Every part of you is just another part of me.

I haven’t written you boys a nice letter lately; mostly because I’ve been so busy hanging out with you. I wonder when you guys will start reading these posts. Maybe you’re young men now. Or teenagers. Or fathers. Well, right now Noah: You’re six years old and you joined a new school this year. Your ‘forever’ school where you’ll be ’til you’re ‘big’ (standard five / grade 7) You had a pretty tough few weeks settling in, but you’re finally back to your ass-kicking, bouncy, happy, cheerful, chatty and bright self. You hang around mostly with girls and I’ll mention their names in case you remember or still know them: Claire, Ella, Fin and Ryan. And then with Dylan, Sam and Alfie too. That is sort of your squad and you guys are the coolest.

Benjamin you’re 5 next month and DYING to finish “baby school” and get to Grade R. You’re doing so well at art and your head sucks up information like a thirsty desert. Every day you have a new piece of information and you get SO upset when I drive you to school because you insist that my car is killing the earth and making holes in the Ozone layer. You love to sing. You love to watch television (Paw Patrol) and tell Noah that you just want to relax. You HATE it that Noah wants to play games like 24/7 when all you want to do is sleep late, watch TV and eat melted cheese on toast with tomato sauce. Mostly I think you’re missing out on solid friendships right now. At your school, all the kids are going to other schools next year. You’re really excited to meet your new, “forever” friends at big school. I’m so excited FOR you.

Noah right now you have 5 loose teeth and you’re about to lose a couple. Bunny (do I still call you Bunny?) we’re planning your 5th birthday party right now, which is obviously a Paw Patrol theme. You used to be obsessed with Spiderman, then Dora, then George in Peppa Pig and now it’s Marshall in Paw Patrol.

We’ve just come out of Winter over here, so right now you guys are really loving getting out the house and in to the forest, beach and and park. We’re doing a lot of gardening and planting vegetables – which you both love. Daddy just made you a big swing in the front garden with ropes tied to the bottom so you can pull each other and let go really fast. Do you remember that? Jack loves pulling you guys on the swing too.

I wonder what else you’ll remember about right now. Your tiny childhood. Your teachers, your friends, your school, your home. Do you remember the “N” and “B” lights I bought you for your bedroom? Do you remember us going on dates to the movies and sitting in the “red chairs”? Getting ice creams with flakes and browsing the toy shops? Do you remember baking muffins and cupcakes and me making you clean the lounge every afternoon. Do you remember all the times you got in to trouble for wetting the floor in the bathroom or the dogs always eating your shoes and me getting really mad. Do you remember climbing the olive trees in the garden, because pretty soon you’ll be too big to do it.

I miss you. I miss you being this small. Even though you aren’t big yet – it still hurts… knowing that you’ll grow up one day. You still believe everything I say and you believe in all the cool things like tooth fairies and Father Christmas and magic. All you want to do it play and pretend and make and create things and dream and listen to stories and colour and draw and eat sweets and learn. You’re so energetic and feisty and hungry for life, like every day is a brand new ADVENTURE filled with fun and excitement. Do you remember that?

I want you to know that whatever is going on for you right now – you were once a little boy with scraped knees and a heart filled with joy, happiness and energy. And I adore you.

 

Mommy bunny x

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Stellenbosch is perfect for families this Spring!

We did some exploring in the Stellenbosch Wine Route last weekend! My mom moved closer to the area this week, which means that we’ll be spending so much more time in Stellies now. Obviously I’ve already started booking a few things for us to do. I wanted to tell you about a few favourite places that we discovered recently, in case you like them too. Or maybe you’re stuck on something fun to do with the kids these school holidays. So in no real order, we really loved:

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We did a walking tour of a vibrant township, called Kayamandi. Anyone can go, just take your kids or your family and book with Thembi, a registered tour guide. Thembi has lived in Kayamandi for most of her life, and even went to high school there. It seems she’s a bit of a celeb in the town, because so many people stopped to greet her and chat. She’s a most excellent guide and had all the inside stories on the development projects, and obviously all the good local skinner too.

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I really want the boys to learn about the Xhosa culture and way of life, so this was a really great experience for them. We weren’t perceived as tourists or outsiders at all. The kids meshed straight in to the community; challenging every kid with a ball to a soccer game, demanding treats at the spaza shop and wandering in to people’s houses to chat.

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I’m really jealous of the sense of community in Kayamandi. Here in the Suburbs, you would never dream of just walking in to your neighbors house and making yourself at home, or hanging up someone else’s washing just because there’s space on the line. Even in my ‘nice’ area and neighborhood, I wouldn’t let the kids run around the block to meet friends at the park, ride their bikes or play soccer without me. In Kayamandi, your child is everyone’s child. Even mine. Everyone’s doors are open as they cook, wash dishes or watch television. Even when they leave their homes, they don’t even close the front door. The area that we were in (close to the school) is the good or safe neighborhood. Thembi explained that the closer you get to the outskirts – near the shebeens, things start to change… but only late at night.

It’s frowned upon for young women to hang out in Shebeens so girls in their 20s and so on have get-togethers at each other’s houses, which is viewed as more appropriate. Another normality at Kayamandi is that the older children are expected to help take care of their younger siblings once they start walking. There were loads of toddlers being dragged around by their annoyed older brothers who really only wanted to play soccer. Education is very important to the community, and schooling is free. The students get 2 ‘free’ meals at school every day. One of their greatest community development achievements is a colourful day care and creche that has been built opposite the local high school. Girls who fall pregnant in their teens now complete their schooling and get their matric, which Thembi says has changed the lives of hundreds of young girls over the years.

