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www.bluetrainmag.co.za

Complimentary Guest Magazine

February 2012

Organic Wine • Romantic Picnic Spots • Honest Chocolate


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contents 24 www.bluetrainmag.co.za

Hanlie Kotze Letter from the Executive Manager

Noeleen Maholwana-Sangqu Letter from the Editor

From the Mailbag Passenger Letters and Comments

NEWS Keeping You Informed

EVENTS Dates To Diarise

BITS Need To Know

PACK A PICNIC Gauteng’s Best Picnic Spots

DESIGNING WOMEN The First Ladies of South African Fashion

HAVE A CUPPA, CAPE TOWN STYLE Cape Town’s CBD Cafés

A GLASS OF GREEN Organic Wine

PROTECTING OUR PENGUINS Boulders Penguin Sanctuary

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Complimentary Guest Magazine

February 2012

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Organic Wine • Romantic Picnic Spots • Honest Chocolate

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the vip treatment Franschhoek Country House and Villas

TEMPLE HOPPING IN THAILAND Ancient Ayutthaya

GIVING CHOCOLATE A BETTER NAME Honest Artisan Chocolate

SMALL TOWN LIVING Prince Albert

ROMANCING ME Finding Joy in Ordinary Things

A GASTRONOMIC MEMORY MAKER Chef Jackie Cameron

The ASIAN ART OF HEALNG The Jing-An Wellness Centre

IN THE TRACKS OF A LEGEND The History of The Blue Train

SUITE LAYOUT Coach Info

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Letter from the Executive Manager Hanlie Kotze

A very warm welcome to you all. The new year – complete with all of its resolutions – is now in full swing, the holidays are over and it is business as usual for most companies. But the big question is: Should it be business as usual? Well, if you expect the same results as last year, then yes. After all, you cannot do the same thing and expect different results. 2012 has been dubbed “20-Self – the Year of You”. This means that this is the year to finally do (or at least start thinking about) what you have been putting off doing for yourself. 2012 is the year to do all that you can to satisfy your own personal needs and desires and to put your wellbeing first. This will not only be for your benefit but for the benefit of others as well, because you certainly cannot take care of others if you cannot take care of yourself first. Some of our corporate clients will soon wrap up their respective financial years. All the hard work of the past year will hopefully soon bear fruit and the stars will be rewarded with for their efforts. This is also an ideal time to hold a strategic planning session for the year ahead or an incentive reward of a different kind for your clients and/or employees – on an allinclusive Blue Train charter. While on the subject of charters, Africa’s oldest liberation movement, the African National Congress (ANC), celebrated its 100th birthday on 8th January 2012 at the founding place of the ANC in Waaihoek in Mangaung (Bloemfontein). The Blue Train was privately chartered to transport certain VIP guests to the celebrations. Among the notable guests on board were the Minister of Public Enterprises, the Honourable Malusi Gigaba; the Director General of Public Enterprises, Mr Tshidiso Matome; and the Chairman of the Transnet Board of Directors, Mr Mafika Mkhwanazi. Other prominent international guests who graced the train included former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Andrew Young; the Angolan Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and the former first lady, Dr Irene Alexandra Da Silva-Neto, to name but a few. What an honour and privilege this has been for us at The Blue Train. We look forward to hosting more prominent guests and corporate clients on board the most lavish train on the planet. Warm regards,

Hanlie

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Letter from the Editor Noeleen Maholwana-Sangqu

I remember reading a psychological study once that found that people who were asked to wait to be seated at a restaurant on average overestimated (and often by a significant amount) how long they had to wait. Although the study didn’t specify what would happen should the situation be reversed, I would not be surprised if the opposite proved to be the case and people actually underestimated just how quickly they were seated when they were not required to wait! As a whole, we as people seem predisposed to the negative. ‘Bad news sells’ as journalists are quick to quote, and indeed most of us are more likely to dissect the horror story on the front page of the newspaper with our colleagues over a morning cup of coffee, than we are to tell them about the sweet picture of a puppy that appeared on page 14. Likewise, we are far quicker to write a letter of complaint or to ask to speak to the manager about poor service than we are to take the time to commend someone for a job well done. “Well, that’s just human nature,” you might say. But surely we as humans are the ones that determine that nature? Surely, it is not predestined or set in stone, and just as we have the power to change the course of our lives (whether we realise it or not), so too do we have the power to adjust our own world view. Imagine how powerful it would be if we all made a conscious effort to focus on the positive, reward the good, disregard the bad and approach each day and each person free from negative expectations and soul destroying pessimistic misconceptions. Although I think it is a cliché to say that should this be the case, the world would indeed be a better place, I do think it would make a small but noticeable difference in your own lives and would certainly affect (in a positive way) how we view ourselves, others and different events in our lives. So this is my challenge to you this month. Swap the dark glasses for rose-tinted ones, give double the number of compliments to the number of complaints, spread the good news rather than the bad, and let’s all work towards giving ‘human nature’ a much better reputation. Enjoy the read.

Noeleen

editor@bluetrainmag.co.za

THE BLUE TRAIN www.bluetrain.co.za Pretoria, Gauteng Tel: +27 12 334 8459 Fax: +27 12 334 8464 Cape Town Tel: +27 21 449 2672 Fax: +27 21 449 3338 United Kingdom Tel: +44 1403 243619 Fax: +44 1403 217558 Central Europe Tel: +44 2089 245126 Fax: +44 2089 245126 United States Tel: 001 305 864 4569 Fax: 001 305 675 7693

EDITOR Noeleen Maholwana-Sangqu editor@bluetrainmag.co.za

PUBLISHER Deidre Theron-Loots deidre@africanspiritmedia.co.za African Spirit Media (Pty) Ltd PO Box 11273, Hatfield, 0028 Tel: +27 861 THE MAG (843 624) Fax: +27 88 012 346 2367 mail@africanspiritmedia.co.za

Cover Image © iStockphoto.com

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MANAGING EDITOR Nicky Furniss nicky@tcbgroup.co.za ADVERTISING SALES Estelle van der Westhuizen +27 84 821 7257 estellevdw@tcbgroup.co.za Nikki de Lange +27 83 415 0339 nikki@tcbgroup.co.za Robyn Shillaw-Botha +27 83 629 8818 IMAGES © iStockphoto.com, Stock.Xchng

DESIGN & LAYOUT Joanne Mc Laren joanne@virtualdavinci.co.za Virtual Da Vinci Creative Room

PRINTING Business Print Centre, Pretoria CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ISSUE Lisa Witepski, Elaine Weir, Gary Hirson, Bronwyn Burns, Nicky Furniss, Wilma den Hartigh/mediaclubsouthafrica.com, Nicola Weir, Beth Cooper Howell, Laura Potgieter The Blue Train Magazine is published monthly by African Spirit Media (Pty) Ltd. Opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of African Spirit Media (Pty) Ltd, The Blue Train or any of their clients. Information has been included in good faith by the publisher and is believed to be correct at the time of going to print. No responsibility can be accepted for errors and omissions. No material (articles or photographs) in this publication may be reproduced, in whole or in part, without specific written permission from the Publisher. Copyright © 2012. All copyright for material appearing in this magazine belongs to African Spirit Media (Pty) Ltd and/or the individual contributors. All rights reserved.


From the Mail Bag

Passenger Letters & Comments

We so enjoyed our time with you! Everyone and everything was excellent. We hope we can travel on The Blue Train again. Safe trips ahead for you. Miss D Rossouw, South Africa Your staff are efficient, friendly and ooze charm. The wine list was also well chosen. Mr P W Wagner, Australia What a heavenly experience! Mr LDS Thobejane, South Africa It was a great and ‘must do’ experience. The trip was well organised and value for money. Guests Maher and Barrow, South Africa I cannot fault my experience on The Blue Train in any way – it was wonderful! The staff were very friendly and helpful. I would definitely like to travel on The Blue Train again, and next time bring my family with me. Mrs D Davis, South Africa I will definitely be back again! The staff provided very friendly and helpful service. It was an unforgettable experience with charm. I will definitely promote The Blue Train amongst my friends. Dr ED Agenbach, South Africa

Do you have a complaint or comment that you would like to share with us? Please fill in the guest questionnaire that is available in your suite or alternatively send an email to info@bluetrain.co.za. Comments may be edited, shortened or translated from the original language.

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news A Prestigious Hat Trick In a major coup, The Blue Train showed once again why it should indeed be on every local and tourist’s itinerary when it was awarded the highly contest 2011 World’s Leading Luxury Train award at the World Travel Awards prize giving ceremony in Doha, Qatar recently. The Blue Train, which combines the luxury of the world’s leading hotels with the charm of train travel, outshone its competitors and claimed it’s well deserved first spot. It has built an incredible legacy and has now won this award for an impressive three consecutive years. Since their inception 17 years ago, The World Travel Awards – known as the “Oscars of the Travel Industry” – have become an important measure of excellence in the travel and tourism industry. These prestigious awards aim to stimulate innovation and creativity in the industry; to ensure that travellers receive exceptional value, and to acknowledge the organisations that contribute significantly to the industry.

The Blue Train is now a Heart Save Area Several Blue Train staff recently completed a Heart Saver CPR/AED Course and are now proficient in the necessary knowledge and practical skills to recognise life threatening cardio-pulmonary emergencies on board. This will enable them to respond swiftly and effectively in the event of an emergency. The staff will be aided by the Samaritan Pad 500P with CPR Advisor, which is a small, portable and easy to use device, which helps to restore a pulse in most heart attack victims. It also aids rescuers by giving precise visual and voice instructions on how to use the device and how to administer effective CPR.

Promoting Excellence The Blue Train Magazine was gratified to receive two awards recently at the 2011 SA Publication Forum Awards, which recognise excellence in the custom publishing field. Publications that receive a score of 75% or above in a particular category are awarded certificates of excellence, and The Blue Train Magazine received certificates of excellence for both Design and Writing. This serves as a wonderful vote of confidence for the magazine and its team who will continue to strive to improve the publication even further.

The Blue Train Wins Again The Blue Train has proven once more why it is considered the world’s best luxury train by walking away with yet another

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prestigious international award. At the Condé Nast 12th Annual Readers’ Travel Awards held in London in September 2010, The Blue Train was voted as the “Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Favourite Specialist Train”. The runner-up in the “Specialist Train” category was the Venice Simplon-Orient Express. Other nominations included The Ghan in Australia, the Palace on Wheels in India and The Royal Scotsman. The Blue Train was the only South African company to win one of the 27 categories – although South Africa did come in ninth in the “Favourite Holiday Destination” category. “To say that we are delighted with this award would be an understatement! To be nominated alone is such a great achievement, but to win your specific category is enormous! Credit must go to everyone associated with this brand – our employees, representatives, all our strategic partners and suppliers for their effortless passion and commitment to this “Blue Jewel”. Together, through hard work and dedication, we can achieve much more,” commented Hanlie Kotze, Executive Manager of The Blue Train. She added: “With a long-standing reputation of South African hospitality, The Blue Train symbolises the very core of luxury train travel. It is exquisitely crafted and appointed to achieve a degree of unequalled luxury to satisfy not only the senses of every guest, but to also touch their souls. This is the very essence of why we are known as a window to the soul of South Africa.”

