Category Archives: Travel

The South African Rand

We use the rand every single day, whether it is paying for our rent, buying lunch, paying for that dream holiday or simply putting some away for that “rainy day”.

But have we ever thought of the history of our currency? Here are a few facts and information nuggets to get you  better acquainted with our “boks”

Bacic Info:

* The rand is named after the area in South Africa where gold was first discovered – The Witwatersrand (White-Waters-Ridge)

* The Symbol is “R”  which is subdivided into 100 cents “c”

* The ISO 4217 code is ZAR from the Dutch Zuid-Afrikaanse Rand

* The Rand was first introduced on the 14th February 1961 (Valentines Day!!!) after having used the Pound

* When it was introduced the Rand was 1.40 to the Dollar – this slowly depreciated to R3 = $1 in November 1992 and finally to R8 = $1 today.

* It is the currency of the Common Monetary Area which includes South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (although not part of the Common Monetary Area it can still be used as legal tender in Namibia)

* The denominations of the notes in 1961 were 1, 2, 10 , 20 and bore the image of Jan van Riebeeck

~ Interesting fact: The notes came in two variants – one having English written first and the other with Afrikaans 

* In 1978 the denominations were changed to 2, 5, 10 with 20 and 50 being introduced in 1984

* The images of the Big 5 on the notes was introduced in the 1990’s with the 100 and 200 appearing in 1994.

~ Interesting fact: The phrase “Big 5” was coined by big game hunters when they referred to the most difficult animals to hunt on foot 

The Notes Currently:

While we all know which note is represented by which Big 5 animal – have you ever considered what the reverse of the notes represent? There is in fact a wealth of information about South Africa depicted.

The R10 note – Rhinoceros

The reverse side is depicted by images representing “Agriculture”.  Our awesome country is basically self-sufficient in all major agricultural products. We are among the world’s top exporters of:

* Avocados

* Grapefruit

* Tangerines

* Plums

* Pears

* Ostrich Products

Wildely grown are maize, oats, sugar cane, wheat and sunflowers

The R20 note – Elephant

Representative of mining, of which South Africa is the world leader. We held the position of world’s largest gold producer for over 100 years (impressive!!!) until 2007. (Surpassed by China) We are the 4th largest producer of “a girl’s best friend” ~ diamonds.

The R50 note – Lion

Our Manufacturing industry! Sasol is the first and also the largest, oil-from coal refinery in the world! It provides as much as 40% of the country’s fuel. Putting us also in the top 10 exporters is that of primary steel.

The R100 note – Buffalo

Tourism, of which the zebra is the icon for our thriving tourism industry. From 2004, Tourism eclipsed gold as the foreign exchange earner. We are consistently receiving awards placing us among the top ten tourist destinations in the world. (Cape Town being voted as the world’s favourite city)

The R200 note – Leopard

Our elusive Leopard note’s reverse side represents Tansport and Communication. South Africa has the distinction of being the first country in the world (!) to launch prepaid, “please call me sms”, free voicemail and invented touchtone dialling. We are ranked as teh fourth-fastest growing mobile communications market in the world.

Note Boo-Boos

Not everything goes perfectly in the printing world and in 2011, the Reserve bank issued defective R100 notes.- defective because they lacked fluorescent printing under UV light.

Printing of the R100 was therefore moved in June from the South African Bank Note Company to Crane Currency’s Swedish division, producing reportedly 80 million R100 notes.

The Reserve bank had to shred approximately 3.6 million R100 notes printed by Crane’s, as they had the same serial numbers as a batch printed by the South African Bank Note Company.

And as if that is not enough the notes printed in Sweden were of the wrong colour and one millimeter short.

Where to from here?

On the 11th February, 2012, it was announced that there would be a new set of banknotes depicting the image of Nelson Mandela. These are in production, but no release date has been given.


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Posted by on 11/09/2012 in South Africa


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Where I want to be – Morocco

Dear Readers,

Even though in my time, I have been fortunate enough to have travelled our planet reasonably far and wide, there always remains just a few more places I’d like to plant my feet. With that in mind this is the first in my “Where I want to be” travel blogs. It’s places I’ve thought of going to and have added to my bucket list. Top of my list is Magical Morocco!

If I think of the Kingdom of Morocco I think spices, carpets, snake charmer, food, and everything that tantalizes the senses. I would of course request an audience with the King of Morocco and greet him with Salam wa aleikum (Peace be upon you) to which I will be blessed to hear the response of Wa aleikum ah salam (and also peace be upon you) We will discuss how Amazigh and Moroccan Arabic (spoken) are the two official languages, but that lyrical French is the unofficial 2nd language and that Berber is also a spoken language. The king will tell me that the word “Morocco” originates from the Spanish “Marruecos” or the Portuguese “Marrocos” which refers to Marrakesh and that it is still called so in Persian/Urda. He will then further explain to me that Marrakesh is the Berber word combination of Mart n Akush meaning Land of God! Now does that not send peace all the way down your spine?

