The other day, after we got home from our township tour, I discovered rusks. I’d seen them before, because Sugar Daddy goes giddy whenever he sees them since they’re such a rare find in Canada. But I’d never actually tasted one before. They’re sort of shorter, thicker, more rustic versions of biscotti, I think, and you have to dip them in your tea for a good long soak before you can even try to sink your teeth into them. Since I don’t like biscotti or breaking my teeth, I’d kept my distance. But the other day it had been a long, hot, dusty time since lunch, and I couldn’t find anything else to eat with my tea. So I tried a rusk. And it was really quite nice, so I had another one. It proved my undoing the next morning.
I was hungry again when we got up, so decided to have another rusk with my first generously proportioned cuppa of the day. And I, ever the multi-tasker, even on vacation, couldn’t just eat my rusk and drink my tea. No, I had to also read my book, Bill Bryson’s Down Under, which I’ve become addicted to; and because there was no useful surface in front of me to put my tea while I picked up my book and dipped my rusk, I put the nearly overflowing cup of fresh, boiling hot tea on my lap. With my rusk in one hand and the Bryson book in my other, my cup runnethed over. It was one of those slow-motion helpless moments when you see what is going to happen but can’t move fast enough to stop it. The very hot tea burned my c-section scar and surrounding areas, but I was totally captive, because my hands were full. I quickly threw my book on the floor to pick up the cup but it was too late. There was a pool of burning liquid in my lap. I stood up to try to save my skin and the pool spilled onto the leather couch and white-tiled floor, making me feel like I’d had a rather nasty accident dribbling out of my pants. At this point, Sugar Daddy noticed the commotion and started to clean up while I went in search of dry clothes and some way to stop the burning.
When I got to our bedroom, I just sat on the bed, naked and overwhelmed. That was my last pair of somewhat clean shorts, so I couldn’t figure out what to put on. And my skin was still burning. Eventually Sugar Daddy came in and gave me a hug, and my mind kicked into gear again. I had a cool shower and put on one of the skirts I bought our first day here when we had no clothes except what we wore on the plane.
I went back to my cup of tea, and tried another rusk. My one question remains answered: what do you do with the last bite? You can’t eat it unsoaked, and you can’t really soak it unless you also soak your fingertips.
We set off for Stellenbosch relatively early. I don’t know much about Stellenbosch except that it has an Afrikaans university and lots of beautiful architecture. Its architecture certainly is beautiful, but I kept getting frustrated photographically. From a distance I’d see a beautiful building with the mountain in view behind it, but when I got close enough for the shot I wanted, the mountain had disappeared behind a tree or something else equally inconvenient. The town itself is a little too clean for my taste, and a little too touristy, like Niagara On The Lake. All the shops and restaurants seemed really upmarket, and I didn’t see a single crumbly wall or milimeter of peeling paint. If you’ve seen any of my photos of Guelph, it’s just really not my cuppa tea.
As far as I could see it was also the whitest place we’ve been yet. The one refreshing sight for me was seeing pick-up trucks with white university students hanging onto the back instead of black workers.
After about an hour of walking around the town, which is considerably hotter than Cape Town, we went for lunch in Somerset West with Uncle J, Auntie L and their daughter Cousin A. We went to a restaurant set in a big old house with a thatched roof, and sat on its patio covered with red coca cola umbrellas. The lunch wasn’t bad, but it was slow, and Swee’pea was getting awfully tired before his lunch arrived. Anyways, it was nice to visit again, and Auntie L endorsed our plan to go a farm nearby called Vergelegen. It’s an Afrikaans word that requires you to gargle lots of saliva at the back of your throat – twice at each g – and my Canadian tongue cannot even attempt to get itself around it. I stopped trying after a while and lots of pitying somewhat blank looks.
When we set out, I’d thought that I’d be more interested in Stellebosch, and less in going to a wine farm, but I thought we should really go to a wine farm for my dad’s sake, since he just started a vineyard. But when we got to Vergelegen around 3-ish, I wished we had more time to explore. I found myself actually wanting to go the winery itself, which is apparently up on a hill with beautiful views, but you have to book a tour in advance to get there, and it was too late. Next time I guess. The grounds are beautiful, the Cape Dutch buildings equally beautiful, and walking around it was even better than a park, with huge agapanthus, the biggest camphor trees I’ve ever seen, giant bamboo, little ponds of water lilies with boardwalks surrounding them.
