Worcester, Ceres and Tulbagh

The morning after the chocolate festival we woke early.  We had been warned the night before that the power would be off for most of the day.  Typically just after it went off IT Guy realised his phone had not charged.  I felt bad because if I had known I would have put his phone on charge after mine was done.   

We headed to a nearby wine farm for breakfast.  Officially they had power because of solar panels but we could hear a generator running.  We had a nice cooked breakfast and booked a hotel for that night.  After breakfast we once again headed for Paarl Mall to get an in-car charger.  I have never felt the need for one.  Given that IT Guy’s phone often runs out of power at awkward times it did get me wondering if one reason guys need lots of gadgets, is because they are less organised.     

After shopping we got on the main road (N1) heading out of town and it wasn’t long before we reached the Huguenot Tunnel.  The Huguenot Tunnel goes through the Du Toitskloof Mountains and is 4 km in length.  It feels like a whole new world when you emerge from the other side.  More remote and chilled.

We headed for the town of Worcester which a farming town.  By this point I was getting tired and was hoping to find a nice coffee shop for a drink and to stretch my legs.  Of course being a Sunday virtually everywhere was closed.  Then I remembered the Karoo National Gardens on the outskirts of Worcester.  We got there to find the restaurant was closed and that there was a charge to get in.

Fortunately IT Guy had spotted a golf club on the way and suggested we stop there.  It is not somewhere I would have thought of but I figured it was worth a try.  It worked out really well because there were some lovely views, the the people were friendly and welcoming, and it was fun watching a people on the golf course. 

A view of the golf course in Worcester
Worcester Golf Course

We then headed for Ceres.  It is a lovely drive with beautiful scenery and mountains.  I had hoped to stop at a winery for some wine-tasting and maybe some food but of course they were all closed, such a contrast to the other side of the mountain.  In the end we stopped for lunch next to a place that does ziplining.  The zipline consists of 8 slides totaling 1.4 km down a mountain valley so the views are spectacular.  It was great to learn that IT Guy also enjoys this sort of thing.      

A view of the valley from the Ceres Zipline
Ceres Zipline

Then we headed for Tulbagh and our hotel for the night.  We have decided this was our favorite hotel so far.  We spent a few hours in the bar because they were showing the England cricket game that IT Guy had been following.  Fortunately for me the bar also stocked 19 different craft gins.  The food was also very tasty.  Chilling out in the hotel bar made a nice end to the day.

A glass of gin in the hotel bar in Tulbagh

Lunch in Stellenbosch

I have found a very nice spot for lunch in Stellenbosch.  There are a lot of good restaurants and coffee shops in the touristy part of town but I do like the option of going to a restaurant in the botanical gardens.

The restaurant is called the Katjiepiering and is named after one South Africa’s oldest garden plants.  An example of the species, Gardenia jasminoides can be found growing in pots near the door.  As an English speaker I am more familiar with the name Gardenia for this plant and only recently learnt that the Afrikaans name is Katjiepiering.  This plant is also native to parts of Asia and the Afrikaans name was derived from the Malay name “Kachapirang” or “Catshopiri”.  The Afrikaans culture and language has many Malay influences as a result of slaves that were brought over from Indonesia by the Dutch.

A picture of a Katjiepiering or Gardenia in a pot

The restaurant has a very nice setting in the Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden.  One of these days I will make time to explore more of the garden than just the path to the restaurant.  The Botanical Garden looks very very interesting and is of course a great place to learn a bit more about some of South Africa’s local plants.

Botanical garden

When the weather is good you can sit outside in the shade which includes an old gum tree and umbrellas.  When the weather is bad there is a small seating area indoors.

The Katjiepiering

The food is good and reasonably priced for what you get.  I think the portion sizes are good for a light lunch which is what you want when the weather is good.  When I visited a few days ago it very hot.  It has been for a few days now.  It seems like Cape Town went from winter to summer in about 2 weeks.  I’m sure that within a month we went from using the gas heater to swimming outdoors.  The temperature change has been quite a shock because it is not normally so hot in October.