In an intelligent voice I will ask the king how the governing of Morocco works and he will tell me that it is a Constitutional Monarchy with an elected parliament. I of course will nod in understanding, adding that Rabat is the political capital even though Casablanca is the largest city. (silently congratulating myself on brushing up before our meeting) I would also add – travel guru that I am – that Morocco has 3 international airports: Casablanca, Tangier and Agadir. My choice of flight though was to Marrakesh with Air France, as I first just had to stopover in Paris.

The king will then politely stand up and say that he has to attend matters pertaining to the country. With a wise nod and wink I agree and am off to follow my fantasy journey.

Marrakesh (English) aka Marrakech (English or French) aka Marraquech (Spanish) aka Marrakesch (German) at first I’m a little confused with all the different spellings, but soon I am walking through the 2nd largest city in Morocco. Here I find the largest traditional souk and then suddenly I find myself in a blaze of colour, sounds and smells as I walk across Djemaa el Fna, not for nothing is it one of the busiest squares in Africa. I am surrounded by acrobats, story-tellers, dancers, snake charmers, musicians and as the sun sets the aromatic smells from all the night food stalls. After each of my senses have been fulfilled, I stroll along to stand in awe of the residencies of French designers and grand couturiers Jean-Paul Gaultier and Yves Saint-Laurent. Yes, you heard it from me – they have homes here!

Next I’m in the economic and business center of Morocco – Casablanca!!!  Casa – House and Blanca – White, so basically I’m visiting the White House!! Of course if you are in the know or a local you will simply refer to it as Casa. I of course feel like Ingrid Bergman in the 1942 “Casablanca”, looking for my Humphrey Bogart. With this in mind I signal a Petits Taxi (Small Taxi) in bright red to transport me to “Ricks Cafe Americain” . Next to me a family of four climb into a Grands Taxis (Big Taxi) in shiny white, their excited chatter speak of going to Hassan II Mosque on the shores of the Atlantic. I quickly check my guide-book and discover that this is the largest Mosque in Northern Africa, accommodating 25 000 worshippers inside and 80 0000 inside, costing a staggering 800 million dollars to build. Slightly wishing I was following them, I climb into my taxi, excitedly giving the name of the establishment I want to go to. Shaking his head and in exasperation the taxi driver says “It’s a movie, it’s a movie – the cafe does not exist!!!” Not to be put down, I quickly say I was joking and request to go to the small island of Marabout de Sidi Abderrahmane. During low tide you are able to walk to the rocky island. Here I will find the tomb of Sidi Abderrhamane Thaalibi – Founder of Algiers. The locals make informal pilgrimages here to reflect on life and seek religious enlightenment – something I might be needing, but alas non-muslims are unable to attend the tomb. So instead I sit and reflect outside.

The Atlas mountains are now calling…I will leave you now as while I’m trekking I will be unable to talk! (something to do with trying to catch my breath), but I will be taking a cooking course and seeing the most beautiful sights, so rest assured I will be enjoying every moment.


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Posted by on 02/03/2012 in World


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I made it to India part 2

Top of the day to you!

If you enjoyed part 1, then I’m sure you will love part 2!

Off the beaten tracks:

India is a country of fragrant spices and curries, in such their food is something to be experienced. There is something for everybody – from piping hot to lightly flavoured.

A restaurant you have to make a turn at is KYBER – 145, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Fort, Mumbai.

After entering through a wooden door decorated with Urdu couplets, you are served authentic Indian cuisine, which they have coined as Ambrosia – the food of the Gods. There are lots of nooks and crannys – suitable for small intimate dinners or a group of people. A definite must on the menu is their Chicken Badaami – Chicken cooked in a rich, fragrant cream and badaam (almond) sauce… really to die for!!! Oh and don’t forget to order Masala tea – basically a spice tea, even if you are not a tea drinker you still have to try this!


Have you ever heard of the book “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts? If not, the first thing you have to do before going to India is read this incredible story, it explains India in all it’s good and in all it’s bad.

