Road Trip: Route 62 – Wine and Roses

The “longest wine route in the world”, otherwise known as the Route 62 is known for its delicious wines and brandies. Route 62 meanders through incredible rock formations and narrow mountain passes

The second part of my trip to South Africa in 2008 was to drive along the Garden Route and visit Addo Elephant Park – well at least it used to be an elephant park, but there is so much more there now including lions. As I never like to do the same journey there and back I decided that on the outward journey we would drive through the Klein (Little) Karoo along Route 62 and then at Oudtshoorn make for George via the Outeniqua Pass. I always think that the Garden Route really only starts at George and ends at Storm River, although this is hotly disputed and some say it starts at Heidelberg. We would do that stretch twice, but stop in different areas on the way.

Leaving Cape Town

After another great breakfast and leaving the Cape Peninsula behind us we headed for the N1 towards Paarl, getting stuck in two traffic jams on the way. As we limped past Century City (don’t go there) I vaguely wondered about bypassing the Huguenot tunnel, a toll road through the Klein Drakenstein (Little Dragon Stone) mountains, and drive instead on the R301 up to Wellington and then across the R303 through Bain’s Kloof Pass to Breerivier and then the R43 back towards the N1 at Worcester.

This is a route that I have done several times before, including on my previous visit to the Cape in 2000 and it is one of the most picturesque passes in the Cape. I may be biased as I find most routes in the Cape to be pretty impressive, but this is undeniably scenic following the Witte River with rapids and rock pools where you can bathe and picnic by the side of waterfalls.

However, I had never driven through the tunnel before as this wasn’t built when I lived in the Cape and the usual way out was up and over Du Toitskloof Pass which was often very unstable with regular rockfalls and incredibly scary at night. Given the amount of driving that we had to do and the time already lost in the traffic jams, we decided to use the tunnel. It is a fine tunnel, as tunnels go, and we quickly  emerged at the other side to some incredible views over the Breede River valley and the Hex River Mountains in the background.

(Apologies for the poor quality of some of these images, but they were taken through an increasingly dirty windscreen)Breede-Valley

Valley of Wine and Roses

We stopped off at the Worcester Ultra City to fill up and then left the N1 (so unfortunately missed the Hex River Valley, another stunning area especially in the autumn for the colours of the vineyards) and followed the N15 to Robertson.

kogmans-kloof (One important fact about driving in South Africa is that you have to pay cash at filling stations – they do not take cards. A very nice aspect though is that you get excellent service, someone fills up the car, your windows get cleaned and they  will even check oil and tyres for you! All for a few Rands as a tip. I must admit though that I was nervous about carrying large amounts of cash with us, so I tended to fill up quite often to avoid this.)

Driving to Robertson was a surprise as there are now a plethora of wineries, and it is known as the valley of wine and roses. I hadn’t realised that there were so many vineyards, including Graham Beck, as I remembered it as mainly for fruit-growing. Yes I know, grapes are fruit, but I was thinking of orchards. wineries-nr-robertson

Klein Karoo

Leaving Robertson towards Ashton and Montague we hit Route 62 and followed this to Ladismith at the foot of the Klein Swartberg range where we stopped for coffee. In fact as you drive into the town, you feel as though you are driving straight into the Towerkop (Bewitch Peak) which is famous for its cleft peak!

Ashton
Ashton

(Another driving fact – watch out for speed cameras! I never saw any on this trip, but there were many times when I wasn’t sure of the speed limit as signage is not always very prominent. On my return to the UK I had collected 3 speeding tickets! I have never had one in the UK so I was not expecting them in rural areas. According to ‘Seth Efrikan’ legend you generally pay more for the speeding tickets and toll roads than you do for your holiday!)