Anyway because of the heat I decided to have the Cajun Chicken salad which was very tasty.  The cajun spices balance nicely with lettuce and cucumber.  I found it a little too spicy but then I’m not very good with hot food so I thing most people will be happy with level of spiciness for a salad.  Having had a salad I was feeling virtuous and decided that it would be OK to finish the meal off with some chocolate cake.

So I think the Katjiepiering is a good place for lunch in Stellenbosch and if you have time you can take a bit of time to enjoy the Botanical Garden.




The Chocolate Festival

Of course with so little notice of IT Guy’s arrival we did not have much time to make plans.

The first morning of his visit I needed to take care of a few work things before making some plans for his visit.  He was keen the Chocolate Festival in Stellenbosch and I found a Jazz Festival the following day so I suggested we spend a few days in the area. Normally I would aim to go to an event like the Chocolate festival when it opened but by the time we were ready to leave it was too late for that.  There there was a long queue to get into wine farm where the festival was being held.  I think we queued for about 20 mins to get parked.

Which of course meant that there were crowds everywhere including for the food vans as it was lunchtime when we arrived.  We headed for the building which housed the chocolate festival and after a bit of pushing and shoving we managed to get some chocolate covered strawberries from the fountain.  Then I had a cheese platter, it was very tasty but I would have liked more bread or crackers.  IT Guy had opted for a pie when we stopped for petrol, which seemed a bit wrong to me. Typical of many of these things there was not enough seating so we had to eat standing up.

We found a stand doing very nice gin cocktails based on various flavors of tonic.  There didn’t seem to be enough choice of chocolate to justify the title but maybe this was because I was already familiar with most of the brands (maybe I shouldn’t admit that) although I did find a very nice chocolate spread (without nuts) and some tasty chocolate.  So I ended up back at the chocolate fountain for a waffle.  Then we got some drinks and IT Guy found a table because the placed had started to empty a bit.  We sat for a while enjoying each other’s company, the good weather and the atmosphere.


Our guest house was only about 10 mins away so we stopped there briefly to check in and they recommended Paarl Mall for some food.  After snacking on various things we were definitely in need of a decent meal.

It was lovely day and while this kind of festival can get a bit expensive I the weather and the atmosphere made for a very nice day.


The Future of Heartbreak and Hope

This started out as a blog about online dating but since I met IT Guy I have deleted all my dating profiles.  Of course one can never be completely sure how long a relationship will last but right now the signs are good.  I’m sure anyone who has been following my blog for a while will have noticed that it has been evolving.  So I figured it was time to clarify the future of Heartbreak and Hope.

I have always found that writing is a great way of organizing my thoughts and making plans to sort out problems.  I could continue with a more personal journal about my search for a job and some of the challenges with a long-distance relationship.  Blogging about a job hunt seems rather dull and fraught with risks that something will come back to haunt me.  Plus, at the start I was aiming for something more lighthearted and entertaining.

I have already decided to be more cautious about what I share about IT Guy.  I want to be able to share this blog with him so it was frustrating that I published a post about the challenges of staying in touch a few days before he made his last-minute visit.  An important topic I had not been able to discuss with him was the most recent post which made sharing the blog rather awkward.

Also one of the goals of this blog was to learn more about blogging.  I had been trying to think of a topic for a while before I got the idea of an online dating blog.  This has been great for learning more about blogging and over time I have been using more features.  Another issue that has been bothering me is that the web address and title of my blog do not match.  For a while I have been thinking about starting a fresh blog.  Something without the online dating and allows me to share my name and face.

My dream is a joint project with IT Guy.  He has been doing websites for work and his cricket club so he knows a lot of about the with the technical aspects and marketing.  The first challenge is actually being able to show him my current blog.  I suspect he is going to find loads of things to fix.

And the content, you must be wondering by now.  I like the idea of a travel and lifestyle blog.  Something with a bit of humor and the odd ‘it didn’t really go according to plan‘ story.  Fun stories that give more of a sense of the experience of places I visit.  Nothing too serious there are plenty of websites that specialise in facts and figures.