If you have well then you will know of the next place I love in India “Leopolds”  as it is extensively mentioned in the book. Yes it exists, yes it is there and yes it is amazing.  You will find in on Colaba Caseway in the Fort area of Bombay. (Across the Colaba Police Station) Unfortunately it was one of the early sites of attacks during the 2008 terrorist attacks and was extensively damaged, but opened about 5 days later.  Established in 1871 it started as a wholesale oil store and over the years has been a resturant/store/pharmacy.  Here you will find a mixture of locals and tourists in the know. Come here for cheap food, a beer and relaxed atmosphere. With regards to the food all I can say is I still dream of their Chicken Tikka Masala with Garlic Naan Bread (real garlic pieces) eaten with your hands in true Indian style!!! Simply divine! Also if you are super lucky you might just pick up an already signed copy of Shantaram to treasure!


Go to a temple – Be advised go with a guide, as there are many rules and regulations which you will not want to break. The architecture and design of all of them are beautiful. And you might even find a few nuggets of advise such as: “Every man is the architect of his own fortune”.


Need to do some laundry? If you have the nerves, try doing it the way the locals do and head over to Dhobi Ghats. Clothes are dropped off at laundry shops throughout the city and then brought to the “Bombay Laundry”, personally I’d be worried of losing my clothes, but it seems to work! Approximately 5000 men literally beat the dirt out of the clothes using open-air troughs. A good view to see all this in action is from the bridge across the railway tracks of Mahalaxmi Railway station.


Crawford Market – Wholesale market for vegetables, fruits, flowers, meat and fish!  More colours and spices you could dream of. A food lovers market of note but the meat section is not really for the faint hearted though – the smells can be a bit harsh. P.S. “trade secret”-  I hear this is where Grannie Banana does her banana shopping 🙂

Lonavala – Aaaah mysterious and secretive Lonavala! Hiding deep most thoughts in a shroud of mist and there is a secret around every corner. Known as the jewel of the Sahyadri Mountains, it is 106km southeast of Bombay at an altitude of 625m above sea level. Should you wish to see the famous, ancient Buddhist rock cut caves of Bhaja and Karla then Lonavala will also serve as your starting point.

It is best to come to Lonavala with a guide, else you will get very lost. During Monsoon season the mist is so thick you can barely see your hand, and before you know it you might just walk head first into a camel. There are waterfalls, grassy hills and an abundance of tranquility. The people are friendly and will want to pull you closer for a photo – they are not harmful, but it could get a little crowded. If you have the stomach to hold it (luckily I do) then there is nothing nicer than having a spicy fried onion dish made over a fire, atop these hills served with warm masala tea. Probably one of the cheapest meals we ate, and one that will always remain in my heart. For this I have Pawaan and Mr Singh to thank.


As with any trip anywhere you will want to do a bit of shopping! Head on over to Colaba Causeway, which is an everyday carnival of jewlery, crystals, brass items, antiques (or so they say), linen, fabric, clothes, incense, books and the list just goes on!

Two questions you might ask yourself in India:

  1. Will the chemist really find the medicine I’m looking for in this chaos?
           2.  Why is Marine Drive – the promenade which stretches from Walkeshwar to Nariman Point – one of
                the most beautiful roads in Bombay and why is it called the Queen’s Necklace?

Your answers are:

  1. Yes!!!!  Ask for anything and the chemist will be able to pull the box immediately! That’s what I call ordered chaos!!!
  2. And the Queen’s Necklace? Well that is best explained taking a photo of it in the evening, with all the glittering lights:

Mumbai /Bombay – which ever name you choose to use, is only one city in India, but she has captivated my heart.  Why not look past the assumptions you might first make and delve deeper into a city that has many hidden secrets she is willing to share, if you only give her a chance.


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Posted by on 30/01/2012 in Travel, World


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I made it to India part 1

Top of the day to you!

In my first blog about India I explained how I neatly got sent home and never quite made it into this beautiful country, but I am happy to report that I eventually did enter India! This is a guest blog I wrote for Grannie Banana. (see sidebar for link to her blog).

Before anyone considers making the journey to India, they need to consider the following statement carefully:

You will either love India or hate her , there is no grey area – none!

Now me: I . LOVE . INDIA.

Arriving at the airport every one of your senses are assalted. The colassal amount of bodies pushing and jostling.The smells of humidity,people, perfumes, spices. The noise of hundreds of voices calling you to take their taxi, book into their hotel, let them carry your luggage and the ever asking for money. The feel of the heat and humidity which hits you like a wall the moment you leave the aircraft. And in your mouth you can taste India – everything you smell, see and hear seems to leave its essense everytime you breathe.  And this is all happening in the wee hours of the morning!

Mumbai – or Bombay as many of the residents still refer to of their much loved city (renamed 1996) – has opened her arms to me and I fall into them willingly.

Why do so many people hate Bombay – India’s largest city and capital of the state?

One word – Slums.