Business “Unusual” Charters A special tailor-made, all-inclusive charter on The Blue Train is a wonderful way for guests to explore South Africa’s landscapes and landmarks, lasting from a few hours to several nights. From a VIP cocktail breakfast, lunch or dinner, to a business “unusual” conference, a product launch with a difference, a special wedding reception, staff incentives or even a birthday celebration, the experience is up to you. The Blue Train follows any route, provided the rail networks are compatible to its technology.

For Further Information For more information on The Blue Train’s exciting packages and to read the booking conditions for advance reservations, visit www.bluetrain.co.za or contact The Blue Train reservation office in Pretoria on +27 12 334 8459 or Cape Town on +27 21 449 2672. Email any general enquiries or feedback to info@bluetrain.co.za. n


events Pimm's, Polo and Party Frocks The second Veuve Clicquot Masters, one of the most sophisticated events on the South African Polo calendar, is set to take place on 25th February at Val de Vie Wine and Polo Estate outside Cape Town. The prestigious Champagne House sponsors some of the world’s biggest polo events, and the 2011 Veuve Clicquot Masters was their first foray into African polo. The event proved to be a resounding success and the 2012 Masters looks set to grow in size, drawing in crowds dressed to impress for a stylish day of polo. Making use of Val de Vie’s world class polo fields and luxurious clubhouse facilities, VIP guests can expect a glamorous day out filled with champagne, gourmet canapés, haute couture, and of course, thrilling polo. Tickets are available online through Webtickets at www.webtickets.co.za.

Riesling Royalty The inaugural Riesling Rocks Festival promises wine lovers some of the country’s finest Weisser/Rhine Rieslings in the heart of the Stellenbosch Winelands. The festival will be held on 11th February and hosted by Hartenberg Wine Estate. Besides Hartenberg’s own standout Riesling, other iconic cellars will also be showcasing their gems, including Jordan, De Wetshof, Klein Constantia, Paul Cluver, Thelema and Groote Post. Some of the Cape’s best purveyors of fine deli food will be providing delicious treats to enjoy with the wines, while local musicians will set a festive tone for this singular Winelands wine and food experience. Tickets are available directly from Hartenberg Estate or online at www.webtickets.co.za. For more information, contact +27 21 865 2541, email info@hartenbergestate.com or visit www.hartenbergestate.com.

A Hollie Jolly Experience In celebration of their 50th anniversary, The Hollies will perform in South Africa on 23rd February at Cape Town’s GrandWest Casino, and on 25th February at Carnival City in Brakpan. Regarded by many as one of the most successful British bands of all time, The Hollies enjoyed even more hits than The Beatles during their heyday. The Hollies have produced 19 studio albums, 22 compilation albums and 67 singles. Since their first release in 1963, they have had 30 songs in the UK singles chart and 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, including such perennial favourites as “Carrie Ann”, “Sorry Suzanne” and “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother”. A further 15 albums have appeared in the UK Albums Chart and 13 on the Billboard 200. In 2010, The Hollies were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Tickets are available through Computicket at www.computicket.co.za.

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events Harvest High Jinks Head to the Stellenbosch Winelands on 4th March, when Eikendal Estate pays homage to 31 years of quality winemaking with its popular Weintaufe Harvest Celebration. What started out, more than three decades ago, as an intimate ceremonial blessing to celebrate the end of the harvest, has evolved into a highlight on the Western Cape’s social calendar which attracts a vibrant crowd every year. Eikendal is known for its acclaimed Chardonnay and superb flagship reds and visitors will get to taste the cellar’s first wine of the 2012 harvest – its flagship Chardonnay – straight from the barrel. Live music, craft stalls, lucky draws, vineyard tractor rides, fly fishing, barrel stomping, pony rides and kiddies entertainment are also on offer, as well as a smorgasbord of delicious food and wine. Tickets are available at the gate. For bookings or more information, contact +27 21 855 1422 or email counter@eikendal.co.za.

Catwalk Couture The glittering third annual Red Carpet Fashion Show will showcase some of South Africa’s most celebrated designers at Camps Bay in Cape Town on 10th February. Red Carpet Fashion Show guests will be treated to complimentary drinks and canapés during the evening, with champagne and oysters on arrival at the exclusive after-party which will take place at the Sandy B Private Beach Club. Each guest will also receive an incredible goody bag, and one lucky guest will walk away with a gorgeous diamond bracelet. All the proceeds from the 2012 event will be donated to joinFITE (Financial Independence through Entrepreneurship), a global women’s empowerment organisation, founded by Dermalogica. Tickets are available through Webtickets at www.webtickets.co.za. Visit redcarpetconcepts.co.za for more information.

A Symphony for the Senses The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra’s first symphony season of the year runs from 8th February to 15th March, with concerts on Wednesday and Thursday evenings at the Linder Auditorium in Parktown, Johannesburg. As a special treat for Pretoria music lovers, selected programmes will be repeated on Sunday afternoons at Unisa’s ZK Matthews Hall. The JPO will be kicking off the year with an extremely popular repertoire, featuring a selection of well-known and much-beloved compositions performed by the orchestra and a selection of soloists and conductors drawn from the world’s top echelons. These include British pianist Michael Roll, Italian-born conductor Guido Ajmone-Marsan, German-Japanese violinist Mirijam Contzen and stellar South African cellist Anzel Gerber. Tickets are available through Computicket or at the door. For more information, contact +27 11 789 2733, email info@jpo.co.za or visit www.jpo.co.za.

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bits Meet You at the Market Boschendal in the Stellenbosch Winelands has been synonymous with the finest in country living for centuries – from its origins as a private estate to its rebirth as one of the country’s premier destinations for visitors, complete with wine, food and good living in plentiful supply. Now Place de Boschendal continues this tradition of hospitality. Place de Boschendal is open on Saturdays from 09h00 to 17h00, during which time the estate’s historic courtyard is transformed into a bustling farmer’s market in step with the time-honoured French way of life. Here visitors can stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, artisanal bread, local cheeses, beautiful confectioneries, fine oils, spices and homemade preserves. Visitors are encouraged to make the most of their culinary purchases by enjoying a relaxing picnic lunch in the estate’s grounds accompanied by some of Boschendal’s delicious wines. Visit www.boschendal.com for more information.

The Perfect Pairing New York-based artist and designer and former graffiti phenomenon, KAWS, has paired up with Hennessy Cognac in a meeting of tradition and progressive, iconic aesthetics to create a limited edition VS bottle. The artist’s unique blend of art sensibility and commercial imagery – notably his bold use of colour and savvy tweaking of popular media icons – made him the obvious choice for a bold artistic collaboration with the luxury brand. Each limited edition KAWS Hennessy VS bottle is adorned with not only the artists’ signature artwork, but also includes his philosophy written on the back of the bottle in his own hand: “Friends, work, music, art/It’s important to find the right blend.” The KAWS limited edition bottle goes on sale in South Africa mid-February 2012 at selected stores. Visit Facebook.com/HennessySA for more information.

For a Very Happy Valentine’s Day For the perfect Valentine’s Day present, look no further than Shimansky. The Evolym ring (“my love” spelled backwards) is a unique solitaire diamond ring, which radiates a true brilliance when viewed from any angle due to its 360-degree exposure to the light. Each Evolym ring is handmade with precision and technical expertise to ensure that it has the appearance of a delicately set solitaire diamond, yet is firmly secured between three bands. Another wonderful gift option is the Shimansky Supernova Collection, which is designed to cast a smouldering glow on anyone wearing it. This meticulously crafted range consists of diamond rings, earrings and pendants in four shapes – round, square, marquise and heart. Each of these is available in either 18 k white, yellow or rose gold. For more information, contact +27 21 421 2788 or visit www.shimansky.com.

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bits A Restaurant with a Fine Pedigree It is regarded as one of Johannesburg’s most beautiful buildings and now the historic Emoyeni in Parktown is set to become the city’s “gastronomic landmark with a view”, thanks to the arrival of one of this country’s top restaurateurs, Michel Morand. Johannesburg’s lovers of fine dining are celebrating the news that Morand and his award-winning team, including Executive Chef Yohann Saumande, have moved to the magnificent 105-year-old building with breathtaking panoramic views of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs. The site offers exclusive conference and event facilities and now also boasts a restaurant serving lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday. The small but well thought out menu changes often and there is a regular degustation menu, which includes a glass of wine especially paired to each of the four courses. Visit www.emoyeniestate.co.za for more information.

Diamonds for Africa That beautiful rock of a diamond on your finger may have made its way out of the ground in Kimberley and been packed off on a plane to New York, London, Belgium or India to be cut and polished and set before finding its way back to South Africa and you. With the establishment of the stateof-the-art Kimberley International Diamond & Jewellery Academy (KIDJA) in Kimberley, South Africa’s rough diamonds will soon begin to benefit the people of the Northern Cape. Every year, 150 graduates will be trained as diamond cutters and polishers while current workers and small and medium enterprise owner-managers in the industry will be able to upgrade their skills. Qualified trainers in South Africa’s diamond cutting and polishing sector will also receive specialised courses so that they can train upcoming trainers in this field. It’s all about bringing the benefits of diamonds back home.

For a Signature Look Signature, a fashionable boutique that carries a range of unique decor, furniture, art and gift items has recently launched in Sea Point in the heart of Cape Town’s cosmopolitan Atlantic Seaboard strip. The décor and furniture range includes contemporary, baroque, retro and classic styles. There is also a range of pop art, including some Hollywood inspired pieces, while the diverse and often unusual gifts on offer are chosen to suit any occasion. Signature is also the official stockist of Charlotte Rhys products in Sea Point and offers the complete range of quality home, body and bath products for men and women. Owner, Michelle Wiener, says that each piece has been specially selected with the style and tastes of her customers in mind, who, she adds, will be pleasantly surprised at the affordability of the items on offer at Signature. For more information, contact +27 72 636 0060.