Toverkop-from-Ladismith
Ladismith and Towerkop in the background

From Ladismith it is onwards to Zoar and Calitzdorp. There is lovely Victorian and Edwardian architecture in Calitzdorp and several wine cellars. Near Zoar is an interesting place called Ronnie’s Sex Shop –

Ronnie painted the name Ronnie’s Shop on a cottage next to the R62, planning to open a farm stall to sell fresh produce and fruit. His friends played a prank on him by changing the name to Ronnie’s Sex Shop. Initially angry about the involuntary name change, Ronnie left the name and continued fixing the dilapidated building. His friends would stop by for a chat, having a few beers and throwing a couple of chops on the fire. During one of these evenings, someone suggested: “Why don’t you just open a pub?”

Now it is a pitstop for visitors from all over the world as well as local farmers – to be honest there is very little else on this road to stop at! We were doing this drive in the South African autumn but it was still rather warm so thank goodness for air con! I have driven through here in the mid summer when temperatures rise to 40 C and no air con – and it does get extremely hot! Once, long ago, I went through here in a VW kombi (campervan) and being air-cooled – well, yes, you see the problem – hot air does not make a very efficient cooling system and we broke down several times en route having to wait (in baking heat) at the side of the road until the van had recovered sufficiently to carry on a bit further. Very annoying in the days when petrol stations closed at 6 pm because of the oil shortage.

Ostriches

After Calitzdorp comes Oudtshoorn, the largest town in the Klein Karoo and famous for Ostrich farms and the Cango Caves. Well, it is supposedly famous for ostrich, but we didn’t see a single one! Even when we passed the Safari show farm on the way out of town – not one ostrich to be seen. Oudtshoorn is completely surrounded by mountains so whichever way you approach it is quite stunning. Another place to stay overnight but not on this occasion. We continued along the R62 to Zebra (and annoyingly once again I didn’t manage to get a photo of the building on the side of the road which is painted with zebra stripes), in fact that is the only building I have ever seen in Zebra!

cottage-near-montagu
Cottage nr Montague

Outeniqua Pass

Finally we left the R62  (N12) and went into the Outeniqua mountains, still the N12 / N9, and through the Outeniqua Pass. Unfortunately for us, clouds and thick fog had formed over the mountains and the views were not as striking as they can be in clear weather, but dramatic all the same. We wound our way down the serpentine curves to the town of George and the coast, silenced by the breathtaking mountains surrounding us. cloud-in-the-outeniqua b&w Route 62 may not be the quickest way to reach the Garden Route, but it beats the N2 any day if you have the time. I just want to do it again only with time to linger longer in the towns of the Klein Karoo, so I guess I shall be back.

Victorian-architecture-Geor
George

Road Trip: Cape Town to Hermanus

 

Distance: 280 km via Muizenberg, False Bay, Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay, Hermanus, Botrivier and Sir Lowry’s Pass. Time: 4 hours without stopping

On our final day in Cape Town we decided to drive around the False Bay coast eastwards to Betty’s Bay and on to Hermanus (a good spot in the winter months for whale watching from land) and it turned out to be one of the best drives of the trip. Our first stop was in Muizenberg where I had lived for several years in the 1970s and 1980s well before it went through a period of crime and deprivation which almost ruined it. P1110194 Now it appears to be on the up with lots of investment in the region including new housing developments around the village and the beach which is very popular with surfers and the longest and most spectacular in the peninsula.

Muizenberg
Muizenberg

Even the iconic Victorian beach huts have been spruced up and rearranged into uniform lines so hopefully tourists will be encouraged back here. And although it lacks the turquoise waters and dramatic boulders of Clifton or Llandudno it is one of the best beaches in the peninsula with its sugar soft white sand dunes to the eastern edge and child-friendly rock pools to the west and warm waters to swim or body-surf in. Wandering around this little village you will see examples of Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco architecture. The lovely Edwardian-era red-brick railway station which opened in 1913  with its arched sandstone entrances and beautiful teak clock tower is reminiscent of the golden days of Muizenberg. 310 Begin the trip by driving eastwards along Baden-Powell Drive (the R310) towards the Strand following closely the shoreline of False Bay, another amazing drive as sea-spray and sand blow over the road you are that close to the ocean. One that is often overlooked by visitors, believing that Chapman’s Peak Drive is the only one to do.

