Cape Town 2017: Day 4

Monday was our last day in beautiful Cape Town, and we rejoiced the moment we woke up because the sun was out in full force. It was about bloody time, because we could not leave without going up Table Mountain.

We had to check out by 10am and I got ready first because I wanted to take the car to the car wash across the road, not for a wash, but more for a vacuum because of all the sand from Saturday’s beach escapades. I didn’t want to lose the R4500 deposit I had given Hertz so thought it would be best to clean the car as nicely as possible, just in case.

I went downstairs while Surbhi dressed and Premsheela showered and walked straight into the car wash where I was greeted by a relatively elderly Afrikaans man. He agreed to do just a vacuum and asked where my car was. When I turned around to point at it, I noticed something that stopped me in my tracks – the glass of the passenger window had been smashed in. I had no doubt in my mind that they had taken the GPS device. The man from the car wash said he had noticed it when he got to work and wondered whose car it was. I went to inspect it and the GPS was indeed gone, even though we had placed it in the cubby. Whoever had broken in had obviously seen it before we removed it from the windscreen. 

I felt deeply disheartened, but I was glad that we didn’t leave anything personal in the car because we made a point of clearing everything out the previous night so that there wouldn’t be a delay when it was time to leave. I was also relieved that we were not there when it happened. After all, the most important thing was our safety.

I’m not sure what for, but I thanked the car wash man and practically jogged back upstairs. I called Surbhi as soon as I opened the door and broke the news to her. It was a weird situation for me because although I was probably as scared as she was, I still had to be the brave one because it happened in my country and to some extent, I felt responsible. I’m also very protective over both girls so I felt like I needed to make them feel safe.

After checking the document I had gotten from Hertz when I received the car, I called them to ask what the next steps were. They advised me to first go to the Police and get a case number, then bring the car to their Loop Street branch where they would give me another one to use for the rest of the day. I called Marc to let him know that there had been a setback and that we had planned to go to one of the police stations nearby, but he informed me of another station that was even closer which happened to be next door to the gym where he was at. It was 9:30 on a Monday morning and Marc was at the gym. That’s when I really wondered what he actually does for a living but as I mentioned in Day 1, he’s a model.

Once Premsheela came out of the shower, we told her what had happened and what we were going to do. Surbhi had made coffee for me and tried to make me calm down because she could see that I was stressing. I had some of the leftover muffin (there always seemed to be some) with my coffee as I waited for the girls to gather their remaining items.

After doing a quick spot check of the house, we went downstairs where the girls saw the car for the first time. I cleared the broken glass around the window with my hand (much to Surbhi’s horror because she thought I was going to cut myself) and pushed most of it into the car. I didn’t want to risk any glass flying into the girls’ eyes in the back seat while I was driving.

The police station was only about 5 minutes away, and we saw Marc standing across from the entrance with 2 of his gym buddies. He showed me where to go, but like an idiot, I saw that the sign on the gate said “Police vehicles only”, so I drove passed. Thanks, brain, you made me make an ass of myself in front of Marc yet again, because that was exactly where I was supposed to go. I had to make a U-turn and smiled sheepishly at him as I drove into the entrance.

Marc caught up with us as I parked and asked whether the car came with hub caps or not. Confused, I looked at the car and noticed that those too were gone. I know what you’re thinking – which cars even have hub caps these days? Don’t ask, but that’s the shit Hertz put on this car. I didn’t know that stealing hub caps is still a thing. It wasn’t even a bad car; it was what appeared to be a 2012 or 2013 Toyota Corolla.

Marc kindly offered his assistance on anything else we might need after I handed him his keys, especially with regards to the police, after which we said our goodbyes. The girls and I went into the station and I was asked to provide a statement to the comical middle-aged policewoman. I also had to state the value of what was stolen, but had to Google the cost of a set of hub caps as I had no idea what they would cost. Turns out you can get a full set for around R1400.

When we got up to leave, the officer said to Premsheela “Take care of your mom”. We all looked at each other confused, and then realised she thought that I was Premsheela’s mother. It was absolutely hilarious and we still find it so funny. I jokingly call Premsheela my child whenever she thinks I’m giving Surbhi more attention (which is almost all the time, even in Surbhi’s absence).

We went straight to the closest branch of Hertz from there, where they proceeded to give us another car. They said that I would get my refund back but that I’d need to pay for the hub caps and GPS. I couldn’t believe that the insurance I had taken out did not cover the hub caps. Long story short, I never got my deposit back despite me calling them 3 weeks later. They said it would take 21 working days, but it’s been 3 months now and I was never refunded, so the car hire cost me far more than I planned. If I ever decide to hire a car again, which I probably won’t, I’ll never use Hertz. It would have been cheaper for us to Uber wherever we wanted to go, and take a tour to Cape Point considering how far it was.

With all the drama out of the way, we set off for Table Mountain.

I was shocked at how expensive the tickets are now – R265 per adult. That place is really making a killing. We didn’t wait too long in the queue, maybe 15 minutes max. We stopped to have our photos taken at the green screen just before entering the next section to board the cable car. The girls were visibly excited and I was excited for them and myself too, since it had been years since I last went up the mountain.

Words cannot really describe how beautiful it was once we got to the top.

There isn’t much to do at the top of Table Mountain apart from admiring the views, and that’s precisely what we did.

We even managed to take another album cover-worthy photo.

There’s some events in your life that change everything. After all the shit I’ve been through in the last year and a bit, this was one of those events. It was a long-awaited break and these 2 girls were responsible for it.

We went straight to the airport after Table Mountain, timed perfectly so that we could have a late lunch. After checking in, we went straight to Mugg&Bean and devoured our meals in silence because we were all starving. As we finished and asked for the bill, I had a feeling that I needed to look to my right, so I did, and there was Sophia and her mom. They were about to sit down about 3 tables away from us but they didn’t see us at all because the restaurant was so busy.

After asking for the bill, since the waiter was taking so long, I went to say hi to them. Sophia and her mom greeted me with the same sparkle in their eyes that I had grown up knowing. They said that they were looking for us as soon as they entered the airport and wasn’t sure whether or not we had left, but somehow even though we only had a 10 minute window, we managed to find each other. I kept checking on the girls in that minute or 2 that I spoke to Sophia alone so that I’d be able to pay my share for the bill, but if I recall correctly, the girls took care of it and Surbhi scribbled in her book again. She didn’t tell me what it was until after we got back to Joburg, but I knew she was keeping track of what each of us spent so that they could pay me back for the bookings I had done.

We gathered our things and the girls came with me to spend the last 5 precious moments with Sophia and her mom, knowing that there was a chance they’d never see each other again. I took a moment to look at each of them speaking to each other and it genuinely warmed my heart. Rarely do you witness such moments when complete strangers meet and they speak as if they’ve known each other for years. I guess I should feel proud that I was the link between them.

Cape Town was one of those magical trips that I didn’t realise I needed to do, and I will cherish it forever.

Cape Town 2017: Day 3

Every morning when we woke up, the first thing we’d do was look outside the big glass windows (the ones that stretched from one end of the apartment to the other) in search of the sun. Would we finally be able to go up Table Mountain? No. Sunday was not the day.