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Travel

Picnic

Pack a Gauteng’s Best Picnic Spots

As the South African summer reaches its full bloom, outdoor dining is the perfect opportunity to make the most of sultry days and balmy evenings and to soak up all the delicious sounds and smells of the season. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, a romantic picnic in one of Gauteng’s scenic picnic spots is also the ideal way to spend quality time with someone special. Text: Nicky Furniss Images: © Nicky Furniss, iStockphoto.com & Ken Hamilton Advertising

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Travel For a rose scented picnic, head to the Rose Garden at the Johannesburg Botanic Gardens

intimate picnic than the rose garden. With over 4,500 different varieties of roses, in the middle of summer the air is quite literally rose tinted. Classically inspired ponds and water features run the length of the garden, which is set out in a series of descending steppes, and the sound of water adds to the relaxing atmosphere, while grassy lawns and shady trees provide the perfect picnic backdrop. This part of the garden is also a favourite spot for wedding photos, which just adds to the garden’s romantic feel. Visit www.jhbcityparks.com for more information.

The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens, Roodepoort

The Johannesburg Botanic Garden, Emmarentia Set on the western shores of Emmarentia Dam, this garden is a favourite with families who like to cool off in the water or make use of the expansive lawns and kilometres of bicycle tracks to blow off some energy throwing a Frisbee around or exploring the garden on two wheels. For the ‘horticulturally’ minded, the garden also boasts a superb plant collection (including succulents, herbs and indigenous trees) and also regularly hosts plant related exhibitions. But for romantics and lovers of all things classical, there is no better spot for an

This 300-hectare garden west of Johannesburg has been voted the best picnic spot in Gauteng for the past five years in a row – and it’s not hard to see why. The garden incorporates a number of different naturally occurring habitats including grassland, savannah and dense bush and as a result boasts over 600 plant species. Animal lovers have a good chance of being rewarded with a sighting of one of the many reptiles and small mammals (including antelope and jackal), who call the garden home and twitchers have plenty to point their binoculars at with over 220 different bird species in the gardens, as well as a dedicated bird hide. The most famous birds in the gardens are undoubtedly the breeding pair of rare Verreaux’s Eagles who nest in the cliffs above the Witpoortjie Waterfall, which is also one of the garden’s most scenic spots. There is also a seemingly inexhaustible collection of grassy spots and green nooks and crannies in which to lay your picnic blanket, and the garden is so large that you have the option of joining the crowds, or finding your own romantic hideaway. There are plenty of walking trails over the nearby Roodekrans Ridge for those who like to walk off their lunch, or alternatively you can just lie back on your blanket with a glass of wine and relax to the sounds of one of the garden’s regular summer sunset concerts. For more information, visit www.sanbi.org/ gardens/walter-sisulu.

The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens in Roodepoort have been voted as the best picnic spot in Gauteng for the past five years

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Travel The Magaliesberg offers plenty of scenic spots for a picnic out in the country

Van Gaalen Kaasmakerij, Magaliesberg The Magaliesberg Mountain Range (north-west of Pretoria) is where stressed out Gauteng city dwellers go to relax and get back to nature. And with its majestic sandstone cliffs, bush-like vegetation and the blue waters of the Hartbeespoort Dam, it is arguably one of the more scenic areas in Gauteng. It also boasts a host of restaurants, interesting shops and attractions, which all form part of the Magaliesberg Meander and make for a fun day exploring the region. One such stop is Van Gaalen Kaasmakerij (cheese farm), which as the name implies is the place to go for all things yellow and cheesy. You can pick up your own supply of homemade cheese to enjoy at home, or enjoy a variety of traditional Dutch dishes in the farm’s garden restaurant. But for something truly special, order a pre-packed picnic basket and find a pretty spot next to the scenic Skeerpoort River or around the resident dam in which to enjoy it. The picnic baskets include bread and biscuits, cold meat, salads, fruit, stroopwaffels (traditional Dutch syrup waffles) and oodles of cheese, of course. It takes all the hard work out of planning a picnic and you also get to keep the basket afterwards as a memento of a romantic picnic in the country. Visit www.vangaalen.co.za for more information.

giraffe, sable and Blue wildebeest) as well as diverse birdlife here. The reserve’s surrounding ridges also allow for outdoor activities, including mountain bike and hiking trails, 4x4 routes and horse riding. After all that activity, there is nothing better than to sink into the soft grass in the picnic area, lie back on your blanket with some tasty nibbles and watch the leaves of the trees rustle overhead. If packing your own picnic seems like too much hassle, you can wander over to the adjacent African-themed Moyo Restaurant. They don’t offer picnics, but you can choose to dine outside or lounge on one of their comfy day beds and enjoy the feel of the sun on your face – and that’s almost as good as the real thing! For more information, visit www.tshwane.gov.za/Services. n

Groenkloof Nature Reserve, Pretoria Pretoria’s Groenkloof Nature Reserve has been a favourite recreation spot in the city since it was first declared a game sanctuary by President Paul Kruger in 1895. Nowadays you can still see a host of different animals (including impala, kudu, Catch up on a little picnic game viewing at the Groenkloof Nature Reserve

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Feature

Designing Women

The First Ladies of South African Fashion Their knack with a needle has ensured that these women have success all stitched up. Meet South Africa’s first ladies of fashion. Text: Lisa Witepski Images: © Abigail Keats, Michelle Ludek & Jo Borkett

Classic Lines ‘Classic’, ‘elegant’ and ‘timeless’ are the words Abigail Keats uses to describe her personal style, and she has ensured that her eponymous label reflects the same qualities, with a dash of glamour thrown in. “I embrace classical shapes and fits, while focusing on contemporary detailing and styling. Tailored garments with strong panel lines have become the foundation of my signature style,” explains Abigail. It is not surprising that she has embraced classic styling, given that one of her strongest inspirations is the iconic Greek statue, the Venus de Milo. “Although I had embraced creativity from a young age, I developed a deeper love of it during my teens. It became an extension of my being; an expression of my thoughts, ideas and views. The Venus de Milo, in particular, sparked my artistic passion for the female physique and its adornment.” Today, Abigail’s passion is fuelled by the way fashion allows her to transform sketches into three-dimensional art forms that reflect the female body through fit, shape, proportion and detailing. She admits that her dream career has, however, not been without its challenges. “The South African fashion industry is very difficult to penetrate, especially if you are introducing a new brand into the

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© Abigail Keats


Feature

market.” She speaks from firsthand experience, having established her first atelier in Sandton in 2010. She then opened a showroom in Cape Town’s Bromwell Boutique. “It takes consistent hard work, dedication and a long term vision if you wish to achieve brand recognition and growth. Opening my boutique gave me the confidence to continue developing my brand and to achieve my ultimate goal: To create an internationally acclaimed label and successful business that is proudly South African.”

Designer Abigail Keats is inspired by classic styling and tailoring with a dash of glamour thrown in for good measure

Comfort Comes First While other little girls were dreaming of their weddings, Michelle Ludek was sketching their dresses. Inspired by her stylish mother, Michelle had no doubt that her future lay in fashion. Nowadays, she has moved away from wedding dress doodles to focus on clothes that are “Simple, yet feminine and beautifully made, but require little maintenance”. Her designs are largely informed by her own style preferences. “I need reliable, feel good clothes in my cupboard, and I design for women who have a similar lifestyle to mine, regardless of their age.” For Michelle, that means being modern, but without conforming to trends that do not suit her body. “I love handbags, but the days of killer heels have come to an end because I can’t run after my children in them!” So where does she find the ideas for her creations? “I find inspiration in the most random places; ideas pop into my head when I least expect them.” As an insomniac, some of Michelle’s most productive times are in the wee hours of the morning, and she will often get up to sketch at 02h00 if she wants to pin an idea onto paper before it vanishes. Michelle is much encouraged by the calibre of the South African fashion industry. “I think we have many talented designers. There are many international opinion makers who agree, and who have their eyes on our industry. We’re a creative nation, so if we continue to follow our passions and look within our country, we will continue to grow.” “I find inspiration in the most random places; ideas pop into my head when I least expect them,” says designer, Michelle Ludek

© Michelle Ludek

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The Forward Thinking Fashionista Walk past the Jo Borkett boutique windows in Sandton City, Rosebank Mall, Eastgate Mall and Cavendish Square, and it becomes instantly apparent why this brand has become a synonym for sophistication. An international influence in the fabrics and styling are also immediately discernible as hallmarks of the label. This is not surprising given that Jo was, in fact, a buyer for Harrods in London and received training at the HRD School of Textiles before relocating to Johannesburg in 1969. “At the time, the concept of boutiques was new to South Africa,” she recalls, which is why her decision to establish a chain of boutiques, supported by a manufacturing arm, showed great foresight. And the brand continues to evolve. In 1980, Jo was approached to design a uniform for one of South Africa’s leading car rental companies, and her venture into this new field led to the establishment of a corporate clothing range. Her latest milestone sees her taking the brand into selected Edgars stores. So what can Jo Borkett fans expect to be wearing this summer? “Our Summer Collection is all about beautiful colours, from gorgeous jewel tones to vibrant brights,” she says. “Look out for stylish culottes, dresses in floral prints and lace fabrics, fun jumpsuits and chic blouses. Dresses, bare legs, smart sportswear, skinny belts and modern craft like tie dye are huge trends for summer, as are colours like blue, tangerine, nude, yellow, rainbow, denim and white, as well as animal and floral prints.” n

© Jo Borkett © Jo Borkett

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Have a Cuppa,

Cape Town Style Cape Town’s CBD Cafés

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Dear Me is fast becoming a favourite CBD lunch spot for those in search of healthy and delicious cuisine


Travel

The Mother City has made quite a name for itself in recent years for the amount of time and energy it has dedicated to rejuvenating its historic buildings. As a result, the Cape Town CBD is increasingly becoming a place to see and be seen, and with the recent addition of three quirky new cafés and eateries, there is now even more reason to head to town. Text: Nicky Furniss Images: © Dear Me, Skinny Legs & All, Haas Coffee Collective

Tjing Tjing is the perfect CBD destination for a light snack and a sundowner or two

Dear Me Sandwiched between a host of storefronts in Longmarket Street, Dear Me does not look like much from the outside. But step inside and each fascinating layer of this quirky new brasserie, deli and bar reveals itself like a Russian matryoshka doll. This 180-year-old, three storey building was in a sorry state before the current owners lovingly restored and decorated it, with the help of architect and urban designer Mario Bonadei and interior designer Francois du Plessis.

