Flashback Friday #15

Cape Town Revisited

When I met my OH in 2002 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 at Easter in 2008.

I lived in Cape Town, on and off, 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. (And where I actually worked when I first arrived in Cape Town back in 1973).

The grey squirrels which inhabit the trees lining Government Avenue are a delight, though this one isn’t really sticking his tongue out.

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. Continue reading Flashback Friday #15

Flashback Friday #10

This was part of an amazing road trip around some of the canyons in the USA in March 2014 setting off from San Diego and finishing in Las Vegas.


Sedona via Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon 


Today was a much shorter drive, though very different from yesterday as we were driving through the snow that had fallen overnight. After a lovely breakfast and snapping a few shots of Steller Jays and Dark Eyed Juncos who were breakfasting outside on monkey nuts  we were on our way to the Grand Canyon. Would it live up to the hype I wondered? Or would the reality fall flat.

(please click on an image to enlarge)

We continued along 89A through Oak Creek Canyon weaving its way up and around the mountains. At the top we pulled into a viewing place to take a few photos of the canyon and the road on which we had just driven. I am so glad that they clear the roads in this part of the world!

GC2-412
A winding road

By noon we’d arrived at Tusayan the town just before the south entrance to the park and we stopped to visit the IMAX theatre to watch a film about the Canyon which is well worth doing if you haven’t been there before. Though I must be the only person on earth who suffers travel sickness whilst watching these films! I have to close my eyes to stop myself from feeling dizzy.

On the road to the Canyon
On the road to the Canyon, North Rim in the distance

The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison – beyond description, absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world. Let this great wonder of nature remain as it is now. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s’ children and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see. Don’t let them skin this wonderful country – as they will try to do” ~ Theodore Roosevelt, May 6, 1903

Now we were in the park and following the one-way system to our hotel – El Tovar – where we had booked for the night. It is a  National Historic Landmark and is right on the South Rim with views of the canyon from rooms on the northern wing.

The hotel is made from native stone and Oregon pine and the design is based on European hunting lodges and has a world-renowned restaurant along with canyon views.

Continue reading Flashback Friday #10

My Photographic Journey

Photography has never been ‘a thing’ in my family. I don’t even remember my parents having a camera, but they must have done as there are a few black and white ones at the beach when I was very small, along with the usual studio shots and school portraits from that era.

I must have had one to take with me on a school trip to Germany when I was 15, but the photos are about 2.5 inches square and very bad! Although I didn’t cut off people’s heads my compositions weren’t great. Next was a 10 week trip hitch-hiking around Europe, with the same camera I think. Again, nothing very special. With film and developing being expensive you didn’t take several shots of the same thing, hoping that the photo you did take would be what you wanted Sadly so often the results were very disappointing. And no way to go back to the Acropolis for another take. This camera accompanied me to Geneva where I worked as an au pair, six months working in Norway and on the overland journey to India. What missed opportunities! The photos are small and square and don’t even scan well.

For my 21st birthday I got a Kodak Instamatic into which you could pop a sealed cartridge which enclosed the film. No more having to close the curtains and sit in a darkened room to wind your film on or off the sprockets. This was used for many years for mostly family photos. At some point I moved onto a Fujifilm point and shoot camera which accompanied me on my first and second visits to Australia in 1998 and 2000 where I began to be interested in landscapes (though not necessarily understanding light and shade).

The Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia (2000)

And then on my Southern Africa trip in 2000. This camera had a panoramic setting, the problem was that once you had set this feature you had to use it for the whole film. It was on that trip that I decided I wanted / needed a better camera. For the first time I was desperate to capture the landscape, the wildlife. And all I had was a little point and shoot camera.

African Adventures (2000)

As a single parent who worked all week and did chores all weekend and saved every spare penny for holidays there wasn’t much money to splurge on fancy cameras. And so the Fuji accompanied me to Australia on my third visit in 2003. On that trip my future OH joined me with his Canon SLR so I didn’t take many photos. Unfortunate as when we arrived back home we discovered the SLR had a fault and had been letting in light so a lot of photos were ruined.

Uluru (2003)

With this in mind in the autumn of 2003 we decided to buy a digital camera. An HP PhotoSmart C945  5MP and 8 x optical zoom with a 5 cm colour LCD display. It was not cheap, but neither was it the most expensive camera around. It took 4 AA batteries so wasn’t all that light either, plus you had to carry a charger around with you.

