Saturday, June 14, 2014

SA day 7: cars, naps, and beef

This morning was the last morning before three more Arizonans arrived to join our happy little party, so we took the day to relax.  When we rented our car, we noticed that the stereo was a little... odd.  It would turn on, and turn down, but you couldn't turn it off, nor could you change the station.  We discovered this morning that when we tried to push a button the whole face plate went "klunk" onto the floor.  Note that it was not designed to be a removable face plate.  I think I saw the transmission when it came off.  So, we decided to return the car in case they would charge it to us. We simply had to breakfast at Woolies, since it was on the way.  This Wooolworths cafe has won awards for its design and innovation, but somehow they can't turn on the heat.  Oh, Africa.  I ordered scones...

Woolie's seriously has the best scones with jam and cream.  After returning the car, we headed home and I started to write out a few blog posts in advance and promptly fell asleep.  I spent the afternoon napping (yay!), and Eric went out for a run (overachiever!).  After waking up, I discovered that the family had had a busy day, and so I offered to make dinner... A traditional South African dinner.  But first I had to hit up Pinterest to figure out what that was...  I think I got myself in over my head.  I settled on making boerewors, a beef sausage with veggies.  Traditionally it is cooked on the brai, but I chose to sautee it.  I think it turned out ok!

I also made a take on the french ham and cheese using a baguette, prosciutto, emmental swiss cheese, and fig jam.  YUMMM.  After dinner, we headed to bed early as the arrival of our friends was early in the morning and we knew the next few days were going to be crazy-town!  

(Sorry for the lack of photos today, somehow naps just aren't photo-worthy)

Tune in tomorrow to hear about how we fought an army of seatbelts in the pouring rain (we lost), High Tea at the Victoria and Albert Hotel, and our lamb burger in Stellenbosch.  

Monday, June 9, 2014

SA day 6: ultra marathons, french food, and the internets

Today dawned as rainy as the previous evening, so our plans to try to make it to Table Mountain (only open when it’s sunny), were thwarted yet again.  However, we did head out to breakfast today at a place called Mugg and Bean.  They have the most enormous muffins!  We each had one and could eat only half.  I greatly appreciate that baked goods here are far less sugary are much more like bread here than in the states. While there we watched the local sporting events on TV… Ultra Marathons.  Welcome to Africa my friends!  Not that I thought I was some kind of bad you-know-what runner before, but I was further humbled to watch two South Africans easily finish first and second in a DOUBLE marathon at nearly exactly the time it took me to run ONE.  And then die. That, my friends, is genetics, oh and training.

Following breakfast we decided to drive to a little French settlement called Franschoek that specializes in (you guessed it) WINE!  Eric loves this trip.  We drove an hour or so through the rain to get there.  You’ll have to excuse the photos, as we couldn’t really pull over to get out of the car, but at one point we were driving right up to a ridge, and it looked as if we would drive off of the end of the world right into a cloud (Like The Gods Must Be Crazy, but with fewer cliffs).

 Upon our arrival the weather was dismal, so we chose to eat at a delightful restaurant wth aan even more delightful view, Roca at Dieu Donna.  The menu is what I would describe as Frrench South African fusion, like springbok risotto, and duck flavored with local spices.

Eric and I shared a meat and tapas platter...

I ordered the besk chicken of my life: Boursin stuffed de-boned chicken on a bed of wild mushroom risotto with sautéed fresh vegetables.

A few of my table mates ordered the prime rib.  AN ENTIRE KILOGRAM OF PRIME RIB.  Not good with conversions?  That’s 2.2 lbs of STEAK!  And they both finished it.  #mancard #winning

After our delicious dinner, those of us who did not eat our weight in meat had room for dessert, and lucky thing we did.  The crème brulee was espresso flavored (I think it’s in my DNA), and it was the best crème brulee I’ve ever had in my life.  It was gone in roughly 37 seconds.  Not really, but it was close to that.

Not only was the food amazing, but the location and views were equally stunning! 

No making fun of my preggo belly! Only 12 weeks to go!

We tried to take our party brandy tasting, but the tasting room was closed.  Just as well, since we opted to take a different scenic route home.  This was the first night that we haven’t had an organized dinner (everyone was still stuffed from our lunch), so the boys took it as an opportunity to tackle the problem of the internet.

Brief aside:  This place is amazing.  It is cosmopolitan, modern, and forward thinking.  But… this is still AFRICA. Laws, infrastructure, social norms… these are just a few of the things that we Americans take for granted that are not so reliable here.  Laws are enforced… kind of.  Infrastructure is there… in a way. And society is still trying to figure itself out after the collapse of the apartheid in the 70s.  Our internet situation is a fantastic example of that.  When we arrived, our hosts had just picked up a router for their wifi (yay!).  Upon plugging it in, there was still no service (boo).  So a new router was purchased, a different kind (yay!), still no signal (boo). We discovered you have to pre-pay for data, so we bought some (yay!), but our speeds were roughly around .01MPS (double boo).  This left them with one real option – buy a giant antenna, and attach it to the house.  Oh yeah, and it needed to be gale-force wind proof.  In a matter of two days this was done (yay!).  We had internet – glorious fast internet for all of… ten minutes (boo). Realizing that fast internet shot the usage through the roof, our hosts will now be paying an exorbitant amount (by American standards) to have enough data to run their business. 

