Before I write about places we enjoyed (just a 1-3 hours from Cape Town), I’ll add 2 photos (above) that connect to my last post showing where we stayed in Cape Town – Blackheath Lodge.

View from our room – deck near pool used 1 sunny day

The Blackheath Lodge breakfasts were gorgeous with homemade food often presented in such interesting ways eg. homemade yoghurt filled muesli cups (top LHS photo). They said they sometimes shop in the Malay District (mostly for spices I gather) as they always have a midweek dinner once/wk which I think anyone can go to, not just guests. The colourful Malay District (top RHS photo) is worth visiting, even if you’re not interested in food/spices. I’ve posted another photo or 2 on this district in previous posts on Cape Town. If a history nerd like me, it’s worth reading up on how/why this area developed – I found it v interesting.

Places we loved near Cape Town…an easy day trip or short break

Swellendam

I’ve already done blog posts on the stunningly beautiful Franschhoek wine district and the picturesque rural setting of Swellendam (photo above of B&B) – both half day drives from Cape Town. There’s not only great food and wine to enjoy in both these places, but also local history with a number of small museums like the one in photo below at Swellendam…

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Lake district near coastal township of Hermanus

The photos above show a little of the beauty of this region. We loved staying there a few nights so we could see the sunsets and sunrises over the mountains. Unfortunately, it was wet and windy when we arrived at Mosaic Sanctuary Lodge (from where we stayed in Swellendam) so we were unable to get out much on the first day or two. However, as can be seen from the next photos, it wasn’t too tough being stuck inside!

At Mosaic Sanctuary Lagoon Lodge (near coastal town of Hermanus), again the food was beautiful with lots of seafood from local waters as well + wine from nearby vineyards. The chef was a young woman (with big city experience) who had moved into a cottage on the property with her husband – I think I remember her saying that he worked there as well and/or in Hermanus. On the first two nights there weren’t many people staying.

More on Mosaic Lagoon Lodge…One of the more expensive stays along the way but all the meals, most wine + activities were included in the price, and everything was outstanding – even a couple of little problems were resolved in a super friendly/prompt way eg. A problem with fire in our bungalow + main fire in shared area needed extra wood.

An open fire + spectacular views from the shared lounge/dining room space (photo below) added to the Wow factor too especially in the evening when we went across for pre dinner drinks. Shared dining/lounge space is a few minutes walk from cottages with ensuite/room service etc..

Activities:

Included lovely walks (longer hikes for some) and kayaking – which Tony had hoped to do but the weather was mostly rather wild! On our half day drive (with a quick stop) from Swellendam we just avoided the biggest storm in the history of the region! We were glad that we hired a bigger/more solid car than usual (see Plettenberg Bay post if interested). Toward the end of our drive we could feel the winds buffeting the car around but we never felt in danger as we were mostly driving through open spaces (unlike our regular drives from coast to Canberra often with large gum trees beside the road).

Walk in and around Spook House (photo below)…a beautifully restored house with a fascinating history. We had lunch beside the cosy fireplace after our guided walk around the lakefront (photos above).

Lunch at historic Spookhouse…restored by owners’ of Mosaic Lodge

The Mosaic Lodge employed knowledgeable local guides who were sensitive to my mobility needs at the time (prior to my surgeries the next month) ie. to avoid slippery rocks, etc. (I already had 1 broken titanium rod!…strangely, wasn’t causing me much pain although mornings were hard). They took us down to the lagoon and around their huge property mostly using boardwalks. The boardwalks have also been built to protect the wetland environment of this beautiful region. The car park isn’t far from the lodge and there’s a lot that can be done on one level so anyone in a wheelchair might enjoy a stay here too.

With my spinal problems, I took my walking poles as it had been very wet; so once the skies cleared enough for walking, it was still quite slippery in parts – we mostly stayed on the more solid tracks. Others preferred to go hiking up hills/mountains (there are many!) for challenges/better views etc so that is possible too. The people there have lots of suggestions for varying fitness levels. A decade ago, I was very fit (and usually slim!) so being less so frustrated me a bit but I’m aware that I’m still luckier than many (I’m still walking!) so I try to make the most of things, and keep moving like my specialist suggests too! Keeping the weight off now I’m not as fit after surgeries is a challenge with both these places and Tony serving up delicious dinners! I try not to eat much during the day, especially when we have sensational breakfasts like here at Mosaic Lodge.

Photo above: Tony with 1 of my walking poles…I use 2 poles most of the time. They’re not as popular in Australia compared to many parts of Europe and UK although excellent idea for all ages. When used correctly, they can give upper body more of a workout as well.

Due to my spinal problems (and surgeries on horizon) I just didn’t want to slip again and break anymore bionic bits or bones! Even if you feel super fit, worth getting bone density tests if over 50 as heard from a few friends with bad breaks, that they didn’t find out about osteoporosis until in hospital after a crisis. However, I still believe in living life to fullest…and “a life lived in fear is one half lived”!