They are all over the city, they stretch for miles – shack upon shack, often as far as the eye can see. The poverty and poorness of the city not hidden from touristic eyes, but almost as if on display.  Homes – where you will find generations living together – will be on the pavement infront of a brand store.

Your eyes tear, and your heartstrings pull, asking yourself what can I do to help? We need to get a Western charity organisation in immediately to help. How can they live like that? They must be so unhappy!

Then you take a closer look. You see the smiling faces, the happiness shining out of these “unhappy” people. You see the children playing alongside each other. You see neighbours helping one another. You see peace. You see love. You see kindness. You see the true face of India.

Now ask yourself again just because we are trained to believe material things bring happiness does that mean that somebody who has never possessed such things will miss it? Ask yourself with all your accumulated “wealth”  who is the better off person?

Now if you are still willinging to journey further, take my hand and I will tell you my story of Bombay – The city that stole my heart.

To start off with; in any city you first need to see the “touristic attractions” – The things you will find in the guide books, as cliched as it might be!

The Gateway to India

Should your travels take you further into India, then this is the most appropriate first stop. Erected to commemorate the landing in India of their imperiall majesties King George V and Queen Mary on the second of December MCMXI (1911) (Quick lesson:  M=1000. D=500. C=100. L=50. X=10. I=1. Any time a smaller number is in front of a larger one, subtract it from the larger one) It’s architectural styles is a combination of Hindu – the decorations and Muslim – the arch. The foundation stone was laid in March 1911 and construction was finished in 1924.

Victoria Train Station  (now known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus)
One of the busiest railway stations in India and one of the largest historical buildings in Bombay. Building started in 1878 and opened for passengers in 1882, it is a beautiful example of Victorian Gothic architecture. Declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2004.

University of Mumbai

Founded in 1857, the university is modelled on those in Britain. The Rajabai Clock Tower, situated in the Fort Campus is one of Bombay’s landmarks and is modelled on Big Ben in London. The tower is named in memory of Premchand Raichand’s (contributed monetarily) mother – Rajabai.

Gandhi Museum (Mani Bhavan)

It is in this three-story home that Mahatma Gandhi lived from 1917 to 1934, whenever he was in Bombay.  Housed is a library of approx 50,000 books and periodicals on Gandhi-related works. There are various Dioramas (scenes which capture a moment in time) depicting major events and turning points in Gandhi’s fight for his nation’s freedom.

These are just a few of the things you will be able to find using your guide book, next I would suggest you do a bit of exploring on your own and if that’s a bit too scary for you then paying a local tourguide to show you the true Bombay.


A few FYI’s:

  • There are lots of children – they seem very cute and will do you no harm, BUT they will surround you and before you know it they will clean your pockets inside out. Be firm with them and say NO.
  • Bakhshish – is the Hindi word for tip, you will hear this word spoken a lot as the beggars use it to beg for money
  • You might be stopped and asked to star in a Bollywood movie – while at times this might be legit, it is best not to take the chance.
  • Never pay the asked for price for anything you want to buy (except in restaurants etc), it is customary to always bargain down the first asked price. Decide on what you are willing to pay for something, don’t back down and keep your wits about you.
  • Going in monsoon season is not necessarily a bad thing – yes you might have some rain, but prices and costs are generally cheaper than “in season”
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Posted by on 27/01/2012 in Travel, World


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South Africa’s National Symbols

Top of the day to you all!

Every country has it’s own national symbols, but not to be biased or anything 🙂 I do think South Africa’s are the best and the most beautiful. May you enjoy learning more about Awesome South Africa and as an added bonus there is even a yummy recipe for you to follow!

Awesome National Animal

The Springbok – a  lithe and beautiful antelope, standing at only approx 75cm in height and weighing in at approx 40kg. The Sprinbok’s name is derived from its jumping display when running (pronk in Afrikaans)

Should you see them, snap your picture quickly as they are also the fastest of the antelopes and can reach speeds of approx 80km/h

Running from the middle of their back to their tails is a pocket-like skin flap. Should they be excited or frightened they lift this flap in order to warn other Springbok, as the white hairs underneath stand up as a conspicuous crest.

Both the male and females have horns, but the female’s are shorter and thinner.

Many many moons ago the Springboks would migrate in herds consisting of over 1 MILLION individuals!!!!!! Farmers would sit for days watching the herds pass over their lands. Unfortunately today most are confined to game reserves….or….on the reverse side of a Kruger rand.

The Springbok also lends its name to our Awesome South African Rugby team – affectionately shortened to “the Bokke”


Photo Credit to Bernd Wasiolka/

Awesome National Tree

An age old family line the Yellowwood has the honour of being national tree, having grown here for over 100-million years. The base of the trunk often reaches 3m in diameter with a height of approx 40m.