We were a little lazy that morning and decided to make it a lazy day. Premsheela wanted to go back to Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town to see the penguins but I really wasn’t keen on driving all the way back there, since we had just passed through Simon’s Town the previous day. We still had to go to the winelands, and Sophia and my high school friend Priscilla wanted to get together that day.

Sophia was in constant contact with me that day because we really wanted to spend some time together, given that me visiting her in Cape Town was so long overdue, and the previous night didn’t work out. Just thinking about what I’m going to say about it in the next few paragraphs is making me smile. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

Constantia

Although it was a dull day, the sun peeped out now and then and it wasn’t actually cold. We embraced the fact that there was no wind either by wearing light clothes. The drive to Constantia was fun – Premsheela had opened a massive slab of Kit-Kat, which my trusty co-driver Surbhi handed to me. That, and chips. I found it very odd having chocolate and chips at 10 in the morning, but I figured stuff it, I’m on holiday. And with Premsheela there, I expected nothing less. 

The GPS took us into the middle of Constantia, which wasn’t exactly where I had in mind, but I knew we weren’t far off from where I wanted to be – Groot Constantia. Constantia is probably the most beautiful suburb in Cape Town as the majority of the homes are Dutch style. The streets are lined with trees and are immaculate. It actually reminded me of Bavaria a little, particularly Schwangau, the area around Neuschwanstein Castle.

When we got to Groot Constantia, the guard at the entrance asked where we were going. I said something stupid like “We’re just going to walk around a little”, and he gave me a brochure saying we could go have lunch at the restaurant. I said it was a good idea and that we’d probably do that, knowing full well we weren’t actually going to do that. I was hungry though.

There was ample parking so I had no trouble finding a spot. We walked around a little enjoying the peace and quiet of the vineyards. The grape trees carried on for as far as the eye could see, and the roads were lined with white and red rose bushes.

After dodging the occasional car for our “road trip” photos, we found what appeared to be a park with rolling grass steps. Only, the steps were large and quite steep. We could have walked around them, but we were with Premsheela, so of course we had to climb. Surbhi and I found spots that weren’t as steep so we could walk up on our two feet rather than on all fours like Premsheela. Surbhi was just as amusing too, as she was taking so many baby steps so that she could stay upright. I couldn’t help but giggle.

Not that there was anything special about them, but we spent a good 30 minutes or so sitting on those steps, mostly trying to take selfies on Premsheela’s phone*. It wasn’t particularly comfortable because it had rained the previous night so the grass was wet, and let’s just say we sat long enough to feel it.

The entire time, I was having an argument in my head as to whether or not to go to Boulders Beach, because on one hand I didn’t want to drive all the way back there, but on the other hand, I didn’t want Premsheela to leave South Africa not having seen the penguins in the one place you can see them here. I try to live my life without regrets, so I didn’t want to be the one stopping Premsheela from seeing something she might never see again. It just wouldn’t have been fair.

I’m not sure what Surbhi was doing here, which is why I included this photo.

*The reason I mentioned us using Premsheela’s phone for taking selfies on the wet grass is because while we were on our way to the Waterfront, her phone decided to crash. It required a factory reset, so we basically lost all the photos she had taken and sitting on that wet grass for so long was for nothing. The photos I posted above are ones that she had sent out to other friends, thankfully, so we got those back.

Boulders Beach

It was already closing on 12pm and time was of the essence, so after taking a quick walk to the wine cellar and having a look around (I know, a total fail considering where we were), we left for Boulders Beach, much to Premsheela’s delight. Constantia is pretty much half way between the city and Boulders Beach, so the fact that I had already driven half the distance and only had 30 minutes more to go made my decision easier. Premsheela offered to sing for me to show her appreciation, but when I refused (knowing how ridiculous it would be), she offered her most prized possession instead: chocolate. I couldn’t help but laugh, and started on the drive to Boulders Beach.

We had to go up the winding road over the mountain again, and this time the views were much better because the sky was relatively clear. We reached Boulders Beach just before 1pm; a good time. We paid special attention to the signage in Simon’s Town this time and it was evident that there weren’t clear enough signs for us to have noticed it the previous day. I felt slightly better.

There was a wooden walkway on either side of the small ticket kiosk – we assumed the left side was for people exiting the premises and the right was the entrance, but it turned out that there was no set direction. It was R40 each if I remember correctly, which I thought was quite reasonable.It as only a matter of minutes before we spotted the first penguin. We were surprised to see them that far away from the water, waddling underneath such thorny bushes. I don’t know if penguins are usually that chilled or whether they’re just used to seeing people around, but it was as if some of them were posing for photos.

We were lucky enough to even see 2 or 3 with their babies. It was the cutest thing – we found them by zoning in on the tiniest little tweeting sounds, only to find that their mothers were hiding them underneath their own bodies.

After a while we came to what appeared to be an “official entrance” to the actual beach, and there was a long queue. We were confused because we had already paid for our tickets and weren’t sure whether this was something else or not. I stood a little out of the line trying to see who was being let through the entrance separate to the one people were queuing in front of, but I was too far to make out clearly. I purposely stood with my right hand visible – the one which was holding our tickets – and it worked in alerting one of the staff who gestured for us to proceed passed the queue. Thankfully we were only in the queue for a few minutes.

One we got through the gate, we were met with an open area where we could see the whole beach. There were dozens of penguins walking around, and what I enjoyed just as much as the view was the weather: there was barely even a breeze despite the fact that we were right on the beach, and it wasn’t cold either. I know I keep mentioning the weather when it came to this trip, but winter is a funny time of year in Cape Town and it’s practically a miracle for it to be dry and not cold, so we took what we could get.

When we walked back to the parking lot, we came across a souvenir shop as well as a coffee shop/restaurant which was above it. We thought we could get something to eat take away, but Surbhi and I decided to settle for a cup of coffee while Premsheela browsed around the shop. We went upstairs, ordered 2 cappuccinos, and waited patiently while Surbhi took photos of the random ocean-themed decorations around the restaurant. What was nice about being with Surbhi and Premsheela was that they really were tourists, and I remembered how I am when I’m in a foreign country where I find interesting what a local would normally overlook.

We got our coffee and went back downstairs to meet Premsheela, and she was still choosing what she wanted. I didn’t blame her because there were dozens of miniature penguins to choose from and all were so cute. I was actually quite tired and a little cold, so I waited on the benches outside. I think the girls thought I was still mad about coming to Boulders Beach, but I was actually just a little preoccupied. We were there for another 15-2o minutes while they choose what they wanted. I didn’t want to rush them at all – they are never going to go there again.

The V&A Waterfront

I was keeping Sophia up to date regarding our whereabouts, so informed her as soon as we were leaving. She was at the Waterfront with her mom so there was no rush to get to her since they had no plans for the rest of the day, and she asked me to call when I was close to the city so she could tell us exactly where she was. I did exactly that and found that she was in the Zara at the mall at the Waterfront.

