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Tag Archives: south africa

Blyde River Canyon…A Bit Belated

19 Mar

The Beautiful Blyde River Canyon

As it always does…time has slipped through my fingers once again.  Not only have I not posted anything in regards to China lately, I haven’t posted  – well…anything at all!  So, I thought I would step back in time for a moment and finish sharing the tales our adventures in Africa this past October.  It was brought to my attention that I never wrote about the Blyde River Canyon or Mozambique.  Two places that definitely deserve recognition (and high praise…Nick Cage style).

Stealing a kiss at the top of God's Window on top of the Blyde River Canyon

From Camp Jabulani (where I left off…see the following link for details:  https://ablondeinbeijing.com/2011/12/27/its-all-about-the-elephants/) we traveled to the Cybele Forest Lodge and Spa – a Relais & Chateaux property nestled in the woods of northern South Africa.  The lodge is perched 3,000-feet above sea level amidst Mpumalanga’s forests, mountains and meadows between White River and Hazyview. Owners Rupert and Barbara Jeffries have transformed the original hunting lodge they bought in 1979 to a cosy, yet stylish retreat. There are twelve quaint cottages and ours had  the added advantage of our own heated swimming pool!  It was divine!

Brett standing in God's Window at Blyde River Canyon

During our two nights stay, we took all of our meals in our room at the dining table or poolside on the patio.  It was the ultimate in privacy.  We did leave the room…twice.  Once for a couple’s massage and once for a helicopter ride through the canyon, complete with a stop at God’s Window for a champagne picnic.  Needless to say, it was a very strenuous 48 hours.

Champagne picnic at the top of God's Window

Heli Silhouette

I honestly had never heard of the Blyde River Canyon (the 3rd largest in the world – not to mention that it is a GREEN canyon) until we began our research for the trip.  I am so glad that we made the decision to venture off the beat and path to see this side of South Africa.  It was completely unexpected, and is mostly highly recommended.  I don’t think it is possible to truly capture the beauty of this magical place with unprofessional photographer hands (like ours), but I  hope that our pictures capture enough of its essence to encourage you to visit.

One of many waterfalls falling through the Blyde River Canyon

Our fantastic pool. We did have to watch out for the monkeys though! Little thieves that they are...

Thank you Cybele Forest Lodge & Spa for such a rejuvenating stay!  Just writing and remembering has relaxed me…and well, distracted me from the hazardous pollution of Beijing.  Literally.  The “pollution-o-meter” recommends staying in today.  So – Blyde Blogging it is!

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Calling All Wine, Art & Diamond Lovers!

19 Dec

This should cover a lot of you, so I am expecting an extra-large number of readers today.  If you fall into one or all (like me) of those categories, then Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa is a definite destination spot for you.

Laurence Graff, known to many as the “The King of Diamonds” is one of the few humans in the world that can spot a flawless stone with his bare eyes.  No loop required.  So how does this translate into his estate nestled into the wine country just an hour outside of Cape Town?  The answer is – flawlessly.  He has not missed a single detail of perfection.  From the villas, to the gardens, to the museum quality art collection, to the food, to the wines, and last but not least the impeccable service – we could not have been more impressed.  Though our stay was short, Brett and I took advantage of everything Delaire had to offer.  To be honest, any length of time would have felt too short.

Here is the story of our stay summed up in photos.  The pictures speak much louder than my words.

View of the vineyards from our villa. Taken while sipping on the champagne that was waiting for us in the room upon arrival. I love the way these people think.

Brett flipping through the Graff Diamonds coffee table book in our living room. That incredible view (from the previous picture) is just in front of him. Although, I prefer the view with him in it!

Enjoying the bubbly and the warm clean air. I took on a whole new appreciation for air quality after moving to Beijing. It is the small things in life, you know? Like being able to breathe.

The happy couple right before our wine tasting commenced. You can tell because our teeth and lips are not purple yet! I know you are supposed to spit it out...but who does that on their honeymoon?

Our view during the wine tasting. Just stunning.

In the cellar learning about Delaire's wine making process. Probably should have done the education portion before the tasting...

Touring the cellar... Apparently, I got confused and thought we were taking a dance team picture.

A pristine 2008 red wine barrel at Delaire Graff Estate.

On our way back to the villa to rest and freshen-up before dinner I made a quick stop to kiss the iconic statues of Delaire.

One of many powerful paintings by Lionel Smit

A dip in the pool before dinner. Don't judge - I think I may have counted this as my bath...

Sunset at Delaire Graff Estate. Our view as we walked to dinner.