Nowadays a walk to the top floor reveals Tjing Tjing, a wonderfully eclectic Asian-inspired rooftop bar nestled under the attic eaves of the building. As well as colourful cocktails and saucy shots, it also serves up a tapas style menu, perfect for pre-dinner nibbles. Just below is a private function room decked out in stylish monochromatic white which is used for events, and also plays host to a chefs table for Thursday evening dinners. The heart of Dear Me, however, is well and truly in its floor level brasserie. Although it only opened its doors last year, it is already difficult to get a table here, which is little wonder, based on its superb menu. “The menu changes every day because it is based on what’s available seasonally and locally,” explains Chef Vanessa Marx, adding that they also have a preference for ethically farmed, free range meat and only serve green listed, sustainable fish. But perhaps the most notable thing about Vanessa’s wholesome menu (think seared Lourensford trout and free-range beef brisket bourguignon pot pie) is that almost every item on the menu is available in a variety of different options to suit a smorgasbord of dietary restrictions. “A lot of restaurants are not willing to accommodate people with dietary restrictions, and this can make eating out quite difficult. I am diabetic and my sous chef is lactose intolerant, so we know how it feels. We get a lot of customers who are gluten or wheat intolerant so we stock 100% rye bread which is wheat free, as well as gluten free bread. We also make all of our own nut milks so that we can accommodate vegans and people with lactose intolerances,” she explains. This all-inclusive concept seems to be paying off – based on the brisk lunchtime trade – but Vanessa is also quick to point out that even those patrons without dietary requirements are welcome, and while wholesome food is the name of the game here, there is still plenty to indulge in. Dear Me (165 Longmarket Street) is open Monday to Friday from 07h00 to 15h00 and on Thursday evenings for dinner. Visit www.dearme.co.za for more information.

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Skinny Legs & All is an inviting spot for a quick cup of coffee or a spot of breakfast or lunch while shopping in the CBD

Jesse and Jaime Friedberg have a passion for cooking, which is evident in everything on the menu at Skinny Legs & All

Skinny Legs & All Charming luxury café, Skinny Legs & All, is a wonderful testament to just letting go and following your heart. Twin sisters Jesse and Jaime Friedberg were both ensconced in university careers, but when a retail space in the CBD opened up, the two jumped at the opportunity to turn a shared passion for cooking into a career. The result is Skinny Legs & All, named after a novel by Tom Robbins. The sisters have decorated the space in clean white tones with minimalist décor – a deliberate move on their part to highlight the difference between their style and their food. “The interior is stylised and very refined, while our food is basic, simple and wholesome. You don’t really find that concept in restaurants that much; usually as the interior becomes more refined, the food becomes more sophisticated. But here I think we have a nice balance,” explains Jaime. Neither of the sisters have any formal culinary training, but they clearly have a flair for flavours, a love of healthy, quality ingredients and the kind of passion that you can taste in every mouthful. Their menu is full of wholesome, unpretentious comfort food, like their homemade muesli bursting with nuts and fruit, a risotto which changes daily, and their lumberjack sandwich which is one of their most popular items. The sisters also insist on making all of their own condiments, including mayonnaise, strawberry jam and basil pesto, as well as all of their own juices – and you can certainly taste the difference. Skinny Legs & All only opened last year, and the past couple of months have been something of a learning curve for Jesse and Jaime. “It is one thing to love making food, it’s another thing to make money from it,” says Jaime. But based on their inviting interior, their palpable enthusiasm and the care you can taste in every one of their dishes, you cannot help feel that these two sisters may indeed be able to have their homemade cake and eat it too! Skinny Legs & All (70 Loop Street) is open Monday to Friday from 07h00 to 16h00 and on Saturdays from 08h30 to 14h00. Contact +27 21 423 5403 or email enquiries@skinnylegsandall.co.za for more information.

The Haas Coffee Collective This coffee shop in the Bo-Kaap may only have opened its doors in 2011, but it has already established quite a name for itself: As the current title holder for serving South Africa’s most expensive cup of coffee. At R80 a cup (or R2,960 per kilogram!), a steaming mug of Indonesian Kopi Luwak does not come cheap. But then it is not every day that you get to partake in the subtleties of a coffee bean that has survived a journey through the intestines of civet! The Asian Palm civet, which lives in Indonesia, is partial to only the choicest, reddest coffee berries. Once eaten, the outside pulp of the berry

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With its inviting interiors, great coffee and quirky design shop there are plenty of reasons to take a trip to Bo-Kaap to pop in to Haas

is digested and the perfect coffee bean is excreted at the other end. It is then some poor guy’s job to collect the “discarded” beans, which are then cleaned and roasted. It is apparently the digestive process that makes the flavour of this particular bean so sought after. “The enzymes in the civet’s stomach basically take away all of the high and low notes of the coffee, to make it the most balanced coffee in the world,” explains Glynn Venter, one of the owners of Haas. The movie The Bucket List established Kopi Luwak as one of life’s essential experiences, and a recent segment on Carte Blanche (which identified Haas as one of the few retailers in South Africa with certified Kopi Luwak coffee) has seen the shop inundated with coffee connoisseurs looking to tick Kopi Luwak off their own personal lists. Glynn says that many come just for the bragging rights, but go away pleasantly surprised by just how enjoyable the coffee actually is. Thanks to the buzz that currently exists around Kopi Luwak, Haas often runs out of stock, but there are still plenty of other reasons to frequent this part of the Bo-Kaap. As well as Kopi Luwak, the coffee shop also serves up other rare coffees. These include Jamaican Blue Mountain and Yemen Mocha Matari. The shop also serves up tasty titbits and has a fun, warm vibe, which is overseen by the custodial eyes of “Haas”, Glynn’s childhood toy rabbit for which the shop is named. Haas is so much more than just a coffee shop, though, and was formed as a creative collaboration between Glynn Venter (who has a background in marketing), interior designer Francois Irvine and artist Vanessa Berlein. Francois and Vanessa run the adjacent Haas Design Collective, which sells a wonderful selection of artwork, accessories and handmade objects, with bunnies (understandably) being a recurring theme. With two

Haas is already garnering a reputation for its exotic coffees, in particular Indonesian Kopi Luwak which sells for R80 a cup!

additional partners, the three also run an advertising agency, as well as a gallery space where they exhibit the work of local artists. They also have plans to work together with the local Bo-Kaap community to begin hosting a regular weekend market. Glynn and his partners clearly have an enthusiasm for great creativity and delicious coffee, and as a result, Haas looks set to become something of a buzz word on the Cape Town social scene – and not just for its ability to help you tick another item off your bucket list! The Haas Coffee Collective (67 Rose Street, Bo-Kaap) is open Monday to Friday from 07h00 to 17h00 and on weekends and public holidays from 08h00 to 15h00. Visit www.haascollective.com for more information. n

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A Glass of

Green Organic Wine

Although it sounds like something that has all the fun taken out of it – much like diet Coke or low fat biscuits – there is no need to worry; all the alcohol is still there. Organic wine is made from the same grapes, in the same wine regions and in the same way wine has been made for thousands of years. All you will be missing are the chemical residues left over from conventional grape growing – and you can certainly live without those. Text: Elaine Weir Images: © Avondale, Waverley Hills & Laibach

Conventional farming uses chemical fertilisers and pesticides to ensure a larger harvest. These chemicals are absorbed by the vines’ roots and are then passed into the stems, leaves and fruit and ultimately make their way into the wine that we drink. This ‘chemical based’ farming has a significant impact on the quality of the ground water, the surrounding soil and the wine itself. Farm workers who use these chemicals need to wear protective clothing and breathing equipment to protect them while spraying crops as they have been proven to increase the risks of heart disease and cancer. “No one knows what the long terms effects of these residues are on us or the planet, so an organic approach can be seen as a cautious, ‘safety-first’ approach,” says Monty Waldin, a leading expert on organic wines, and the author of the Organic Wine Guide.

Avondale’s 500-ton capacity cellar was built deep in a dry riverbed. It is a gravity-flow facility that ensures that the grapes are moved with the minimum of mechanical intervention

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While organic wine may cost more than conventional wine, the benefits make it worth considering. And it seems consumers agree, as the consumption of organic wine grew by 3.7% in the year ending September 2009, while the consumption of non-organic wine showed only a 2% increase. Plus, although only about 2% of the world’s wine producers are certified as organic, there are now an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 organic wine producers globally.

How Green are South African Wines? Here in South Africa there are numerous wineries which produce organic wines of a very high standard, and the trend is growing in popularity with many farms taking their first steps to converting their vineyards and attaining organic certification.


Feature Avondale Estate uses natural predators to combat pests rather than chemical pesticides, including a posse of Pekin ducks who range through the vineyards on snail patrol

he termed Bio-Logic. This approach combines the best aspects of organic and biodynamic principles with the latest developments in modern science. Always looking for new ways to embrace the organic way of living, Avondale has gone green inside and out, by also developing their own organic packaging. The new bottles are lighter, and boast both superior presentation and a lower carbon footprint. Working under the ethos, Terra Est Vita, or ‘Soil Is Life’, Avondale has gone on to produce wine in several varietals including Chenin blanc, syrah, rosé, brut Méthode Cap Classique, as well as both red and white blends.

Laibach

Avondale In 1997, John and Ginny Grieve (owners of Vital Health Foods) purchased Avondale Farm in the Klein Drakenstein Mountains near Paarl. In 1999, their son Jonathan took on the challenge of turning the land into a vineyard that could support the ecosystem instead of harming it. That year they produced their first vintage under the Avondale label. After a catastrophic fire swept the mountains in 2000, Jonathan looked for what he could gain from the tragedy. Instead of burnt, damaged land, he saw the opportunity to sculpt the land and its natural ecosystems in his development of a revolutionary farming and wine-making technique,

The Laibach family has been producing wine on the slopes of the Simonsberg near Stellenbosch, (an area known for its wine and cheese) since 1994. They use a blend of tradition and innovation while always striving for continuous improvement. The conversion of their vineyards from traditional to organic farming began a few years ago. They believe that the toxic chemicals from traditional farming can be eliminated, and that it is possible to reverse the effects of pollution on the environment, including surface and groundwater contamination and the malformation of surrounding wildlife. Growing grapes without fertilisers and pesticides was a challenge but as they developed their system, their primary goals included building organic matter in the soil with cover crops, controlling weeds by physical means, encouraging natural air flow around the fruit and welcoming the natural enemies of vineyard pests by planting fennel and yarrow around the vineyards as an inviting breeding ground for them. The Laibach’s leading organic wine, The Ladybird (ladybirds are the natural enemies of mealy bugs, the biggest pest that threatens vines) has received high praise from wine critics and

Laibach’s state-of-the-art winery at the foot of the Simonsberg has a handling capacity of 300 tons

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connoisseurs alike, which is reassuring the Laibachs’ that the family’s commitment to making organic wine has been both recognised and rewarded.

