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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Things I'm Super Into Right Now - August 2014



Podcasts

I'm thinking about starting a podcast. Because I am super into podcasts right now. Ever since my car radio got stolen by the guys who towed my car, I've been listening to various podcasts on my iPad when I'm driving and I am really into it. It kind of feels like I am just a very quiet girl (silent) in a room full of really cool and funny interesting people and I'm listening to their conversation and we are all friends. Except no one ever says anything to me directly and I just chuckle at their jokes from the corner like a creep.

I've worked my way through almost every single episode of This American Life ever produced, so I've branched out and have become obsessed with Kurt Braunohler's show The K Ohle on Nerdist.com. I mean, literally obsessed. I listen to it when I'm working or driving and/or other times. So get on that because it's good. It's essentially just two people having a conversation in his house in LA, but refer to the paragraph above for my reasons for listening.

Travel

That's news to you, right? No, it isn't. Because I am even more obsessed with travel than I am with podcasts. (Sidenote: Thinking of combining travelling and podcasting) I've had an amazing travel year so far and the next couple of months are going to be a huge vibe. In October, Keenan and I are going to Greece for two weeks! I decided to go for the Tbex Conference in Athens and so we're making a holiday out of it.

We'll be there in like, early Autumn, so all your visions of beach days should be replaced by visions of "cultural excursions". I plan on dragging Keenan through Athens for at least one day of just straight-up eating our way through the city. Then we've got about 4 more days in Athens and then we're probably going to Santorini and Lesvos. Anyone got any good recommendations for Greece?

Wellness

With a lot of travel comes a lot of good, good food and that means that I've put on a small child's worth of weight this winter. The other day I saw my naked body in the mirror (despite trying to avoid it at all costs) and audibly went "euwgh". Not good. So I've been making an effort to get back onto the health wagon whenever I'm at home. Eat like a queen on trips and like a... I don't know, healthy person, at home. Noaksists can get out of town because I will never give up carbs, but I've been trying to eat less stuff that contains preservatives, gluten, wheat and sugar. So basically I'm trying to eat a lot of veggies and raw stuff.

I found this recipe for chia seed breakfast pudding and it's really good. Well, it's kind of good. It's also kind of gross, but I'd say over all I'm into it. Wellness Warehouse on Kloof is my kryptonite and I have been feasting on their new Sexy Food menu. Veggie patties with about a billion kinds of sprouts and micro herbs, guacamole, salsa and some delicious dahl. For R60, which is about 1/100th of what I spend every time I go into that place. They also do take-home veggie patties. Which brings me to my next point.

Flexitarianism

I have eaten and loved meat my whole life. Lamb, beef, pork, chicken, prawns...any animal! But recently I've been trying to live a more balanced lifestyle and to be honest, eating meat every single day is not that balanced. I know this sounds crazy but I had this dream where I was standing on the beach watching fishermen pull in these huge fishing nets and there were hundreds of seals caught up in them and the seals had all drowned and I woke up crying so hard.

So that made me think about humans and how much we demand vs how much we need. It's easy to throw stones at the companies who bring us fish and meat but then we're happy to pay R30 per kilogram for bulk pork as long as it's available. So I'm trying to reduce my demand. I don't think everyone should give up eating meat. I just think we could be eating less meat, of a higher quality. It's more expensive eating meat that was raised locally in a way that won't make your stomach flip, so just eat less meat.

So that's where I am right now. I still love meat and I'll eat it when I know it's not from a farm somewhere far away where this poor animal lived caged up for its entire life so that I could eat it. I'm experimenting with veggie meals and it's fun and stimulating. Check out my Veggie Food Porn Pinterest board for ideas.

Fitness

There's something about eating healthy that makes you want to get back out there and exercise. It's been a lazy winter for me, but I'm slowly getting back into running and yoga a couple of times a week. I'm not huge on group fitness or being super stiff all the time, so a mix of a 5km run and a couple of hot yoga sessions a week is ideal for me.

Keenan and I ran the Greenpoint Park Run on Women's Day and it was awesome! It's a free run every Saturday at 8am and anyone can join. Adidas invited me to try out a pair of their new Energy Boost shoes and they definitely made a huge difference. That's the trick to running that no one taught me - you need a good pair of shoes! Especially if you're not a natural runner, like me.

Me Time

I know it seems like I'm always chilling, but actually, I'm always working. Between my freelance work and my blog, I am basically always either at meetings, writing, or out experiencing things to write about. When people get home from their 8-5 job, they probably eat and watch some TV and chill. But when I'm finished my 7-5 job, I normally have something to do to write about, so it's not often that I get some actual me time.