All this to say that this is still a strange place, Africa.  And while I think of this continent as the most ancient of them all (I know that makes ZERO sense, but I’m the math teacher, OK? Not science or history), in so many ways the nations here are just babies, trying to raise themselves without many of the tools they need.  So many people want to swoop in and “fix” the problems here, be it social or economic.  But the fact is, like most things, these issue are vast, and complex and they involve a lot more actual humans than the statistics suggest.

That entire aside is to explain to you why I am 4 days behind on this blog, but am now ultra-grateful, yet again, to have been born into the family and nation that I was.  We have our problems, but all the way from Africa, I’m going to give a big old, “God bless the USA!”

Tune in tomorrow to hear about our breakfast at Woolworths, and how I cooked boerewors (beef sausage stuff) for South Africans and they even ate it. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

SA day 5: laundry, decorating, and pudding

This morning we breakfasted at home – I tried my first rusk! It’s sort of like a biscuit but denser and with all the water sucked out. The idea is that you dip it in your tea or coffee to soften it up.  They are pretty good, as long as you don’t try the muesli flavor – raisins should keep themselves out of baked goods. Period.

Our friends are just getting settled in their new home and the furniture situation was kind of a hodgepodge. 

Just kidding, it was nowhere near that bad, but the layout lacked any real direction or functionality and the walls all lacked pictures.  We spent the morning shoving furniture and rugs about, and deciding where all of the pictures should hang.  It looks so much more like a home.  I'd post a photo, but let's be honest - would YOU want me to post a photo of YOUR living room on the interwebs if we stayed with you?  Didn't think so.

After a long morning of that and laundry (yee-haw!), we decided everyone needed out of the house, so we set off to the nature reserve down the street for tea.  Between the time we left the house and the time we arrived at the nature reserve (roughly 2.78 minutes), the weather had gone from partly cloudy to completely ridiculous with gale force winds.  We ducked into the little café for our tea (or a “tall decaf cappuccino” in my case.  Also can anyone name that movie?) and scones.

After seeing that the weather was getting no better and much worse, we decided to go out for a little stroll in the park before the rain came in earnest.  We saw some lovely flowers…

And snapped a few family moments as well

Here is the view we saw as we drove away – gorgeous!

Just as we arrived home, the rain began to pour down, and it rained steadily for the rest of the evening.  There’s nothing quite like lying down and listening to the rain, especially when it’s a little chilly. *sigh*

Good thing we were all ready for our barbeque! FYI barbeques, both the event and the object are called Brai here.  Odd.  And equally as odd is that everyone here has one… inside.  Yep.  Just like a living room, family room, or kitchen, homes here have a “brai room.”  Rain? Wind? Pitch black outside?  No problem.  I think these South Africans are on to something here. We threw a few shrimp steaks on the barbie brai, and one of our hosts made some cheese and onion toasted sandwiches with some kind of chutney (don’t knock it ‘till you try it!). So we all settled down to our BBQ dinner as the rain and wind howled away. 

There was even a bit of sticky toffee pudding for dessert!

The resulting food coma sent me over the edge and straight to bed!  Tune in tomorrow to hear about how we drove into a cloud, visited “little France,” and how I had the best crème brulee (and worst heartburn – thanks baby boy!), of my life.  Good night for now!

Monday, June 2, 2014

SA day 4: goats, goat cheese, and steak

This morning we slept in until 10AM – glorious vacation!  We even skipped breakfast o that we could be extra hungry for lunch.  We headed out on our drive to Fair View, a vineyard with cheese tasting and a restaurant, basically heaven.  On the way we discovered that our radio was not working but that we had an aux in cable!  Hooray for all of the music we have on our phones!  Oh wait... everything is in the cloud... And we have no data.  So, we were stuck listening to my marathon playlist.  We now know all the words (sounds?) to Gangham Style and also most Pitbull songs.  #forthewin. Aaaaaanyway, Fair View is famous for their goats (and goat cheese! Yum!), and when you drive up to park your car, you are next to the goat enclosure.  And like every good goat enclosure there is a goat tower with a goat ladder.  Obviously. 

(If I were a goat, I would live in this tower, or maybe France - it's a toss up)

I'm actually seriously impressed at their ability to climb their little goat stairs.  But I guess if there are two hay filled goat apartments at stake, I would brave the ladder even if my feet were cloven. And sometimes when life gives you the opportunity, you need to take a selfie with goats in a tower.

