Sunday, November 25, 2012

Oyster Box Hotel, Umhlanga Rocks, South Africa

 A spectacular 5 star hotel, on the Indian Ocean, impecable service, stunning views, top bars and restaurants, a must see visit if you are ever in Durban, South Africa.  Recently renovated to world class standard, I remember visiting this hotel and spending hot summer days on this beach as a child.  

In the foyer

Spectacular arrangement of Strelitzia leaves with Anthurium flowers

The Palm Court, serving traditional afternoon teas

The Grill Room for fine dining

The Oyster Bar - note the glass tiles on the floor that you can look through, below that is a wine bar, table setting for a wedding that we sat sipping champagne and witnessing the joyful revelry.  

Looking through the glass floor - we are watching you

Superior service, champagne and a delicious cheeseboard for 3

Some of the amazing collection of African art which is displayed throughout the hotel

View from The Lighthouse Bar - a working lighthouse

I loved this bar with its touches, or should I say shock, of bright red, which bounce off the lighthouse just perfectly

Lighthouse Terrace - red blankets are draped across the chair backs for those chilly evenings

Ships anchored out on the Indian Ocean, waiting to dock in the very busy Durban harbor

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Franschhoek - "French corner" - a little bit of paradise in the Western Cape, South Africa

Franschhoek, my favorite little town in the world.  Nestled in a valley surrounded by majestic mountains, Franschhoek was settled in the 1600's by the French Hugenots, persecuted Protestants, who brought their wine growing skills to the region.  Thank goodness, they did a fantastic job and this region produces world class wines and in one small town with a population of just over 15,000 you will find restaurants to rival the best in the world too.  This is the cuisine capital of South Africa.  And the scenery is breathtaking, with amazing drives, the most fantastic wineries to visit, taste, walk, delicious local food.  A must visit.  I'm lucky enough to have my mom living in the middle of this gem of a place and visit as often as I can.  

The main street driving into Franschhoek

My mother's little front patio and garden with a mountain backdrop

Mom's little paradise

A few of the stunning local homes sitting on side streets

Typical Cape Dutch architecture

La Grange interior design store

La Motte winery

Friday, November 9, 2012


I have just returned from a 3-week trip back "home" to South Africa.  To me, a fantastic hidden gem with many more wonderful places to visit, than time.  Over the next few weeks, I will share a few of my favorites.

Just outside Paarl, Western Cape, we stopped in at Tea Under the Trees, a tea garden on a working farm, literally out under the huge old oak trees, for a mid-morning tea/coffee break.  The croissants and homemade bran muffins, were exquisitely served with a tray of butter, grated cheese, jams and garnished with a sprig of mint and a viola flower.   The lovely owner, Debbie Redelinghuys, stopped by to chat about her amazing little piece of paradise, the gardens, buying old china on her travels and it is evident that this is a passion of hers.  I loved it so much that I didn't want to leave, so walked off the morning snack amongst the stunning gardens, the spectacular rose garden, and stayed for the most delicious sandwich, salad and koeksusters for lunch.  If you are ever in the area, this is a place not to be missed.  The hours are seasonal, it does not open on weekends, other than for functions on Saturdays, closes for school holidays too.

The entrance drive

Gravel drive lined with Agapanthus about to bud out and bloom in a few weeks

The homestead, tables and chairs set up on the veranda too

Looking from the tea garden back to the house

And looking from the house into the tea garden, vineyards on the right

Looking towards the vineyards, three lifesize "beaded" sheep graze amongst the patch of uncut grass

Tables and chairs dotted here and there under the huge old oaks

Under each oak is a huge circular bed, each one filled with dozens of hydrangea bushes, just coming into early spring bud.  I can only imagine what a spectacular sight this would be in summertime as they burst into bloom

A swing hangs from one of the oak trees, looking out across the grape vines

A chandelier hangs from the oak tree, above one of the tables.  Each table had a simple arrangement with fresh artichokes, sprigs of rosemary or lavender, chive flowers, in a teapot or china vase
Artichokes and rosemary in an old silver teapot

White standard Iceberg roses are seen in every vineyard in the Cape wineland valleys, here is no exception

How every croissant, yes freshly baked, still warm and crispy, should be served

After lunch desert - my absolute favorite South African delicacy - KOEKSUSTERS - and only R20 (just over $2 for 4), dripping with syrup, crisp and juicy and delicious

The rose garden - this time of year in the Cape, the roses bloom and put on a spectacular summer display, seen here again the white Iceberg roses