We parked where we had done so on the Friday, and walked over to the mall. It looked exactly how I remembered it from 9 years ago, and I felt a little nostalgic. I walked through Zara while Surbhi and Premsheela went to answer nature’s call. I couldn’t find Sophia or her mom anywhere and figured they were in the change rooms, so I went back outside to wait for the girls. Upon their return, I called Sophia and she said that they were indeed in the change rooms and were now paying. We walked back into the shop and there she stood, in the queue with her mom. I can’t quite describe just how happy I feel when I see or even speak to Sophia. She is definitely my most beloved friend. The warmth with which both Sophia and her mom greeted not only me, but Surbhi and Premsheela with, is something I don’t think any of us will forget.

After Sophia was done paying, we headed to Gucci (if I remember correctly) to get a jacket for Sophia’s cousin from Australia. They didn’t have it, and after Sophia’s mom complained about the price of the tiny underwear (it was like R700 for a pair), we left. I had already told Sophia at least 2 hours prior to meeting about how little Premsheela eats and that we were starving, so as the 2 of us walked ahead of the girls and Sophia’s mom, she gave me some options on where to go so that we could all eat something. I didn’t need to worry about Surbhi at all, but Premsheela was another story. I couldn’t let her go a full day without eating at least one decent meal. I found myself occasionally turning back to check on whether or not the girls were comfortable enough walking alone with Sophia’s mom, and it was evident that they were. Surbhi smiled back at me as a reassurance, and Sophia told me not to worry because her mom loves people from India. It was as if I had introduced the girls to my own family – I loved it.

As we walked to a familiar part of the Waterfront and headed towards the food market, we finally got our first clear view of Table Mountain. Surbhi remembered the big yellow frame we had seen from afar on Friday and asked if we could take a photo there. Sophia assured us that we’d be passing it, so we stopped there when we did. I think what I enjoyed the most was the fact that we were in no hurry at all at this point – it was just a chilled afternoon with people I adore.

Photos done, we headed for the food market where Sophia proceeded to give us a full tour of every stall in the entire place. We were mostly focused on where the girls could eat, and Sophia pointed out her favourite places for both veg and non-veg while her mom guarded a table for us patiently downstairs. The market has a balcony-like area upstairs with a handful of stalls – there was an Indian stall there that served dosas, so it was perfect for the girls. I asked Sophia which stall was her favourite, and she pointed it out to me so I got exactly what she recommended – a pulled lamb flatbread. It really was amazing so I’m glad I went for it.

I went to fetch the girls from upstairs but their dosas weren’t ready. I told them where we were sitting which was literally at the bottom of the stairs, and they agreed to meet us back there. I feel very happy when I see people eating, so when they came down with their food, I couldn’t help but smile at them, especially Premsheela who pretty much doesn’t eat. Sophia and her mom were the most pleasant of hosts too, and I still felt like I was sitting with family. After all, Sophia and I have been best friends for 20 years, so listening to her mom talking to friends who, in comparison, I had only just met, made me feel very proud.

Sophia, you have no idea just how proud I am to call you my friend. Thank you.

After we had what was left of Sophia’s Nutella and banana waffle which she insisted we taste, it was time to say bye. Sophia’s mom’s flight was at 6:30pm the following day, and ours was at 6pm, so we were pretty sure we would see each other one last time at the airport. I really hoped we would, cos that would be awesome.

As we said our goodbyes, my high school friend Priscilla informed me that she was on her way to meet us. Considering I had last seen her 15 years ago, I was pretty excited. Since Premsheela and I had left our jackets in the car, we decided to use the 20 or so free minutes that we had to go back to the car to fetch them before Priscilla arrived. However, since it was dusk, everything was just so damn beautiful, and the tablecloth (i.e. the clouds) was coming over the Table Mountain, so we couldn’t help but stop to take more photos.

By the time we were done wandering around the area, Priscilla had arrived and since we were near the ferris wheel, I suggested that as the meeting spot. When I spotted her, she screamed with delight and we obviously hugged each other. But not just once…I actually don’t know how many times. It was a super happy moment seeing her after that long and I think we were both in slight disbelief that that much time had passed. It was insane.

Priscilla walked with us to the car so we could get our jackets, all the time trying to catch up on what the other has been doing for the last decade and a half. There was so much to say that we had to try to summarize everything, but at the same time it was as though no time had passed. I was glad that I had told her I was coming to Cape Town and will be forever grateful for the fact that she made a plan to meet us at such short notice. I think real friends are the ones who make time in their diary for you; even though she had a full weekend planned, she still managed to squeeze in some time to spend with us.

We had all eaten so we decided just to have coffee somewhere. Priscilla suggested Quay 4, a restaurant adjacent to the water. We choose a table right next to the railing so we got an amazing view of the Waterfront. The amusing part of the evening, apart from Premsheela’s insanity, was the seagulls. There were several times where we thought they were going to fly straight into us, but somehow we managed to dodge them.

We spent a little over an hour at Quay 4 not only catching up but also talking about our current lives, both personally and professionally. It was funny how much we could relate to each other, and I’m not just talking about Priscilla and I. What was good was that the girls got along with her too – the defining moment was without a doubt when she described how the wind hits you in Cape Town. I wish I had caught that on video but Priscilla, you really made our day with that face.

Poor Priscilla had to go to work the next day, so we had to leave fairly early. After we finally got the waiter’s attention (we thought he had gone all the way to the paper mill to manufacture the paper with which to print the bill on), we paid and left. Priscilla had taken an Uber to meet us since she doesn’t have a car (she doesn’t need one thanks to Cape Town’s fabulous public transport system called My City, which works like London’s Oyster card), so she walked us to the entrance of the parking lot where we said our goodbyes.

I’m so glad we met up, Priscilla. You were one of the few genuine people I knew from high school that I wouldn’t hesitate to hang out with again. You’ve not changed a single bit, and I hope you never do!

The girls and I headed back to the apartment, pretty tired, but feeling good. That night, after watching some random music videos and some episodes of Full House, we decided to watch Queen, a Bollywood film about a girl whose fiance dumped her right before the wedding which prompted her to go on her honeymoon to Europe alone. I love that movie because she kind of reminded me of my first solo trip which was also to Europe, and I could relate to her character because of that.

If there was a theme song for our trip to Cape Town, “O Gujariya” from Queen would be it.

After watching Queen, we headed to bed. But we didn’t sleep because Surbhi and I had so much to talk about. It was also still too early for Premsheela who proceeded to watch more Full House on what sounded like full volume. Surbhi and I were eventually at the point of wanting to actually sleep, but we couldn’t because of the TV volume. Surbhi then decided to do something about it.

Aisi hai hamari dosti. Tapey girls.

Cape Town 2017: Day 2

It was obvious from the noise of the TV that Premsheela was awake around 5 that Saturday morning, but until Surbhi woke up and went to the lounge to find out what Premsheela was doing, I didn’t realize she was awake too. Premsheela was already watching more Full House, and complained that we sleep too much. Surbhi argued that we’re normal people that need 8 hours of sleep, then came back to snooze. It was definitely going to be an entertaining few days.

The Cape of Good Hope was a 1.5 hour drive away from our apartment, so we left at around 9:30 that morning after having a bite to eat i.e. some of the humongous bran muffin I had bought on the flight. I have no idea what Premsheela ate (though now that I think about it, it was probably chocolate), but Surbhi and I shared the muffin.