My favourite way to relax is a massage. I found Ruan Thai Massage & Spa in Long Street about 3 years ago and I haven't gone anywhere else since. The venue is very Thai and the therapists are all from Thailand. I recently went for a treatment and the smells of the Thai massage oils mixed with the sounds of Thai music took me right back to my last holiday there in 2012.

For the next three months, you can book a couples treatment for R500 if you tell them you heard about them on Tails of A Mermaid.

Wine

No amount of healthy living could ever make me give up alcohol. I really only drink beer and wine, but man do I love it. I don't know if you know this about me, but I actually collect wine. I mean, I drink it pretty much as fast as I can buy it, but I have a wine rack at home that is pretty much my pride and joy. Recently I discovered Peter Falke, Post House and Buchard Finlayson.

Write those three names down, because the next time you're staring at a menu or a shelf full of wine, you can pick any one of those and rest assured that you made the right choice.

So anyway, that's pretty much my life right now. I mean, it's kind of boring to read about unless you actually like this blog. Leave a comment and tell me what you're into or if you think there's something that I'd be into.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Welcome To Reunion Island: The Video

I've had the opportunity to visit Reunion Island twice this year and I have to admit that I have fallen head-over-heels in love with this small, diverse island. Located in the Indian Ocean, just about 2000km's from South Africa and right next to Mauritius, Reunion Island is basically the peak of a massive volcano that lies under the sea. The volcano isn't formed by a fault in the Earth's crust, but rather by molten lava pushing up through a hot spot.


The volcano is one of the most active in the world and erupts periodically, but because all the inhabitants live on the west of the island and inland, and the volcano erupts on the east of the island, it's perfectly safe. Visitors can drive up to the Piton or peak of the volcano and have a look at the moon-like landscape - It's something very special to see.

Reunion is a department of France, which means that even though it's located thousands of kilometres away, it's run as if it were in Europe. The language, food and currency is all French, with island influence and of course, a beach lifestyle. If you love France and you love the ocean, Reunion Island will be like dying and going to heaven for you.

Between my two visits to the island, I've experienced a lot of what the island has to offer, but there's still a lot I want to go back for. From what I hear, New Year's Eve on the island is a huge party, with most of the west (the beachy side) turned into one big party. Then there's the Sakifo music festival, which sees French and African acts head to the island for their annual music festival. On my first visit to Reunion, I managed to catch the After Sakifo party at a local beach bar and it got me so excited for the festival.


10 Things To Do In Reunion Island


1. Swim in the warm Indian ocean 
The lagoon is crystal clear and warm and if you have a snorkel and mask it's like an open water aquarium under there.

2. Take to the air
Microlights, helicopters and paragliding are the best ways to see the island. Because of the incredibly diverse geography of the island, it's also the best way to wrap your head around the three cirques that form the island population. Read about my paragliding experience here

3. Eat the street food
There's lots to learn about the culture of the island from the street food. Delicious dim sum (known as bouchons), samoosas and falafels, washed down with a cold Dodo beer is a great excuse for "cultural exploration". Ask around about the best places to eat, but I recommend Le Marmite and the Saint Paul's market (open on weekends) for the best local food. 

4. Check out the street art
Featured in the video above, street art duo Kid Kreol & Boogie are doing amazing things through their work. At the moment, they're busy a project to bring to life the island's many myths and legends visually. You'll see street art all over the island, but two hot spots are the Saint Gilles harbour and Saint Denis, the island's capital.

5. Hike 
We hiked up to the remote village of Cayenne, in Mafate. Home to only a few hundred people, the cirque of Mafate is reachable only by foot - there are no roads leading in or out. There are hundreds and hundreds of kilometres to hike on the island, and if you're seriously into hiking, you could spend a week hiking from one side to the other. Our five hour hike to Mafate was the highlight of the trip for me. You can read more about my experience here

6. Hang out at the beach bars
Sunday afternoons are when the locals hang out at the beach at l'Hermitage les Bains (Hermitage Beach), playing beach volleyball, boules and beach bats. Have a swim and settle in for a few sundowners at Coco Beach, where the Creole tapas are delicious!

7. Go canyoning
Canyoning is one of the most fun activities I've ever experienced. It's a mix between hiking, river rafting and cliff jumping. Except there are the rafts. You're wearing a wet suit, life jacket and helmet and you're floating down rapids, jumping off waterfalls and doing front flips off cliffs. Check out the video I made about it below. 


8. Check out the volcano
Obviously. It's hard to explain just how cool it actually is up there. The landscape looks like Mars and the energy is very particular. Definitely one of the things you cannot miss out on. 