For now I will continue writing here.  It will give me a chance to figure out the content, writing style and timing for a new blog.  Please feel free to let me know which posts you like and what you think of where this blog is going.





An Evening at the V&A Waterfront

The weather in Cape Town is steadily improving and last night the weather was perfect for sitting outside and where better to go than the V&A Waterfront.  Part of the harbor has been converted into a big development which includes shops, restaurants, hotels and housing.

When we first moved back to Cape Town in 1990 they had just finished the first phase of the development.  There used to be a place that did really nice ice-creams so we would go and get an ice-cream, have a walk around and watch the boats.  It is still a working harbor.  I also found it interesting looking at scale model of what was then a proposed development.

These days it is very popular especially when the weather is good.  While the V&A Waterfront caters to wealthy people there are still options for those with less money.  You can walk around looking at the different places and soaking up the atmosphere.  There is even an amphitheater that offers free entertainment although a cynic could argue this is a cunning ploy to encourage you to spend at the nearby restaurants.

the amphitheater at the waterfront

One of the things I love about the V&A Waterfront is that it is still a working harbor and there is a lot of activity with boats and yachts coming and going.  This part of harbor even includes the dock which would have taken numerous political prisoners including Nelson Mandela to Robben Island although these days the trips to Robben Island leave from another part of the harbor.

There are many restaurants overlooking the harbor and last night we went to Quay 4.  It has been there ever since I have been going to the V&A Waterfront.  I also remember it as a popular drinking spot many people while still at school even though they might not have reached the legal drinking age.  We sat on the top deck which give a nice view of the harbor

a view of the waterfront from Quay 4

It made an interesting start to the evening when I ordered an Appletiser (a soft drink) and the waiter had to clarify if I wanted one of their cocktails, an Apple-thai-zer.  Although I did later have a gin cocktail called a Blue Moon which was very tasty but not the poshest looking cocktail.  I also had a very tasty Salmon dish.

a food photo showing a plate of Salmon

Overall I had a very nice evening and would definitely recommend a visit to the V&A Waterfront.




Another visit from IT Guy

‘They gave us Thursday off so I took Sunday and Monday as well and my flight lands at 6pm tomorrow’ (Friday).

‘Wait you mean tomorrow?’

And so IT guy’s next visit to Cape Town in August was confirmed.


When we first talked about the next visit the idea was for me to go there.  Then he suggested that he was thinking of coming to Cape Town at the end of the month.  It seems there was a Muslim holiday at the end of August but the dates are only confirmed close to the time because it depends on the moon.  He was waiting to see what dates would be announced as holiday for private companies.

Typically this coincided with the deadline for an important project report.  I had sent the report to my boss for his comments on the Wednesday so I was waiting to see if he would require more changes.  On Friday morning the boss emailed to say the report was submitted so I figured it was safe to head out for an hour and sort some things for IT Guy’s visit.  Of course as soon as I left he called to say there was a problem with the submission and I ended up agreeing to sort it when I got home.

There were a few problems with the submission and for a while I thought that I was going to have to sort it on Monday.  I really didn’t want to be thinking of work after IT Guy arrived.  Just as I was stressing an email came through from my work colleague asking for stuff.  It wasn’t clear what she wanted and I started to stress about getting it done before leaving for the airport.  In the end I managed to submit the report and accept that I could not help my colleague.

It was later while I was at the airport waiting for IT Guy that I realised I always find some reason to stress before seeing IT Guy.  Perhaps some if it is down to seeing IT Guy.

It was a lovely evening so we decided to head for a collection of restaurants on the beachfront.  We went to a place that does good African food.  It turns out that the set menu special is not as good as the main menu.  It seems this is definitely one case where the reduced price reflects a reduced quality so the food was good but not great.  Apart from the food it was a really nice evening.  Great to be able to see each other again and have a proper face to face chat.

After a few stressful weeks and a very stressful day I was able to start to relax and enjoy some good company.