The Ring of Kerry (2003)

A few years later we moved on to better bridge cameras – the OH bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 to replace the Canon and I went for a Fujifilm S8000fd with 8MP and an 18 x zoom as I loved my compact Fuji. We also had a little Nikon Coolpix for when the OH went abroad and didn’t want the hassle of carrying a larger camera. And why is it as soon as you decide on a make and model a newer version comes out weeks after you have bought it? I’m not sure my photography improved, but the number of shots I took certainly escalated.

Knysna Marina – South Africa (2008)

Photography was becoming serious now. And seriously expensive! I even took out a subscription for a camera magazine for a year and read every review about DSLRs and the mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, but I remained indecisive. In 2011 I upgraded to a Fuji FinePix HS20 EXR which had 16 MP and 30 x zoom and everything was good until I became quite obsessed with flower photography.

For decades I had a garden and although no plantswoman I enjoyed getting out there each week and growing and planting things. When I no longer had a garden we started visiting public gardens around the country and even when on holiday and I started to develop a passion for flowers and insects on flowers and especially close-ups. What I really wanted of course, was a Macro lens. And no bridge camera was going to give me that, which led to my first digital mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses. I wanted something small enough to put in a handbag if necessary so the Olympus OM-D E-M10  with a pancake lens was ideal. Followed swiftly by the Macro lens.

Over the past eight years I have been blogging, initially to have a place to store all these digital photos and write about my trips whilst I could remember them, then to share favourite walks and gardens and join in with photo challenges and even record the development of the garden I eventually got. I have learned a lot from my fellow bloggers, some of whom are the most talented photographers. Now I am pretty addicted to photography; I still don’t understand all the technical aspects, but I like to think that over the years I have improved and that now I am more discerning. I take my time when composing a shot. I even walk away if I can’t get what I want.

New Forest, UK (2012)

My photographic journey has been long and slow, but there are still moments out there to capture, improvements to make and memories to return to.

Dee Why beach, NSW (2014)

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #133 |photo journey

CGN: Savoie

The Savoie (1914) is famous for its elegance and rightly considered to be one of the jewels in the Belle Epoque fleet which have been plying the lake’s deep-blue waters for 100 years. It was entirely renovated in 2006, retaining its original steam engine, but fitted with a new, particularly cost-efficient  boiler. I was fortunate to get a ride on this beautiful boat back to Geneva after my visit to Yvoire, a medieval town on the French side of the lake.

A beautiful old boat full of curves: its wooden ceilings painted white, smooth worn wooden decks, the colour of steel where the varnish has been worn away by the constant passage of thousands of feet. 1st class tickets only are allowed on the upper deck where royal blue deckchairs face the mountain views. Benches here have plump foam cushions to make them more comfortable.

Tables in the restaurant are set with white cloths and linen, silver cutlery and sparkling glasses, anthuriums (flamingo flower) with red spathes is the flower of choice. I presume this is for the evening dinner cruise ‘The Chef’s Table’ and I am almost tempted to stay.

Tall ferns stand guard by the curved banister of the stairway sweeping up to the upper deck

where its glitzy bar is just waiting for the cocktail hour to begin.

What a beauty! A truly wonderful and nostalgic way to end to my day.

~wander.essence~ Photography

Just Back from… Barcelona

It was going to be New York for my daughter’s 40th birthday getaway, until we saw the prices, and since we were only going for three days it made more sense to make it closer to home so we didn’t spend two of those days in the air. Yes we were going on another mother and daughter city break! Been a long time since the last one which was also to Spain just before my eldest grandson was born. He is now 14 years old. BA came to the rescue with some very decent European city breaks – hotels and flights for £350 each. We opted for Barcelona, a city neither of us had been to before and which has been well recommended by fellow bloggers. Thank you Restless Jo and Lucid Gypsy for all your help, advice and links.

Placa de Catalunya
Placa de Catalunya

Day One

A very early start meant we were arrived at Barcelona airport by 9 am – we stopped for a coffee before boarding the Aerobus into the city, tickets were prepaid for so no problems whatsoever and the buses are every 5 minutes so no waiting like you have to at Heathrow. A smooth drive with a drop-off close to the hotel where we were able to stash our luggage and head out to explore. First thing though was breakfast. We quickly found a lovely bar where we had coffee, orange juice (the Spanish make the BEST orange juice) and buttery croissants. Then we simply wandered for a few hours until it was time to join a free walking tour of the Gothic Quarter. The architecture in Barcelona is so interesting – I spent most of my time gazing upwards at the windows, carved entrances, wrought-iron balconies – Gothic mansions, Catalan Art Nouveau, and the magnificent imaginative Gaudí and taking far too many photographs.

Continue reading Just Back from… Barcelona