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It’s not really in the Xhosa culture to keep pets for companionship. Animals are kept for food or wealth or work. Kayamandi, like most informal communities (hell even here in Claremont) has a serious rat problem. The infrastructure of their homes makes them quite vulnerable to pests, so lately they’ve started keeping cats in an effort to keep the rat population in order. They don’t show any kind of ‘human’ affection toward their pets and don’t kiss and cuddle them, but they respect their position and purpose in the household. There aren’t that many dogs roaming about, but I did giggle at one young lady who was super keen to get in a taxi to go shopping, but her dog had followed her all the way from home and she had to turn around and take him back. She was trying really hard to be mad, but the dog was so freakin happy and victorious that he’d stopped her from leaving.

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I really enjoyed walking around the neighborhood and chatting to everyone. I especially loved talking to the mamas, and getting their take on parenting. Every mama I spoke to was super shocked that Benjamin is only 4 years old; and such a big little guy. They all offered advice on how to raise such a strong boy and could not emotionally deal with the fact that Noah doesn’t like to eat meat. I also enjoyed how proud the mamas are of their homes, and how all the women work together and have wonderful friendships with their neighbors. I couldn’t believe that they hang their laundry outside their homes or on a hill for the day and nobody ever takes or touches their things. I mean, I’m a stone-throw from Bishops Court and if I hung our clothes outside, you must know that someone on our street will make off with my Country Road coat, you know? If you’re keen to go on a Stellies tour, whether it be a wine, town or cultural tour, then check out all the options here > Stellenbosch Tours

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Another really fun thing to do for the whole family is Middelvlei Wine Estate‘s Boerebraai. I am gutted that we only discovered this place now, and I’m so excited to go back. They have such an unusual offering in a beautiful, picturesque setting. Middelvlei is exceptionally family friendly with kiddies juice pairings, food boxes, colouring in, farm animals and loads of space to run around and play.

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They have toys for the kids to play with on the grass and a big old sandpit on the edge of the lawn. Families can have a long, leisurely lunch without worrying about the kids getting bored or fidgeting at the table. The food is incredible, all prepared on a big braai out at the back. You’ll especially love the homemade Potbrood and Pampoenkoekies. The Snoek Pate is a game changer, and the Malva Pudding is exactly like your Ouma would have made it. Also, go here for literally the best braaibroodjies in Cape Town. You’ll pay R165 a person for a traditional, gourmet braai that includes literally everything. Take a look > here’s the Middelvlei Boerebraai full menu.

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A word of warning, they’re pretty much always full and fully booked, so call +27.218832565 or email info@middelvlei.co.za to make arrangements. The kids can also braai their own marshmallows, feed the farm animals or go on a tractor ride.

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If you’re having a super good time and want to stay over or even do a midweek break with the family, then head over to Spier for a drive-in movie. We went last Saturday, and it was the boys’ FIRST ever drive-in experience. I know that there are loads of outdoor cinemas around, but Spier has the original offering. We reversed my car, put the seats down and made a little family bed from the back. They also have a little tuck shop going where you can buy wine, MCC and snacks. Even popcorn. It’s such a great atmosphere, with the kids running around or sitting on blankets in front of the cars. Again, they book up really fast, so get in touch here > Spier Events.

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We stayed at Wedgeview Country House and Spa, which was really central and super affordable, starting at R695 per night. Again, very family friendly. There are solar heated pools, loads of space and a lapa with a pool table. It’s beautifully decorated and the staff are super friendly too. The estate is surrounded by vineyards for as far as the eye can see, so expect spectacular views from every angle. Graeme had a quick nap before the movie because shame he can’t handle all this fun. Wedgeview is so beautiful that I went full-on ‘The Sound of Music’ all over the place.

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Another great family outing idea is Delvera, a little village created with adventurers and little ones in mind. Aside from the gorgeous restaurant, peddle-cart track, trampolines, the dam and lots of open space, I especially loved the Sustainable Living Centre. This is where they encourage and inform the public, especially the youth, how to live and work in a sustainable manner. This is probably the most important place to take your kids these school holidays, or over a weekend. Their ‘training’ takes 2-4 hours in the gardens, during which time you can have a stunning lunch at the restaurant next door. However, I think you’ll want to join in on the training – especially if you’re keen to have a food garden at home! This is what your kids will learn about >

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Soil care, composting, worm farming, creating seed banks, mushroom farming, how to create a hanging, raised or vertical garden. Aquacultures. Hydroponics. Organic pest control and how to successfully create, harvest and maintain a food garden at home. They’ll also learn about the environment, recycling and upcycling with Mark Heinstein, who runs the entire center. He is incredibly nice and packed with knowledge.

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I think I asked at least three dozen questions and we left with a handful of giant pumpkin seeds and a few worms for our compost maker. Graeme was so inspired that he made a raised garden as soon as we got home. Once the kids are done with the business of learning about biodiversity and sustainable farming, they’ll love burning off some energy at the peddle carts. Delvera is gorgeous and has something for everyone – even full moon hikes. Get in touch with them to book your kids at the Biodiversity Center > info@delvera.co.za or +27 21 884 4352.