Shopping and Steam Trains

Shopping and Steam Trains make a good combination for a day out.  In this case I am referring to a trip yesterday to Elgin Railway Market.  Elgin is a place I associate with apples and it is not surprising because about 60% of South Africa’s apples are grown in this valley.  More recently they have started making wine and I believe there are some unusual varieties due to the climatic conditions.  I must make a plan to do some wine tasting there soon.

I supposed it is was inevitable that some clever businessman would figure out that a grand old apple warehouse could be converted to an interesting market.  Then work out that as the apple warehouse is in a rather rural location, but next to a train station, that a steam train would be a good way to bring in more customers.

A warehouse roof with showing some of the interesting decor inside the market

My sister and her husband bought tickets for the steam train which runs from Cape Town to Elgin so we arranged to meet her at the market.  We arrived about 30 – 60 mins before the train was due to arrive.  So we got some coffee, found a nice table and settled down to wait.  In the end the train was about an hour late.  It seems it kept running out of steam and had to stop to let the steam to build up again.  The route to Elgin is uphill and includes the rather spectacular Sir Lowry’s Pass with fantastic views of the sea.

The market offers a nice range of food stalls so once my sister arrived we all went to get something to eat.  One thing I liked about the market is that while there were enough people for it to feel lively there weren’t excessive crowds.  We didn’t have to queue for long and were able to find a decent place to sit.  (I once went to a festival where they even charged to get into the seating area and we left feeling cheated.)  In fact at the Elgin Railway Market we were able to find a nice place to sit overlooking the train tracks and could watch them preparing the steam train for the return journey while enjoying a few drinks and some cake.  I particularly like the gin bar with a good range of gins and tonics and interesting garnishes.

A picture of a steam trainAn outside view of the Railway Market overlooking the steam train

We also managed to browse the various craft stall which included wine tasting, clothes, jewelry and paintings.  I managed to get a jar of bacon, rosemary and pinotage chutney for IT Guy and a nice necklace for one of my nieces.  It was a good day out but I must say, I’m not sure I would drive that far just for the market.  It definitely needed the added attraction of something like the steam train.

Reflecting on positive aspects of online dating

Spring is here again bringing with it feelings of optimism which leads to a renewed focus on making the most of life.  While this year’s focus is on improving my work situation and figuring out options for being able to see more of IT Guy, last year I was more interested in reassessing my approach to online dating and trying to be more social.

Online dating has a rather bad reputation but like many things in life there are positive and negative aspects.  The fact that many sites are all about looks gets a lot of press but let’s be honest most guys will only talk to a woman in a bar if he likes how she looks.

Part of the challenge is approaching online dating in the right way and knowing when it is time to take a break.  You need to accept that a lot of your time will be spent dodging wierd people and scammers.  There are a few examples where I decided to have a bit of fun with romance scammers as a way of staying sane.   There are others who have turned this into an art form.

Spring seems like a good time to reflect on the positive aspects of online dating.  I have met a few interesting people and had some interesting experiences.  I have met a few reasonably decent guys even if there was no chemistry and they did not know how to express this in a good way.  I met someone working in a similar field to me and while we have never met he is useful to know and has contacted me a few times for information.  Online dating provided an opportunity for career related networking.  I have made friends with one of the guys I met through online dating.

There are also benefits with a slightly more distant link to online dating.  Import-export guy making me feel like I should be doing more around the time time as my preferred sports class kept getting cancelled led to me finding a nice local Pilates class.  An old school friends also attends the class.  We have been out a few times and making plans for tomorrow gave me the inspiration for this post.

Perhaps most importantly of all is the fact that all of these experiences and the related decisions to make the most of life is what gave me the confidence to ask an old friend for his number.  I thought it would be nice to try and stay in touch even though he lives in Dubai and look how well that is working out.

So what I would say to anyone thinking of trying online dating is that you should give it a try.  There are blogs and websites which offer some great information and advice, I recommend starting here.  Just try to keep a positive outlook and an open mind.  But above all stay safe and don’t give anyone any money.



Heading back to Cape Town

Finally the last installment of IT Guy’s visit in June.  A combination of short posts and the time job hunting means it has taken a long time to cover this, long enough that there has been another visit from IT Guy in the meantime.

