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Monday, November 24, 2014

Foodie Date Ideas in Cape Town

The way to a man's heart is... well I honestly don't know. From what I've heard it's through his stomach but I've found that route to be a bit hit-and-miss. The way to woman's heart on the other hand, now that I can vouch for. And I'll give it to you straight: It's either diamonds or food.

I know this might come as a shock to you, but women do still enjoy some chivalry now and then. Even feminists. A little effort and a few drops of truffle oil wouldn't go amiss. So the next time you're looking to show a little love to a lady, maybe don't invite her over for another evening of Eastern Food Bazaar and DVDs and take her out on a foodie date instead.

I'm not talking just a candle lit romantic dinner. I can hear you yawning already. There are lots of really fun and interactive foodie experiences in Cape Town that involve good food, a lot of good wine and fun.

One Ingredient with Matt Manning

Chef Matt Manning has been hosting his One Ingredient dinners for over a year now and the one I went to had a group of ranging groupies present so I think that attests to it's fun factor.


Using just one main ingredient, he designs a 4 course menu - so for example he will use pumpkin in every dish yes even dessert. This results in some really unique and interesting dishes that are all truly delicious.


First you watch him prepare the menu, then you prepare it yourself, then you eat it. There is also more than enough wine being poured at any given time. A really fun date idea - especially if you're kind of still a new thing and a romantic dinner seems a bit awkward.

More info here.

The Kitchen Table at Majeka House

Honestly, Majeka House is super romantic. The decor is beautiful and the food is amazing and if you book a room for the night on top of the dinner you'll be scoring too many boyfriend points to know what to do with.

I took some pictures but then unfortunately, I accidentally deleted them all from my phone! 
This picture belongs to The Inside Guide.

The Kitchen Table Dinner at the hotel's Makaron restaurant is a really fun and intimate experience. Any foodie will just love it. I really did. Honestly, it's one of the best food and wine pairings I've ever had.

A little table seats two right in the heart of the Makaron kitchen. Chef Tanja Kruger will welcome your little two seater table and talk you through the menu and Esme Groenewald, the lovely sommelier, will tell you about the wines she's chosen to pair with the dishes.

Image credit: The Inside Guide

What I loved most about the wines was that they didn't only pair the most expensive bottles. One of the wines we had goes for R40 a bottle - and it was my favourite pairing of the night.

When I was there I ran into a girl in the bathroom who was like "you're sitting in the kitchen right? That's so cool" and I honestly felt like Beyonce. That's how you want to make your date feel, am I right?

More info here.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

It's Personal - Waking Up In The Middle Of The Night

I woke up at 3am with the familiar racing heart and ice cold knot in my belly. I'd been dreaming that someone had broken into my car again (this would have been the fifth time in four years) and I had caught them in the act and now they were after me. I didn't fall asleep again until the sun came up. Just in time for my alarm to wake me up.

In the middle of the night I lay with my eyes wide open in the dark, my ears thick and swollen with the blood rushing through them, straining through the ringing of the midnight-darkness, trying to hear if anyone was moving around in the house.

In the middle of the night I thought, tomorrow I won't be able to carry on. Tomorrow I will be too scared and too tired to wake up and get up and work and get back into bed at night for more dreams like this one. I am so sick of being scared.

I dream about being a victim of crime about four times a week. I wake up, look around in the dark, listen for unfamiliar noises, pick up my phone to check the time. Then, when my heart has slowed down and my ears no longer have the whooshing waves of panic blood rushing through them, deafening me, I scroll through Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

At 3:30am I read articles on subjects I'm interested in; How white blood cells work, Princess Diana, feminism. Google people I admire. I take BuzzFeed quizzes and catch up on American Twitter. But I don't sleep. I just pass the time until the sun starts coming up and the room gets a little lighter and sleeping seems a little less scary. I fantasise about having an alarm system, more burglar bars, a higher wall surrounding the property. I map escape plans in my head. Is it too high to jump out of my second-story bedroom window? I promise myself that I will have a shatterproof layer added to my car windows. Tomorrow.

