By Tilly Smith Dix
Touching base with my roots in South Africa
Visiting South Africa for only one week is a sin as there is so much on offer. However, with limited time and my workload piling up, that’s all the time I had to spend with a close circle of friends and family in February. Of course, living in Aussie, the travel time is not quite a walk in the park but more like that slow boat to China. I tried to take the long flights in my stride and it was pleasurable, thanks to excellent service on Qantas and Emirates.
I did find the seating rather tight on Qantas flying to Johannesburg via Sydney and witnessed the two sibling passengers seated next to me were struggling with leg room as they were tall.
The return from Cape Town to Melbourne via a connecting flight in Dubai, proved more comfortable on Emirates and I have to admit, the food on Emirates is quite delicious, even in cattle class.
Arriving in Johannesburg is always fun as the welcome from the Rainbow Nation employed at OR Tambo International Airport can be a hoot, a reminder why our roots remain dear to us. After much laughter, welcoming banter and the usual gangster-type taxi ride offers, I made my way to the airport Gautrain Station.
Getting my Gautrain card reloaded took about a minute and within five I was on the train to Sandton, which took 15 minutes. Gazing at the late afternoon traffic on the highways made me grateful for not having to drive! This ever-expanding metropolis has traffic congestion and even from the luxe train I could spot mini-bus taxies ignoring traffic rules and blocking intersections.
I could not help but be thankful for the superb public transport system available in Melbourne. No, I’m not trashing my country of origin but to be fair, one always compares cities when travelling. Part of the human condition.
Transferring to the Rosebank Gautrain Station from Sandton was easy once I knew where to go, so, I do suggest signs be more visible for first-time visitors to the Sandton Gautrain Station.
Pictured above, clockwise left to right: Sandton in the rain; view of Forest Town; great friends catching up on Mandela Square, left to right: Caroline Hurry, Carla Antoniazzi, Tilly, Hazel Fouche, Angela Bell and Nicola Chaning Pearce.
My generous friend Anne kindly offered to lend me a spare car during my brief visit as well as accommodation at her lovely home in Forest Town. How lucky could I get? All this as well as great company and loads of laughter – and two cats to welcome me and sleep at my feet.
You’re one in a million, Annie, thank you, it was great spending four nights, three days, and we got some quality time to catch up and enjoy a superb lunch at Reubens in Sandton, where a chef I always referred to as a culinary alchemist, was orchestrating his magic. I worked with Richard Carsten at Lynton Hall in Pennington some years ago.
Our party of four close friends so enjoyed the cuisine, we all vowed to return. Smart move, Reuben, for teaming up with Richard – two maestros do NOT always spoil the broth.
Of course, being in Africa, one is always reminded of the king of the African wild. Listening to the lions roar at nearby Johannesburg Zoo from my room in Anne’s house was somehow comforting, reminding me of my safari getaways to Tau Game Lodge, place of the lion. Once in Cape Town, vistas of Lions Head served as a further reminder…
Pictured above, dining at Reubens Sandton, clockwise from top left: Prawn risotto, salmon and watermelon treat and a rib-eye steak; left to right: Tilly, Anne Whitehead, Daniel and Karen Amorim.
Meeting with a dear friend and colleagues who have become great friends over the years for lunch at Wang Thai on Mandela Square proved a triumph. The food was delicious, the service even better than I remembered, and sitting on the veranda overlooking the cosmopolitan piazza, where you will hear many languages uttered at any given time of day or night brought back comforting memories of my years in this Golden Mile of Africa. How it has grown and evolved…
The modern architecture and skyscrapers of Sandton are impressive and the energy is tangible.
Family time was short and sweet and more memories were made to treasure forever. Lunching with my nephew Jaco and his lovely partner Aderyn made for much hilarity and sharing of family secrets, some of which we discovered were fabricated, which caused further mirth once dissected.
I like ‘hit and run’ visits as I get out before people get sick of me, therefore I’m always invited to return. Highly recommended.
Before I could adjust to the new time zone, it was time to fly to Cape Town with my beautiful sister Rina. Kulula is an obvious, affordable option for travel in South Africa and meeting our eldest sister Lulu, who was flying in from Durban, at Cape Town International Airport was easy and everything was on schedule.