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If you’re still looking for something fun to do out of town on a weekend, then definitely check out the Lourensford Harvest Market. Great vibe, live music, kids activities, delicious food and lots of jumping castles and sports games for the kids. Open every Saturday and Sunday! You’re even allowed to take your dog. Also check out Millhouse Kitchen and most definitely go for wine tasting around the corner (I recommend the Turkish Delight pairing!) Get all those details here > http://lourensford.co.za/ Or mail info@lourensford.co.za or call 021 847 2333

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I hope that you’ve found something fun to do in this post, and that you’ll get exploring with the family this Spring. If, like me, you’ve been keeping a beady eye on the weather for next week – we’re in for warm and sunny days every day except Thursday. A major shout-out to all the other parents whose kids are on school holidays next week and have busy bodies to entertain. Have fun! (and good luck)

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Family photos by Paul Clark – September 2015

My brother Paul (transmit@paulclark.co.za | 082 855 4379) is a photographer, designer, art director and video editor. He is most excellent at everything that he does (insert sibling rivalry undertones) and I am insanely jealous of his photography skills. Last weekend when we were both visiting my mom, he snapped some nice pictures of Benjamin being silly. I asked him to quickly take a picture of each of us to frame at home, and I’m so glad that I did. I’m going to frame a few of these for our corridor at home, along with some of my Paris art prints. Basically spending all my money at the framer’s this month. I love how dark and moody these pictures are, in contrast to our happy faces and dispositions. Also, how ridiculously handsome are my boys?

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That time I went to Paris – September 2015

Paris was an important milestone for me. At school, Art History was the only subject that really resonated with me. I loved the Impressionists; especially Degas. I developed callouses on my right hand from writing so many essays about their paintings and different movements and periods. Art history became my sanctuary. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to see the paintings that became so important to me, and I wanted to see them in real life. I held on to that dream for 14 years.

I went to Paris for the art, and the rest was just noise. The Eiffel Tower meant nothing to me. The vintage dress I bought? Just fabric. The bookshop that everyone raved about was quite… average. The Sacre Coeur? I didn’t bother. On the day I went to the Musee d’Orsay I was shaking while getting ready. I trembled on the train. In the queue. My legs wobbled through the corridors and galleries, like I’d just jumped on a trampoline for 20 minutes and suddenly got off. I walked in to the van Gogh room first and I’ll never forget what it felt like. How overwhelmed I felt. I mean, I don’t even like his work, but to see his paintings in real life made me feel heavy. It made me feel insignificant and important at the same time. I felt… heartbroken. Emotional. Like being in shock when something really terrible has happened and you don’t believe it just yet. I felt like that the entire time that I was in there. After I saw the first Degas I cried like a 4 year old girl that had lost her mother in a crowd. I couldn’t understand why people were just walking past the painting, as if it didn’t matter. It all meant so much to me.

I got to see the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay. I got to live in, and inhale Montmartre for 5 nights and 6 days. I got lost. I got emotional. I got scared and excited and overwhelmed and I got drunk. I felt more of myself than I have in years.

I had a really good time, and I would go back again right now if I could. I had so much fun. You can’t help but be floored by emotion when you’re in Paris, and I suspect that’s part of her appeal. Paris is disarmingly charming and you’d love it if you went – whatever your reasons for going. Wherever I travel to from here, I’ll seek out more art galleries and impressionist paintings. Maybe by the end of my life, I’d have seen them all. This was my personal impression of Paris.

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I bought quite a few posters and art prints for the house and my office. I bought a Renoir print that I’m especially pleased with. A smaller Degas and a Monet. I sat for a portrait at Place du Terte and I have a hard crush on Neoclassicism now. I’ll see you again real soon, Parieee x

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On being in Paris alone.

A few people (mostly Graeme) have asked how I experienced traveling alone to Paris. You need to understand that as a mother, wife and business owner, my life is pretty packed full of commitments and responsibilities. Obviously so is Graeme’s! The thought of being completely alone if even for a few days to do only what I wanted to do, was very appealing. I spend a lot of my time feeling guilty. If I take the boys to get new shoes, I’d feel guilty if I stopped to look at a cute top. When I’m working in the afternoon, I feel bad if I haven’t taken the dogs for a walk, or spent enough time with the kids. I feel bad when I ask Graeme to read the bed time stories because I’m too tired. Or if I wasn’t organized enough to get the kids bathed, lunch boxes packed and dinner ready by the time G got home from work. Of course he doesn’t expect all of that, and definitely not on the clock (and tells me frequently) but this is my family and I want to take care of them. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I like to have these things taken care of for the boys. I feel bad when I don’t hand school forms in on time, or forget the odd change for a bake sale. I can’t attend every school trip and cringe when I tick the “unable to assist” or “unable to accompany” boxes on the permission slips. I know that all parents feel this kind of guilt in some form, and I know that it bites in to all of us.

I feel guilty when I have to cancel a play date, or when I’ve forgotten the dogs’ flea and de-worming schedules. When I haven’t made a nutritionally balanced lunch for the boys and shove a bowl of noodles in the microwave. When I’ve broken a promise on taking them to a movie, or for a milkshake. It’s taxing, emotionally. It’s not a quest for balance, it’s about feeling okay with your efforts in relation to your results.

For me, the prospect of being freed from obligation even if just for 5 days was quite attractive. An actual holiday, from my emotions and the darkness found in the depths of self evaluation. It’s not that I was running from responsibility, because I completely love being a mother, wife and business owner. I ain’t no hussy. I really do love my life, if it’s okay to say that… without sounding conceited.

There’s a vulnerability to traveling alone. An excitement. A sense of anticipation. What will happen? What will I do? Who will I meet and how will I feel? In a world of responsibilities, routine and having Graeme available to run to at every opportunity – I craved a little bit of mystery and wondered how I would feel too. Would I get sad? Scared? What if I got lost or in to some kind of trouble. Being anonymous  and vulnerable in a foreign city filled me with anticipation. A sense of greatness. Strength. Independence. I wanted to learn, experience, grow and make myself susceptible and available to foreign experiences.