Their hard work was recognised when they were named the winners of the 2011 Best of Wine Tourism award for Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices.

Waverley Hills

So What is in the Glass?

As you enter Waverley Hills you almost expect their white ducks (whose task it is to control the snails in the vineyards) to come out to greet you before the owners do. The estate is owned and run by the Du Toit family, who has over 40 years of experience in the wine making industry. Waverly Hills believes that the phrase ‘organic vineyard’ should conjure up a harmonious picture of clean rows of green, trellised vines, their leaves combed by beneficial insects, the skies patrolled by hawks and owls hunting for rodents, field workers safe from toxic chemicals, and pure, delicious wines. This is what they aspired to achieve when they first started in the organic wine market in 2000. The estate now has a total of 30 hectares of vineyards and olive groves that are planted and cultivated organically. Waverley Hills adheres to strict regulations and are certified as organic by the SGS who stipulate that no pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or chemical fertilisers are to be used in the production process. Their organic wines contain 50% less sulphur than wines produced by conventional farming methods, and they are certified by the National Organic Program, which is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture for the US market. At Waverley Hills, organic living is more than just a passion, it is a way of life. Project Coordinator for the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative, Inge Kotze says: “Waverley Hills truly demonstrates the philosophy of farming in harmony with nature, with no conventional pesticides and chemical fertilisers being used, and fantastic complimentary conservation and environmental awareness activities underway on the farm.”

Before any food can be labeled ‘organic’, it must meet strict criteria in order to be certified. Be sure to read labels carefully as some traditional wines carry labels saying ‘Made with Organic Grapes’ but this only means that at least 70% of the grapes used in the wine are grown organically and therefore it is not certified as organic. The problem is that traditional wines contain added sulphides (a preservative that occurs naturally in wine) in contrast to organic winemakers who do not add any sulphides. The less sulphide a wine contains, the healthier it is. It is rare to find a wine that is completely free of sulphides, however, otherwise it would have an extremely short shelf life. It is recommended that sulphide free wine be bought directly from the winery after tasting it with the owner. Organic wineries do not add flavours such as oak chips to their wines and use basic wine making techniques that use yeast for fermentation. This means that organic wines have brighter colours and more distinct flavours, as well as many health benefits. Drinking wine in moderation is known to decrease your risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer, so whether you are celebrating, food pairing or just relaxing with a glass of wine, it is important to choose a wine that is best for your health. Organic wines offer all the benefits that traditional wines do without all the drawbacks, except maybe the headache the next day. So the next time I am asked if I want a glass of red or white wine, I think I’ll say “Green please”. n

Waverley Hills uses composts and manures for fertilising as well as cover crops for soil improvement and as host plants for beneficial insects. They also allow indigenous vegetation to grow wild in proximity to the vines as it provides a natural habitat for indigenous fauna to flourish, which adds diversity to their vineyard’s eco-system

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Feature

Protecting our

Penguins

Boulders Penguin Sanctuary

The Boulders Penguin Sanctuary, situated in Simon’s Town on the Western Cape Coast, is an important conservation site for the vulnerable African penguin. Text: Wilma den Hartigh/mediaclubsouthafrica.com Images: Š iStockphoto.com

The sanctuary, which forms part of the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), has become a safe haven for the African penguin, now listed as vulnerable in the Red Data Book of threatened species. Foxy Beach, in particular, has become internationally known as one of the few sites in South Africa where penguin enthusiasts can view the aquatic birds at close range, in the wild. Thanks to various conservation efforts to protect the future survival of the African penguin, the population of this particular species has increased through natural breeding and local migration from surrounding island colonies. As a result, Boulders has seen an increase in its breeding pairs from just two in 1982, to 3,000 in recent years.

Preserving Breeding Sites Providing a safe breeding environment for the birds is critical for their survival as the African penguin is the only

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species of penguin that breeds in Africa. Monique Ruthenberg from South African National Parks (SANParks) says that although Boulders was outside the Cape Peninsula Protected Natural Environment, it was such an important penguin breeding ground that it warranted inclusion into the SANParks family. SANParks decided to incorporate Boulders into the TMNP in 1998.

Saving the Penguin from Extinction The African penguin has faced the risk of extinction over the past 80 years, and has suffered a greater decline than any other penguin species. Of the estimated 1.5 million African penguins in 1910, only about 10% of this number remained by the end of the 20th century. The decline of the African penguin dates back to the first Dutch settlement at the Cape in 1652. Penguins were an


Feature

important source of food and their eggs were regarded as a delicacy well into the 20th century. More recently, competition with commercial fisheries for anchovies and sardines, the penguins’ main source of food, has contributed to their decline. According to the Earthwatch Institute, oil spills and illegal dumping of excess oil from tankers also threatens their survival. Penguins rely on their feathers for insulation, and when they become covered in oil, they are unable to keep warm. However, Ruthenberg explains that numerous conservation efforts have contributed to a steady increase in the number of penguins at Boulders. “SANParks has simply been ensuring that the penguins are protected and that disturbances and threats to the birds inside the park are minimised as far as possible,” she says.

Three boardwalks, constructed in between the coastal bush, allow visitors to observe the penguins at close range. The first boardwalk was built when the park was established in 1998, the second in 1999 and the third in 2006. A fence was also constructed to prevent the birds from wandering inland. An information room at Boulders, which highlights the efforts of tourism and law enforcement officers as well as environmental education and awareness programmes, are also putting a spotlight on the birds’ plight. Ruthenberg says that Simon’s Town also hosts a Penguin Festival every year to raise money for the Southern African National Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob), an organisation that rescues penguins from oil spills and other disasters. The organisation is funded by membership fees and public donations, and has been scientifically proven to be the most successful seabird rehabilitation centre in the world.

Technology for Conservation Other research initiatives are also looking to find ways to protect the African penguin from extinction. Robben Island is home to the third largest African penguin colony in the world, with about 6,000 breeding pairs in residence on the island and it is here that the South African Penguins Research Project is based. The Earthwatch Institute reports that as part of the project, penguin enthusiast Dr Peter Barham, a polymer physicist at Bristol University in the UK, is developing and conducting field testing of hi-tech silicon bands, used as tagging devices on Robben Island’s penguins. The use of silicon bands is part of a long-term study of African penguin productivity. If the bands are successful, scientists hope to make them available to other penguin researchers. In the past, steel tags were attached to the upper part of the penguin’s flipper, but research revealed that silicon tags are less intrusive for the birds. Silicon tags are designed to prevent feather wear, reduce drag when penguins are swimming and decrease the chances of penguins becoming entangled in bushes. Unlike the metal tags, the silicon material is flexible and penguins have a better chance of freeing themselves. One of Barham’s students is also testing new “computer-aided pattern recognition” technology. This will enable researchers in the field to identify individual penguins by unique spot patterns on their chests, which would remove the need for banding them altogether. n

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Travel

The VIP

Treatment Franschhoek Country House and Villas

The Franschhoek Country House & Villas has fast become a mainstay of the little culinary capital it takes its name from – not least of all due to its superb reputation for impeccable and attentive service. Text: Nicola Weir Images: Š Franschhoek Country House & Villas

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Franschhoek Country House & Villas is committed to service excellence. Assistant General Manager, Ben du Toit, explains their dedication to providing each guest with an unforgettable experience. “Everybody who checks in here is treated as a VIP, no matter who they are. Whether you are a regular guest who has been coming here for years, or whether you are staying with us for the first time, you will be treated as a VIP,” explains Ben. “We also never cross the line between personal relationships and professionalism. Even if we know a guest really well, the staff remains professional, yet friendly and relaxed.” According to Ben, true hospitality starts from the minute guests arrive. For this reason, every different occasion that guests check in at Franschhoek Country House & Villas, the management team ensures that it feels like the very first time. “This is important because that original experience is what has kept them coming back year after year,” explains Ben. The VIP treatment is continued during guests’ stays with a variety of value-added services. And value-added they are

indeed. A complimentary shuttle is available to pick up and drop off guests throughout Franschhoek. The reception staff will also happily assist guests by booking wine tastings and tours and even wine tasting on horseback. “We try to make sure that everyone has all the information they need; this includes things to do in and around Franschhoek, as well as the services available on the property such as the massages and beauty treatments,” Ben explains. “There are other added services to make the guest’s stay a home-away-from-home experience, including WiFi throughout the property and a range of over 250 newspapers to choose from, including publications in a number of foreign languages. Laundry service and even a car wash can also be arranged!” Going the extra mile plays an important role in attracting overseas guests. “A lot of our guests come from overseas and are very discerning with high expectations. We feel that we are able to meet those expectations with the high levels of service we provide. For instance, there is always a senior manager available to see to any needs the guests

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may have, no matter what time of the day or night,” says Ben. He says another important part of their service is that at check-in, guests are not sent straight to their rooms. One of the managers is always on hand to personally check-in and familiarise guests with the property and all the services on offer. The hotel has become a popular choice for honeymoon couples and the exclusive Villa Suites are perfect for any romantic getaway. The hotel is also a favourite destination for local travellers and popular over weekends as guests from the cities pour in for that special break-away. To ensure five-star treatment for each and every guest, the owner, Jean-Pierre Snyman, is actively involved in the dayto-day management of the property, and he and his staff endeavour to spend time with each guest to make them feel special. “We try to personalise our service as far as possible and we ensure that we know each one of our guests by name. Our regular guests are always welcomed by familiar faces, whether sitting down at the restaurant or arranging services at reception,” Ben explains. Franschhoek Country House even offers their services to guests staying at other venues. When they book a table at Franschhoek Country House’s restaurant, Monneaux, they can take advantage of the complimentary shuttle service

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that will pick them up from their accommodation venue and then take them back again. All of the food and wine served in the restaurant has been specially selected for its quality and the Villa’s staff enjoy going the extra mile for special occasions at Monneaux. “We like to make birthdays and anniversaries at the restaurant special. We usually find out beforehand and the guests do not always know that we are aware that they are celebrating a special occasion. This allows us to surprise them and offer that extra-special treatment,” Ben explains. The key to making every guest feel important is in the way all of these extra services are delivered to guests by the dedicated staff at Franschhoek Country House & Villas. They are passionate about being real hosts to their guests and that is what true VIP service is all about. For more information, contact +27 21 876 3386 or visit www.fch.co.za. n


Travel

Temple Hopping in

Thailand Ancient Ayutthaya

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Travel

There is more to Thailand than just island hopping and Bangkok shopping. Ayutthaya, one of the ancient capitals of Siam, reveals an entirely different perspective of Thai culture and history. It is a maze of ruins that tells tales of trade and war, and yet wandering through it, it is hard not to be overcome by a sense of contented peace. Text: Bronwyn Burns Images: Bronwyn Burns & iStockphoto.com

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Ayutthaya once boasted the largest population in the world, and the kingdom, ruled by some 33 kings of various dynasties, thrived for more than four centuries. While Sukhothai to the north is indeed the birth place of the Thai Kingdom, Ayutthaya reflects the glory days and the height of Thai supremacy.