Baden Powell Drive is one of those areas ‘highly vulnerable’ to a rise in sea level with the advent of climate change. Even now it is regularly blocked by blowing sand and the city may well decide in the near future that it can no longer afford to maintain the road, and to reinstate a dune system here. So drive it whilst you can.

Stop at Gordon’s Bay, which huddles beneath the sheer mountains of the Helderberg (formerly known as the Hottentots-Holland range) that provide shelter for the bay, to check the views back towards the other side. It is a busy summer destination with Bikini Beach popular with the younger population who want to play volleyball, sunbathe and surf. The sea temperature is warmer here and the main beach is safe for swimming and has sheltered rock pools for exploring.You’ll know when you’ve entered Beach Road – the sea will be on one side and the retro character of the town on the other. It’s lined with little shops and cafés – not the trendy sort you’ll find in Camps Bay, but old seaside-village types oozing home-grown character.

Kogelbaai
Kogelbaai on R44

Continue along the R44 (Clarence Drive) where around the corner you will find Kogel Bay (Cool Bay) which is essentially a surfers beach but has a long stretch of white sand and a couple of exciting caves. This scenic coastal road meanders between Gordon’s Bay and Betty’s Bay offering some of the best designated whale watching spots on the coast and magnificent views over the bay to Cape Point. Pass through tiny Rooiels and Pringle Bay, a little seaside village nestled at the foot of the Hangklip Mountain, which is very secluded and unspoilt. The Hangklip marks the south-eastern point of False Bay and is about an hours drive from Cape Town. There are also many hiking trails through the Kogelberg Nature Reserve.

Stony Point
Stony Point, Betty’s Bay

At Betty’s Bay, another picturesque village positioned in a narrow strip of land between the Kogelberg Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, you will find the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens. From October to February you will find a glorious array of gladioli, watsonias and rare red disas on display. There is another smaller colony of African penguins at Stony Point, Betty’s Bay and the remnants of an old whaling station.

Stony Point
The Old Whaling Station at Stony Point, Betty’s Bay

Further on you come to Kleinmond which lies on a lagoon at the small mouth of the Bot River between the Palmiet Mountains and the Atlantic. It is another quiet place offering good walking, hiking and bird-watching activities. Now take the R43 through Vermont, to Hermanus our destination. We parked in the Square in Hermanus and had a wander around this lovely little town which is quite charming though no longer the quiet fisherman’s village it once was. Hermanus is often described as the ‘Riviera of the South’ with its mild climate and is a popular weekend destination for the residents of Cape Town.

Old Harbour Hermanus
Old Harbour Hermanus

Make sure you get a parking ticket from the meter inspector, who you will find walking about somewhere in the area, to avoid a parking fine. There are no self-ticket machines.

The Old Harbour complex offers an insight into its past and where you will find Bientang’s Cave, a restaurant on the shores of Walker Bay serving seafood only. It really is in a cave. July is the best time to see the Southern Right Whale as they frolic in Walker Bay in easy view of the cliff path and during the summer months the white sandy beaches, such as Grotto beach, are filled with holiday makers enjoying the sunny weather. And if you want to partake in white shark cage diving then carry on to Gansbaai around the bay.

Further on is Cape Agulhas the most southerly point of Africa and officially the point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. This point is about a 2 hours direct drive from Cape Town.

We headed back along the R43 from Hermanus up to Botrivier, a small picturesque village with a lagoon and wetlands; then we joined the N2 over the Helderberg (Clear Mountain) back to Cape Town. Stop off at the viewpoint at the summit of  ‘Sir Lowry’s Pass’ (420m) for a bird’s eye view of False Bay and across the Cape Flats to Table Mountain, but keep an eye out for the sign as you have to turn left off the road almost immediately, it is very easy to miss the turn-off.