The Beach

There are so many gorgeous beaches and viewpoints on the way from the city to the Cape of Good Hope that we couldn’t help but stop somewhere – just before Simon’s Town. We just wanted to take a few pictures, but Premsheela went all the way down to the water and decided to take off her shoes. Surbhi and I eventually gave in and decided to join her. We ended up spending at least an hour playing around in the ice cold water of the Atlantic. The water was so cold that my feet felt as though I was being stabbed with hot daggers.

We left once we were satisfied with the spontaneous frolicking in the water, sandy feet and all.

Cape Point

We got to the Cape of Good Hope around midday and hiked all the way up to the lighthouse rather than taking the funicular. Premsheela marched ahead of us – I think her energy comes from all that chocolate she eats. She really is a chocolate queen. We wanted to take a group selfie with the lighthouse in the background, but as you can see, she was already too far ahead to even hear us properly.

If you’ve ever been to Cape Point, you’d know that it is insanely windy. I think I spent as much time trying to control my hair as I did doing that climb. Of course, even when we only had one shot at a photo of all 3 of us with Cape Point in the background, my hair couldn’t give a damn.

After admiring the views from the lighthouse, Surbhi wanted to take the Lighthouse Keeper’s Trail which is a path that takes you along a sheer cliff-face below the old, more well-known lighthouse, to the new one which Surbhi’s head is blocking in the above photo. I wasn’t too sure about doing it because of the time and also because the sign said it was a 1.5 hour hike there and back. After a little thought I decided to do it because I figured we’d never come there again, at least not together, and I hadn’t done it before either. I let the girls go ahead as I stopped to take photos. Many times. The path was on the right side of the cliff because there was absolutely no wind at all. It was absolutely silent, and all we could see was False Bay below us and the Cape Peninsula encompassing it. It was other-worldly.

The hike back up was…challenging. But everyone knows I my fitness levels are in the negative, so it shouldn’t be surprising. It wasn’t that bad though, I just stopped here and there to breathe and I was fine after that.

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Premsheela wanted to walk back down whereas Surbhi wanted to take the funicular just so she could experience it. She’s like me in more ways than one, and this was just another example of how similar we are. I totally understood her desire to go on it, and I myself wanted to use it too cos I really had had enough of the wind. Premsheela carried on down the same path we had climbed earlier, and Surbhi and I went to find out the cost of the tickets for the funicular. When the guy told us the price, we weren’t impressed as it was just one way and didn’t really want to spend more money unnecessarily. When we turned to leave, he told us he’d do us a favour and charge us only for one ticket, as long as we gave him the money discreetly. We figured we’d take up the opportunity because heck, why not? He then opened the “special entrance” for us and let us through, bypassing all the other people who were queuing. I think he felt bad when he saw our expressions after hearing the price – it was very kind of him. I felt good knowing that someone local had been s0 kind to us, especially to my foreign friend.

Surbhi and I were starving so since we couldn’t see Premsheela (we assumed she was still walking down), we each bought a muffin and something to drink (cappuccino for Surbhi, Appletiser for me) from the shop next to the restaurant overlooking False Bay. Muffins, especially bran or blueberry ones, had become our thing because ever since the flight, it was something we’d share.

I was the designated driver since the girls don’t know how to drive (yet), so I couldn’t eat. Surbhi is without a doubt the best passenger I’ve had. When we were on our way to Cape Point in the morning, she held out a handful of chips for me to take from, and when we left for Hout Bay after getting our muffins, she broke pieces off of it so that I could just grab it without having to struggle or even look away from the road. She did the same with pieces of chocolate too. It’s the little things. Thanks Surbhi.

Hout Bay

Hout Bay is around 40 minutes back towards the city from Cape Point and we headed straight for it. I didn’t actually know what we were going to do apart from enjoying Chapman’s Peak drive and the views of Hout Bay itself. I was also hoping to have some fish from Mariner’s Wharf, the local restaurant in the harbour, but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to since both girls are vegetarian and I would have felt bad to have something non-vegetarian. I didn’t say anything about it though.

Minutes after we arrived at the Hout Bay harbour, Surbhi asked if I want to have the fish. I was surprised because it was as if she had read my mind. I said yes, but that we should walk around a little. We really thought it was going to rain because there were threatening clouds behind us. In fact, there was a different weather pattern in every direction we turned, so we basically just followed the light.

After taking in the views and a bunch of silly selfies (we went a little mad at one point), we started walking back until Surbhi again asked if I want to have the fish. I couldn’t say no, but I knew she hadn’t eaten either so asked if they would both sit down and have at least some chips with me. They actually just wanted to play in the water again, so me having the fish I so wanted was the perfect opportunity for them. I didn’t mind at all, since I’d be able to sit outside where I could see them.

The fish was to die for – it was as fresh as I expected it to be. It was just battered hake, nothing fancy, and chips. Mariner’s Wharf now also makes their own craft beer called Olde Seadog Beer which is a must. I’m glad I could give it a try because it was so worth it. If Surbhi and Premsheela weren’t real friends, I would have felt bad sitting there eating alone, but that didn’t happen even once. You can tell when people are genuine, and these two girls are. It might seem insignificant, but when a friend warmly smiles and waves at you, it says a thousand words.

We didn’t spend too long in Hout Bay, probably just over an hour. I suppose we could have done more but I myself wasn’t too familiar with what the place had to offer apart from the stunning views. Anyway, I wasn’t keen on driving back at night since I wasn’t familiar with the roads.

We made our way back to the city and something I just had to do was see the sunset from Camps Bay. I had done it when I was last in Cape Town in 2008, and I just had to see it again. It’s funny, I’ve never seen a sunrise in my home town of Durban, but I’ve seen several sunsets in other parts of the world.

We approached the city from the Camps Bay side and had the most stunning views of Table Mountain and Lions Head.

We got to Camps Bay beach not long after, and it was surprising how easy it was for me to get a parking right next to the promenade. We were just in time for the sunset.

Punjab Wok

My best friend Sophia suggested Punjab Wok for us to have supper at – she rates it higher than Bukhara, which is quite something considering it’s the most top rated Indian restaurant in Cape Town. Punjab Wok is near where she lives, in Century City, so she agreed to meet us there. I had been wanting to visit her in Cape Town for several years but I always ended up doing something else. I guess the time just wasn’t right.

Sophia’s mom was visiting from Durban and at the last minute, Sophia had to shuffle plans around, so she could only meet us for around 10 minutes. It was fine though, the main thing was that we’d see her and that Premsheela would eat something. We weren’t sure exactly where the restaurant was so took a few minutes trying to figure out where to park. As we were walking towards where we figured the restaurant might be, we passed one called Tiger’s Milk. Really now, why on earth would you name a restaurant Tiger’s Milk? It looked like a really cool place though – I think I’ll give it a try next time.