While you are visiting Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens to view the Proteas, you will be able to tick off another national symbol as the Yellowwood trees grow along the Yellowwood Trail, leading to Table Mountain.  Else you will find them in the ravines of the Drakensberg up to the Soutpansberg and The Blouberg in Limpopo.

Awesome National Flower

The King Protea (or Giant Protea) is the largest of the protea family (of which there are approx 1,400 varieties) and makes up an important part of the Cape Floral Region (a Unesco World Heritage Site).

Scientists have found that the Protea is an ancient flower dating back around 300 million years!

It’s specific name ‘cynaroides’, meaning ‘like cynara’ (the artichoke) was given due to the artichoke-like appearance of the flower-heads and its common name is from ‘Proteus’, the Greek god who changed his appearance whenever he wanted, as there as so many varieties.

Should you wish to snap a few pictures yourself of these beautiful flowers in bloom, then head on over to the Cape Town surrounds:

  • Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
  • Drive either from Cape Point to Kommetjie or Noordhoek to Constantia
  • In November – Cape Point

Our Awesome South African cricket team is named after this flower.


Awesome National Bird

This title goes to the elegant Blue Crane.  Should you wish to see this bird you would need to travel to South Africa, as its distribution is almost solely restricted to South Africa. Common in the Karoo, but can also be found in the Highveld and grasslands of KwaZulu-Natal.

While being tall (approx 1m) the Blue Crane is in fact the smallest species of crane. A ground-dwelling bird they live and feed in flocks of up to 40 birds. Pairs are monogamous with long-term bonds, once becoming parents, they have an almost non-existent nest, usually just a few small sticks pulled together.

Did you know that the long black ‘tail’ feathers are in fact wing feathers!

Awesome National Fish

The Galjoen was the choice as it is found only on the coastline stretching from Namibia to Durban.  Not only is it the national fish, but also a highly prized sports angling species – but it is illegal to either buy or sell these fish. They are reserved purely for recreational fishers and the fishers must be in possession of a recreational permit.

Galjoen braai (barbeque) recipe

1 fresh Galjoen, scaled, but not skinned

50ml melted butter

 50ml cooking oil

50ml coarse salt

30ml lemon juice

Open the galjoen, leaving the stomach area intact.

Remove the entrails carefully and wipe the fish clean inside – out.

Mix together the butter and cooking oil and a little of the salt, brush over the skin.

 Sprinkle the coarse salt generously over the flesh and place the open fish in a hinged grid.

 Braai the Galjoen, skin down about 300mm above moderate coals.

When the skin is crisp and golden brown turn the fish over and lower the grid to brown the flesh quickly without letting it become dry.

Baste with lemon juice from time to time.


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Posted by on 20/01/2012 in South Africa, Travel


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India Calls, Am I ready to respond?

I wrote this blog many years ago and was then asked by my friend Grannie Banana, if we could add it to her blog (please see sidebar for link to her blog). As it is a part of my “history” I’m adding it to my blog as well.

Plane ticket – check, passport – check, enough space in my luggage for all the shopping I will be bringing back – check, ergo I am packed and ready to go – India beckons! With visions of linen, tailor-made leather jackets, antiques, good food, adventure – the list goes on and on – JD (who works for our “proudly South African” airline and is an alias name – John Doe) and I drive early to Johannesburg International. He drops me off and goes to sign on for duty. I am left to my own devices, which of course means stock up time -magazines and snacks for the waiting period. By now my stomach is complaining about a lack of nutrition so a stop is in order, one salmon/cream cheese croissant and cappuccino cream later and I am ready for the check-in counters.

A day flight means that the airport does not feel like a one day end of season sale, so check in goes fast and even immigration is a breeze for once. Next stop duty free! There is something about shopping in the duty free area of an airport which just compels you to buy. Do you actually need the extra T shirt? Do you want it? Hey, do you even really like it? No! But! It’s duty free! Never mind that the prices seem suspiciously the same as in any of our malls – it’s duty free! Which basically translates to my brain as buy, buy, buy! Sometime later, I have made it through with as little damage to the plastic money as possible and I’m on the plane!

The feeling of a powerful engine lifting the massive weight of metal, fuel, lots of luggage and of course all us human bodies, is one of absolute wonder! I have to close my eyes and savour it! Needless to say the fact that business class was empty and I got the wonderful, (mostly unattainable) upgrade to business class makes everything magical. It is truly amazing to know you are travelling over countries while sipping sparkling wine, eating a menu ordered meal with proper cutlery and then being able to lie flat down and sleep with a comfy duvet and pillow.