You may see baboons here, but whatever you do, do not feed them, and it’s also used as a paragliding jump point. Watch them drift languorously to the coast below you.

Kite Surfing
Kite Surfing at Sunset Beach, Muizenberg, False Bay

You can continue along the N2 past the international airport all the way to the city, but we returned along the Baden-Powell Drive to make one last stop at Sunrise Beach near Muizenberg to watch people kite-surfing in the late evening sunlight. From here you can easily return to Cape Town along the M3.

Cape Town: A Circular Drive to Cape Point

Distance:  124 km from Constantia via False Bay, Cape Point, Kommetjie, Hout Bay.
Time: 2 hours 50 minutes without stopping

Leaving Constantia, where we were staying, we drove down the M3 then on to the M4 (Main Road) towards Muizenberg, where I lived in the 1970s and took a right shortly before the village onto Boyes Drive to Kalk Bay.

False bay
False Bay from Boyes Drive

This road climbs up above Lakeside and the bay with outstanding views from the top of Boyes Drive across Lakeside, Marina da Gama, the Cape Flats and the entire False Bay coastline. It clings to the lower edge of the Muizenberg Mountains until reaching Kalk Bay where you rejoin the Main Road.

Kalk Bay is an attractive character village with a great harbour where you can still buy fresh fish direct from the boats as they return with the days catch; I can recommend cooking a whole fish on a braai, freshly stuffed with limes and coriander and wrapped in foil  (they will scale and gut it for you if you ask).  It has several antique shops plus a very decent restaurant “The Brass Bell” situated right next to the railway station and directly on the waterside which used to do a very good crayfish thermidor in the past.

The Residency
The Residency

We stopped briefly in Simonstown to visit the museum there which is housed in a lovely building “The Residency” dating from 1772.

The Residency Museum
The Residency Museum

The views from the veranda across Simon’s Bay are well worth the visit and if you are interested in the Dutch East Indies Company, Simon van der Stel or the Royal Navy then it is a must see.

The “Historic Mile” (twenty one of the buildings in St Georges street are over 150 years old), is a popular walk along pavements once trodden by Admiral Horatio Nelson and Captain James Cook.

Warning
Warning

Next stop has to be at the Boulders Beach where you can walk along the boardwalk to see the African or Black-footed (formerly known as the Jackass) penguins that have colonised this area since 1983. March to May is the time when they are breeding in South Africa and we saw many birds on nests in amongst the bush and boulders.

African Penguins
African Penguins

They are noisy and it can be smelly, but on this occasion the wind was in the right direction!

Continue along what is known as the Cape Peninsula Scenic Route to Cape Point the most south westerly point in Africa which is at the end of the Table Mountain National Park chain stretching from Signal Hill. Not to be missed is the short hike from the Point to the Cape of Good Hope on the Atlantic side. Good walking shoes are a necessity plus a head for heights or if you are a serious hiker there are trails from here all the way back to Table Mountain. We came across ostrich at the Cape of Good Hope but you may well see kudu or sable.

Ostrich
Ostrich

A funicular railway replaced the little bus “the Flying Scotsman” in 1996 taking passengers up to the ‘new’ lighthouse at the top or if you want to spend all day in the park then head down to one of the secluded beaches at Buffels Bay or Bordjiesrif where there are tidal pools and you can picnic or have a braai (South African BBQ).

Diaz Beach
Diaz Beach at Cape Point

We decided to loop back to Constantia along the Atlantic coast road so headed for Scarborough (with its strange Camel rock formation, which we missed completely) and the twisty road towards Kommetjie, a peaceful rural delight with the Slangkop lighthouse.