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If Graeme was with me, he would have carried our backpack when it got too heavy. We’d dine together, so nobody would have approached me, or confided in me. I wouldn’t have got lost or missed that train because Graeme never gets lost. I would never have felt afraid or vulnerable, because G makes me feel so safe. I wouldn’t have struck up accidental friendships, or spent an hour at the Eiffel Tower taking photos for tourists, just for fun. I wouldn’t have sat in silence at the Luxembourg Gardens pond for two hours, feeling desperately lonely. I wouldn’t have cried at the Degas for 20 minutes, because being alone in front of my favourite painting with nobody to share it with… allowed me to experience and absorb it in silence and in solitude. Without conversation and company as distractions and comfort, I think that I felt and experienced so much more. Of myself.

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There were times that I really longed for Graeme. I had a particularly bad day when I really just struggled with everything. I got lost in translation between 6 floors and 2 information systems that gave me conflicting routes. I missed my train to Monet’s house by 6 minutes (there’s only one every 3 hours) and cried at the station for what felt like most of the day. I put my sunglasses on, I sat on a chair surrounded by strangers and foreigners and I just cried. I missed Graeme when I flooded my hotel room (a disagreement between a tiny shower and it’s curtain) and realized there was no towel in my suite. I missed him when I was queuing at the Louvre and had nobody to share the excitement with. When I saw something beautiful. When I went to bed at night.

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I feel like I really and genuinely connected and engaged with myself for the first time in years. It wasn’t just about the sites and the art or the people and the history. It was about adding another layer to my character, my experience. I feel different. Empowered. Humbled. Satisfied. I mostly think, act, plan and react based on what the people I love need and want. The kids, their milestones and achievements. My relationship with my husband. My business and other projects. Obligations.

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Eventually, I’m going to tell you about the people I met. Conversations that struck up in ticketing queues. In bookshops. In cafe’s. While waiting for drinks or a meal. While being lost. I want to talk about the man from Norway who went to Paris to fulfill his dreams, and now works in a bar at the Moulin Rouge.  A 27 year old girl from Italy who was about to return home to break up with her boyfriend of 8 years. She drank a lot of red wine, and I kept her company until midnight. A 20 year old French girl with a broken heart, who doesn’t understand how young she is. A 31 year old man who was distraught after converting from Catholicism to Hinduism for his wife and was about to walk away, without their 2 year old daughter. A young boy who got lost in the Carousel de Louvre and cried desperately until I took his hand and soothed him, waiting for his mother to find him. A baker from Los Angeles who had traveled to Paris for a funeral. A lady from Milan who was visiting her oldest friend, and wouldn’t let her pay for anything at lunch. An American woman named Tasha who travels the world and hates it, and also cries in stations. Her dad likes to take a lot of pictures, and it embarrasses her deeply. A French painter who has been painting for 35 years, and now spends her days doing portraits of tourists at Place du Tertre, for 30 euros a piece.

I have so much to talk about, and so much that I want to remember about this trip. I haven’t even touched the photos and memories on my camera yet. I haven’t had time to absorb everything, but yesterday was probably my favourite day in Paris. We’ll talk soon.

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Paris. The first few days.

I wanted to write this while it’s all still fresh in my head. I’ve been in bed by 7:30 / 8pm every night because the days here are pretty tiring, physically. Emotionally. I’m guessing that I’m walking about 10 – 15km a day, maybe? Including like 10 flights of stairs at stations. Talk to me about the walk from the Pigalle or Blanche station to the Sacre Coeur you guys. This is why I’ve been living on wine, ice cream, cocktails and cheese for like three days straight. I’m also drinking so. much. water. because the metro is hot and humid and the days are pretty hot too… around 22 degrees. When I tell Graeme that I’m in bed at 8pm he is like GO OUT and party and I’m just like zzzzzz. Also, if staying in Montmartre, you know that you don’t need to leave your hotel room to be at the party. Last night the Parisians were jolling ’til like 3am and musicians walk up and down the streets to serenade the patrons. I kept waking up to beautiful Edith Piaf melodies, which was pretty wonderful. It’s 8pm now and they’ve already started. I can hear people chatting, kids laughing and running up and down the cobble stoned streets. It’s still daylight here, up ’til about 8:30 or 9pm. It’s such a vibe and I would highly recommend staying in Montmarrrrt. I’m on rue des Abbesses which is prime Parisian real estate. I’m basically between the Moulin Rouge and Sacre Couer, and there are 3 metro stations within 5 minutes walk in opposite directions. There are I think like 27 restaurants and cafes on this street and a whole bunch of grocers. Every night I’ve been stopping at the same vendor for a bagel or burger. Also, please can we talk about the chinese food in Paris? Holy smokes you guys. I still haven’t eaten at a restaurant or cafe, but everything I have tried has been absolutely incredible. My hotel does crepes, french bread, croissants and pastries every day. Coincidentally, they also put a big bowl of prunes out with breakfast every day. Just that. Cheese, breads, meat, croissants, crepes and prunes. Good morning!

Paris is wonderful, and I am loving every single moment – even the metro, which I’ve started to navigate like a boss lately. I’m saving all my routes on my metro app and using those every day (thanks Rosanne and Mel) which is a game changer. I got really confused at one of the BIG stations today on a change-over, because the big stations are a bit tricksy with different routes per line. Gare de Nord will be the effing death of me. Seriously. Whenever a route takes me to that station I want to self harm.

I don’t know if anyone really cares about all the touristy attractions. Yes, the Eiffel Tower is big. The Musee d’Orsay is beautiful. That’s just information that you can find on google. What Paris actually does to you on the inside, is what this journey is all about. I’m not very geographically secure, and I’ve found a few places completely by accident. I have so much to write about, but right now I’m just bushed.