Past to Present Situated at the confluence of three rivers, Ayutthaya became an economic and cultural empire which exploited the trade routes between India and China, and later monopolised trade with much of Europe. The kingdom grew to control most of what is modern day Thailand, and as it pushed back the borders of Cambodia, Laos and Burma, it developed into the wealthiest and most important city in South-East Asia. Then it was gone. Towards the end of the 18th century, the Burmese invaded the city and burned, plundered and destroyed the empire beyond repair. It was not the first time they had ransacked the city but it would be the last. The Burmese only managed to hold the city for two years before King Taksin the Great sent them fleeing back from whence they had come. The Siamese capital in the meantime though had been moved to Thonburi (not far from present day Bangkok). Ayutthaya’s golden age had come to an end and the city was abandoned to ruin. All that remains now is a sublime dream of majesty and prosperity. Yet many of the historical temples still stand and their stately spires are no less imposing. Many of the original statues of Buddha have been restored and are still revered and draped in traditional orange cloth, while modern museums have been built to record the history of the city’s rich past.

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Going Local The trip to Ayutthaya is less than an hour’s drive from Bangkok, but my parents and I decided to take the local train instead in order to get more of an insight into the everyday life of the locals. We climbed on board the dull grey train and my mother found a seat next to a benevolent monk – only to be shooshooed away sternly with gestures and a silent fuss. It is improper for monks to be in contact with women at any time and so my father was beckoned to take her place instead. As insistent as the old monk was, his smile showed understanding and acceptance, and the Thai passengers enjoyed a hearty laugh at our expense. This lightened the mood and my father and the monk made small talk for the rest of the journey in broken English. There is no shortage of tuk-tuks at the Ayutthaya train station ready to whisk you away for a day of losing yourself to the secrets of ancient ruins. If you can handle the heat and humidity, an alternative is to hop on a bicycle and take a leisurely ride around what is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were eager, however, to make the most of the expertise of one of the local drivers to guide us and share his knowledge of the city with us. We had originally thought that we would be able to cover the entire heritage site in a day, but we soon realised just how much we had underestimated the city’s size and extent. Ayutthaya boasts more than 50 sites including wats (temples), chedis (pagodas), Khmer stupas, parks, museums and modern monuments. The main site of ruins lies to the northeast of the inner city island. The three rivers and their tributaries, Chaophraya, Lopburi and Pasak, once encircled the island but today only sections still flow.


Travel

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Finding Buddha

We started our visit with a wander through the national museum to gain a sense of how these majestic ruins came to be. There are many missing links and the sequence of construction is sketchy as many of the historical records were destroyed by the Burmese. What is clear, however, is that there are distinct architectural periods. When King U-Thong established the first settlement, he marched to Cambodia and took thousands of Khmer war slaves to build his new city. They in turn built in their Angkorian architectural style with vertical prang towers for the royal temples. The bell-shaped chedis that dot the heritage site today are said to be of Sri Lankan origin and the three bell-shaped chedis of Wat Phra Si Sanphet have become the symbol of Ayutthaya, much like the five prang towers of Angkor Wat are of Cambodia. Sanphet was once a royal palace and the chedis contain the ashes of Ayutthayan kings. There are several such temples and one that captured our attention was Wat Chai Wattanaram, which dates back to the 17th century. It is set across the river facing the inner city and stands testament to ancient Khmer architecture as a smaller replica of Angkor Wat. There is symbolism in every element of its design. The central prang represents the centre of the universe while the surrounding chedis house huge images of Buddha. The entire layout is symmetrical, with galleries that are carved with ornate relief patterns. Impossibly steep staircases led us to a magnificent view of the surrounding terrain but also made us realise just how many temples there were still to see.

As we drove to our next destination, our guide told us how the locals cling to the image of the ancient city with pride. No building can be constructed higher than the main chedi at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, which commemorates victory over the first Burmese invasion. However modernisation is still having an inevitable impact on the area with the addition of factories and tarred roads, commercial businesses and modern monasteries. If it were not for the protection of UNESCO, one wonders just how long it would have been before this history was lost to the world entirely. One of the best-preserved royal monasteries is Wat Yai Chaimongkol, which is famous for its massive reclining Buddha and a 62 metre-high inverted bell shaped chedi which was built to commemorate victory over the Burmese. Surrounding the principal chedi are cloistered walls lined with impressive Buddha statues – a unique architectural feature of the early Ayutthaya reign. Tucked away inside what is believed to be the oldest temple ruin of the area is the unexpected highlight of our experience: a sanguine Buddha face enveloped in the roots of a Bodhi tree. All that remains of this sandstone statue is the Buddha head peering out mysteriously. We were somewhat “templed-out� by the time we made our way back to the train station and yet there was still so much more to see. If ever I have the coveted opportunity to visit this bygone city again, I would be sure to stay the night. Accommodation is inexpensive and hospitable, while the local cuisine is a welcoming end to the day, knowing that there is so much more to discover when the sun rises. n

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Feature

Michael and Anthony outside their new chocolate shop in Wale Street in Cape Town, where visitors can watch them hard at work making their delicious chocolates

Giving

Chocolate a Better Name Honest Artisan Chocolate

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Feature

Chocolate has always had something of a bad reputation. Overweight women often point the finger of blame at their “chocolate addictions”, dentists warn off the sweets and chocolates to prevent tooth decay, and dieticians shun it. But now the owners of small artisan chocolate company Honest Chocolate, Anthony Gird and Michael de Klerk, are taking a fresh approach to the art of chocolate making, and are hoping to dispel some of chocolate’s biggest criticism at the same time. Text: Nicky Furniss Images: © Honest Chocolate Honest Chocolate makes their delicious truffles from only raw cocoa beans, agave nectar and organic coconut oil

Anthony and Michael’s chocolate slabs and truffles are made entirely by hand, using traditional chocolate making techniques. This includes tempering the melted chocolate laboriously by hand on a granite table top. But while this is noteworthy in itself, it is not unique to other small scale chocolate makers in South Africa. Instead, what does differentiate the pair is the fact that the cocoa beans that they use in their chocolate are left completely raw. “Most chocolate makers will take the cocoa bean and roast it,” explains Michael. “They roast it for flavour, but it is also done to get rid of mould and to make storage easier.” Michael and Anthony, however, buy only superior quality cocoa beans from Ecuador. The flavour of these is already so good that they don’t need to be roasted. Unlike commercial chocolate companies, the true flavour of the bean in Honest Chocolate is also not masked by the addition of sugar, dairy, emulsifiers or preservatives. Honest Chocolate prides itself on the fact that, other than the cocoa bean itself, the only additional ingredient in the slabs is agave nectar (a natural sweetener that is derived from a plant that grows wild in the Karoo), while the centre of their truffles contain cold-pressed organic coconut oil and freshly cut vanilla pod seeds to give them a rich creaminess. As a result, Honest Chocolate is suitable for diabetics, as well people who suffer

from soya allergies and lactose intolerance. So does that mean that Honest Chocolate is, for want a better word, “healthy”? “The cocoa bean is pretty healthy. It’s high in anti-oxidants and magnesium and is a mood enhancer,” explains Michael. “We use cold-pressed, organic coconut oil instead of dairy and we use fresh vanilla pods instead of vanilla essence. The agave nectar is a fructose, so it’s still a form of sugar, but it has a very low glycaemic index (GI), so it won’t spike your sugar levels. So yes, it is a healthy chocolate.” It was, in fact, a mutual interest in healthy eating that led to the establishment of Honest Chocolate. Even though the two friends were living on separate continents (Anthony in Cape Town and Michael in London), they both decided to cut sugar out of their diets for health reasons. “Ant started making smoothies from raw cocoa, and then we went on holiday to New York together and met someone who makes raw chocolate there. Ant came back to Cape Town and started making raw chocolate and selling it at a stall in the market. Then I came back from London and began helping him out in between work,” explains Michael. At first the pair made their chocolate on a part-time basis, but as the popularity of it grew, it began to take up more of their time and about ten months ago they decided to turn their side business into a full time one.

December February 2012 2011

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Feature Honest Chocolate is the brainchild of good friends, Anthony Gird and Michael de Klerk

It has not been an easy road, however. “We started working from home, but neither of us had any money, so all of the money we made went straight into buying more stock. To temper chocolate you also need a cold room, but as we didn’t have an air con and it was summer, we were waking up at 02h00 when it was cool and trying to temper chocolate with all the windows open! Also, if you get a drop of water into the chocolate when you are tempering it, it gets ruined. So in the early stages, we went through times of having to throw away whole batches. And when you have no money, that’s really hard!” Later, the pair rented a room from which to work and also managed to swap a batch of coconut oil for an old air conditioner. Proper chocolate making machinery is prohibitively expensive, so Michael and Anthony do everything by hand, including hand dipping every single one of their truffles. As if this was not labour intensive enough, their deliberate choice to not use refined sugar or emulsifiers has also made the production process more difficult. Their determination and hard work is finally starting to pay off, though. They currently stock about 20 shops in Cape Town, including Wellness Warehouse, as well as several shops in Gauteng. They are also in the process of lining up stockists for KwaZulu-Natal. At the end of August last year they opened their own shop in the heart of Cape Town, near the colourful suburb of Bo-Kaap. Here, lovers of chocolate can purchase their own Honest Chocolate, and peek through the window into the little kitchen behind to watch Anthony and Michael hard at work making it. Ideally, however, Michael and Anthony would like to grow their business to a stage where they can hire people to help them with the making of the chocolate in order to free them up to experiment more with different products and flavours – such as the maca flavour they currently make, which comes from a Peruvian super food and is said to improve one’s libido!