Once we got to the restaurant, we just ordered some starters while waiting for Sophia. She arrived full of smiles and energy only 15 or so minutes later. If there’s ever a friend who can light up a room, it’s Sophia. In the short time we spent with her, she took us through the entire menu telling us what was good (everything, pretty much) and asked what we had gotten up to. She asked whether we had gone to Boulders Beach to see the penguins, since we had gone to Simon’s Town. I didn’t realise at all that Boulders Beach was in Simon’s Town (I know) and I knew Premsheela wouldn’t stop asking for me to take her to see the penguins until I did.

Sophia is a regular at Punjab Wok so when the waiter and manager came to say that they’re closing the kitchen at 9pm, she was not impressed. It was only around 8:30. She firmly told them that she knows they just want to go home and that the kitchen does not close at 9, especially when there are customers, so they must not irritate us and should let us order whenever we feel like. They agreed to close the kitchen at 9:30, but even after Sophia left (she also had a quick word with them at the counter), they continuously came to our table to ask whether or not we wanted to order anything more. I eventually asked the manager whether he was telling the couple in the corner the same thing because I don’t see him going to their table as often as he was coming to ours. He said that he did tell them; he knew I was irritated. It’s one thing when you can’t get a waiter’s attention, but when he keeps coming every 5-7 minutes, it becomes annoying as hell. So annoying, in fact, that the 3 of us ended up hurling swear words at him in Hindi with full blown smiles on our faces. I’m sure he thought we were complimenting him. I loved it because since there was only one (white) couple in the restaurant, apart from the girls, no one could understand what I was saying and I could say it at full volume.

When the waiter brought the bill at 9:25, Premsheela couldn’t help but ask what the chai ice cream was, just to have a final dig at him since it was close to the time that they said the kitchen is going to close. He then left the bill on our table and went back to the front desk. We told him that we were going to pay cash, but he didn’t come back. Premsheela wanted to walk out (just to mess with them) but Surbhi and I were scared to push it that far. We ended up just getting up and paying at the front desk. Once we went out of the door, the waiter asked us whether or not we were going to come back. I wanted to just say no and walk away, but I decided to moderate my response by saying “We don’t live here, so I doubt it”. I will probably go back at some point though, but when I’m with Sophia.

We walked away laughing and calling him more insulting names because we actually felt free after leaving the restaurant. The food was good by the way; it was the service that needed help.

It took us longer to get home than we expected because the car’s GPS took us into some dodgy part of the city. I had a bad feeling about it when we took one of the turns, and ended up using Google Maps on my phone to get us out of there. On the way, Surbhi spotted a sign on a building that said “Cape Town”, but because of the font, it looked like “Tape Town”. Let’s just say that was Premsheela’s trigger and for the rest of the night, even till today, everything is “tape”. We are tapey girls; that thing is tape; that person is tape; tape is bisexual because it’s not a straight tape. It was absolutely crazy and Surbhi and I were in stitches.

Did I mention I knew it was going to be an entertaining holiday?

Cape Town 2017: Day 1

In 2013, it took me only about 10 minutes to decide that I was going to take up my relative’s offer to visit her in Switzerland. Roughly 2 months later, I was on a plane. That was the least amount of time I had taken to plan, book, and go on a trip. Ever. Until now.

One of my friends from India who is contracting to my company went back home on Wednesday 17 May. Because we had been so busy with the project that I’ve mentioned several times in recent posts, we could not really go anywhere over the weekends. Surbhi had been saying for weeks that she wants to go to Cape Town before she leaves, but we didn’t know if or when we could make that happen.

By some miracle, we got permission to take the much-needed quick break, considering all the overtime we’ve been doing. Permission was granted on the Tuesday, and together with Premsheela, we left that Friday morning after booking the flights and accommodation on Tuesday night.

When we arrived on Friday, we got our hired car from the airport and went straight to Table Mountain. The weather was dismal and the sun was playing hide and seek with us. We were stuck in annoying traffic and realised that it was partly due to a large truck which was going at around 30km/hr. The horse part of the truck was Stuttaford Van Lines, but the trailer had transparent plastic sides. When we looked inside, there were 2 surgeons inside operating on a patient. I was totally taken aback because I made eye contact with one of the surgeons the moment that I realised what was going on. The girls were totally freaked out by it, and the fact that it was close to one of the hospitals made the whole situation even more believable.

As it turned out, it was just a marketing strategy for a new movie called Bypass. The patient was a dummy, and the surgeons were just actors. Damn, they did a good job!

I hadn’t driven a manual car for at least 2 years, so I was slightly nervous driving around a city that was relatively foreign to me, especially up the windy road to Table Mountain. I felt like such an idiot when I eventually found a parking but couldn’t figure out how to put the car into reverse. Before my BMW, I drove my dad’s VW Polo, and one had to push the gear to the extreme top left to put it into reverse. I tried that several times with this car (a Toyota Corolla) and I just kept going forward. Eventually, I went so far forward that 2 cars were able to parallel park behind me. Eventually we just sat in the car waiting for someone to park in front of me so I could ask them. Only a minute or 2 later, a young local couple showed up, and, visibly embarrassed, I asked the guy if he could help. He chuckled and got into the car while telling me that all I needed to do was lift the top of the gear up while shifting. I had never used a gear like that before, so I didn’t feel so bad after that. It was still pretty funny though.

Unfortunately, once we got to the ticket station, we were informed that cableway was closed because of the wind. We didn’t know what to do because going up the mountain was pretty much our only plan for the day. We spent a few minutes considering our options before deciding to head down to the V&A Waterfront. Even if we couldn’t do anything, we could at least enjoy the beauty of the place.

The hunt for accommodation

We wandered around the waterfront for at least 2 hours and even considered going to the Two Oceans Aquarium so that we could be indoors and avoid the occasional drizzle and cold wind. It turned out to be a little too expensive considering we would only spend an hour or 2 there so that we’d make it in time for check in to the guest house we booked at in Camps Bay. Despite the dull weather, we got ourselves an ice cream sandwich from a Crumbs and Cream stand right outside the aquarium. It’s never too cold for ice cream.

When we eventually arrived at the guest house, there was no one to receive us. All the doors and gates were locked, and we didn’t know how to get in. I called the owner and he had forgotten that he didn’t send me an access code or directions on how to enter. It was like a puzzle getting into that place: first there was a combination lock on a box against the wall next to a gate which, when opened, gave us access to a big door key that was stuck with Prestik to the back of the box in which it was in. Then we had to use that key to unlock another box close to the ground which contained an envelop marked “Welcome pack”, inside which lay a set of keys. One of those keys opened the gate, and another the door behind it. The third key opened the door to the actual guest house.

We were uncomfortable as soon as we walked in. Let’s just say the place was not at all like the pictures made it out to be. Besides it being tacky, it smelled as though the windows hadn’t been opened in months. The bathroom was a scary sight too; it was as if we were in a jungle thanks to the blue mosaic tiles and plastic roof. We only spent around 1.5 hours there trying to come up with an escape plan. Long story short, we cancelled the booking and bolted out of there, only to spend the next 2 hours or so looking for an alternative within our price range on booking.com. My best friend Sophia was on the phone with me trying to help us out too, and eventually we found the perfect place titled “Convenience by the sea”. Sophia found it very amusing, but I knew it was just a description of the place as it was clearly an apartment.