I’m missing the boys so much, and they’ve been so busy with dinners and visitors every day that we haven’t really spoken much. Here are some touristy pictures. I’m off to Luxembourg gardens & the Louvre tomorrow, and hopefully Marais and Canal St Martin. I’ve packed my acrylics, so I don’t really know where I’ll end up. That’s half the fun. Goodnight, from Paris x

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Paris: The first 2 hours

I’ve been in bed since 8pm going through my maps and notes for tomorrow, trying to remember and figure out all the little details. This morning I sat in my hotel room ’til 11am because I was literally too nervous to hit the streets. Navigating the metro and Paris in general is pretty tricky, and getting lost is not an option. I am notoriously and devastatingly awful at directions, which increases Graeme’s fears of a “Taken” situation quite drastically. I haven’t switched to international roaming on my phone, and I’m currently relying on free WiFi to lead my way. This makes it quite tricky with saving offline maps and routes and also trying to understand actual paper maps you guys. Remember those? Every time I ask the hotel about a metro line or route, they shove more maps in my hands and I’m like THESE DO NOT HELP ME because maps just make me panicky. Another obstacle is asking for directions because like 97% of the people I’ve stopped are also tourists (I cannot Japanese) or are locals and can’t / don’t want to speak English. Not even the lady in the booth at the Metro today. I mean how dare you work in tourism if you can’t tell me which platform to get on for one of the main tourist attractions in the city? Another interesting obstacle is that I seem to be mispronouncing most of the towns and attraction names. I discovered this at the airport when asking which route to take to Montmartre (I said Mont-mart-tray) and the lady was like that does not exist who even are you get out of my French face. Eventually after pointing at my notebook she was like “Ooooh – Momarrrrt. Line 2.” Or maybe it was line 12. I have forgotten.

I mean even on my very first metro trip from the airport, I figured out that the dot next to the name of the ‘suburb’ would flash when stopping at that station. Stunning. Except just before my station, we stopped and it was flashing. I’d heard that the doors close fast so I stumbled as quickly as I could with all my luggage (big bag, backpack and handbag) but the door wouldn’t open. I started panicking and an announcement blared from the speakers in FRENCH and I was like “omg I’m never going to see my family again.” Nobody else knew what was going on either, but it wasn’t their stop so they were like… whatever. In the announcement, I understood the work “security” and I think someone without a ticket had been kicked off. We weren’t moving for a very long time and were in fact, between stations. Eventually when we got going, it was my stop, and again the door didn’t open. I didn’t know that you have to manually turn the handle, but someone jumped up and turned it for me before I missed my stop, and royally screwed up my arrival.

I got to the right station that (on the map) (stupid effing paper maps that don’t give travel times) looked pretty close to my hotel. I figured I could walk, even with all the luggage. I am notoriously stubborn and always keen to save money. Also, remember that I couldn’t uber because no WiFi.

You guys.

My hotel ended up being at the very top of a hill pretty far away from the station. I also didn’t realize that the streets literally have no names. Was that U2 song about Paris? Maybe they got lost too. I stopped so many people, and of course without WiFi, I was pretty screwed. Like 7 people tried to sell me kak because the only people willing to talk to me were the street vendors and gypsies. Another fun fact is that the metro doesn’t have (that I saw) wheelchair ramps or escalators. Instead, there were 4 – 6 sets of stairs to get to a street. My massive bag was on wheels, but at all the stations (all three) I had to pick my bag up with two hands and really struggled. This is a good time to point out how gentlemanly South African men are. Dozens of students and men jotted past me and nobody stopped or offered to help. I so badly wanted someone to take that bag from me. I also didn’t know that you have to push your bag through first at the metro gates, which open and close on motion sensors. This resulted in my main luggage getting properly wedged between the automated gates. A really friendly guy used his ticket to open the doors again, and pulled my bag toward his side of the gate. I had to kick it toward him from my side to try un-wedge it, and he had to pull a good couple of times. This meant that upon my arrival, my bag was with a complete stranger on the other side of the metro gates. He was really nice, and used his tag to open the gate again and handed my bag over to me. He was really kind. I wish he also carried my bag. Everywhere.

By the time I got to my hotel, I had callouses and blisters on my hands. It was hot, and I’d just had a 13.5h journey with very little sleep. I quickly unpacked and headed straight to the nearest bar for very many cocktails. They were so delicious. All like 7 of them.

It’s beautiful here, I’m having the most incredible time. I’m learning how to read the maps and I’m navigating the metro with a bit more confidence. My hotel and room is beyond any expectations I had. I’ll share all the GOOD and happy things soon. I spent the majority of today crying with joy, but more on that later. Goodnight, from Paris x

 

Pssst: Thank you Keri and Rosanne for helping me with directions the way that you have. You are both wonderful and lovely.

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A letter to my third child.

I call you my daughter, but you could be a boy. My son. My sun.

I think about you every day; the child that I want so badly. You’re the possibility. The maybe. Still, I feel you and think about you constantly. Ben wants to meet you, but Noah is unsure. He thrives on certainty and routine, but I know that he’ll love you. He’ll probably love you the most. Daddy says he’s not sure, but every time we talk about you, the right corner of his mouth turns up. He doesn’t know that I can see it, his excited anticipation. He’d love you as soon as you exist, and if you’re a girl… I know that he’ll dote over you like his first love. You’d love him straight away too. He’s such a fun dad. Such a good dad. A really good man.

I wonder how you’ll fit in here. I wanted to meet you two years ago. I wanted to have you last year, and then this year again. I want to meet you right now, but I worry. Will I be a good mom to you? Will you get enough of our time and attention? What if I don’t know how to be a mom to a daughter. What if we fight. What if I can’t protect you. How do I stop your heart from breaking? Maybe we won’t have anything in common. Maybe we’ll be exactly the same.

