it felt like we had seen them last week as we spent an hour or so catching up with them at their apartment before heading out to Canal Walk (a huge shopping mall) to browse the shops and have some lunch.  After lunch we took a drive past their new house (which they move into later in the year) before heading to the beach for a walk then going back to catch up some more over a lovely dinner.  

On Sunday we had a walk around central Cape Town in the morning, before heading up to the Rhodes Memorial  for some spectacular views over the city, followed by tea and scones at the tea room.  

After this we decieded to head to the University of Cape Town (UCT) campus for a walk...which nearly went wrong after we started to follow the wrong car out of the car park...luckily we realised after a few minutes and managed to find Hatish and Asha again (which was purely luck!!)...who knows where we would have ended up if we hadn't realised!!  Once we got to UCT we really enjoyed our walk around the campus, which had lovely buildings and some spectacular views over the city.  

On Monday the weather was still clear so we got up early and headed for Table Mountain, we arrived early enough to avoid the queues and the views from the top were as stunning as we remembered from our last visit.  It was quite cool at the top of the mountain so we did a short walk then headed to the cafe for some tea and hot-chocolate to warm us all up again before heading back down.

The temperature at the bottom of the mountain was a lot warmer and when we got down we drove along Signal Hill Drive, which has more amazing views over the city and back towards Table Mountain.  We did another short walk, taking in the views before heading back to our apartment for lunch.

In the afternoon we headed back to the V&A waterfront where the sunshine had brought out the crowds and the street performers so we spent some time wandering around and enjoying the atmosphere.  After picking up some shopping for dinner we headed back to our hotel and then went a walk in the streets around the hotel, which had much more atmosphere now that the sun was shining!  Hatish and Asha came round for dinner after they had finished work.  The boys were all very tired, so after getting Luke and Joe in bed early (and getting Peter to sit and quietly read his book) we managed to have a nice peaceful evening.


Saturday 6 June 2009

Next stop South Africa

We left Perth on Tuesday night, taking to the air just before midnight, for our 12 hour flight to Johannesburg and then on to Cape Town.  Because of the six hour time change we hoped that the late flight would mean the kids would be awake later making the time change less of a shock.  Waiting to board the flight we had to keep prodding Joe to keep him up so that he could board himself whilst Luke was a lost cause.  

Unsurprisingly once on-board Joe's eyes miraculously brightened and he stayed up for an hour chattering away.  There were loads of kids and babies on the flight and the airline had clearly decided that we would all sit together in a kid-zone at the back of the plane, but amazingly there was very little noise until the last hour when there were a couple of screamers.  Our boys slept for most of the flight and played/read happily for the remainder of the time, but by the time we disembarked we were all thoroughly confused by the time (having been served dinner just after midnight (Perth time) and breakfast at 4am (SA time).  As we came down the steps from the plane Peter was his usual hyperactive self pretending to be a Ben-10 alien using his airline eye-mask as a face mask.  To the other passengers it looked like he was wearing a Swine-Flu mask, which caused us some embarrassment!

We had a four hour wait in Johannesburg before boarding our onward flight to Cape Town (during which time we managed another couple of snacks - eating really helps pass the time).  This second flight was only 2 hours and with Luke sleeping for the duration it was very easy again.  

On arrival at Cape Town we were through immigration and customs quickly and our bags soon appeared at luggage collection - nearly there.  There was a slight hiccup at the car hire desk when they handed me the keys to a Ford Fiesta which I quickly pointed out could hardly be described as "intermediate" (as booked) and after pointing to Nicola and the boys standing by our luggage they soon found a Ford Focus for us.

The drive to our hotel in Cape Town was a slight disappointment - normally the drive from the airport provides an amazing view of Table Mountain as the motorway descends towards the city, but cloudy and wet weather completely obscured Table Mountain.  However, when we arrived at our apartment in the city our spirits were quickly lifted.  

Our Bargain hunting had turned up a real gem - our apartment is a lovely modern flat with a large open plan kitchen/living room and two good sized double bedrooms.  Luke is particularly pleased because he not only has his own cot, but there is a large bath in our en-suite.  Nicola is happy that we not only have our own washing maching, but a tumble dryer too (and a wireless internet connection).  For me, having a large freezer is great so I can pick up all of the bargain bin items in the supermarket! (and a wireless internet connection).  Peter and Joseph were delighted to find that there is both a TV and DVD player.

The first couple of days have been marked by jet-lag induced apathy, so we are particularly pleased that the apartment is so nice because we have spent so long here.  The TV was a useful distraction for the boys when they were up at 5am on the first day.  The weather forecast says the weather will improve early next week, and with lots of visiting to look forward to (Hatish and Asha - our friends from Guernsey, and Ann and Rod - Dean's parents) and sights to visit the next week is likely to disappear fast.


Last few days in Perth

Our time in Perth flew past and our last few days were no exception.  We managed to squeeze in a trip to mini-golf, feeding the parrots at the park, a day at the outdoor pool, another trip into the city, a morning walking in Kings Park and lots more time on the beach, a sunset picnic and another fishing trip out on the boat.  Our last couple of days were touched by sadness as Robert's brother John passed away very suddenly which was a great shock for Nancy and Robert.  

We were lucky with the weather while we were in Perth, we had only a couple of days of rain and we spent most of our three weeks in shorts and t-shirts.  The first of June is the official start of winter...we spent the day in 26 degree heat on the beach at Scarborough watching the surfers...not quite the same as winter in the UK then!!

Perth has been one of the highlights of our trip, especially for the boys who loved spending time with Nancy and Robert....since we left we have had to explain quite a few times that we are NOT meeting Nancy and Robert in South Africa...and Joseph informed us that he has two sets of Grandparents in Scotland and a Grandma and Grandpa in Australia!

Some more photos here and here.