9. Drink the rum
The local rum is made from sugar cane grown on the island and it has a very specific flavour. Nothing like the Bacardi rum we drink here. The locals drink it in two ways; in Tipunch or in Planter's Punch. Tipunch is served with sugar and a squeeze of lime, traditionally before dinner. Planter's Punch is served with fruit juice and is only slightly less potent than the Tipunch. After dinner, it's customary to have a shot of rhum arrangĂ©, which is Charette rum, infused with a blend of spices or fruit. Every bar or restaurant has their own blend, so you'll just have to try them all. 

10. Visit the Saint Paul's Market
Open on weekend, the market is where you'll get to eat the finest local produce, check out the locals and enjoy a bit of sunshine. I ate SO much while I walked through the stalls. Local Creole snacks, French cheeses, meats and olives. Fresh fruit... I was sensory heaven! The perfect place to spend a Saturday morning. 

I wrote about my first visit for the Reunion Island Tourism blog here, so check it out if you want to read more about this incredible place.

More About Reunion Island



Monday, August 11, 2014

Give Your Hair A Little Love: Scar Winter Special

I've been going to Scar since I moved to Cape Town in 2010. I've never been to another salon in Cape Town and I've never been unhappy with my hair when I leave scar.

Cape Town comes alive with specials for locals in winter, and if you're eating, drinking and enjoying weekends away at the fun winter rates, chances are you'll want a little hair love too.


After I hacked into my own fringe with a pair of blunt kitchen scissors, 
I popped into Scar for a few highlights and some salvation for my fringe.

Ask for Carlos. He's my favourite. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Birthday Weekend In Elgin

Other than a trip to India, the best birthday present a girl can get is having (a few of) her friends together for the weekend. A whole weekend of friends!



It's not easy to find a spot that can accommodate 10 people at the very least, but a friend of mine offered us Bear Trap Lodge in Elgin and it was just perfect for us! The great thing about Elgin is that it's only 45 minutes from Cape Town and it has lots to eat and drink!

I arrived at the accommodation early on Friday afternoon and spent about 45 minutes trying to make a fire. Eventually it lit and I could start on the veggie soup that I had planned for dinner. The fire lasted about 10 minutes before sputtering and dying, so I opened a bottle of wine instead.

Friends started arriving, a proper fire was built and the night could commence. There was lots of wine drinking and eating and it was so nice. I'd stopped at Peregrine Farm Stall on the way for fresh farm bread, butter and cheese, and we dipped hot grilled cheese sandwiches into our thick veggie soup and it was so wintry and wonderful.

The next day we went wine tasting at South Hill, where there was a huge fire (much, much better than mine) and as the rain bucketed down outside, we tasted their delicious wines and worked up an appetite for lunch. We ended up leaving with a couple of bottles of wine each.

Brinny Breezes at Old Mac Daddy was our next stop, where we sat down to local craft beer, local wine and country-style cooking. If you've never been to Old Mac Daddy before, I urge you to book your next weekend away there. They have a trailer park of old Airstream trailers, which they've refurbished and each one is different. Check out their website, www.oldmacdaddy.co.za for pictures and details on the 11 different trailers.

The food at Brinny Breezes is really good and we ate and drank and had a really great time. Then we headed back to Bear Trap for more fire and some more food (!) and some guitar playing by my friends Lauren and Gene.

Sunday morning was for a late lie-in before a cider tasting at craft cider makers, Eversons. You might know the Everson clan from their stand at the Old Biscuit Mill, where you can see me most Saturdays that I'm in Cape Town. On their property in Elgin they offer tastings for R60 per person, which they waive if you purchase any of their goods. Which you are guaranteed to do.


If you're in the Elgin area, I suggest you try out these places:

STAY

If you're on a romies weekend away, Old Mac Daddy is the place to be. Nothing says romance like a one-of-a-kind Airstream trailer on a beautiful farm. If you're in a group, Bear Trap Lodge is ideal. It sleeps 10 and has two bathrooms, a fire place in the lounge and a kitchen that's stocked with everything you need to cook at home. Check out their website for more details: www.beartraplodge.co.za

SEE

Visit Oak Valley, South Hill, Winters Drift (at the railway) and Charles Fox for wine tastings. I ended up leaving Elgin with 6 bottles of wine! Also make an appointment to visit the Eversons for a tasting and a cider shopping spree. Stop at Peregrine Farm Stall for fresh country produce including butter, cheese, milk, good coffee and freshly baked bread. They also have a huge selection of jams and preserves (my kryptonite!)

EAT

I ordered a baked cheesecake from Dre at Platform 1 Eatery and it was flipping amazing. Eat at Brinny Breezes and Platform 1 for long wine-fuelled lunches and delicious food. South Hill does food too, but we didn't eat there since we'd already booked at Old Mac Daddy.