I am one of the lucky ones. I haven't actually been the victim of a violent crime. I haven't been tied up and gagged or beaten up by criminals. But I've had a lifetime of small, seemingly petty experiences with crime and I think they are ruining my life.

There was the house I lived in that bordered on the street, where anything and everything that was left on a windowsill or near a window would be stolen. Face wash, an empty handbag, a necklace that was fished out with a stick. I could hear people walking around outside my bedroom at night, looking for an open window to stick things through.

The series of small crimes in that culminated in a particularly creepy break-in which I still can't explain where, despite locked doors and windows, I arrived home to find someone had scribbled my name in blue ball point on my headboard above my bed, and drawn a series of question marks inside a Valentine's card that was on my bedside table. I rushed out, petrified, and came back later to find the front door bolted shut from the inside, the entire house ransacked and anything small enough to carry gone. Were they in the house when I was there? I don't know and that still gives me chills.

My car, as I mentioned has been broken into enough times that it's actually become part of my nightmares.

People have been on my property in the night, thankfully unable to find an entry point, so breaking into the neighbour's house instead.

As a child, I woke up in my parent's house to the sound of breaking glass and gunshots as my dad shouted get out of here! into the dark. That house had an alarm system and a dad and I long for the safety of those two things most nights.

Am I paranoid? Am I going insane? Is it normal to live like this? Because I feel guilty. I have a home and I have a car and I should feel safe and grateful to live in a not-so-bad neighbourhood. I know there are literally billions of people around the world who would kill someone to be in this position.

But fear is relative. The fear I feel waking from a nightmare where a man carrying a gun opens my door and walks over to my bed in the dark is the worst fear I could ever experience.

Because when I open my eyes from the dream, the pain in my chest is real, like someone heavy is sitting on me. The sudden icy coldness all over my skin and the pins and needles in my feet from the shock are real. The pain of fear is real. Even if it is just a dream. A nightmare.

Sometimes I wonder if the small crimes throughout my life have resulted in this scared adult I seem to have become. Or if I would have been a scared adult anyway. I wonder all the time if there's a cure. Maybe I'd feel safe in Australia? Maybe I'd feel safe if my house was an actual cage, with bars of unbreakable materials that could only be opened by my finger print. Maybe therapy?

Tonight by 8pm I will be exhausted. I might go to a bar and yawn over my drinks. I might feel like crying when one of my friends suggests we go to a next bar instead of going straight home. I don't want to, I'll think petulantly, wishing for sleep instead. Then later, I might wake up with visions of someone in the room, or downstairs, or chasing me. I might download Tina Fey's audiobook to keep me company.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

WIN! R500 Voucher With Due South

You may or may not know that I recently road tripped through some of Northern Namibia with my friend Lauren and Open Africa. The experience was so amazing and I can't wait to tell you all about Open Africa and the work that they do, but I have so many pictures to edit and so many words to write (email so many emails to read because WHY DO PEOPLE SEND SO MANY EMAILS?!) that it's taking a while for me to get it all together.


We were super well taken care of during the trip thanks to some awesome sponsors. Hertz Car Rental trusted us with a massive and powerful Toyota Hilux (are they insane, right?). Also, on a side note, did you know that they are the only car rental company in South Africa that rents cars out to 18 year olds and doesn't even charge extra for the extreme likelihood that they are going to wreck it? I support their trusting hearts.

Flight Centre flew us there on AirNamibia and Due South kitted us out with a really rad bag of supplies, including one of those foil blankets which had me really worried that we were going to be doing some super dangerous stuff but ended up coming home with me for future use ie. after the New World Order takes over.

ANYWAY... the important part: I've got a R500 Due South voucher to give away to one of you! 


Look at all this stuff! Look at those hiking boots!
Not pictured: A cool t-shirt (in the wash), a cute straw hat (unfortunately in a state of squashed right now) and a towel (that's in the wash right now too)


How to enter:

Visit the Open Africa website and check out the routes. Then come back and tell me in the comments section which route you would take on your ultimate Southern African adventure.