(Certainly it’s much much better than Zoo Lake in Johannesburg, which was one of Sugar Daddy’s haunts when he was growing up. I wasn’t very keen on walking around the man-made pond on a goose poo littered path, but Sugar Daddy was insistent that we just had to walk all the way around, or it wouldn’t be a visit to Zoo Lake. The one thing that I liked about it was the view of like fifty coloured rowboats jammed together in the foreground, waiting to be hired, fountain spouting like a geyser in the middle of the “lake,” and city skyline of downtown Joburg up in the background.)
I have to interrupt myself here, because I can hear Swee’pea giggling outside my window. Apparently there are bees buzzing around the ornamental grape vine, and he’s laughing at Sugar Daddy saying, “Bees.” Yesterday in the car ride home from Vergelegen, he laughed hysterically every time Sugar Daddy said “Cape Dutch” or “Cape Dutch houses.” I think because it sounds a bit like a sneeze if you say it fast.
Anyways, back to Vergelegen, I had noticed in the pamphlet that you can order a picnic lunch to eat on the grounds. We went walking into a woodsy area under some eucalyptus trees, where the ground was smooth and bare. I laughed when we came upon a sort of a booth with tea and coffee. I giggled to myself even more when we went a bit further and found tables fully set for lunch with table cloths, wine glasses, tea cups and several pieces of silverware. I guess this is the colonial version of a picnic. I think this was seriously the most civilized place I have ever come upon. The estate was built in 1700, a very long time ago, but I think the winemaking part of it only began in 1992, after an American company, Anglo American, bought the property in 1987.
I think during our next visit, I would like to go back and visit its winery, and also visit other, perhaps older, wineries in the area. The landscape is stunning, with farmland in the flat green valleys surrounded by huge brown rocky mountains.
We had tea on the patio of another building on the grounds, and decided we were seriously melting and tired. When we got back to the car, we discovered why: the outdoor temperature was reading 41 degrees – at 4:30 in the afternoon! Cape Town, when we got back, was a refreshing 31 degrees.
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Today has started off much better than yesterday, and we are taking the morning easy. It seems like we’ve been a long time in holiday la la land. Swee’pea has absolutely no routine anymore, and we’ve been doing quite a lot of sightseeing and visiting and travelling. It struck my yesterday, while Swee’pea giggled in the backseat with Sugar Daddy, that he will have to undergo a significant adjustment when we get back home and Sugar Daddy goes back to work, never mind trying to get him into an earlier morning routine and comfortably familiar with his daycar, in preparation for my return to work. Oh well, no point worrying about it now.
This morning has allowed me to finish Bryson’s book. I enjoyed it hugely, although it felt strange to be reading about his travels in Australia while I’m in South Africa – but I don’t think he’s written a book about South Africa yet. There was one mention of Joburg in the book though, where apparently he was robbed in broad daylight by a group of young people.
This afternoon we are off to have tea with Granny, and I wonder if this time we will be able to get there without taking a wrong turn. Apparently their suburb is the safest suburb in the Cape or something like that, because most of its residents don’t have much worth stealing. Come to think of it, I don’t even know if Granny and Uncle R even have an alarm system. Every other house we’ve stayed at here has had an alarm system, and at Auntie J’s house, they even had it monitoring movements within the house at night. If anyone moved in the kitchen or sitting room, the alarm would go off, so we had to make sure to take enough water with us to bed for overnight.
Anyways, tomorrow we’ll head off up the coast to Grandpa Cape Town’s beach house in Yzerfontein, which has no phone, and hence no Internet. We’ll be back either Monday or Tuesday, in time for me to take a stab at baking a cake (thanks for pointing me to a good recipe, Beck) for Swee’pea’s birthday party on Wednesday, which will be held in Noordhoek at Sugar Daddy’s stepsister’s house. I’m a bit nervous about the cakemaking part, but I feel strongly about marking his first birthday with the effort of baking a cake made with love and mostly wholesome ingredients.
Photos of the day: Reflections of Parliament
4 hours ago