If you've got any more questions about Elgin, feel free to comment below. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Sounds of Soul & Surf Mornings


waves crash
a crow squawks 
and again
cicadas ring in my subconscious
a single bird chirps
a palm leaf broom
swishing back and forth 
on concrete
in the distance children laugh
shout
hindi
a motorbike chuggs past
far away a horn beeps
repeat
a murmured conversation in french
the slap of flip flops 
padding across grass





In November of 2013 I spent two weeks at the magnificent Soul & Surf in Kerala, India. We started every morning with a tiny banana and a cup of coffee at sunrise, before piling our surfboards onto the top of an old Jeep and going in search of waves. We'd spend over two hours in the warm waves, before heading back to a healthy vegetarian breakfast. Every evening, around sunset, we'd head to the roof of the building for an hour of yoga. These were the sounds I recored into my special memory box one morning whilst meditating. 



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I Read This Book And Couldn't Tell If I Loved It Or Hated It

I just finished reading this book by a woman I follow on Twitter named Kelly Oxford. Her book is called Everything Is Perfect When You're A Liar. Kelly is a Canadian housewife who gained masses of fans on Twitter (like, 500k in 3 years, including people like Jimmy Kimmel, Johan Hill etc!) and basically went on to become an actual script writer and published author! Literally. I read her book. I didn't really get the title, but I forged on because I love her Tweets.

She was a pretty cooky child, then a stoner teenager, then a wacky young adult, then a stay-at-home mom of three and now a FAMOUS WRITER WHO HAS WRITTEN TV SCRIPTS, A MOVIE AND A BOOK. Even people in Africa (me) are reading her book, which is how I judge if someone is really famous.

Like, if you're Rihanna and you come to THE SOUTHERN MOST TIP OF AFRICA and people are singing along to every.single.word of every single one of your songs, I have no idea how you don't just straight up fall off the stage in a flood of grateful tears. Anyway, I digress.

Throughout the book, I couldn't tell if I loved it or hated it, and her. Like, she seemed like a really annoying person. As a kid, she was straight-up cray, then as a teenager, it seems a miracle she survived her stoner endeavours, which range from hilarious - a trip from Canada to LA when she was 19 years old, with the  actual real life goal of meeting Leonardo DiCaprio and making him fall in love with her, quickly, before James Cameron's Titanic came out and he became the world famous serial modeliser he is now, to pretty dumb and dangerous and annoying behaviour. Sometimes I actually sat there reading, shaking my head like a Christian mother.

To be fair, she does refer to herself as an asshole several times throughout the book, in which she describes all manners of reeeaaally embarrassing stuff. Stuff that I might tell my girlfriends on the second night of a weekend away, when we've already finished the gin, you know?

But then there are other things I really liked about the book, and her. I really love that she is so honest and real in the depiction of herself. Much like most people, I too sometimes crop out the ugly holiday apartment in favour of the gorgeous view to share on Instagram, but I get the feeling that she's just being her true self in the book. She's being her ugly holiday house of a self. Which, in way, also highlighted the beautiful view parts of her, if you can wrap your head around this ridiculous analogy that I fear I have taken way too far.

There's this one part in the book where she writes, "I was a fourteen year old little liar who still thought I had to appease people's sensibilities to keep them loving me. I wasn't old enough to realise that I could be my terrible self and have people love me for that." And that resonated with me. Because sometimes I am that 14 year old little liar. The one who says "it's ok" when it's not ok or, "you can borrow my things" when I don't want you to borrow my things.

But as I'm getting older, there are moments of clarity when I realise that telling people what they want to hear is not really conducive to me living my best life. Telling people what I really want, or really feel, or really think isn't about them, it's about me. And people aren't going to love me any less if I am my true self, even if my true self seems awful, compared to my 14 year old liar self. In fact, I've found that many people will love you because of your true self. Sure, your 14 year old liar self might have made their lives a bit easier, but your terrible self is you.

So as I finished the book, I thought to myself, "I am like Kelly Oxford. I can't tell if I love me or hate me sometimes, but I'm best when I'm the real me". Which is when I finally got the title. And decided that I really, really like Kelly Oxford.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Discovering Knysna at the Knysna Oyster Festival #KOF2014

I love oysters. They are my favourite thing to eat (well, tied in first place with risotto and mashed potato) so when I was invited to spend a week at the Knysna Oyster Festival, I was ecstatic.