I realized when I started to write this post that the last post on this story ended rather abruptly.  No doubt because I was rather tired and stressed about my dental implant.  I briefly considered changing it, but I think picking up the story from where we left off is better.

After watching the movie we decided to head out and get some food.  I decided it was my best chance to get dressed up.  One thing I am finding with this long distance relationship is that it can be difficult to make time to get dressed uo to go out.  When he is here we are together all the time and this means we are generally out doing something during the day.  So by the evening we are tired and often go with a lazy meal solution.

We ended up going back to the same restaurant as the night before.  The food looked good, there was not a lot of choice at the hotel restaurant and there didn’t seem to be many other places.  While there was some life in the restaurant on the Friday night we were the only guests on the Saturday night.  I think we were also the only people in the hotel on the Saturday night.  I guess weekend visits to small South African farming towns is not common in the winter.  Plus there was rugby on so many people would have stayed home to braai (BBQ) and watch the game.

Most of the smaller farming towns are dominated by the Christian church.  You can generally find the down centre by following the church spire.  It also means that pretty much, unlike the bigger cities and towns, everything is closed on a Sunday.  So we decided to head slowly south and back to Cape Town.

Our first stop was Citrusdal.  Strangely enough this is a major area for growing oranges.  Also everything was closed.  We tried to stop at Die Sandveldhuisie which is described as a quirky little art house.  Certainly it looks very interesting from the outside but it was closed.

The next stop was a farm-stall.  This particular farm-stall was well recommended in a local travel magazine.  They do the most amazing light and fresh chocolate cake.  Then on to the winery we tried to visit a few days earlier.  This time we managed to do our wine and our wine and biltong (dried meat) pairing.  We also managed a tasty late lunch.  Then home where we chilled out in front of the cricket.  IT Guy really likes cricket.

Sadly the following day it was time for IT Guy to leave it was a rather sad and stressful day.  We had a really amazing time and looking back on the photos I can see how the relationship evolved over the week.  I have a photo of use together on his first full day in South Africa looking rather awkward together in comparison to the last few days where we were much more comfortable with each other.

So it seems that by the end of this holiday the relationship was going well and a good chanced to learn more about each other.




A strange coincidence

Last week I had the surgery for the first stage of a dental implant.  It is possible to have the procedure carried out under local anesthetic but going on previous experiences I suspected that could go badly and opted for general anesthetic.

On the day of the procedure the anesthetist came to do the initial assessment and we started chatting.  He asked if I was a medical doctor so I explained that I wasn’t.  It turns out that his son had studied the same subject, going as far as doing a master’s degree.  Giving the string of coincidences it was highly likely that I had worked with his son.  However at this point I couldn’t remember the name of the anesthetist and I was too embarrassed to admit it.  I am not good with names at the best of times and this was not the best of times.

Then after they wheeled me to the operating theater and I was waiting to go in, he came to talk to me again.  He was trying to remember the name of the guy his son had worked for and I suggested a few possible names.  It was the same person I worked for.  By this point I had a pretty good idea who the son was and I had worked with him for a while.  The problem was that I was still not sure of the anesthetists name.  Also I was doped up on some pre-med and a bit anxious about the surgery.

He started telling me all about the work he is son had done.  Actually thinking about it now I’m not sure he was that bothered about me remembering his son’s name.  I think he was just glad of an excuse to talk about his son’s achievements.  At that point he really was just a proud dad.

I had the stitches removed a few days ago.  The surgeon is happy that things are healing well.  I didn’t use most of the painkillers he prescribed.  The only problem is that I think the antibiotics  he prescribed are very strong and they have been part of the reason I have been feeling tired and sleepy all week.

The surgeon offered me a printout of the X-rays.  Even X-rays are done digitally now so an extra copy of the pictures is easy to make.  I duly showed the printout to my nephew at the next chance I got.  He looked at them with a mix of fascination and horror.  Typical boy, he loves that sort of thing.

Still it is interesting to reflect on some of the stranger coincidences in life.  How it is that the father of someone I worked with a few years ago was my anesthetist.