The embarrassing first meeting

After securing the booking, I called Marc (the guy letting the apartment out) from Surbhi’s phone, and he quickly agreed to meet us there within 30 minutes. I thought it was brilliant that he’d be available at such short notice. We found the place easily and parked in the space in front of the apartment building, next to the front door. We waited patiently in the car for a few minutes, since we were only 5 minutes away. The apartment is in Three Anchor Bay, which is an area in between Green Point and Sea Point. Barely 10 minutes later, a very good looking guy showed up at the door. He was looking at his phone so I asked Surbhi to check hers in case he was calling or messaging on it, because I was convinced that he was the guy I had spoken to on the phone. I thought that his face matched his voice. I told both girls not to stare at him because he’d be able to see that the 3 of us were all looking at him at the same time, and it would have been creepy!

When Surbhi’s phone didn’t ring and the guy went inside, I thought I was probably wrong about who he was. A minute or two later, a petite woman entered the building. I figured it was another resident. Suddenly I noticed movement on my right so I turned to look – the same good looking guy had come out of the side entrance and was walking towards me smiling. That smile instantly confirmed that he was Marc.

We all got out of the car and he introduced himself to each of us. I don’t know if it was just me, but I pretty much became like a blithering idiot because he was so insanely good looking. He said that our timing was perfect since the cleaner had just left, and the apartment had only just become available as the last guest had left that morning. He then asked if I could move the car a little to the extreme left of the parking as that was his parking. I don’t know why the girls got back into the car with me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was because they were just as starstruck as I was.

Because there was a small gutter in between the parking and the road, I had to move the car very slowly as I was scared I was going to scrape the bumper on the road. Let’s just say I went a little too slowly and I stalled the car not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES. I wanted to kill myself; it was without a doubt the most embarrassing moment of my life. When I got out of the car, I told Marc to forget what he just saw cos it was my first time driving a manual in a very long time. He chuckled pleasantly and said it’s ok and that these things happen. He was so nice.

He broke our hearts seconds later when he said that his girlfriend was waiting for us upstairs. Turns out it was the woman we had seen entering the building minutes earlier. The girls and I gave each other looks of approval the moment we entered the apartment as it was not only clean and tidy, but also bright, airy, and kind on the eyes.

I really don’t remember her name, but Marc’s girlfriend said that she noticed us in the car but wasn’t sure if it was us, and I said yes, we saw her and Marc too but I told the girls not to stare cos it would be creepy for all of us to be looking at them at the same time. It was quite amusing, and they were so warm that I didn’t feel embarrassed to say that. Besides, what could be more embarrassing than stalling the car 3 times in front of an audience?

Marc was also nice enough to waiver the deposit of R1500 because he said we look like decent girls so he doesn’t foresee any trouble. If you think I’m exaggerating about how good looking he is, ladies, do yourselves a favour and google Marc Buckner. Yes, he is a model. You’re welcome.

The apartment was just off a popular main road which had lots of restaurants and supermarkets too, so after getting some groceries for the next few day, we headed to Posticano, an Italian restaurant that Sophia recommended. Surbhi is a foodie so she eats anything (vegetarian), but we weren’t sure what Premsheela was going to have. Long story short, Surbhi and I ate while Premsheela sat and watched us. That girl is crazy, but she did make something to eat once we got back to the apartment.

We were pretty exhausted by the end of the day and were already in bed by 10pm. Premsheela decided she was going to binge watch Full House on Netflix until passed 2am, so Surbhi and I didn’t actually sleep much till after that.

I knew the next couple of days was going to be a lot of fun.

Trip to Europe: Day 14 – Nice, The French Riviera

17 June 2012. This day was going to be our chill day. Most of the people planned to spend it on the beach, but I wanted to see the place. I actually had no plans on what to do or where to go, and took my time waking up (for a change) and getting dressed. As long as I was on time for breakfast, I knew I’d be good. Besides, the chances of me meeting my fellow tour people in the breakfast area was very high.

After breakfast I went back to the room to get my bag, and met with Alex who had decided that she was going to use her day to chill on the beach. Before I could go I took more advantage of the free WiFi and caught up with some Facebook and Whatsapp. I love Europe for offering free WiFi in such a large number of places.

I met up with Felicia, Shauna and Kelsey, the 3 Australian girls that came together, at reception, along with Alli, Paul and Driver Steve. Rachel and Adam were also there and Rachel made it clear that she had no intention of swimming that day as she didn’t like to. I thought that was odd for an Australian, but was amused by it more because of the way she said it rather than the strangeness of it. Guess I unintentionally stereotyped there. Sorry, Rach!

We spoke a little with Driver Steve and asked him what there was to do in the area, and he suggested us meeting at the Parc du Chateau for a picnic lunch. That sounded great to all of us, especially since it was a Sunday, and we agreed to meet back at the hotel at about 1:30pm so that we could all leave together.

I didn’t know what I was really gonna do, so I left the hotel with Kelsey, Shauna and Felicia and we decided to walk along the promenade and see what was happening. It was such a beautiful day, and I remembered Steve saying the previous night that Nice gets 360 days of sun a year, so the chances of the weather turning bad was extremely unlikely.

What a gorgeous day it was, and it was evident the moment we stepped out of the hotel. We walked for barely 2 minutes and there was Port de Nice where all the yachts were docked.

Port de Nice

The girls and I were marvelling at the beauty of the place. It was almost surreal. Since we were at the start of the promenade, we already saw some people jogging and cycling, and I thought to myself that they were so lucky to have a lifestyle such as that. What a beautiful place to go for a run, and at the same time, to call it home.

The promenade

We stopped occasionally to take photos and it was not long at all before we got a close-up view of the ocean. I had never seen the Mediterranean before, and then I knew exactly what my mother had constantly gone on about. Mediterranean blue….wow.

After about 25 minutes of walking, while constantly looking at what people were getting up to on the beach, we spotted a significant number of people from our group. They were clearly enjoying themselves, but we were wondering why they appeared to be “falling” while in the water. It didn’t take us long to realise that the beaches are not made of sand, but rather pebbles. So obviously if you’re in the water standing on pebbles, its not stable. It was funny watching them trying to find their footing.

Frolicking in the Mediterranean

Shauna, Felicia and Kelsey wanted to swim but not just yet, so we left the group and continued walking for a bit. We walked quite far along the promenade before coming to a whole lot of umbrellas and deck chairs. We saw a sign advertising for a chair, towel, and umbrella for €14. That was pretty steep, I thought. Even if it was for an entire day, how many people actually spend an entire day lying on the beach that makes €14 worth it? French Riviera prices, I guess. For the girls, however, that price wasn’t that bad since (at the time) the Australian Dollar was almost equivalent to the Euro. I don’t remember if they decided to opt for that, but I think that was about the time I decided to head off on my own.

I still had no idea how to pass my time, so I continued walking for a bit, until I saw it: a hop-on-hop-off bus. The last thing I wanted to do was be a typical tourist and get on a bus like that. However, in this case, since I couldn’t make a better decision on my own and I didn’t know Nice well enough (or rather, at all) to know where to go and what to see, I swallowed my pride and approached the bus after studying the pricing that was marked on its side. At €20, it seemed like an okay price considering you could hop on and off as often as you liked. And for the French Riviera, you just have to suck it up really.