You already have a name. You’re either Samuel or Bethany. Maybe you’re a Julia. Or a Sebastian. Or Holden or Maree. I see a little girl with long curly brown hair and green eyes. Dad’s eyes. He’s so scared that you’ll get his nose. He hates his nose. I don’t even know what I’d do with a girl. I wonder how different it would be. I hope it wouldn’t be lonely for you, with two brothers. Maybe you’ll be a boy, my Sam. Maybe you’ll really love having two older, fiery and energetic brothers. I bet they’ll fuss over you every day, those two. Soon they’ll be able to read you stories and tell you all about the world. I bet they’d love that.

I keep feeling you. Hearing you.

I have one or two things to do before we meet. Things that will make me a better person, a better mother. I need to calm my storms because your brothers are real firecrackers, and I’m enjoying this rest. I’m getting to know them right now. They’re so wonderful, so kind. You’d really like them.

I’ll think about you again another day, another moon, another moment. I know you’re there, so I won’t be long.

 

I hope you’ll wait for me.

 

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My personal weight loss tips & tricks but probably don’t listen to me

I’ve had a few questions about weight loss lately, and it’s something I don’t talk much about. For most women (and men) your weight might be a bit personal or maybe even an issue for you. I never really struggled with my weight until about two years ago when I lost track of exactly how much pasta and comfort food I was eating. For the first time in my life, I got properly chubby. I started running and eating right and I went on this eating plan that really worked for me. I joined a gym, I ran a half marathon and I started toning up and doing some yoga too. This year I also tried juicing, which was great and that worked too. All of these things worked to some degree and helped me feel better about myself and get in to shape a bit more. I don’t think that I will keep running half marathons, or keep doing yoga (I haven’t in months) because what I’ve noticed about myself is that I really love chopping and changing and experimenting and trying new things. I’ll just be like “I’m gonna cut out sugar for 21 days and see what happens” or “I’m gonna just drink juice for 7 days and see what happens” and treat my body a bit like a gadget – something I can test at different levels. My Paris trip is getting pretty close, so I asked a friend for advice on how to drop it like it’s hot. So right now, I’m doing:

No carbs. No sugar. No dairy. 

And I am so flippen surprized at how easy it is. Note, I’m not banting. I don’t think? Well not on purpose. I think a lot of people assume that, but I’m not doing high fat, oil or cream or anything like that. I do healthy fats like avocado, eggs and fish… But that’s about it. It’s almost exactly the same diet that I did last year when I lost all that other weight. From Tuesday – Saturday I lost 3kg. I know that the weight loss will slow down, or possibly come back if I go back on carbs and sugar full time… but right now I am just playing around with this eating plan and seeing where it goes. My only cheat is that I have one cup of coffee a day with half a sugar. It’s my morning ritual, even if it’s decaf coffee… and hopefully eventually I’ll be able to take no sugar at all. So out of all the diets and experimenting and testing and playing I’ve done, here’s what I’ve learned about losing (and gaining) weight.

1. It took hundreds of meals for you to gain weight, so don’t think it’s going to take a dozen to lose all of it. The time you spent gaining that weight is the time you’ll spend (or should spend) losing it. Don’t try lose 10kg in 2 weeks – think more along the lines of  4 – 6 months. You might yo-yo in between, too.

2. If you aren’t drinking at least 10 glasses of water a day, you’re gonna take a while to see results. Your body needs water to help flush out toxins, and it keeps you full. Most of the time when I think I’m hungry, I’m actually thirsty. Drinking water while you eat also helps you eat less as you’ll feel satisfied much faster. Also, it makes your skin look great and supple, so drink up! I’ve swapped my zillion cups of tea a day for water with fresh lemon wedges.

3. You can still drink alcohol, but stick to dry wine with low sugar content. Or whiskey – whichever.

4. You need to do some serious movement for at least 45 minutes a day. Brisk walking, running, cycling, skipping, swimming – whatever your thing is.

5. You need to eat close to the earth. I haven’t eaten anything with a label and dammit it feels good. Fresh fish from my grocer, eggs, avo, vegetables, salads, soups. Apart from tinned tuna, it’s all fresh and new and organic and hormone free. Also: sugar free.

6. So many times when I felt like “I really want a cup of tea” my body was actually saying “I really want two spoons of sugar”. I didn’t want caffeine, I wanted the sweet stuff. My first two days without sugar was filled with headaches and fogginess. Sugar withdrawals are intense and it’s hard to pull through. If you want to test your body, eliminate sugar from your diet for 3 days and you’ll see just how powerful it is. Do it just for fun! (is it weird that I find this kinda stuff fun?)

7. Never eat until you’re full. Ever. Eat until just before you’re full because the fullness will come a few minutes after you stop eating. Stand up and move away from the table / your plate when you’re done eating.

8. Eat healthy fats otherwise you’ll starve. Also, if you eat healthy fats then you might not (I don’t) get cravings for bread or sweets. I’m not saying that bread and sweets are the devil, because they’re NOT, but I think they should be viewed as treats for some people, and not a daily staple. I eat a lot of eggs, avo and fish. For the moment, I’ve stopped eating fruit and view these as bread and sweets now too. Special treats.

9. Try keep a 2-ingredient plate. Eg Just avo and an egg. Or just green beans and carrots. Simplifying my food and going back to basics and eating them in their true, raw form has been such a treat for me. After spending years working with complicated dishes at home and at restaurants, containing dozens of ingredients per plate… I find great minimalist comfort in placing two clean ingredients on a plate and eating them straight away.