*Competition is only open to South African residents and the best answer (funnest, funniest, craziest or most complimentary of me) wins! Competition open until Friday, 21 November.


Monday, November 10, 2014

My Tips For Freelancers

I often get questions from people about freelancing. People who want to go on their own and make their career work for them. I think freelancing is a great idea, especially if you have worked for a while and gained experience in client procedures, professionalism and working in teams.

What people think freelancing looks like

(I also get a lot of people who ask me how to start a blog. And then I say "Well, go to blogger.com or wordpress.com and start a blog and then write on it." But people mean "How do I start a blog I can earn money from so that I can quit my job in paint sales and review restaurants for a living?" and for that I have no answer. There's no exact science to it. It's about luck and finding an audience and then working super super hard all the time and maybe getting paid sometimes but mostly doing it for the love of it)

What freelancing actually looks like

I went freelance at the beginning of this year and thanks to a relationship with my mentor and one of my personal strong-female-idols, Mariette du Toit-Helmold, I have been busy and well-fed this year. I've had the opportunity to work on some incredible projects, with some wonderful clients and I have truly loved my job all year.

I'm by no means an expert on this subject and there's a possibility that I'll have to take an office job at some point in my future, but I've learned a few lessons and gleaned a little bit of knowledge over the past year and if you're thinking of going freelance then I'd love to share it with you. I'm not saying I've got it all down, I'm just saying I've got some of it down.

None of my advice involves creating a spreadsheet of work hours or any kind of motivational advice for managing your time. Because that is not how my brain works. But here they are, my tips for freelancers. I hope they help.

1. Get Dressed 

There are some days when I could use my own advice here, but in general, I tend to get dressed. It's very tempting to work from bed until 11am (so tempting that I do sometimes end up brushing my teeth after lunch) but it's no good for the psyche. Try schedule 9am meetings or go to a 7am yoga class. It's good motivation to get up, put on some clothes and mascara and it really helps with feeling like you're getting stuff done. (I'm typing this is my robe)

2. Say "Yes Please"

If you're like me, you can probably do many things. And if you can't, I would not suggest going freelance until you have a strong network of established clients. Being a freelancer means that you have to be adaptable. You're a copywriter, right? But do you create social media calendars? Say "yes please".

If it's something that you don't feel like you have a firm grasp of, do some research. Google it, watch YouTube tutorials and meet up with your friend who does it. Be confident in your abilities, because you are smart and with a little research, help and adaptability, you'll find new skills sets that you didn't know you had and new doors opening to exciting work. I'm not saying you should bite off more than you can chew, but you'd be surprised what you're capable of when people trust you to be capable of it.

So say "yes please" and then work hard. I work more hours now than I ever have before and I often start at around 6:30am. I work in coffee shops and on planes and in bed and even on a boat once and at night and before the sun comes up and on weekends. But I love it, because I'm doing it for myself.

3. Be Professional

Work like you would work in an office environment. Treat your clients like your managers are watching. And don't work for free, because it's the small jobs that you agree to doing for free in order to "build your contacts" that will get sent for 16 reverts and end up costing you 3 times the amount of hours you budgeted for. If you want people to take you seriously, take yourself seriously. You don't work for free.

4. Put Yourself Out There

Now I really would recommend starting a blog (see above for details). It's a powerful way for you to showcase your work and skills sets and a great place to hone your creativity. If you're a social media manager, start a blog that tells people about yourself and your life. Mention in your About page that you're a freelance social media specialist. Create a page that showcases your work.

Because when you're a freelancer, your most powerful tool is you. You need to show people who you are and what you can do. Relationships are vital when you're out on your own, because it's the girl your boyfriend worked with two years ago who is at a new agency now who will remember that he once mentioned you work in social. And if she can find a showcase of your work online when she needs someone to consult on a project, that relationship could mean two months of rent for you.

5. Keep Up To Date With Your Field

It's easy knowing all the trends and market research results when you're in an agency. It's stimulating brainstorming with a team and presenting to clients and that's what you miss when you're freelancing. You miss bouncing off others and learning from people around you. So subscribe to blogs and follow Twitter accounts that publish content about your field.