Our party did a tasting of 6 wines and 6 cheeses for a grand total of $2.50/person.  Did I mention we are never coming home?  

Our tasting coordinator even let us taste a 2001 Shiraz that is quite famous throughout the country and not on the menu.  It turns out there was only ONE BOTTLE left, and we snapped it right up.  Their next vintage is the 2012, so we feel pretty much like we won the wine lotto.  It’ll be quite enjoyable post baby.  I also think Eric is particularly enjoying this trip, as he ends up handling my share of the tasting due to the fact that I am takin’ care of our little boy. Good thing vineyards are pretty!

After tasting some wine, we headed over to the other side of the room to taste their CHEESE. We even got to taste this…

I declined. I'm not sure who Donald is, but his poor goats...

They did have a France-worthy bread selection...

Cheese, bread, and wine, my three favorite food groups!

After a delightful lunch (pasta in a cream sauce with zucchini and chunks of salami – Mmmmm!), we took a nice drive to the university town of Stellenbosch.  Such a nice little town and great for walking.  We had a bit of gelato, and I realized that I ALWAYS order coffee flavored gelato, and when I don’t I am always disappointed.  And inevitably Eric and I will order the same thing unless we confer beforehand.  Awwwwww! (Ok, you can go vomit now). 

(We asked the lady behind the counter how to say the name of the flavor in the front left of this picture.  She shrugged and said, "I don't know, do I look Italian to you?"  Um, well, not exactly...)

My gelato: Espresso and Biscotti flavored!

While we were walking around we saw this sign...

Apparently Stellenbosch is for steak lovers, alert Ron Burgundy. Also I feel awkward about eating the steak from the national animal.  Poor springboks.

Some beautiful flowers for sale. 

Selling for $0.75/each.  I LOVE South Africa.

And as we drove home, I snapped this shot of our neighborhood – check out those mountains!

After putting our friend’s toddler down for the night, the adults headed out to Bosa restaurant in Sommerset West (the town where we are staying), and ordered dinner.  It was difficult for me to conceive of a Bosa that does not serve exclusively doughnuts, but I did order a delicious pizza that had avocado on top.  And let me just say that the avocados I buy at Fry’s are superior to any I’ve seen here.  Arizona and Mexican food for the win (at least today). Eric also got a delicious treat in the form of a very cheap glass of what is normally outrageously expensive Scotch.  The verdict is that although he loved it, we are still too cheap to buy a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue. 

Tune in tomorrow to hear about laundry (Yay! I won’t really tell you about the laundry I did, but it did eat up a significant chunk of my morning.  Womp womp.), decorating the house (yay for real), the windiest tea I’ve ever had, and how we barbequed.  Indoors.

Goodnight for now!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

SA day 3: rain, more rain, and pudding

Yesterday evening, we all decided (while half asleep) that we should rent an additional car that Eric and I could drive.  There is the small fact that they drive on the wrong side of the road here, and that the cheapest cars have manual transmissions. The manual transmission isn’t an issue, as we drive a manual at home, however absolutely everything, including the location of the gears is flipped. And unless you’ve done it, you have no idea how unnerving it is to turn left on a red light. 

(here we all are packed into one car!)

This morning, Eric headed out to rent our very own VW Polo (like a VW golf, but smaller… lots smaller).  Eric wouldn’t allow me to ride with him in the car until he finished hitting pedestrians more practiced, so I got to ride around with our hosts and tour guides.  Our first stop was Table Mountain, which was closed because of the rain.  Our second stop was a vineyard, which was closed because of the rain.  Our third stop was the beach, which was closed because of the rain (noticing a trend here?).  The sun finally came out long enough for us to lunch on the patio at a place called Michelle’s where I had a croquet monsieur, which reminded me of France.  And at their shop, I saw this…

…Which is not quite what I expected of a margarita. Things are definitely different in South Africa. 

Afterward, we tried to go to Kirstenbosch Gardens.  This is what it should look like

And this is what it looked like instead

Womp womp. We briefly visited the Waterfront shopping area, before heading home to whip up a curry for dinner.  Afterward we indulged in a south African dessert, Malva Pudding, which is a sort of sponge baked pudding with a caramel cream and butter sauce on top…

Verk lekker is what one of our hosts family members calls it.  It’s Afrikaans for “to die for,” and they are right.  The closest thing I’ve had to it in America is like a sticky toffee pudding.  Mmmmmmmmm…. Post dessert we headed right off for bed.

Apologies for the lack of photos today, the weather was dismal but the company was delightful and one of those definitely comes across better via blog.  Tomorrow I shall make up for it, though.  Tune in to hear about how we are now cheese experts (as if I wasn’t before!), how we scored the VERY LAST bottle of a 2001 Shiraz that was voted the best red wine in South Africa, how Eric and I now know every word to Gangham Style and are fluent in Korean (not really, but it feels that way), and how I am incapable of ordering anything but coffee flavored gelato.

Goodnight for now!