I’d booked a car via Rentalcars.com with Firefly, an affiliate and cheaper option of Hertz. Be prepared for a long walk through the subway at the airport to get to the car rental location. If you have a disability, get the shuttle. However, my sisters, aged 80 and 82, are remarkably fit and welcomed the walk with our luggage on a trolley.
The staff at Firefly were a delight and their efficient service and warmth served as a reminder of the happy years I spent in the Cape. Nowhere in the world do you experience this jolly service. Referring to us cheekily as the three roving beauties and me as the ‘supermodel’ brought plenty mirth into our day – as well as a generous upgrade as ‘women like you should always travel in style.’ How could one fault that?
Arriving at De Waterkant Luxury Holiday Apartment rental office took longer than anticipated as I challenged myself on my memory of the Cape Town ocean-front roads, which, by the way, have improved and changed considerably since my last visit. We finally dropped our luggage at our home for the next two days, 15 Bennet Street, which overlooked the beautiful stadium and Waterfront from the lounge and balcony, with a view of Table Mountain from my bedroom.
The self-contained apartment was stocked with tea, coffee and milk, so, we took a drive to Sea Point to find a late-night store for vital supplies, such as fruit, yoghurt, cheese, biscuits and bread. Friendly, helpful service and some free fruit for the ‘beautiful ladies’ from the shopkeeper had us set for a good night.
The elegant décor got our stamp of approval and the king-size and queen beds made for easy drifting into dreamland to charge our batteries for a full day of driving and exploring the next day.
A fond memory of years ago was awakening to the sound of the foghorn, but with no ocean fog and a mere fluffy table cloth of cloud on the majestic Table Mountain, the horn did not sound its lonely lament. Maybe next time.
Pictured above, clockwise from top left: sisters Rina, Lulu and Tilly; the view from our De Waterkant holiday apartment of Table Mountain; Tilly and Rina on Houtbay Beach; African Cape penguins on Boulders Beach (3 images); Houtbay Harbour, Chapmans Peak Drive; seafood platter at Chapmans Peak Hotel.
The roads were a pleasure and for the first time in many years I managed to drive on the refurbished Chapmans Peak Drive, which should be experienced at least once in a lifetime. One of the most spectacular drives in the world, I had no objection to paying the toll fee as a price cannot be put on maintaining the road of endless vistas of ocean, bays, beaches and spectacular mountains.
The closest I’ve ever come to this kind of beauty has been along the Big Sur Drive in California when travelling between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Chapmans Peak Drive is much shorter but it will take your breath away.
I recall discussions with friends about epic ocean drives of the world, such as the road between Nice and Eze in the South of France. Yes, it is magnificent but I guarantee Chapmans Peak Road will have you equally enthralled.
After a light breakfast, we arranged to meet a relative for lunch at the Chapmans Peak Hotel as he thought we’d enjoy the views of Hout Bay Harbour, which we certainly did.
Our ocean-view drive from Greenpoint went via Sea Point to Bantry Bay, where I lived years ago, on to Clifton and Camps Bay, then we explored Llandudno, before travelling further to Hout Bay. Here, the road winds its way onto Chapmans Peak Drive.
I remember a delightful movie from the 70s, The Dove, based on a true story about a young man who sailed his boat from the US to Cape Town. Who could forget the spectacular view from the yacht over the cool Atlantic Ocean with waves breaking onto the white beaches guarded by the magnificent Chapmans Peak mountains.
Chapmans Peak Drive snakes between Hout Bay and Noordhoek, which has a sublime beach. This long, white beach reminded me of plenty days in the sun and horse riding along that magnificent stretch of beach, which was featured in the classic Ryan’s Daughter film, starring Sarah Miles. So long ago.
Returning to Hout Bay to meet our relative Colin for lunch, we reminisced about fish braais (barbecues) on Llandudno beach in the late seventies, long walks on Noordhoek beach, and delicious Sunday fish lunches overlooking Hout Bay Harbour at the old Red Sails.
When in Rome, or rather, when in the Cape, one should eat fish and it proved a fine choice at the Chapmans Peak Hotel Restaurant. Sitting on the veranda overlooking the Bay, with a fresh ocean breeze to cool us in the shade, was like coming home and all was well with the world.