Slangkop Lighthouse - Kommetjie
Slangkop Lighthouse – Kommetjie
View to Hout Bay
View to Hout Bay from Kommetjie

Just before Kommetjie is a stretch of road called ‘Misty Cliffs’ so called because of the sea spray which hangs over the road. Every twist in the road is a scenic delight and it is hard to keep concentrating on the road ahead, (but essential as the drop below is a long way).

Long Beach
Long Beach, Noordhoek

At Noordhoek we stopped to access the long beach which is still a place to go for horse rides on the beach or fly a kite and then we drove along the infamous ‘Chapmans Peak Drive’ with its 114 curves (though I confess I did not count them all). This is a now a toll road and cost us 24 ZAR (2008). The last time I went along this stretch of road was in the early 1980s.

Chapman's Peak Drive
Chapman’s Peak Drive

Every visit since then it has been partially closed due to rock falls and eventually was closed completely in 2000. Fortunately it re-opened in 2003 with a new tunnel so I was at long last able to fulfil my wish of driving along this road myself. The road ends in Hout Bay a seaside resort town about 20 minutes from Cape Town.

Chapman's Peak Drive
Chapman’s Peak Drive Tunnel

Dinner at ‘The Mariner’s Wharf’ in Hout Bay is recommended for the best lobster in town, though booking is advisable. Return to Cape Town via Constantia or around the coast road via Camps Bay, Clifton and Sea Point.

Cape Town Revisited

When I met my OH twelve years ago we each had a different favourite city in the world, which the other had not visited, so we made a promise to see each place together. In 2005 I went to Vancouver, his choice, and a very good one too, this is the story of my choice – Cape Town, South Africa.

I lived in Cape Town between 1973 and 1984 and fell in love with this beautiful city. I was eager to return with my (new) husband to show him my favourite parts. It had been over eight years since my last visit to the Mother City and a lot longer since I had travelled along the Garden Route, so I was keen to explore old and new places and show him what I thought made this the best city in the world. On arrival at the politically neutral named Cape Town International airport we picked up the VW Polo hire car and drove to our first destination in Constantia. We were staying in a lovely, welcoming bed and breakfast close to the beautiful Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens.

Lily

The only slightly off-putting aspect was the electric fencing surrounding the property and the guard at the entrance of the electronic gates. Oh, how things have changed, and not necessarily better for anyone. I was concerned that this might put my husband off. He already had some misgivings about visiting the country because of its notorious crime rate. Seeing the neighbourhood covered in ‘Armed Response’ signs wasn’t going to appease him.

The weather on the other hand was perfect with azure blue skies, a soft, gentle breeze and it was pleasantly warm. Having unpacked in our large bright bedroom, overlooking gardens to the front and rear, we strolled up to Kirstenbosch to stretch our legs after the long flight from London, via Windhoek and get some well-needed sunshine.

sunbird

This botanic garden is so tranquil and the backdrop of Table Mountain is so dramatic I could have stayed here for the entire trip photographing the many spectacular proteas and sunbirds. It became a regular evening walk during our stay.

Table Mountain
Table Mountain from Kirstenbosch

Later we drove over Constania Nek and down to Hout Bay and along the coast road to Llandudno hoping to see a decent sunset, but cloud on the horizon put paid to that idea. As we drove back to the B&B we called in for a meal of Kingklip, a firm white, buttery, local fish and chips at the Constantia Nek Hotel and Pub.

City Tour
A South Westerly brought in rain, wind and cloud overnight, but it brightened up over breakfast which was excellent – fresh fruit salad and yoghurt, cooked breakfast with choice of eggs, multi seeded bread and good coffee.

Cape Town City Hall
City Hall

We drove into the city and parked in the eerily empty Grand Parade, where the Italianate City Hall is located, and made our way along Adderley Street for a wander through the Government Gardens or ‘Company’s Gardens‘ as it is also known. The pedestrianized tree-lined Government Avenue links the top-end of Adderley Street to Orange Street where you will find the famous Mount Nelson Hotel, “Cape Town’s famous pink hotel”, with her distinctive blush-tint and English High Teas. Tea at the ‘Nellie’ (as it is fondly referred to by locals) starts at 2.30 pm and runs until 5.30 pm.