The plane lands, and there’s the excitement of being in a different country, the anticipation of experiencing a new culture -I can’t wait. All that is left is the simple process of presenting my passport, clearing immigration and it will all begin.

In my mind I hear the start of the drum-roll as I present my passport and then …the drum-roll comes to a screeching halt…

“Where’s your visa?” demands the intimidating immigration official.

“Where’s your visa???”

What visa? Oh gosh, it’s ok, stay calm –he is just making a mistake – they do that don’t they?

Please say they do.

“Oh no” I say; “you see I’m South African -I don’t need a visa” (ever the optimist). “Go over there” he instructs and points to a counter 10 feet away.

10 feet is not far, but suddenly it feels like the longest walk to disaster! Just stay calm -this is only a small technicality! But the stern and unforgiving faces definitely make me wonder if this time the glass is indeed half empty. I explain that I’m under the impression that no visa is needed for a stay of under 7 days … blank stares, I offer to buy a visa …blank stares. Oh boy the panic is building up… please?, please?, please?…blank stares. I’m told: “Go sit over there”; meekly I obey and sink into a typically hard airport chair and await my fate.

Suddenly it seems like a bright light appears, and coming down the escalator I see the familiar uniform of my knight in shining armour! Ok, it is not quite an armour, but at this moment I need a prince, because I feel like a maiden in distress! JD gives me a look of concern seeing I’m upset. He walks over and I break the news. “Don’t worry I will see what I can do” he says. He walks across to the officials, while the rest of the crew give me looks of sympathy. I can see JD gesturing and speaking, but my hopes are dashed as I see the now familiar blank stares. The captain of the flight -a man with clout and generally a lot of respect-strolls over to try his luck and explains that officially I am part of his crew, will be staying with the crew and will leave with the crew. The very “adaptable” official now says he has nothing more to say, I am not entering the country and that is that.

The crew have to leave and with lots of hugs and promises to stay in contact, JD enters where I cannot go. I am now crying and not even hysterical crying, it just seems like the taps have been turned on and won’t close! My passport is somewhere, JD is gone, I hardly understand anyone, I am alone! After about 15min I am handed my passport with a paper exclaiming in big letters INADMISSABLE. Can you believe it? I feel like a criminal! I am escorted (in case I make a break for it and scramble into the country) to international departures and left on my own. I make a quick dash to the smoking bar for a now much needed nicotine break. I feel very uncomfortable, as I am the only woman there except for a lady selling food -oh gosh maybe I’m breaking some local law!? I only have enough time for one -and then I’m hurrying back to departures, my flight is boarding and I am delegated back to cattle class on the same Airbus I just arrived on. I try to make myself as comfortable as possible and await takeoff. This time the feeling is not quite as exciting as yesterday (was it only yesterday?) 10 long, long hours later the captain announces descent for Johannesburg International oh joy! Landing is smooth and at immigration I present my proudly South African passport. No problems! I walk through arrivals; carefully scanning the crowd and my heart sings when I see the familiar face of my father! Home! My emotions seesaw again and I rush for the comfort of a daddy’s hug.

The lesson learnt?

As exciting and enticing as travel might be there is nothing quite like coming back to our beautiful country-South Africa and feeling the safety of being home. Just as a suggestion always make doubly sure what visas and paperwork you will need before travelling to another country and never ever assume!


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Posted by on 06/01/2012 in Travel, World


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A letter from France – Une lettre de France

I wrote the below blog for a good friend of mine Grannie Banana and have added it here for my readers to enjoy. You can also follow her on her blog

Dear Reader,

Before reading this letter, I want you to find yourself a quiet relaxing spot, pour yourself a glass of wine and put on some soft music, even light some candles if the mood strikes you – only then will you be ready to be transported to where I find myself.  I’ll give you a few moments to prepare.

Right – you ready? Let’s begin.

Imagine a town with cobblestone roads, rich in culture and history. Imagine a place where the bells of an ancient church chime each hour. Hear the people around you chatting in the lyrical language of love. See children laughing, adults walking their dogs, woman dressed to perfection and the men who feature in many a romantic girls dream. Soak in the aromatic smell of freshly brewed coffee and you will have an idea of where I am.

“Un café en France” – does that not just sound better than “A coffee shop in France” so while I sit here and absorb all that is French, drinking une grand café (TIP: If you drink your coffee white, make sure to ask for milk – else you will get it black) I feel the need to be creative (France does that to a person!) and have therefore decided to put pen to paper – well to be correct: keyboard to computer.