I really enjoy following Social Fresh and reading Social Media Examiner for their content and insights into this slippery, skinless grape of an industry. Just when you think you've adapted your strategy to maximise Facebook's new bonkers algorithm, they change it. These blogs talk about strategy, trends, research and more and their useful tools for stimulating your strategic braincells.

I truly believe that the travel industry is doing some of the most innovative and exciting work out there right now, and Skift is a good place to track trends and campaigns that are inspirational and pioneering. Of course, there's a lot of opportunity for brands to work with the travel industry to create meaningful campaigns that reach thousands of travellers, so the site is interesting reading material for anyone in marketing.

Well, those are pretty much all the tips I have for you. As I said, I'm no expert. I'm just trying hard to make it work and enjoy the process. Do you have any tips for freelancers?

Iconic Santorini



Santorini is by far the most beautiful town I have ever seen. It's like walking in a postcard. Like being part of a painting. It's impossible not to photograph it over and over, at different times of day, from different angels. White and blue. The sea and the sky. The buildings and the water. It's a dream. 






We were lucky enough to spend two nights at the incredible Iconic Santorini Boutique Cave Hotel, which I was reviewing for a local travel website. It's hard to tell you quite how great this hotel is, without sounding gushy. Because it truly is spectacular. And the name, Iconic Santorini, could not be more apt. 

The view, accommodation, facilities, staff and food were all without fault. I'll be sharing my review as soon as it's posted, so for now all I'll say is that I think these pictures speak for themselves. 



We were in Santorini at the very end of the tourist season. The last few days of business before the locals shut up their shops for the winter, presumably to head to warm places like Cape Town. I think this was a great time to be there, since the bulk of tourists had left and the weather had cooled down. It made navigating the narrow little curving streets and climbing the countless steps much easier. 

The town was pretty crowded as it was, and that was just a trickle out tourists compared to the summer floods. It was also pretty warm. I imagine that the height of summer would be stuffed with hot, sweaty tourists and I don't think I would have enjoyed the island as much. 







Santorini sunsets are world famous, and once you get there it's easy to see why. While the bright white buildings are gorgeous during the day, they become even more breathtaking at sunset, turning pink, then gold, before being swallowed by the night. After dark, the golden light shining from windows and the blue, almost other-worldly glow coming from various swimming pools turn it into a different town altogether, with it's own beauty and magic.




TIPS FOR VISITING SANTORINI 


I'd definitely recommend autumn if you're just going to see the sights (it's a bit too chilly to swim). We asked locals where they ate, and then ate there too. We did also eat at a few of the very touristy spots, which had the best views. I highly recommend taking the Blue Star ferry (it takes 8 hours from Athens to Santorini), and paying the 15 Euros extra for a business class ticket.

We took the SeaJet ferry from Athens (this one only takes 5 hours, which is why we took it) and it thrashed about in the waves, throwing seasick passengers around in a scene that looked like it came straight from a horror movie about communicable diseases. If you get seasick like I do, get yourself a strong anti-motion sickness tablet and try to pass out sooner rather than later.

Take your drivers licence with you, and rent a four wheeler to explore the island with. Don't be scared about driving on the wrong side of the road, you get used to it very quickly. Make sure you have enough petrol though - we got stuck without it on a remote part of the island and had to steal petrol that we miraculously found outside a house not too far away (we actually left 5 Euro for the little bit we took and honestly, if Karma hadn't meant for us to find that petrol then I don't believe in the moon anymore)



Our time is Greece was full of great food, beautiful sights, exciting exploration and a growing real love for that friendly, passionate country. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I'm In Namibia!

I'm in Namibia! My friend Lauren was scheduled to pick me up on Tuesday morning at 4:30am. At 5am I woke up with her knocking and shouting at my front door. Our flight was taking off at 6:25am. I'd slept through my alarm. But we made it.



