Earlier this year we found out that one of our favourite stand-up comics, Eddie Izzard, was bringing his epic tour, Force Majeure, to South Africa in June. Since he wasn’t coming to KwaZulu-Natal, it seemed like a good excuse for us to go to Cape Town and spend some time with Alex. We flew to Cape Town and Alex picked us up from the airport. We stayed in a lovely pied-à-terre (owned by Peter’s brother, Richard, and his wife, Debbie) just off the main street in Harfield Village, quite a buzzy, cosmopolitan suburb near Claremont. When you live in the country as we do, any eating out involves travelling some distance so it was such a pleasure to be able to step out of the front door and walk around the corner to any number of good restaurants and cafés in the main street. (Thanks Rich and Debs, we really appreciated the use of your house.)
We all needed to do some clothes shopping and so off we went to Canal Walk, one of the most impressive and pleasant shopping malls I have ever been to. My son-in-law, James, would have had a field day in the enormous Cape Union Mart shop (James’ favourite South African store). Alex managed to buy loads of clothes for his trip to Europe at the end of June and Peter and I stocked up on plenty of winter woollies.
And of course, there was the Eddie Izzard show. I adore Eddie, in fact it could even be said that I have a bit of a crush on him, but I have to confess that I thought this show was a tiny bit disappointing. I’ve seen him before in a smaller venue and found him very charismatic but, in the huge Grand Arena where he was playing, I missed that intimacy and sense of connection. I love it when he gets that irrepressible smirk on his face that just makes you want to share in what is amusing him so much. But he seemed to be more serious in this show. That said, I would not have missed the show for all the tea in China and there were moments of utter comic brilliance that had us rolling in the aisles, like his mickey-taking of the Olympics dressage and his take on “fear, boredom and diarrhea” – so very classic Izzard.
We took advantage of being in Cape Town to go and see the Jersey Boys musical as well and although I was not too familiar with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, I did seem to know most of the songs. We enjoyed the show; it was fun and a lot cheaper than seeing it on Broadway.
One morning we went with Alex to get his forex sorted out at the Plumstead branch of First National Bank. My brother, Mike, used to live in a student house in Plumstead when he was a student at UCT some 40 years ago. Wonderful memories of those wayward times when I used to visit him during university holidays (or vacs as we called them then) came flooding back as we drove past his old digs. We then decided to take a drive along the Ou Kaapse Weg over the Silvermine Mountains to Noordhoek. Half way up the mountain, I had a flashback to one memorable Christmas morning way back in my youth when a bunch of us from the Plumstead house drove up there to watch a spectacular sunrise over False Bay. That happens to me a lot in Cape Town, flashbacks that is, not sunrises!
We stopped in Noordhoek for lunch at the Foodbarn restaurant (thanks Annie for the recommendation). We had a splendid meal, really 5 star, and even better was that there was 50% off the a la carte menu. As you can see Alex and I manned up and went in for deserts, it was well worth it.
That day just kept on getting better because as we drove out of Noordhoek we found that Chapman’s Peak Drive was open. Whenever I have visited Cape Town in recent years the drive has always been closed so it was a real treat to be able to drive from Noordhoek to Hout Bay along this stunning stretch of Cape coastline again.
Nearly 7 years ago on a trip to Italy, I visited the beautiful Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella in Florence. It is one of the world’s oldest pharmacies, founded in 1221 by the Dominican Friars who started making herbal remedies and potions to use in the monastery. It opened to the public in 1612. I had developed a bit of a throat infection whilst travelling and decided to try some of their “natural antibiotic” drops and some lozenges “from a formula of Fra’ Angiola Marchissi in1614, … flavoured by essential oils of peppermint, spearmint, Santa Maria herbs and Ceylon cinnamon.” A few days later I was as right as rain. I also bought packet of pot-pourri which “is still hand crafted in large terracotta vats using local essences and plants as has been the tradition since the 1200’s.” That pot pourri is still going strong. I’ve often joked to Peter that I will have to go back to Florence when it needs refreshing. However it appears that I won’t be able to use that pretext because on our last morning in Cape Town, while we were ambling around De Waterkant area, I was delighted to find that a Santa Maria Novella store has opened there. Valentina, a beautiful Venetian woman, took me on a meraviglioso olfactory tour of the shop. Her enthusiasm was so infectious that I found myself stocking up on all sorts of sensational scented goodies.
After 5 days in Cape Town, Peter flew home while Alex and I carried on to Stellenbosch where he shares a house with 3 other lads, who were all away on holiday. After all the harking back to my lazy, hazy, crazy days of visiting Mike in a variety of student digs, I suddenly found myself as the mother of a student staying in student digs. It was weird but fun, but only after I had applied copious amounts of Mr Muscle Mildew Cleaner, Handy Andy and Jik to the shower, bathroom and kitchen. Alex invited some of his friends who were still in town to come and watch the rugby on Saturday evening and join us for a home-cooked meal afterwards. On Saturday morning I pottered off to the very impressive Slow Food Market at Oude Libertas in Stellies to shop for the dinner. Not only was there an amazing array of food for foodies but it was also a pleasantly sociable occasion. I left after several hours feeling like I had made some new friends. I cooked Alex and his mates an enormous deboned leg of Karoo lamb which I spiced up with fresh rosemary and garlic, a pile of roasties and roasted vegetables, gravy and mint sauce, of course. It was all devoured in a flash. I bought olliebollen (Dutch Doughnuts) with strawberry jam from the market for desert and they were also demolished pretty smartly. It was a lovely evening and I felt quite privileged to have been so warmly included in my son’s social circle.
One rather chilly morning, Alex and I drove to Franschhoek, stopping en route at Tokara deli so that I could replenish my dwindling supply of Tokara Extra Virgin Olive Oil and treat Alex to some of the other deli delights for his grocery cupboard.
Then on to Leopard’s Leap Vineyards for lunch. This is one restaurant in Franschhoek where I feel you get good value for money; the vibe is really friendly and unpretentious and the décor is modern and youthful. They describe the lunch on their website as follows: “Rotisserie-based lunches with tender and juicy meats from the state-of-the-art spit are complimented by farm baked bread, as well as a beautiful selection of side dishes such as seasonal salads and vegetables sourced from the organic vegetable and herb garden on the farm.” The harvest table is pay-by-weight and then you pay a set amount for the meat you choose. Alex and I both had the pork belly which was melt-in-your-mouth delicious and came with lashings of crispy crackling. My only complaint was that there was no gravy! Oh, I almost forgot – the wines are pretty good too.
So then I had to bid my son a fond farewell as I headed back home and he, the lucky bugger, took off with 3 friends on a 21 day Top Deck tour of Europe. Travel safe Al.