The French themselves refer to France in the feminine – La France and this is so true. La France can only be a woman! With all her secrets and desires, pretending to be haughty and aloof, yet demanding that you love her for all that she is – unconditionally. Teasing you with her beauty and charm, but never letting you in to her innermost thoughts.  She is a temptress flaunting her delicious wines, creamy Bries and Camemberts, rich delicious chocolates and soft freshly baked breads. She seduces even with her words – words which even when only spoken flow over you like a musical note.

There is a saying that says “When in Rome, do as the Romans,” but in France it is more than that – she brings out “Les joies de la vie” – The joys of life.  Going to a market on a Saturday morning and standing before a vendor only selling olives, deciding whether I want huge garlic green olives or succulent black olives – the olive choices are endless.  Then on to buy fresh farm eggs – with the feathers still stuck to them. Popping over to buy paint brushes and paint, because I feel inspiration from Monet! Ordering a freshly baked baguette which will be the perfect companion to the pate I’ve bought. Going to the local supermarket and picking out an affordable ruby red wine to accompany my meal. Stopping at the “bureau de poste”, to send a postcard. (Yes! I actually wrote a postcard) During cold winter months dressing in boots and scarves, packing hot red wine and sitting on a bench discussing life and all that it means. Running down streets laughing and giggling just because you are alive and France will not look at you with scorn if you do so. La France – she brings out all that you wish to do – and somehow never find the time for.

Of course as any lady she has her moments, such as siesta time when the town shuts down for… well … a nap. This would not be so bad if all the stores shut and opened at the same time, but no each one has its own times – and it becomes a finely tuned mission doing your shopping in the afternoon.  Or the red tape bureaucracy – the French LOVE paperwork… for anything you want to do there is a mile long paper trail that follows it. Also we think in l’Afrique du Sud – South Africa (my beautiful country) people like to strike – well in France I think it has almost become an art form!  A lot of people will also say that the French are an unfriendly lot – I disagree. It is not that they are purposely unfriendly – because I have met too many French people who have helped and been kind to me for this statement to be true – it is more that they do not easily let people in. I find them to be a proud nation – you are in their country so the very least you can do is try and be respectful by attempting to speak their language.

If you were at a quiz night and was asked who is “La dame de fer” – The Iron Lady? Would you be able to answer? If they gave you a clue and said it is the most-visited paid monument in the world would you be able to answer now? What if they said it was one of the recognizable structures in the world?  I’m sure by now you know I’m referring to “La Tour Eiffel” – The Eiffel Tower.  A visit here must be on every person’s bucket list when visiting France as it is truly the global icon. There are three levels and you can purchase tickets to ascend either by stairs or lift.

Thanks to the Hunchback of Notre Dame everybody knows of the beautiful Notre Dame de Paris church, but how many of you know that the name means “Our Lady” (how poetic?!) which is the French title for the Blessed Virgin Mary. Jean de Jandun named it one of the three most important buildings of Paris. “that most terrible church of the most glorious Virgin Mary, mother of God, deservedly shines out, like the sun among stars” Even if you are not religious, just for the sheer beauty this church is a must!

Ever heard of the Mona Lisa? Yes that lady with the half smile that makes you wonder what on earth she is thinking about! Well her home at the moment is the Musée du Louvre, Paris (also featured in the Dan Brown book “Da Vinci Code”) – and she is actually a lot smaller than you would imagine. Be prepared for loooonnng queues!

Aaah beautiful Avenue des Champs Élysées or just “Champs Élysées” for those in the know. “La plus belle avenue du monde” – The most beautiful avenue of the world. The clipped horse-chestnut trees lead you into a false sense of security where you think this is just a beautiful avenue whilst being one of the most famous … never realising that this is also one of the most expensive strips of real estate in the world! 1.91km of luxurious, name brand stores delighting every stylish person, demanding you live to higher standards and yes where I ended up buying the most expensive pair of shoes I own, due to having worn an uncomfortable pair before. (Ok Ok honesty: I just wanted to say I bought something from a store on this avenue!!!!)

There are many many many more things to see and do while in magnifique France – these are just scratching the surface.  What I can tell you though, is that memories will be made, and inhibitions will be released and I console myself that when I leave, I will have something to remind me of the essence of France.  What is that you might ask?

Well let me give you a hint: In an interview Marilyn Monroe was asked what does she wear to bed? Her answer?

“Chanel no 5.”

My fragrance! – To me it embodies all that is France – seductive, soft, enveloping – the smell of a woman in all her glory, never quite letting you in, romantic, encouraging you to let go and yet protective of herself, a timeless classic and always, always a lady!

Bisou, Bisou,

La Dee

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Posted by on 15/12/2011 in World


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My Awesome South Africa

“Ringing out from our blue heavens, from our deep seas breaking round;

Over everlasting mountains where the echoing crags resound;

From our plains where creaking wagons cut their trails into the earth –

Calls the spirit of our Country…”

Every person has a choice to let the negatives become your focus point or to find the positives and remember those.