As I got closer, I observed as much of the bus as I could to see if there was a fair number of people on it already. But the closer I got, the less I cared, and eventually I was at the door. There were 2 guys there, the driver, and another rather good-looking guy chatting to him. He made way for me to pass, and I paid the driver the money. The good-looking guy winked at me as he gave me an audio device with a headset and told me to “enjoy”. I grinned and ascended the short staircase so that I could sit on the top, open deck.

There were 2 old couples sitting there, and a youngish guy probably in his late 30s. I greeted everyone as I walked passed them, and sat near the back. I noticed on the side of the bus, just below the railing, was a sort of guide showing which channel to tune in to on the audio device depending on the language of your choice – English, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, Italian or Dutch. After fidgeting a bit with my audio device, curios to see what the other channels would sound like, I set it back to English just as the driver started driving.

I’ll never forget what a glorious day it was, and I couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of the residents of this place that belonged on a postcard.

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I continued to take in everything around me, and took a fair number of photos. At times I was reminded of Cape Town and I actually felt quite proud that we have a place almost equally as beautiful as Nice back home.

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I saw some rather odd architecture as we drove around, and I figured that it was probably the entrance to some museum or something. But there was no indication that that was the case. Then again, its not like I can understand French other than the odd word or two. So unless I saw the word musée, I wouldn’t have known what it was for.

Strange structure in Nice

There were a fair number of people on the bus by now, as some people joined us along the way. There were more that joined than left, but as the journey progressed, more and more people hopped off the bus.

I still had no idea where to go and I just stayed on the bus, enjoying my time basking in the wonderful sun and breathing in the clean, refreshing air. I hardly listened to the guide, and was more in my own world just absorbing the sights around me. I didn’t want the bus ride to end, and the thought of threatening the driver to carry on driving around the entire French Riviera crossed my mind. I remember grinning to myself.

The bus journey was a generous 3 hours long, which I was quite impressed by. Even though I didn’t actually hop on and off at all, I thought it was €20 well spent. Not only did I see breathtaking views of the Mediterranean, but I also got a glimpse into people’s everyday lives there. A simple thing like people watching as they waited at a robot (sorry, we South Africans refer to traffic lights as “robots”) or crossed the road was so fascinating, and I looked at it as though I had never seen it before. When you go to a new place, I think its best to look at everyday things you’ve even seen before with a fresh pair of eyes. We take a lot of things for granted, but I should tell you that its equally satisfying to see the way other people do things. Most times you’ll find that they do those things the same way as you do. In other instances, it may be the total opposite.

Something that Steve said to us that I’ll never forget was “Its not wrong, its just different”. That is something very important to keep in mind when travelling and especially when tasting the foods of other cultures. You can’t expect the way you do things to be the same globally. That’s what makes the world so diverse, doesn’t it? It would be so boring if everyone did everything the same way.

When the bus stopped a couple hundred metres from where it had started, my only option was to jump off. Since it was only midday, I had some time to kill. I knew I had quite a walk to get back to the hotel to meet the group for the picnic up at the Chateau, so I didn’t want to waste too much time. With this in mind, I walked in the direction of the hotel, which was back east (so the ocean was on my right). I thought of taking one of the side roads and get lost a bit. I have a decent sense of direction so I knew that as long as I knew where I was in relation to the ocean, I wouldn’t get lost.

I walked for about 5 minutes when I came across a little shop on the side of the road, and went in to get a bottle of water. It was actually like a little cafe as it had a few small tables here and there, and there were a few people relaxing with their coffee and newspaper. I walked in and greeted a friendly-looking woman at the counter. I guess she was more friendly because I said “bonjour” and not “hello”. It helps to greet locals in their own language as a sign of respect; they usually treat you better when you do. I had no idea if the proper French word for water is “aqua” or not, but that’s what I asked for and she pointed to it and said “oui”. I paid her about €3 for it and nodded as I said “merci”. It helps knowing those few essential French  words. Its all you need, really.

After leaving the shop I continued heading east and I think I hit the jackpot with the turn that I took off the main road, as I stumbled upon a market. It was just what I needed because I was feeling a little peckish, so I knew I’d get something to nibble on. In fact, it wasn’t the real reason I was happy to see it. I mean, look at this place.

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The aromas of the stalls were beautiful, and it started with the scented soap shop that is visible in the photo above. You’d expect the smells to be overwhelming in a place like this with so many things to offer, but it was pleasant everywhere I walked.

The smell I enjoyed the most was when I got to the olive stand. I love olives, so it really was a feast for my nose. I knew that as much as I love olives, it would be pointless me buying some when there was so much of my holiday still to go. I thought it would be more practical to get something that I could eat immediately.  I wandered around lazily, people watching in the process, until I finally came to the cherries stand. I had eaten awesome cherries in Amsterdam, and I knew that the quality of them in Nice would be equally good. I wasn’t disappointed when I took my first bite, and my energy was renewed.

Around 30 minutes had passed at the market and I chose to continue walking back to the hotel. The reason I bought cherries was mainly for sustenance as we were going to the chateaux for lunch after all, so it would have been silly of me to buy a big lunch.

When I got back to the hotel, there were a few people there, including Driver Steve, and I let him know that he should wait for me. I got to my room as quickly as I could, freshened up (and realised how sunburned I had gotten) and quickly went back to the lobby. Kelsey, Shauna, Felicia, Ally, Paul, Adam, Rachel, Tracy and Travis had gathered together and I was happy that that was the little group I’d be spending the afternoon with.

I knew that the chateaux wasn’t far away, but I had no idea where we’d be getting lunch from. Driver Steve said he knew of a supermarket in town, nearby, that we could go grab some things, We didn’t have much choice but to agree cos we were all hungry and of course, didn’t know the town at all. I hoped that it wasn’t going to be a very far walk because my feet were quite sore from the walking I had just done on the back of the walking I had done the previous night in Monaco with my new leather boots which I’d worn for the first time. As it is, my feet were already sore when I wore those because of all the walking I did in Rome just 2 days before that.

No matter what I was feeling though, my mind was in overdrive and what kept me going was the prospect of seeing new places and people. So at the end of the day, I didn’t care where Driver Steve was taking us.

We walked for about 20-30 minutes through the beautiful town, and I forgot that the reason why the streets were extra quiet was because it was a Sunday. Then I started thinking…are shops open in Nice on a Sunday? My question was soon answered when we got to the entrance of the supermarket. No, they aren’t open on a Sunday. Driver Steve felt so bad cos he had made us walk all that way for nothing, and wasn’t sure what to do. Then a few of us remembered that we had passed a little shop on the way, which was very close to the hotel. It wasn’t a cafe or anything, but rather a tearoom, as we call them in South Africa i.e.  a pokey little shop that sells odd grocery items, snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. I didn’t really look into the shop when we first walked passed it, but I saw enough to gather that it was a tearoom-type place, so I knew there was food there.