The grey squirrels which inhabit the trees lining Government Avenue are a delight.

Cheeky Grey Squirrel
Cheeky Grey Squirrel

They were introduced by Cecil Rhodes in 1890. These are larger than their European counterparts and the Garden’s oak trees and plenty of water channels offer a perfect habitat.

They are fairly habituated to humans and will eat out of your hand,  you can find someone to sell you a packet of peanuts with which to feed them. However, the downside is that you may also see huge rats. It has its own rose garden, aviary and fish-pond. In fact they used to sell off some of the fish from here when they got too big or too many, though I don’t know if that practice still occurs.

Also within the Gardens is the ‘Tuynhuys‘ which is used by the President on state occasions (and not open to the public), the neo-classical designed ‘Houses of Parliament’ with its distinctive red brickwork and impressive porticoes with extravagant Corinthian capitals, the ‘Delville Wood Memorial’ and the ‘Rutherfoord Fountain’

Tuynhuis
Tuynhuis, Gardens, Cape Town

This area is known as ‘Museum Mile’ in that the vast majority of Cape Town’s museums are concentrated into the same small space around Government Avenue including the South African Museum and National Gallery.

Iziko Slave Lodge - Cultural History Museum
Iziko Slave Lodge – Cultural History Museum

The Iziko Slave Lodge lies just outside the entrance on the corner of Adderley Street and Wale Street and is now a Cultural History Museum. Close by in Greenmarket Square you will find another museum in the Old Town House.

Greenmarket Square
Greenmarket Square Flea Market

We strolled along to Greenmarket Square where a flea market is held, but found that rather disappointing as there were only a few African craft stalls present and all selling the same objects (wood or soapstone animals, wire and bead ornaments, masks etc.) which to be honest looked mass-produced. The city centre was a bit like a ghost town with hardly anyone about and it felt a little unnatural. My last visit to the city was in December 2000 and it had been much livelier with buskers and shoeshine ‘boys’ so I can only assume that Sunday is not the best day to venture into the centre.

Chilling out on Signal Hill

Signal Hill
Signal Hill

Leaving the centre we drove up Kloofnek Road to the cable car station only to find it closed due to high winds at the top of Table Mountain. Another fail. With the weather becoming increasingly blustery and chilly I needed to find somewhere to impress the OH.

We retraced our route back to Kloofnek Road and then headed across and up Signal Hill, the lion’s rump, which connects Kloof Nek with Lion’s Head.

Guinea Fowl
Guinea Fowl

From the top you have a spectacular viewpoint over Green Point (home to the 2010 World Cup Stadium), Sea Point, Robben Island and the north coast around Table Bay. This used to be open waste ground,  but has been radically improved in recent years with tarmac surfaced, designated parking bays and public toilets. Wild helmeted guinea fowl ran around the car-park. The spectacular views over Cape Town were  unchanged and apparently it is still the place for locals to go for sundowners. A heavy squall sent us running back to the warmth and shelter of the car and to consider where next to go.

Wandering the Waterfront

P1100120
We decided on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and discovered that this is where Capetonians go on a Sunday. I love the hustle and bustle of the Waterfront, but as I am not a shopaholic, a short visit is all I need to drink in the atmosphere. It is lively, busy and again has that lovely backdrop of Table Mountain and is the place where you can catch a ferry over to Robben Island.

We stopped for a drink outside a little bar so we could people watch and then headed to the Two Oceans Aquarium, which I believe to be the best Aquarium in the world.

I recall the original Victoria and Alfred basins; it was from here that liners stopped en route from UK to Australia, and where once a little café served the best fish and chips in Cape Town, quite possibly the original Bertie’s Landing Restaurant near the Victorian Gothic-style Clock Tower.