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In the meantime, Michael and Anthony are just enjoying doing something that they love and watching others derive enjoyment from it too. “The satisfaction comes from making something yourself and then watching people’s faces as they enjoy it,” says Michael. The two also continue to strive to educate people about chocolate whenever they can: “That’s our big thing, is that we are trying to give chocolate a better name. People think that chocolate is bad for you and it’s totally not. It is everything else in chocolate, like the sugar and the preservatives, that’s bad for you. And our chocolate has none of that and only the good stuff.” So what are you waiting for? Pick up a slab or indulge in a decadent truffle or two – after all, it’s good for you! For more information on Honest Artisan Chocolate, as well as a list of their stockists, visit www.honestchocolate.co.za. Alternatively, visit Michael and Anthony at the Honest Chocolate shop at 66 Wale Street, Cape Town. n

Chocolaty Goodness Not only is Honest Artisan Chocolate free of preservatives, emulsifiers, sugar and dairy products – making it a guilt free treat – but it is also guilt free in terms of the planet and its people. All of the ingredients are from ethically sourced farms. This is particularly important in terms of the cocoa beans, as Michael explains: “The cocoa farms that we buy our beans from are paid really well. This prevents them selling to huge companies that take over the land and replace the cocoa trees with palm oil and soya; mass produced crops that destroy the rainforests.” All of the ingredients used in Honest Chocolate – bar the agave nectar which is currently going through a certification process – have also been certified organic.


Travel

Living

Small Town

Prince Albert

A weekend in the country reminds Gary Hirson about the many joys of small town living, Karoo style. Text & Images: Š Gary Hirson

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Travel

The order of the day: eat, drink, relax and be merry at the weekly Saturday market

When I was a child, the Karoo was that flat wasteland that we had to endure while driving south towards Cape Town for our holidays. Watching from the breathless car, dreams of lying on one of the Mother City’s beaches seemed as much an illusion as the waves of heat that rose off the dreary landscape that dragged by. As a big city boy, I had never imagined living anywhere else. Although the craziness of cities has always excited me, as I grew older, I increasingly found myself searching for the complete opposite – a place with a peaceful ambiance where I could just relax. The Karoo has now become that elixir for me. Its vastness, silence and slow pace engulf me whenever I have the chance to venture into this slow ambling region. As I meander towards the cultural oasis of Prince Albert (four-and-a-half hours north of Cape Town), I feel the city stresses recede from my body as quickly as the kilometres accumulate on the odometer. Prince Albert sits at the foot of the Swartberg Pass. The melting snow on the pass supplies the town (through a series of lei water canals) with much needed water. This is a town with a Karoo-style speed limit. People amble, cyclists cruise,

and the cars seem to free wheel. We arrive on a Saturday morning and are just in time to experience the local wares and the colourful people at the weekly market. Fresh Karoo lamb, local cheeses and olives tease the taste buds. Colourful artists, farmers and locals (some who have themselves only recently escaped big city life) cheerfully acknowledge the many tourists. This weekend, the Prince Albert Gallery is also holding its highly anticipated annual art auction. I wander around the multi-storied gallery viewing the oils, watercolours and photographs. A red sticker on one of the pieces means that the buyer can have the artwork for a mere R500. Two red stickers – two interested buyers – and the piece goes on auction. “Once the bidding starts, the sparks can fly,” explains Brent Phillips, the curator. “The quality of the art is always good; the bids are fierce and go well into the thousands.” With stickers placed, I have a day to wait and a town to explore. I find myself in the peaceful back garden of the Prince Albert Country Store. This quaint antique store and restaurant invites all off the main street to browse, relax and dine. The

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owners, Colleen and William Penfold, are antique purveyors from Cape Town, who decided to trek north and settle in the Karoo. “The lifestyle here is ideal,” explains Colleen. “We have no TV and read no newspapers. We eat fresh produce, don’t have to queue and never get stuck in traffic. We live in a region that is rich in fossils and we’re nestled right underneath Swartberg Pass, with access to hiking and mountain biking for the more energetic.” With the romantic fantasy of moving here one day taking up more space in my head, I wander into Karoo Looms, local manufacturers of cotton, woollen and Angora goat mohair rugs. The manageress, Sophia Booley, is also an ‘immigrant’. “We came here in 2010 for a lifestyle change. It was a huge shift coming from a big city but we soon got used to the easy, healthy lifestyle. One can get caught up in the dramas of living in a small town but that is a choice you make. We still visit Cape Town quite often to tap into the big city vibe and catch up with friends, but this is where home is,” she says. It is sundowner time outside the gallery and I am excited about the impending auction. Townsfolk and tourists mingle, sip wine and discuss their preferred art of choice. While I wait, I chat to artist, designer and guest cottage proprietor, Sally Arnold, about life in Prince Albert. “In 2006, I arrived here from Germany to visit my folks and never really

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The melting snow from the adjacent Swartberg Pass supplies water to the town through a series of lei water canals

left. Back then this was a town with no Internet connection, let alone ADSL. Since then it has become a cultural destination with many well known foodies, writers, artists and the likes moving here. Along with the Prince Albert Olive Festival, and events like this auction, we attract many local tourists who visit throughout the year. This year is very big as Prince Albert celebrates its 250th birthday.” The air is crisp, the watery reflections sharp and the constant swish of the free-flowing lei water therapeutically transports me back to an era when life seemed much simpler. As I stroll towards my guesthouse, a piece of art tucked under my arm, I am not sure if I am ready just yet to permanently embrace such a laidback kind of lifestyle. But somehow I feel that that day is not too far off. n

Contact Details The Prince Albert Gallery: Contact +27 23 541 1057, email karoogallery@intekom.co.za or visit www.princealbertgallery.co.za. Karoo Looms: Contact +27 23 541 1363, email info@karooweavery.co.za or visit www.karooweavery.co.za. Prince Albert Country Store: Email penfold@mweb.co.za. The Artist’s Cottage: Contact +27 82 710 5909, email info@sallyarnold.com or visit www.artistcottages.com.


Feature

Romancing Me Finding Joy in Ordinary Things

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Recently I watched a pair of six-year-olds observing a snail crawling its way to my back door. Enthralled by its slow, silvery trail, they whispered urgently to each other, mini David Attenborough commentators on the wonderment of life. This ability to find pure pleasure in ordinary things is innate in children. Yet somewhere between preschool and adulthood, we seem to lose the desire for being in the moment and for that gentle self-indulgence that is a love affair with ourselves and the world around us. Text: Beth Cooper Howell Images: © iStockphoto.com

Romancing yourself has nothing to do with our traditional view of romance. It is not about red hearts, Valentine’s Day or sparkly wedding rings, but rather about re-capturing the joy of simply being in your own skin. In the midst of modern life, what is the best way to rekindle genuine enthusiasm for being alive and an appreciation of even the smallest things (such as the smell of rain or the satiny sensation of freshly-laundered sheets)? It is simple, really. To rediscover the romance of life, we need to consciously turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. This is what children do all the time: plastic bath toys become underwater pirates; toes are wriggly worms to count and re-count and snuggly blankets are cosy caves on cold winter nights. When we are all grown up, we assume that we do not have time to enjoy who we are. But by taking simple steps, we are able to make giant leaps towards celebrating being alive. Start by incorporating pleasures into your daily routine – it only takes a little effort. Mornings are the best time to kick into gear your new way of being. A pretty mat at the side of the bed, plus a warm pair of slippers, will make a world of difference when the alarm clock goes off. Step onto the mat, have your slippers ready and be aware of the sensation of comfort as you stand up. Next, try to take a hot shower – or bath, if you have time – each morning. Invest in the most decadent range of bathroom products you can afford. If it is simply too expensive to use them daily, then save the pricy lathers for once a week, as anticipation is half the fun. Whatever your hot beverage of choice, make it meaningful by drinking from a special cup – preferably one with sentimental meaning, such as an old mug from your grandparents’ collection, or a comic one which reminds you why you are fabulous. One savvy career woman and mom of three hand painted a super-sized mug with the words: ‘Oh-So-More Than Just Your Mom’.

As your day commences, you will take a route to work, the school run or to the shop. Transform this mundane time into a pleasurable pursuit – smile widely at three people, including strangers, and if you are driving, wave at a passing motorist (who will no doubt think you are potty). The point of setting up your day like this is that it has a knock-on effect and sparks a romance with yourself that will be that much easier if you are in a good mood to begin with. From this foundation, create ‘fabulosity’ elsewhere in your life. Once you have transformed the way you do something simple, such as showering or drinking coffee, you will find that the ideas start to flow. • Buy a gorgeous journal – though even an examination pad will do – and jot down thoughts each morning or evening. If you are not wordy, doodle a few pictures, or pop a small notepad into your bag and sketch or scribble in waiting rooms. • Search supermarket shelves for your favourite childhood chocolate, biscuits or treat and settle down with the whole packet that evening. Yes, you are allowed to eat as much as you want – and it’s all yours! • Download or rent a movie you love – the one you have seen several times and nobody else wants to watch. View it alone, with popcorn and a fleecy blanket. • Take your shoes off whenever you can and find some grass to wiggle your toes in. • Hug a tree or better yet, hug yourself. • If you like museums, parks or rivers, go there! Why wait until someone asks you, or when you are planning a trip with the kids? Go solo. • Buy fresh, seasonal food and cook a delicious meal. • Look in the mirror and smile at yourself. Take note of your best features and appreciate them. As sentimental or selfish as these tips seem, they are not. Experts agree that being able to savour a moment alone, simply for the sake of it, is priceless. n

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Chef

A Gastronomic

Memory Maker Chef Jackie Cameron

Chef Jackie Cameron is something of a celebrity in KwaZulu-Natal. Open the local newspaper, The Witness, and you are likely to see a smiling photo of her next to yet another delicious sounding recipe; mention her name to a Midlands resident and most will respond with “Oh yes, she’s the chef at Hartford House.” Jackie has every reason to be well known around here, but there are also a whole host of reasons why her renown should stretch far further than the borders of KwaZulu-Natal, as we recently discovered. Text: Nicky Furniss Images: © Hartford House

Look at a photo of Jackie and you are immediately struck by how pretty she is with her auburn hair and striking earrings, but in person, she is anything but ‘girly’. Instead, words like ‘grounded’, ‘determined’ and ‘energetic’ spring to mind. She is also quick to point out that she refuses to be stereotyped for being a woman. “My dad brought my sister and I up to believe that we were equal to men. I think a lot of men have got annoyed with me because I haven’t always known my place, but if you can do the work, do it!” she says. And hard work is certainly not something Jackie is afraid of. “I grew up in a family where my parents worked extremely hard – long hours, getting stuck in and getting it done – that is normal for me.” This kind of work ethic stood her in good stead when she was appointed as the executive chef at Hartford House, a five-star boutique hotel on a world renowned stud farm in the Midlands, at the tender age of 19. While most other chefs would be extremely daunted by such responsibility at such a young age, Jackie did what she knew best and just got stuck in. “I was never overwhelmed. Only now when I look back and see pictures do I think: ‘Gee whiz! Look how young I was!’”. Since those early days at Hartford, Jackie has transformed what was once a virtually unknown restaurant to one of the top ten restaurants in KwaZulu-Natal and then one of the top ten restaurants in the country – with one top ten Dine award and two Eat Out Top Ten awards in recent years. The growth of the restaurant’s reputation in culinary circles is one of the reasons why Jackie has chosen to stay here for the past nine years – an unusual move for a top chef. “What’s great about Hartford is that I am able to set new goals for myself every year and as I have been able to grow, so too has my team. In the time I have been here, I have also gone overseas 16 times to different foodie events, so there has never been a dull moment – it’s kept challenging me,” she explains.