Since it was the only place we knew of, we headed back along the same way that we had just come from.  We walked in one-by-one and there was an awkward silence as we looked around. The only people in the shop were a woman and a boy of about 14 who appeared to be her son. We greeted the both of them and gathered quickly that the woman, unlike her son, spoke no English whatsoever. There wasn’t much choice to eat and drink, but there was a little deli with some hot food. Some of the guys got a beer however I chose to get a bottle of water since I knew it would last me much longer. Besides, I still wasn’t a beer drinker (I only had 2 in my whole life, both of which happened in the previous week) and I felt very awkward even considering buying one.

We gathered round the glass that covered the hot food and one by one pointed at what we wanted so that the woman could serve us. I got myself a piece of chicken, a weird-looking omelette and a piece of baklava. It was an odd combination but I thought what the hell, that’s all that was available to eat in any case. When everyone got what they wanted, it was finally time to get to the Chateau.

Steve had told us that the Chateau was actually at the top of a hill (another name for it is actually Castle Hill), and if we wanted to get there we could either walk up the hundreds of stairs, or pay a small fee of around €1 to take the lift. It is a very prominent hill in Nice and it was obvious that we were there when it rose up in front of us. We walked around it for some time, looking for the entrance. We all thought that we were going to find the lift, but Driver Steve had an evil master plan already underway: he was going to make us take the stairs. I think Rachel and I were the least thrilled when we discovered that the stairs that we were climbing just kept going on and on in a zigzag fashion, and there seemed no end in sight.

Now, I am anything but fit, and my feet were already sore, so I felt like I was going to die at one point because my throat became so dry (after passing what I hoped was half way), that a sharp pain developed in my throat. The sips of water I took to try to sooth it didn’t help, and my knees began to feel like jelly. I knew that I wasn’t the last one, and in a weird way it comforted me a bit knowing that Rachel was pretty exhausted too, since she’s half my size!

After what seemed like an eternity, we reached the top. Even though I was in desperate need of an air conditioner and an oxygen mask, the view made it all worth it.

View from the top of Castle Hill

We walked around a little, looking for a spot to sit. The park was beautiful, and there were a number of people having picnics, jogging, and playing games. We needed to find Driver Steve, Travis and Tracy too. I really wondered whether they had downed a couple of cans of Red Bull because when we found them, they were happily strolling about as if they’d been there for ages.

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We finally found a shady place to sit which overlooked the central part of the park. There were some guys, whose nationality I couldn’t quite put my finger on, who were practising some rather odd somersaults. They were clearly athletes or dancers of some sort, and watching them was fascinating. We teased Rachel for the spot that she chose to sit at, which was outside our circle. It seemed like a prime spot to watch the shirtless performers.

Clearly no one can sit cross-legged

Each of us gradually took out our lunches as we spoke about some random things. Travis, who was sitting behind me with his back against a tree, moved his legs around uncomfortably, and the topic of being able to sit cross-legged came about. All of us complained that we cannot sit for long periods with our legs crossed. Its been an issue for me since childhood. Travis said something that I’ll never forget: “I have the flexibility of a rhinoceros”. That made my day.

It was already 4pm by the time we decided to leave. I realised that most of the time had gone climbing all those steps. Then it hit me: we had to go down those very same steps now. When we started the descent, however, it became clear that the stairs we were walking on were different to the ones we had climbed up. I guess it made no difference though, its not like we’d get lost.

Somewhere along the way, Ally, Paul, Adam, Rachel and I got separated from the others; but there were so many of us that it didn’t bother us, especially because we knew that the others also have each other. We stopped here and there to take in some of the views, and I was constantly relieved that we were going down and not up. The stairs were uneven and rather steep at times so we had to watch our footing, but at least we were in the shade because there is so much greenery along the staircase.

View from the top of Castle HillWhen we got to the bottom, the others were as clueless of what to do as I was. Adam and Paul wanted to swim though, so we decided to take a stroll along the promenade until we found a spot where Rachel and I could sit, since Ally decided that she’d like to swim too. I really enjoyed the walk I had done earlier that day, and it was nice doing it again with some company. It was absolutely hot though, and Ally realised that I was wearing jeans and asked how I was managing, but I told her that it was actually planned because I knew how hot it would be and it would prevent at least my legs from being sun burned.

We walked for a while, and eventually got to what looked like a restaurant type of place, if you can call it that. There were a lot of tables, chairs, and umbrellas, and it was the perfect place for us to relax and rest in the shade. The only thing was that people are only allowed in there if they purchase something from there. We thought ah what the heck, a drink is a small price to pay for being able to sit in comfort and enjoy the wonderful sea air.

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Adam had taken his shirt off by then (while we were still walking down from the Chateau actually), and when we found a table, him and Paul went inside to order a drink. Ally went to put on her bathing suit, I think, while Rachel and I sat down in the covered area. We knew that the guys were ordering something, so when the waiter came to us, we told him that we were with the guys and he didn’t need to take a separate order from us. He asked “Which guy, the naked one?”. We were very amused and were smiling at Adam when he joined us again.

When they came back to us we thought it was actually silly of us to sit in the covered area because we couldn’t see much, so we moved closer to the water in an equally shaded spot. The guys had their beers and Ally went with the both of them to take a dip. I don’t recall if Rachel had something to drink, but I didn’t, purely because I knew how expensive everything would be. However, I had to have something, and when the waiter handed us a menu which had ice cream on it, I just couldn’t refuse. Even though it was €9 on average for all the ice creams on the menu, I chose one. I am an ice cream queen, after all, and sometimes when you travel you have to forget about what some things cost in order to not regret it later. The last thing I wanted was to regret not having that ice cream on the beach, so I ordered the one with 3 scoops – chocolate, mint, and vanilla. Rachel ordered something with more vanilla than anything else, if I remember correctly. Hers looked just as good as mine.

While we were on the topic of cost, I explained to Rachel how bad the exchange rate was for us South Africans. The price that I paid for the ice cream was actually ridiculous. You pay less for a tub of Haagen Daz, and I’m pretty sure the ice cream I was eating there wasn’t that.

Once the trio got back from their swim, they looked so happy and refreshed. Ally had put on her dress on top of her bathing suit, and she sat down with it on. So when we were walking back to the hotel, we made fun of the damp impression it left on her “chair area”. Adam had also gotten Paul to draw a smiley face on his back with the sun tan lotion while we were descending the chateau, so by now, he had a red smiley face burned onto his back. Crazy guy.

Walking with my 4 new friends felt liberating, and really good. I had actually grown quite fond of them and their crazy but simple nature. They’re genuinely good-hearted people, and I couldn’t imagine spending the afternoon with anyone else.

When we got back to the hotel, we were exhausted. A lot of the people were going to Wayne’s Bar afterwards, but I had no interest and chose to stay in the hotel chatting with the few people who didn’t go. I don’t think I ate supper that night, but I wasn’t really hungry. I went to bed rather early, more concerned about resting my feet after all that walking than anything else. I closed my eyes thinking of the day that had just passed – the beautiful weather, the people, the green Parc Du Chateau, and of course, the blue Mediterranean. It dawned on me that now that we had just finished our first destination in France, it was only downhill from there in terms of the time left on tour. France was the last country we’d be visiting. It was time to make every last minute count and have as much fun with the people I was with as I possibly could.