So after having a laserbeam shone at our necks to test our temperatures at the airport in Windhoek, we headed to the Hertz counter to get our car. 

I was expecting something small and light like a VW polo (you can tell I've never been to Namibia), but we were allocated a big white Toyota Hilux, with automatic gears, rear-view reversing camera and 4 wheel drive. This was going to be fun. 

From the airport we drove straight to Windhoek, which is definitely located inside a hole in time and space. Brown, orange and green buildings and  spaceship-like architecture smack of the 70's. We immediately re-dubbed it Vintagehoek. 




I think that the 24 hours in transit from Athens coupled with exhaustion has taken it's toll on me. I've got a really bad cold and all Tuesday night I had Ebola fever dreams. I dreamed I was diagnosed with the virus and  my medical aid was refusing to pay for treatment. In my dream I was trying to re-trace my steps from Athens to Dubai, then Cape Town. Who had sneezed on me? Who had I touched? In the dream my family was refusing to come to see for fear of contacting the virus. It was horrible. 

But I'm wandering from the point here. The point being that we are busy travelling through Namibia. Our first point of call was Erongo Lodge, where we had a quick bite to eat before setting off for White Lady Lodge. Erongo was like the desert oasis you imagine. Complete with luxurious safari tents and a sparkling blue pool in the middle of the red desert.





I feel awkward telling you that the name of our accommodation on the first night describes me, but it actually refers to the world famous rock art piece "White Lady".  Dating back over 2000 years, the picture was originally thought to be a white lady of Cretan descent. But was later identified as an African medicine man. 

I have to say that my immediate thought, had I been an explorer and finder of ancient African rock art, would be that it's a lot more likely to find a rock painting by ancient African tribesmen depicting a medicine man than a woman from the Mediterranean. I'd hate to be the guy who decided that in the first place. 



Anyway, it's been really nice seeing the bits and pieces of Namibia along the road. Desolation and mountain ranges. Small towns and burnt out cars. Villages and makeshift tyre repair stops. Donkeys and and springbokkies, giraffes and wild horses. Pink and purple sunsets. Rock formations and paintings. Bright yellow fields of grass and pale dirt roads stretching out forever. 






It was a cool 42 degrees Celsius out here in the desert on Wednesday, resulting in Lauren and me spending as much time as we could in or around the swimming pool at White Lady Lodge. 

On Thursday morning we headed off early in the direction of Twyfelfontein and the Damara Living Museum. This was an amazing experience and a really special place. I'll talk more about it soon. It was fascinating getting to experience the way of life of the native Damara tribe- their all-natural pharmacy, home-brewed beer and tribal dramatic performance. 

On Friday we are up early for a game drive at Palmwag Lodge, then off once again to Vingerklip Lodge for an evening game drive and an early night. 

- Our trip has been arranged by Open Africa. Read more about it here



Monday, November 3, 2014

Doing Travel Differently: Off on an adventure with Open Africa

Freshly back from Greece -well, I haven't showered yet after 24 hours of travelling, so maybe "fresh" isn't the most accurate description- I am home for a few hours to unpack and answer some emails before setting off on one seriously epic adventure with Open Africa.


An empty suitcase. An open mind. A willing partner in adventure. No idea where we're going. 

This is what got me interested in this trip: Open Africa is an NGO that believes in doing travel differently. They work with small enterprises in Southern Africa to help them establish rural tourism businesses while offering authentic travel experiences to adventurers. There are 64 self-drive routes across 6 countries, supporting 2 482 small local businesses. Pretty amazing, I know. 


Tomorrow morning, my friend Lauren Fowler-Kierman and I set off on an epic 5-day trip. Destination: ??? All we know so far is that we have a TomTom GPS, a car sponsored by Hertz, a flight sponsored by Flight Centre, a t-shirt, cutlery set, knife, headlamp and super-fancy sport/GPS Garmin watch sponsored by Due South. Oh, and our passports.

So follow us on Instagram @tailsofamermaid and @laurenxfowler and Twitter @NatalieRoos and @laurenxfowler to see where we go and what we get up to.