10. Subsidize with vegetable juices and smoothies. I order a ‘lifestyle’ juice pack from a local company every month and keep them in the freezer for days when I know I’m going to be busy or running around. They fill you up and they’re full of goodness. Juices have saved me from many garage pies.

So right now, a typical day for me is:

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Breakfast: Half an avo & boiled egg OR Fried mushrooms & a boiled egg

Snacks: I drink so much water now that I don’t really snack, but if I do, I have a few baby carrots

Lunch: Tin of tuna & half an avo OR 2 eggs & grilled mushroom & tomato OR Tuna and green beans

Dinner: Grilled hake or kingklip or salmon with a green veg – broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts or cucumber NOTE > don’t eat dinner after 7pm. I eat supper at 5:30 or 6pm every day

If you’re super serious about losing weight and want to see the initial results pretty fast, then I’d suggest something along these lines depending on your current health / BMI and recommendations from your doctor. Medicine and hormones also affect weight gain and loss, so check these with your doctor too. I’m dead set on eating this way for good now, because without daily carbs, I haven’t been feeling bloated. Without sugar, I haven’t been getting weird cravings. I was never in to dairy in a big way, but I’m mildly lactose intolerant, so I won’t miss it at all.

I’ll still have a pizza now and then, and the odd frozen yoghurt or chocolate of course – but only for 10% of the time, I’d say. I’ll still go to the movies and order a popcorn every other week. But I want to eat like this every day. Back to basics, close to the earth, simple and unprocessed. For now! It’s an ongoing adventure, this health quest thing. Yesterday afternoon I was in a bicycle shop and I was like… “I could totally be a cyclist.” As long as we keep trying and keep active, I think we’ll all do alright.

But come now guys, you don’t need me to tell you that vegetables, salad, lean protein, water and exercise is the way to eat and lose weight for good. Hope you enjoyed the reminder. And if you’re gonna tease health conscious people when you’re eating mac n cheese or chocolate, remember that most health-kick people have usually felt the hard side of eating those empty foods every day for years… and we have no desire to feel that way about ourselves again. AND if you’re one of those “I can eat all the junk I want and always stay healthy and feel great” people – I am genuinely and completely happy for you, I am. Pretty please remember that you need not have a high BMI or even be overweight to have cholesterol issues. We all need our yearly checks to ensure that we’re doing right by our bodies. Keep checking those numbers – all of us! Have a happy, healthy weekend guys! This photo of me taken by Keri Bainborough yesterday, and I love it (and her)

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Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge Resort in the Pilanesburg National Park

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We left rainy, cold Cape Town last week to visit Kwa Maritane in Pilanesberg. We flew out on Friday afternoon, our flesh covered in a mass of jackets, jerseys and scarves. As soon as we landed in Pilanesberg a wave of heat washed over us as we scrambled to offload our winter attire and swap in to shorts, slops and vests. The weather was incredible – reaching 28 and 29 degrees every day. I don’t know know how to summarize everything that we did, saw and experienced, but we really grew closer as a family this weekend. With the bustle of school, Graeme’s job, play dates and my business, we’ve grown comfortable in our homely routine. My mindset is mostly to ‘get things done’ and over the past few months we’ve lost the joy of just being.

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There’s no adventure in routine, and no fun in chores, so I really appreciated this break. We stepped out of our comfort zones in a big way this weekend, but also really enjoyed the relaxing moments too. The boys are in love with this place, and I am too. They made a few holiday friendships and they were so relaxed the whole time. Usually when we travel with the kids, we worry about them going crazy (also known as ‘being kids’) but I think they were so enthralled by everything that we were doing that there was no time for them to get distracted or bored.

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The ‘lodge’ is more like a resort, with all kinds of different accommodation options positioned like a village and nestled under ancient African trees. Green grass, thatched roofs and an abundance of bird life will get you in that ‘safari’ mood as soon as you arrive. You’ll immediately notice that the resort is fenced and as you walk to your chalet / lodge or room you’ll spot a few zebra, a wildebeest and maybe a few impalas on your way. You’ll probably literally walk in to a Loerie because they are so tame and friendly that you’ll want to put one in your backpack and take one home. So here are a few of our favourite things that we did during our 3 night, 4 day stay.

The Game Drives will get your heart rate going.

I jumped right in to this because the wildlife is incredible. I mean, I grew up in Kwa-Zulu Natal so obviously I had been on game drives before. At Kwa Maritane, we had a few breathtaking and heart-stopping encounters that have created buckets and baskets of family memories for us. Sheldon was our guide, and I mean what a great guy. The kind of guy that you want to invite over for a braai, but also the kind of guy that you really want to stay close to when you’re in the wild.

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Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 2.52.54 PMWe went on 2 drives every day at 15:30. The days were hot, so this was a great time as all the animals were coming out of hiding and moving out of the shade. I was dead-set on seeing a Lion and to lift my ‘never seen a lion in the wild’ curse. In retrospect, I really enjoyed our game drives at Hluhluwe because of car windows that could close. Going in one of those “I HAVE NO WINDOWS”  jeeps is next level vulnerable. We had some gorgeous, heart-stopping and wonderful sightings.

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We had moments where we just switched off the engine and watched the animals ‘be’ and interact with one another. We watched herds of elephants move across a veld while zebras and wildebeest played and grazed in the foreground. The kids had little naps, we tucked in to some wine and we had picnics, stops and visits to the hides. Probably my favourite moment was being maybe 5 meters from a journey of Giraffes. Isn’t that the most beautiful collective noun? A journey of Giraffe. Thanks Sheldon! Other highlights included Graeme spotting a Leopard lounging on a branch of a Marula tree. As he leaped out of the tree and started moving… Well that was the first time I checked for my window’s handle. Awkward.