The fish of the day platter comprised the biggest, most tender calamari rings I’ve ever tasted, king prawns and yellow tail, a favourite of mine. Not fine-dining but good, old-fashioned value for money. Again, the attentive staff, humour and one glass (I was driving after all) of delicious Cape sparkling wine from Stellenbosch was the cherry on the proverbial feast of location, company, and food.
The post-lunch drive to Muizenberg through scenic Constantia Neck was as memorable as I remembered. A perfect day got even better when we stopped to admire the Cape African penguins in their large colonies that have called Boulders Beach their home for many years. Situated on the warmer ocean board of the Indian Ocean, they are thriving and seem to know this location belongs to them as they have no qualms voicing their disgruntlement at being gawked at by humans when they are feeling romantic or strolling around the car park like custodians. Check under your vehicle before you depart, please…
A cold ice-cream wafer, which brought back further happy childhood memories for us all, hit the spot after our walk along the beach. I was tempted to drive to Cape Agulhas, where the two oceans actually meet, but it was getting late and the three musketeer sisters agreed democratically it was time to head to our apartment, put our feet up and enjoy our final night together. The end to a perfect, sunny, magical day, as only the beautiful Cape knows how to charm its way into your cache of special memories.
Having said our bitter-sweet au revoir when I dropped my sisters off at the airport, I headed to Franschhoek, the charming French corner of the Cape Winelands, where my great-great grandmother arrived from Orange in France to marry an established Dutch Settler farmer in the mid-1800s. My treasured friends Bev and Danie have settled there for eventual retirement. Until then, Bev heads up her Sothebys Realty franchise and Danie consults on business, which he knows plenty of after many years in the corporate as well as sports sectors.
True friends are like comfortable shoes you have not walked in for a while. You slip them on and feel you have new journeys to share. We enjoyed some delicious local bubbles at Bev’s local café next door to her office on the Main Street, and that evening we indulged in a superb dinner at Bovine Restaurant, also on the Main Street of the bustling village.
The perfect medium-rare fillet of beef with seasonal veggies hit the mark and the sweet potato fries to share proved addictive but far less detrimental to the hips. Washed down with more delicious Cape sparkling brut, another perfect day came to an end. Dining in the moonlight and being vaguely aware of locals and tourists from all corners of the planet blending amicably like easy cream in this perfect location, surrounded by the dramatic Franschhoek Mountains on a summer’s night, was pure bliss.
Of course, a girl cannot travel, especially minus her husband, without a little retail therapy to further savour the memory. I had already taken care of this tiny detail before dinner, when I popped into Tallulahs to indulge in a cool pink linen dress by Gordon Smith, and Zigi Boutique for cotton linen blend summer trousers. Fabulous fashion is affordable in South Africa, you won’t break the bank, so, take your credit card. You’ll thank me later.
Pictured above from top left: Linen dress by Gordon Smith; Rodan+Fields skin savers; light cotton Zigi pants, ideal for summer travel. See more fashion on Instagram at Sixty_is_the_new_40.
These finds are already proving a hit with my followers on a newly launched Instagram account, Sixty_is_the_new_40 – sometimes one has to invest a little to build a brand. Practising what I preach to my clients, of course…
Flying home to Melbourne was smooth, albeit divided by two long flights from Cape Town to Dubai, then to Melbourne. Emirates and its team did a fine job keeping passengers nourished and comfortable.
A welcome sight was my sweet husband picking me up from the airport, a long drive from our village outside Melbourne, to save me a train and bus trip late at night.
Give me some skin
Looking at my travel-weary face the next day, I applied the Rodan+Fields Micro-Dermabrasion Paste to exfoliate this tired skin, fed it with Redefine Renewing Serum, eye cream and lip balm. It took 10 years off my skin, I kid you not. Thanks, Ashley of R+F Melbourne for gifting me with these skin-savers. You have a fan.
Hope to see those special South African friends I could not catch up with this time on my next trip – you are never forgotten. Perhaps you’d visit me here instead, you won’t be sorry…
Cheers to the good life… love you all stukkend (to bits).