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Chef

Jackie also enjoys the freedom that her current position allows her to explore different aspects of the food industry. “What’s brilliant about being here is that I get the opportunity to do a whole lot of things. I am busy doing a recipe book at the moment, plus I take part in different food critting and judging throughout the year. I enjoy everything about food; I don’t just enjoy cooking it. I enjoy creating dishes, speaking to the guests after dinner, food photography, food writing – all different levels of food.” This holistic approach to food is certainly evident in the sophisticated dishes Jackie and her team concoct. What else is evident is Jackie’s culinary philosophy of keeping her food simple (yet often surprising) and always highlighting the main flavours in a dish. “Never overcomplicate things on your plate. So often you find that there is just so much going on that you can’t take it all in. If you are eating springbok, it needs to taste like springbok; if you are eating prawns and you have a blind tasting you need to be able to tell that they are prawns,” she explains. Jackie also draws a lot of her inspiration from memories and experiences. As a child, food was very much a part of the family dynamic. “When I think about my childhood memories, they are all centred around either the kitchen or the dining room table. If we felt like something sweet, it didn’t matter what time it was – nine or ten ‘o clock at night – we would go down to the kitchen and bake a cake. That was the way we grew up. My grandfather was a butcher and my grandparents cooked very well. My mom also cooks very well,” she explains. With such a foodie heritage to draw from, many of Jackie’s dishes are drawn from old family recipes that she has made her own. She also loves to be inspired by other chefs, and thanks to her many overseas trips her cuisine has a definite international flavour. “I always cook from the heart and I reflect and take a lot from my younger years and different experiences that I have had. Most of my dishes have a little story to them. We never just

throw things together for no reason – there is always quite a lot of thought that goes into it as well as lots of tasting and trying,” she explains. It is this kind of thought and precision that sets Jackie apart from many of her contemporaries and which has earned her and Hartford House a slew of accolades. But, Jackie admits, it is often the “people aspect” of her job that she finds most rewarding. “Nearly all of my staff has come from working on the farm. Most of them don’t have any tertiary education, but we train them here and it’s amazing how much some of them have grown. One went with me to Switzerland, another one went to Prague and another to Shanghai – and these are ladies who have never been on an escalator, have never flown, have never been to Durban, have never been on a plane. It’s crazy, but I am the one who learns more from the experience than anything else,” she says. “All of the awards are wonderful to get but I don’t think there is any better award than actually seeing the development of another human being. Seeing their development and their growth – there’s nothing better!” It is these kinds of personal experiences that will make it hard for Jackie to ever leave Hartford House, but when she does, what can we expect from her? “I think after Hartford, I would like to open something on my own,” she says. While she says she plans to stay in KwaZulu-Natal, she is not letting anything slip about where or when this future venture may be: “Dot, dot, dot…” she says with a laugh. Well, one thing is for certain, no matter where Jackie Cameron ends up going, the food she will make there will certainly be the stuff that memories are made of. Hartford House is located in Mooi River in the KwaZuluNatal Midlands. For reservations and more information, contact +27 33 263 2713, email info@hartford.co.za or visit www.hartford.co.za. n

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Feature

The Asian Art of

Healing The Jing-An Wellness Centre

Cape Town’s Jing-An Wellness Centre is an oasis of calm and restoration, where one can revive your body, focus your mind, and bring a general sense of balance back into your life, as Laura Potgieter discovers. Text: Laura Potgieter Images: © Jing-An

Monday morning, 08h00. I have (barely) survived another weekend of excess and am in need of a physiotherapist, a psychologist, a nutritionist and any number of other ists to help my body and mind tackle the week ahead. But with deadlines to meet, presentations to deliver, meetings to attend and laundry to wash, I certainly do not have the time or energy to spend traipsing from one practitioner to another. This is precisely what has brought me to the Jing-An Wellness Centre. The moment I enter the tranquil centre, my body and mind surrender to the intoxicating smell of incense, the sweet sounds of Buddha and African Lounge and the comforting sight of the centre’s poised, gracious receptionist standing next to a sign which says that the only thing I need

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to do right now is smile. Smile, and surrender. Dr Lan, the resident guru/life coach/Chinese medicine practitioner, is engrossed in t’ai chi practice with a student, punctuating graceful, controlled movements with bursts of joy and laughter. I settle down in the feng shui waiting area, sip green tea, munch on a delicious Chinese cracker and browse through the centre’s comprehensive collection of literature. I am awakened from my reverie as Dr Lan invites me into his serene and private consulting room. My first treatment of the day is surely one that is needed by everybody – a balancing acupuncture session to assist in everything from weight loss and improved concentration to enhanced immune system functioning.


Feature

To be honest, I have always been afraid of needles but, and you may find this strange to believe at first, I love receiving acupuncture. The needles are so small and flexible, and when each is inserted my body responds not with pain or discomfort, but with a sensation similar to that experienced during deep massage or pleasant stretching. Dr Lan begins by conducting my personal assessment, and notices from the colour of my tongue that I have recently suffered from a cold but assures me that my pulse is ‘vibey’. He then inserts the fine acupuncture needles into the strategic balancing points of my body: between my eyebrows to calm my mind, on the tops of my shoulders to ease tension and inflammation, in my elbow-crease to eliminate any heat allergy in my body, between my fingers to deliver energy throughout my body and below my knees to assist in the functioning of my stomach area. I lie for a few moments, completely relaxed, while the Chi energy flows through me, eliminating toxins and revitalising me from head to toe. Once the needles are removed, a sense of euphoria remains and I bask in this post-acupunctural glory until it is time for my Tui na massage. Unlike other massage techniques, the ancient practice of Tui na offers therapeutic as well as relaxing and revitalising properties. Working with my body’s meridians, my therapist gently but firmly transports me to a realm of sensual

bliss as she realigns my Chi energy. As I finish my treatments, I am simply radiating well-being, and I am already planning my next visit, as Dr Lan offers a host of other mind and body treatments/services. It really is no wonder that the Jing-An Centre, a leader of Chinese medicine in South Africa, has grown so dramatically in popularity in the years since its inception. Dr Lan and his team treat patients on every level of the body and mind during a single visit. Instead of going to the chiropractor next time my back is sore, I will come for a bone-setting session: an intensive, therapeutic musculoskeletal massage treatment to mobilise my muscles tendons and skeletal structure. Instead of searching for a remedy for a common ailment, I will visit Dr Lan for moxibustion, a herbal treatment that heals a panacea of ailments – from digestive disorders and poor concentration to colds and flu. Whether you want to lose weight, stop smoking, ease your arthritis, relieve your digestive problems, reduce your stress, increase your concentration or simply learn how to channel your energy towards living a more balanced life, I would strongly recommend a visit to the Jing-An Wellness Centre, which offers anything from individual treatments and group classes to corporate and children’s classes. For more information, contact +27 21 422 5608 or visit www.jing-an.co.za. n

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History

In the Tracks of a

Legend The History of The Blue Train

For over half a century, The Blue Train in South Africa has enjoyed an international reputation as one of the world’s pre-eminent travelling experiences. Officially named The Blue Train in 1946, the train’s predecessors trace their history to the 1890s and the discovery of diamonds and gold. Text & Images: © The Blue Train

For the empire builders of old, the unchartered African interior was the landscape of a dream in the making. A dream that would etch its course in parallel lines that snaked their way northward from the Atlantic shoreline, conquering the distance from Cape Town to Cairo. This dream was not to be, as the Great African Railway reached only as far as a bridge across the gorge of the Zambezi River, overlooking the thundering smoke of the Victoria Falls. But in the fading years of the 19th century, the discovery of gold and diamonds drew thousands to the edge of the continent, and those lines of tempered steel began to bear the burden of industry, commerce, and society on the move. Soon, as the moneyed classes made their presence felt, the network added leisure travel to its list of duties, and in the slipstream of leisure came luxury. The Union Limited and the Union Express, ferrying passengers between the mailships of Cape Town harbour and the goldfields of the Witwatersrand, were the standardbearers of steam-powered opulence in the easy-living heyday of the 1920s, boasting everything from card tables to hot and cold water on tap. A coat of royal blue and cream would later give the trains their distinctive livery, and it was from this line, in these shades, that The Blue Train – a “Palace on Wheels” – would ride the rails to legendary status. Withdrawn from service during the dark days of World War Two, extensively refurbished and modernised in the seventies and nineties, The Blue Train went on to define a new era of luxury travel, making the switch from steam to electric and diesel, linking veld to sea, and tradition to progress, with a sense of style, grace, and mesmerising power that have never come close to being matched.

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History

Keeping Up With Technology From the Age of Steam to the Age of the Internet, The Blue Train has kept on track with ever-changing technology. In the process, it has lost none of the charm that anchors it to a bygone era. In its earliest incarnation, as a direct descendant of the Union Limited and Union Express that plied their way between Johannesburg and the Cape coast, The Blue Train thundered down the rails at the command of a mighty steam locomotive. A wisp of romance still lingers from that coal-fired era, clouding the memory of an energy source that proved to be less powerful, less efficient, and far more difficult to maintain than its whisper-quiet replacement. Today, the dual Blue Train sets, differentiated only by their number of suites and the option of a Conference Car that doubles as an Observation Lounge, are hauled by a fleet of diesel or electric locomotives. Whatever the motive, The Blue Train glides through the countryside at a maximum service speed of 90 km/h, ensuring that the noise level of 55 decibels, somewhere between the sound of soft rainfall and normal conversation, is never exceeded. Inter-suite sealing ensures utter privacy for guests. In the world of ever-shrinking boundaries, ever-intensifying demands, rail travel in the grand old tradition has become a luxury in itself. The luxury of time: time to indulge, time to reflect, time to savour sights, sounds, senses and sensations. You’ll feel it from the moment you step into your suite, transformed by a magical act of alchemy from an elegant, spacious lounge by day, into a sanctuary of comfort and slumber by night. Bringing together cultures and travellers from across the globe, The Blue Train is an exclusive society on the move – one that will undoubtedly prevail for years to come. n

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Train Layout

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The Blue Train | February 2012  

On board Magazine for the Bluetrain.

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