Clock Tower
Clock Tower at Berties Landing

We returned to Constantia via Green Point, Sea Point, Three Anchor Bay, Clifton and Camps Bay – where only the brave venture for a swim into the icy waters of the Atlantic. On reaching Hout Bay we sought out the Mariners Wharf where we had dinner. If you like seafood then this is the place (no pun intended) for you. Chowder soup, calamari and prawns, followed by crème brulee for me and prawn chilli soup, grilled game fish and cheesecake for him together with a Greek salad and an excellent bottle of De Waal Pinotage from Stellenbosch cost us the princely sum of £35

Postcard from Genève

September 2009 – Place du Bourg de Four

Place du Bourg-de-Four
Place du Bourg-de-Four

I am sitting here outside Chez Ma Cousine ‘on y mange du poulet’, (literal translation – at the house of my cousin one only eats chicken) which is just one of the little cafés in the square, having a rest after walking around the Old Town (lots of ups and downs and cobbled streets), sipping a large café crème. The sun is shining and it has been another very warm day for late September, so the shade of the umbrella above me is welcome. The Place du Bourg is lovely!

Geneva, fountains and flowersThis is the centre of the Old Town and has an 18th century flowered fountain, which I am sitting next to. I have got into fountains in a big way since coming to Genève – they are everywhere, and all so different, flowers, sculptures, swans – fascinating!

As I look around me I notice that this spot attracts lots of little sparrows alternating between sips of water and splashing in the fountain to cheekily trying to pinch crumbs off the tables. They land on the tables and chairs all around me, but are too quick for my camera, though I manage to capture one poised on the edge of the fountain, with his back towards me, of course! There is the sound of someone playing a recorder, badly, from within one of the apartments in the square. Shutters and windows wide open to the sun and the constant murmur of people in conversation buzzes in the background.

Geneva - Place du Bourg-de-FourAlthough it is only four o’clock in the late afternoon there is very little space at any of the cafés. Empty tables are soon filled. People are now drinking cold beers and white wine; groups of friends meeting up – standing up to greet each other nosily  with the flamboyant kiss/kiss/kiss on both cheeks.

“Eh! Comment ça va?”

(Hey! How are you?) their happy smiling faces. Husbands wait patiently for their wives to stop their shopping in the Rue du Rhone, Rue de Rive and Place du Molard (watches, parfumeries, fashion and chocolatiers); elderly ladies, very smartly dressed and coiffured, read a book or a newspaper and a young student sitting opposite me with her study books open on the table makes notes whilst casually sipping her Evian water

Geneva Fountain
Sparrows on the fountain

Occasionally a young boy on his way home from school will arrive at the fountain and climb up for a drink, casually dropping his school bag in the dust and eyeing my camera with curiosity. Small children amuse themselves by running around the circumference, giggling as they hide from their parents. It is a busy, lively place, sunlight streaming through the autumnal trees. I have had to buy another coffee as I am reluctant to leave just yet.

boy and fountain
Boy in the fountain

An elderly gentleman has come to sit at the table next to me, he is also alone, his red polo shirt matches the red umbrella under which he sits in the shade and together we observe all who pass by. Two young Genevois couples meet up and order bottles of Rosé wine and a tall jug of Pimms: they all light up cigarettes.

Geneva - la Clemence

It strikes me how many young Genevois smoke. Must be how they keep so slim! Funny how we have become so used to no smoking in public in the UK that it is now so noticeable in Europe!

At another table in the next café along which has white umbrellas, a beautiful Italian-looking lady is wearing the classic dark glasses. Silver bands hold back her glossy black hair and she talks loudly on her mobile phone – hands gesticulating in the air – her large cup of cappuccino forgotten and going cold. Ah life is wonderful, but now I must go and make my way to the Promenade de la Treille to see the avenue of Chestnut trees and the world’s longest bench.

Ciao, ciao – I’ll write again soon xx