The Knysna Channel, taken from Featherbed Nature Reserve


It was only once I arrived, that I realised the Knysna Oyster Festival is about so much more than eating oysters. It’s about discovering the area, meeting the locals, drinking the local wine and spending time in glorious, unspoilt nature.

These were my favourite things to do in Knysna during the 10 days of the oyster festival.

Stay

Not far from Knysna Hollow - a beautiful walkway with this view

We stayed at the Knysna Hollow, where the rooms were warm and comfortable, the breakfast was good and the bar was a vibe. The owner was also around a lot, and his hospitality added to the experience. It's not far from the festival area, but far enough for you to escape the masses and traffic on the big weekend. 

Experience


Bungy Jump at Bloukrans

This experience made me feel alive. It was exciting, petrifying and absolutely wonderful all at the same time. The view and the thrill of falling through the air is something that you have to experience. And like I always say, if you’re going to bungy jump, why not do it from the highest bungy bridge in the world? Read more about my experience here

Visit Judah Square

Brother Zeb, qualified tour guide and lovely human

Pretty much the only thing I knew about the Rastafari movement was “one love”, rasta colours and marijuana. But a visit to Judah Square opened my eyes to their unique way of life. I was amazed at the work the Knysna Tourism Board is doing to help them make it easier to live their religion in peace.  We met our qualified tour guide, Brother Zeb at the Tourism office and he accompanied us to the gated Rasta community in the township. Book directly with Knysna Tourism to visit. A really interesting and beautiful experience.

Have Dinner in the Township

The owner and chef at Roosterkoek Kaya Restaurant, Mawanda Khondlo started his township tours and restaurants as a way to introduce tourists to the township community, and demystify the township township way of life. His restaurant served some of the best food we ate all week – along with bottles of cold Zamalek. He’s recently opened up a guest room at his renovated home, where tourists can spend the night to immerse themselves in his hospitality. 

Knysna Wine Festival

I got to try some wines I’d never seen before, from places further flung from Cape Town than my staples - Stellenbosch and Paarl. My favourite of the night was The Fledge Vagabond, which is now being poured at Publik in the Cape Town city bowl (try it next time you're there). This is a fun night out and a good excuse to buy a few bottles of wine.

Eat


Lunch at Conrad Pezula was a foodie highlight for me

Laid Back Lunch: The service at 34 South is slightly too laid back, but the food makes up for it! Everything we ate there was tasty and affordable (much cheaper than Cape Town) and the vibe is great. Visit them for a chilled, wine-fuelled lunch or for a relaxed but delicious dinner.

Fancy Lunch: Conrad Pezula is beautiful and luxurious, perched on the top of the famous Pezula Golf Course. They served the most delicious dressed oyster dish; fresh oysters served with a pineapple granite and lime zest. In fact, everything we ate was delicious! This is the perfect place for a more fancy lunch or dinner.

Must-do Treat: If there’s one place you absolutely must eat, it’s Ile de Pain, the famous bakery on picturesque Thiesen Island. Freshly baked sourdough breads, flaky croissants, quality coffee… I went back three times! The selection of treats basically crippled me with indecision and I ended up eating far too many delicious things.

Flavours of Knysna is really where you get to the “oyster” part of the Oyster Festival. Restaurants from all over Knysna put their best recipe forward with a signature oyster. We had oysters with tequila and chilli, oysters poached in bubbly and I can't even remember what else! Tickets are only R165 and include a tasting booklet for 12 oysters, wine and more.

Spend Time in Nature


Nature being nature

The Knysna forest is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Thick, lush greenery and the smell of pure clean air instantly lifts your spirits as you step into the ancient forest. You feel a sense of, I don't know, history I suppose. Just this sense that many thousands of things have happened there and grow there and you are so insignificant.

We signed up for the FNB Family Forest Hike and somehow managed to miss the path that would take us 6km and instead hiked for 10km through the vivid green trees and bushes. The hike was amazingly very well organized – we arrived to a short briefing, followed by breakfast, organic coffee and warm blankets. Afterwards there was lunch and treats on offer. I really loved this beautiful walk and I recommend it for anyone with legs - big people, small people, unfit people etc.

The Featherbed Nature Reserve is one of those places that you can’t stop thinking about, long after you’ve left. We crossed the channel in a ferry and disembarked onto the shore of this natural paradise. If you’re looking for eye-poppingly beautiful views or rocky shores where mermaids are likely to sun bathe, you’ll find them here. Our experience included a ferry ride, a guided 2.2km walk with information on fauna and flora along the way and a delicious lunch under the milkwood trees. More information on their website.

The East Head from Featherbed Nature Reserve

If ever you're heading through to Knysna, give the Knysna Tourism Board a call or go visit them. They are super friendly and know all the insider secrets.