With that in mind today I make a decision.

I will focus on all the good and beautiful things that form proud and majestic South Africa.  I will hear her call and listen to her spirit.

Why? Because I am not in South Africa – South Africa is in me.

So where are all the good and beautiful things? Well they are all around us.

From our Mother City, Cape Town’s Table Mountain, being honoured as one of the new 7 Natural Wonders of the World (to be confirmed and validated early 2012). This will be a definite boost to our tourism for those wanting to tick off destinations on their bucket lists. The best way to relax and enjoy the view is of course with a glass of world class wine from the Cape Winelands.

Table Mountain

Did you know: Table Mountain is the only natural site on the planet to have a constellation of stars named after it? The constellation is called Mensa – meaning “the table”

We move on to a kaleidoscope of activities and must do’s: Oysters during the Knysna Oyster festival , – cherry picking on a cherry farm in Ceres – experiencing arts and culture at the Grahamstown festival – standing in awe at the Tswaing Meteorite Crater just outside Pretoria, experiencing the wonder of luxury train travel on Rovos Rail, seeing the beauty of blue lined Pretoria streets (not nicknamed the Jacaranda City for nothing), when the trees are in full bloom during the month of October.

One word: Awesome

Stopping at the oldest wildlife parks in Africa – the Kruger National Park, boasting the Big 5 (Rhino, Elephant, Leopard, Buffalo, Lion), quality roads, accommodation and fantastic views. Spend some time in Kruger and you will take a lifetime of memories home with you and some fantastic photography shots. There is nothing quite like an African thunderstorm while in the bush.

Did you know: South Africa also has the Baby 5:

Ant Lion

Elephant Shrew

Leopard Tortoise

Red Billed Buffalo Weaver

Rhino Beetle

South Africa is AWESOME in sports: The first black golfer to win a major tournament on the European circuit was Vincent Tshabalala (French Open, 1976) – RSA was host to the Soccer World Cup (2010) – World Female Athlete of the year went to Hestrie Cloete (2003) – Gary Player has won 164 tournaments across the world – Karen Muir, at 12 years of age was the youngest to set the world record in any sport (swimming) – RSA was host to the Rugby World Cup (1995) – In 1979 Jody Schecter won the Formula 1 World Driver’s Championship for Ferrari (it would be 21 years before Ferrari won this title again) – RSA was host to the Cricket World Cup (2003) and these are only to name a few of the awards and events South Africa has hosted.

In the 1953 musical “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, Marilyn Monroe sings the words “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”, if that is true then South Africa is every girls dream destination. In the 15 years after the first diamond (appropriately named the Eureka) was found in 1867, South Africa yielded more diamonds than India had in over 2,000 years!! The Kimberly Hole was at the centre of attraction during this time and after its 43 year existence lays claim to being the biggest man-made hole in the world. What about the Cullinan Diamond? The original rough diamond, the largest ever found, was approximately the size of a soft drink can! The diamond was cut and polished – the largest gem was called the Great Star of Africa and is now found in the head of the Sceptre with the Cross (British Royal Sceptre) and the Lesser Star of Africa is found in the British Crown.

Great Star of Africa

Did you know: To produce a single one-carat diamond, 250 tons of earth will have to be mined.

Another word: AWESOME

Fun Facts: Johannesburg has the biggest man-made forest in the world – Barberton’s mountains are the oldest in the world – The Fish River Canyon is the world’s second largest – St Lucia is the largest estuarine system in Africa – Afrikaans, the language, is only 90 years old, making it the youngest in the world – The Tugela Falls is the second-highest in the world – Durban has the highest number of tall buildings in South Africa (218) – The Rand was stronger than the US Dollar until 1982 – In 1961 the Pound is replaced by the Rand – Cape Town is voted as the world’s favourite city – Rovos Rail won the World’s Leading Safari Train for 3 consecutive years and has also been voted World’s leading luxury train – South Africa voluntarily abandoned its nuclear weapons programme (the only country in the world to do so)


I can go on and on about my awesome South Africa, listing a thousand reasons why I love my country and yes I know nothing can be a hundred percent perfect, so to the people I say:

Remember “UBuntu” – “I am what I am, because of who we all are” – the essence of being human, trusting, caring, it is a way of life, helpfulness and community. Remember it means humanity towards others, because we can’t be human all by ourselves, we need each other and you want to be known for your generosity.

and to my country I say: Ons sal lewe, ons sal sterwe – ons vir jou, Suid Afrika


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Posted by on 27/11/2011 in Travel


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