Books, Films and African Inspired Recipes:

As I’ve mentioned before both Tony and I loved “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” novels and we enjoyed the TV series (BBC?) almost as much. I did buy the DVD series but passed it onto a friend (can’t remember who!). Now we want to watch it again before we visit Botswana (maybe 2020) so we’ll try to track it down at Public Library, Netflix or similar. We highly recommend it!…very amusing at times but with many social issues that kept us engaged + the scenery is so different too. There’s a cookbook based on stories from this series called “Mma Ramotswe’s Cookbook – Nourishment for the Traditionally Built” – Stuart Brown. I borrowed it from the Kingston Library Canberra. A couple of recipes below and another v simple 1 using pumpkin in last post.

RECIPES:

Barbecues are very popular in Africa…as they are in Australia and NZ of course (Africa was probably where this cooking technique originated). In Africa the meat is barbecued at a braai. Traditionally, some Africans eat Springbok (similar taste to Venison I gather?) and Ostrich fillet – didn’t appeal to me. In the recipe book noted above, the introduction to this recipe is:

“Mma Ramotswe was not herself enamoured with ostrich (which she though undignified), but knew many people who were).” So they suggest beef if you feel similarly or other meats aren’t freely available:

A nice summer recipe to serve with a variety of salads…

Seared/Rare BBQ Beef…served finely sliced garnished with Parmesan, rocket leaves + drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with S&P to taste.

Ingredients: 3 lbs beef eg. Rump (I’ll convert to Kgs soon); Fresh herbs eg. Parsley, thyme, chives, basil; Olive Oil; Balsamic vinegar; crushed black pepper; Ground coarse salt; Parmesan cheese; Rocket leaves.

Method:

Season the steak with some salt and pepper; Seal meat in a pan with butter/oil; Roll meat in the fresh chopped herbs, then roll the beef tightly in cling film to hold shape (or baking paper wrapped firmly/tied with string); Freeze overnight or 4-5 hours;

Remove the wrap/cling film and slice as thinly as possible. Restaurants sometimes have a special slicing machine (similar to that used in a butchery) for this purpose but we have just used a very sharp knife.

Allow to defrost…serve attractively on platters – garnish as noted above.

Another very popular meat dish in Africa is Biltong – “found all over Southern Africa and is a means of preserving meat…During the winter the strips of meat dry fast (in 3 or 4 days) and don’t go off.” There is a recipe in this book for Cooked Biltong (Rehydrated)…perhaps one for people who like to go camping. Doesn’t appeal to me but it was interesting to learn about. There are many African recipes also on Net eg. a BBC food site.

A winter recipe from the same book:

Dr Moffat’s Beef Madras – Serves 8...I like this 1 as it has turmeric (see my other note if interested:) I only like a very small serve of beef so when cooking curries, I often make a vegetable and chickpea curry as well + serve with sambals etc…many recipes on Net of course.

Ingredients for beef curry: 1 cup grated fresh coconut (or if unavailable from market I’ll soak shredded coconut in coconut milk for a few hours then blend); 2 tbs fresh ginger; 1 tbs tamarind concentrate; 2 large onions, sliced; 1 tsp ground cumin; 2 tsp coriander; 2 tsp sweet paprika; 2 lb 4 oz diced beef chuck steak; 6 oz can tomatoes; 2 tsp black mustard seeds; 2 tbs veg oil; 6 cloves garlic (crushed); 1 tsp ground turmeric; 2 tsp chilli powder (hot chilli if you like it spicy!); 10 curry leaves; 1/2 cup water.

Method:

Blend or process coconut, toms, ginger, seeds and tamarind until puréed. Heat oil in a large saucepan, cook onions and garlic, until brown. Add all the spices and cook until fragrant. Add curry leaves, beef water and coconut mixture; simmer covered 1.5 hours or until beef is tender, stirring every now and then.

This recipe reminds me to have a curry night soon – before we leave for a warmer climate in Europe (mid August)…I saw on the news last night that Sweden is in the grip of a heatwave and a bushfire crisis (never before experienced so far Nth) so I hope it cools down soon + rain arrives both there and here! It’s been so dry in and around Canberra and country NSW. However, rain is predicted later this week.

The Chapter where this recipe comes from notes many “stews and the comfort of heavenly food”! There are also many very simple cake recipes eg. A date loaf etc. but my feeling is that too much sugar is added. I prefer recipes with less sugar and some nuts included especially walnuts with dates 😋

One more film suggestion set in Africa and based on a true story:

The other interesting film (more recent) mostly set in Botswana as well is United Kingdom…based on the story of the romance/marriage in the 1940s, when “Prince Seretse Khama shocks the world when he marries a white woman from London”.