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Another highlight was definitely stopping alongside an elephant bull just going about his usual elephant business. I really respected how well Sheldon knew the animals in the park – knowing and recognizing most by their nicknames among the staff and other guides. He knew their personalities and behavior patterns. He knew which ones he could get closer to, and which ones to be wary of. He knows their individual stories and their relationship dynamics with other herds and animals too. It was incredible.

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We drove back to camp in the dark each day, with about 30% vision provided by the Jeep’s head and sidelights. We had our Boma dinner to get to, and as we came around a bend, we quite literally almost ‘bumped’ in to a mother elephant with her 3 youngsters. We were lucky that the youngest was closest to the vehicle at that point, and that we didn’t give the mother the initial fright. Sheldon quickly cut the engine and switched off the lights while we waited for them to make their next move. Can I please explain to you what it’s like to be that freakin’ close to a wild elephant? While freaking out (inside) about the safety of your own kids? The youngest was quite curious and touched the vehicle with his trunk. This made the mom get protective, so she moved toward us to put some distance between us and the others. I literally felt like I was in Jurassic Park and every step was like water shaking in a glass. Another elephant moved past Graeme’s side on the right and if he’d have stuck his hand out he would have touched it. The boys didn’t understand any of it. Disclosure: MY KIDS DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF WILD ANIMALS OR DANGER.

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The boys were getting bored and couldn’t understand why we were sitting motionless and in silence in the dark. I get it. Sheldon was doing a super job at keeping calm, and keeping us calm as he watched the mom’s behavior and decided what to do. We were stuck, because if we put the lights or engine on, then we’d scare her and she would probably  have charged. She was just standing there in her giantness, right in front of the vehilcle, just watching us. She’d moved forward to close the gap between us and her family. As she started to lose interest and move past us, we’d just whispered “Shhhh” to the kids, but G and I did it at the same time which upped the volume. She turned like a woman on fire and faced us with her ears flared. I have never in my life felt so tiny or insignificant. I was scared, my heart was racing. Sheldon was talking us through the possibility of starting the engine and making a run for it, and warning us that she might give chase. Graeme was (finally) getting a bit freaked out and the kids were like “what time is supper and do they have pudding”.

Eventually after Sheldon standing his ground and showing that we’re not a threat, she moved past us and we switched the lights on and kept going, all of our hearts beating at about 140km p/h and feeling rather relieved. I hadn’t felt adrenaline like that since jumping off a bridge with a rope tied to by ankles. It was intense, and incredible. I was super happy to get to dinner and drink a LOT of wine. There are no pictures of this incident because quite honestly I was afraid to even breathe. Another thing we loved about Kwa Maritane was…

Alllllll the kids activities, play centers and pool areas

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Everything from rock climbing, chess, swimming, super tubes, snake shows, pool tables, table tennis, foosball, trampolines, jumping castles, play areas, secret tunnels and hides and especially the wildlife center. They have this program called “Junior Rangers” where a guide takes the kids out for a few hours to track animals and learn about the bush. They saw fresh lion tracks, found nests, spider webs and even saw an elephant carcass. They each got a book with lists of all the things they need to find in the wild, and ticked them off as they went. They also get a certificate, badges, stickers, treats and a colouring book. When we collected them at the wildlife center they were SO CHUFFED and felt like the smartest, most important little boys in the world with all their goodies. I love it when our kids are out and about in nature, so this was especially special for me. We’ve been back for a week and they’re still filling in their little wildlife books and gushing to everyone they see that they know how to track and find real animals in the real wild! Graeme and I had taken our laptops with, in case the boys wanted to watch a movie or something. Needless to say, they didn’t ask for any kind of technology even once. Even the televisions in our rooms had live-streamed footage of the watering holes around the lodge. Every time we got back to our room, they rushed to the TV to see if the hippo had moved, or if a new little bird or animal had arrived. While there is SO MUCH good, wholesome and educational fun for the kids to do, I really loved

All the fun things for adults to do too

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While the kids were at the wildlife center and out in the bush, Graeme and I retreated to the Kwa Maritane Spa. It’s such a gorgeous setting, with the heated pool and loungers overlooking the game reserve. We saw Kudu and Zebra and more Impala as we lounged around in our robes between massages and manicures. I had my nails done while Graeme opted for a full back, neck and shoulder massage, which he obviously loved. The spa is gorgeous and quite busy, so be sure to get your name in their diary as you book your stay.

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The boys were very occupied at the pool, where we also had lunch every day. They have a really good poolside menu, so you can order salads or prego rolls, hotdogs, burgers, sandwiches and seafood from the comfort of your lounger without disturbing your tan. The boys spent all day on the super tube, which freed up a lot of time for Graeme and I to watch them and catch up with each other while tanning and indulging in a few delicious cocktails.

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I have so much more to write and tell you about, so consider this my first post. I need to tell you what happened when we saw the lions, and HOW it happened, and how I freaked out… again. We need to talk about the Boma dinner and drums and dancers which was completely magical. All that for another day. If you live close to Joburg or Pilanesburg, you absolutely must visit and take the whole family. Find the rates and book here > http://www.legacyhotels.co.za/en/hotels/kwamaritane

If you live around KZN or Cape Town, then know that SAA flies directly to the Pilanesberg airport, which is 3km from Kwa Maritane. We had an incredible time and we’ll definitely be back, probably this December holiday. The boys have not stopped begging since we got back, they really did have the time of their lives (and us too!) A major thank you to Patrick, Sheldon, Megan and Trevor for making our stay that much more special, and to Emma and all the other guides that took such great care of our boys. We’ll be back real soon!

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