Dining at the Delaire Graff Restaurant for dinner. We chose Indochine for lunch which was also very tasty. The decor of both spaces is lovely. Be sure to check our Delaire's dining options for even more images of the property. Breathtakingly beautiful.

Sadly, our stay at Delaire had to come to an end. It was certainly too short! But the adventure continues. Here is Brett boarding our tiny "crop duster" to take us to Chitwa Chitwa Private Game Lodge. Let the safari begin!

Stayed tuned for lions, leopards, and ellies galore!

Cape Town: The City of Animals

15 Dec

Baboons run so freely in Cape Town that the city has employed official "Baboon Watchers" to help guard and protect the citizens and their homes. Sneaky little monkeys they are...with their red fannies out for all the world to see!

For an animal lover like myself, Cape Town is truly a city of angels (wild animal angels that is).  In addition to the jaw dropping beauty that the city has to offer, it seemed that at every turn in the road, another furry or feathery creature appeared.  Although, I must say that there is actually nothing that angelic about a baboon.

Our tour of the Cape began at Table Mountain, a flat top mountain that offers gorgeous panoramic views of the entire city.  A cable car takes you all the way up to the top – but the lines can be out of control.  Tickets can be purchased in advance online at http://tablemountain.net/ – but I suggest having your hotel buy them for you right before you go in order to be sure that the cable car is operating and that the mountain is open.  Unpredictable winds play a big factor in cable car capability.  We also suggest hiring a driver that is not above offering a small bribe to one of the workers to sneak you up the back elevator.  I bet we saved at least an hour!  By the way – if you are traveling with children, they are a free ticket to the secret elevator ride.  But be careful on the cable car…the floor moves like one of those  revolving restaurants from the 1980’s and it unexpectedly reveals open windows at times.  One father almost had a Michael Jackson moment with his baby girl.

Brett taking in the view and sipping on wine at Table Mountain Cafe

The ride to the top took less than 10 minutes, and the temperature dropped what felt like at least 10 degrees.  We had been forewarned that it would be chilly up there…so I sported my own cape in honor of THE Cape.  After admiring the view and taking an acceptable amount of photos, we stopped in at the Table Mountain Cafe (a surprisingly cute and trendy spot) to enjoy the scenery (free from the wind) over a glass of fine South African wine.

Typical honeymoon solo photos! On top of Cape Town's Table Mountain...in a cape!

The reality is that Brett and I are not the greatest at sticking to a schedule during vacation.  So when we made it back down the mountain an hour late…our driver was a little frazzled.  In his defense, our expectations were very high on the amount of things we wanted to see in one day.  So…our tardiness – due to newlywed giggles caused us to miss out on the boat trip to Seal Island.  While we hated to miss out, it was our driver who fell into a short-term depression over the miss.  He was determined to for us to see some seals.  He didn’t disappoint.

I even got to feed one! Feeders beware though - we learned that seals actually bite!

After the seal feeding and baboon sightings, we couldn’t wait to see what other animals might emerge.  Again, Cape Town did not let us down.  And, as we turned the corner heading to the Cape of Good Hope, a lady ostrich chilling by the sea raised her long lovely neck.

Sunbathing Ostrich by the Sea. You just don't see this everyday in Beijing...or New York...or Murray, Kentucky...or Columbus, Ohio for that matter!

Morgan and Brett Hutchinson at the Cape of Good Hope

Posing by the sea at Cape of Good Hope before climbing to the top

On Top of Good Hope

At the very top! Only 12,933 kilometers to Beijing!

Brett on top of Good Hope. I was trying to be artistic with the new camera... What do you think?

After a tasty seafood lunch (late lunch I should say…we were actually hungry when our dishes arrived) and a not too shabby whale sighting from our seats at the restaurant on top of the Cape of Good Hope, we headed back in the direction of One & Only for our grand finale stop of the day.  Cape Town’s very own flock of beach penguins!

Seriously - two of the greatest things ever...Brett laughing and beach penguins.

A feathery angel in a tux. Obsessed.

Falling in love with the strange and seemingly misplaced little sunbathing birds...

I think I found a true connection with the penguins of Boulders Beach. As a Blonde in Beijing…I often feel misplaced myself!

Cape Town is an exquisite city.  We had no idea how much we would fall in love with it, and we hope to be able to go back. It is a bucket list destination for sure.

Up next…Our trip to the Delaire Graff Estates and Winery in Stellenbosch.  Wine, art, and diamond lovers stayed tuned!

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