Friday, 20 May 2016

A Birthday of Note

Happy Birthday Time..... now this is an unfortunate thing that seems to crop up once a year with committed regularity, unless you are like a friend of mine who is a Leap Year baby.

Now I say it crops up once a year which is probably very good any more would be cause for severe problems for my wife Pam.... reason for this; she never has a clue what to get me, and I'm no help because I don't know what I want either, I'm more into experiences than gifts.

So comes along 2016 and Pam has a brilliant idea, lets turn my entire birthday into a bit of time away filled with experiences.... 

This was done in the form of 10 days away in Kwa-Zulu Natal - 8 days at Ballito and 2 days in the Natal Midlands.

So it started with a nice relaxed drive from Johannesburg down to Balitto approximately 615km which should take about 6 hours - we push closer to 8 hours - got to stop and see everything along the way, I think we were dogs in a past life.... got to sniff every blade of grass we pass.

But now to the main event.....We stayed in a stunning rented apartment right on the beach front called Ballito Sands, it couldn't have been better if it tried hard. You get up in the morning wander out onto the balcony with tea and rusks and watch the sun come up and watch the dolphins swimming past or watch the shark net guys out on their boat checking and repairing the shark nets, then off for an early morning walk along the beach before settling down on the beach for a day of sun and swimming.

I must explain something at this point, we go to Ballito during Autumn/Winter as it is a bit cooler than Summer; summer is incredibly humid with temperatures in the 30-35C while Autumn/Winter is about 22-25C.

But back to the birthday:- Pam's gift(s) were in the form of daily vouchers (sometimes 2) for something that I would really like, and the great thing about this is that she could participate with me, so each morning I would receive my voucher for the day to be redeemed that day or at some time in the near future.

My first Voucher

Sunrise from our balcony

Pod of dolphins swimming past
Then it was off for a long walk along the beach to a rocky outcrop to again sit and watch for dolphins, watch the sea birds and maybe have another cup of tea and coffee.
Beach walk - looking back the way we came

Beach walk - where we are going

Beach walk - our destination
Building Cairn's again
When doing our beach walks no matter where in the country we always take along a plastic shopping bag or two and pick up bits of flotsam usually in the form of plastic that we find along the beach - every little bit helps.
Picking up rubbish on the beach

15 April 2016

Dinner at Fiamma - A short walk from our apartment saw us at the Coco De Mer Boutique Hotel and the Fiamma Grill restaurant for the most excellent seafood platter we have ever had.

Seafood Dinner at Fiamma
On one of the nights we also went to another great restaurant for one of my favorite foods ..... Crab!! OMG it was incredible, almost to the point of usurping the famous one and only Singapore Chili Crab

This was our activity pretty much everyday, autumn and winter on the North Coast of Natal is for me probably as close to paradise as I can get, the weather temperature is just right around 25C and the sea water is perfect for swimming at least three times a day.

View of our swimming spot from our balcony
Boardwalk stretching the length of Ballito

Our beach tent with our apartment block in the background

Apartment swimming pool
18 April 2016

on the day of my birthday it was off and onward to the Natal Midlands for 2 nights at Granny Mouses, but not before stopping at the Beverly Hills hotel in Umhlanga for a bit of lunch.

Granny Mouse's is one of THE iconic country houses in South Africa and has long been a place we have had on our bucket, and I can assure it did not in anyway disappoint.
We had originally booked for a garden room, but when they heard it was for my birthday we were upgraded to one of the river gorge view chalets.

Our dinner on the first night was up in the Eaves restaurant, it was a sumptuous d√©gustation menu

Granny Mouse Country House

Granny Mouse Country House - Chapel

Granny Mouse Country House -Surrounds

Granny Mouse Country House -Surrounds

Granny Mouse Country House - "Other Residents"

Granny Mouse Country House

Granny Mouse Country House - Our Chalet

Granny Mouse Country House - "Other Residents" visiting our chalet

Granny Mouse Country House - "Other Residents" visiting our chalet

Granny Mouse Country House - "Other Residents" waiting to see what they can snatch for breakfast

Granny Mouse Country House - from the pool

Granny Mouse Country House - from the pool

Granny Mouse Country House - from the pool

Granny Mouse Country House - breakfast

Granny Mouse Country House - dining room

Lunch at Caversham Mill
On the next day it was off into the Midlands meander for a drive around - that's why its the Midlands meander - you meander from art place to art place and try hard not to buy every bit of art you see, but we did stop off at Ardmore Ceramics where we were given a personal tour of their workshops meeting the artists and then we just had to choose a piece to add to our art collection

Lunch at Caversham Mill
Lunch at Caversham Mill
Finally the holiday came to an end but not before a final stop off at Piggly Wiggly to do some shopping and pick up some beer for me (an excellent 12 pack of craft beer) and some wine for Pam.
Piggly Wiggly to give a bit of background is an awesome little arts and crafts village located in the midlands, with interesting shops and nice eating spots, but above all has the most excellent wine shop that also has to best craft beer selection I have ever seen in one place.

This should read 12 pack, the variety for sale was just too good to only take 6

Piggly Wiggly
But it doesn't end there .... on the way back we stopped off in the town of Howick specifically to visit DragonFire where they make and sell lampwork glass beads, I am going back there to do a short course in lampwork.

And then finally the last two voucher's  are an IOU.

I have a desire to learn chocolate making so I still have one more voucher to go - for a day course at Lindt to get a "taster" for making chocolates and also Macaroons.

And last but not least - The final voucher which we didn't get to do - the weather was just too good to leave the beach and drive inland - is for a zip-line canopy tour, this will happen on the next trip when I go for the lamp-work course

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