Monday, 23 April 2018

DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE PART I - FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA


Hello dear friends,

Before I continue with my story, I would like to make a disclosure.  The trip that I am going to tell you about was took place a few years ago.  However, I never came around to blog about it.  The reason you are reading this post right now is because due to the growing popularity and the substantial increase in international visitors going to South Africa every year, I thought that if you have never been there, my story might inspire you to go.
And if you are planning a trip to South Africa, here are two more activities that you might like to add to your already busy itinerary (isn't it always): first is to hire a car and take a drive along the Garden Route which sits pretty high on the must-see list of most visitors to South Africa.  The second is to spend at least two days at one of the many game park reserves this country is proud to offer.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
For those who follow my blog, you know that I am married to a South African and every time we are about to travel, we make sure that we go to Cape Town to visit my in-laws.  And every time while we are mapping our time in there, my husband suggests that we should do the Garden Route, but somehow it never happened. My excuse for not doing it sooner always has been that our prime reason for being here is to visit my in-laws and spend as much time with them as possible.  It took me seven trips to this lovely country before, at long last, we decided to do it.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
The Garden Route is about a 300 km stretch of the South-Western Coast of South Africa between the Western and Eastern Capes.  It lies north of Cape Town and encompasses some of South Africa’s most beautiful beaches, mountains, and rivers. It is due to its natural beauty, that the Garden Route is considered as one of the greatest coastal drives in the world.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
It was during our planning time that my husband came up with another idea.  He suggested that once we reach the Eastern Cape, we should make a short stop and spend a couple of days in a game park.  I liked that idea a lot and we spent couple of hours trying to figure out where should we go.  Our choice fell on the malaria free Shamwari Private Game Reserve that was voted one of the World's Leading Safari and Game Reserve and Conservation Company for many consecutive years.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
And so after we spent a week in Cape Town, we packed a light suitcase and set off on our adventure. 
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
Since we were pressed for time, we decided to bypass the first leg of our journey by flying from Cape Town to George.  I found that this little town is quite ordinary and was not disappointed at all that we missed  it.  There we hired a car and went on to explore the beauty of the Garden Route and beyond.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
This is a magnificent part of South Africa. True to its name and glorious natural beauty, anywhere you look along the road, you see brightly coloured flowers blooming amongst luscious bushes with the dark rich forests rising up the slopes on one side and the sparkly blue waters of the Indian Ocean on the other.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
Our first stop was at Victoria Bay, where we went to have some coffee and a stroll along the beach, popular among locals for its mild surf, soft sand and a big grassed area behind it where they like to cook the braaivleis, a traditional South African barbecue.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA

"IT IS DUE TO ITS NATURAL BEAUTY, THAT THE GARDEN ROUTE IS CONSIDERED AS ONE OF THE GREATEST COASTAL DRIVES IN THE WORLD"
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
Our next stop was at Knysna, a small, picturesque town famous for its beaches, lagoons and lush forests and thus a perfect place for water activities, walks and other adventures.  We had a lovely lunch at an Italian restaurant called Cornuti that served us an excellent pizza alongside a breathtaking view over the lagoon.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
After lunch we took a long luxurious walk along the beach admiring the surrounding environment.  It was peacefully quiet, there were no traffic, no shops and contrary to always crowded Bondi Beach, where we live, it was absolutely deserted.  It felt like heaven.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
We continued our drive and in the late afternoon we reached the seaside town of Plettenberg Bay where we stayed overnight at one of the most magnificent hotels I ever been but that story is for another post.
Until then

Love,
Anna



Friday, 20 April 2018

A PERFECT GIFT FOR MOTHER'S DAY

Hello my dear friends,
With Mother's Day almost on our doorstep, it is high time to think about a perfect gift for your mother.
As with every celebration, we are inundated with choices up to the point that it has become almost impossible to decide which gift is the best.
Solar Jar/lantern
Well, I have the answer to this.  Instead of buying a gift made for you by someone else, you can do it yourself and make it really special.  I totally understand that DIY projects are not everyone's forte but my idea is so simple that anyone who can hold a paint brush can do it.  And no special tools nor expensive materials are required.  On the contrary, it is very easy to do but the result is simply outstanding.
Solar Jar/lantern
All you need is a Solar Jar/Lantern, a few smooth stones (black, white or grey – the choice is yours), white or red acrylic paint (again, the choice of paint colour is entirely up to you) and a thin paint brush.
Solar Jar/lantern
I am using black stones simply because I have plenty of them lying around in my planter boxes but white or grey stones will work just well.  Using either white or red paint, draw a large letter X on one of the stones and a large letter O on the other.  Then using a larger size stone, write the word LOVE and if you can master it, draw a heart on yet another stone and leave the paint to dry.  And that’s basically it.  Open the Solar Jar/Lantern and place your newly painted exhibits of love on the bottom of it.
Put the lid back on and voila, you have just created a very special and personalised gift that will, no doubt, delight and please your mother. 
The other option is to print a nice message on a piece of paper and place it inside the Solar Jar/Lantern like seen above.
Solar Jar/lantern
Of course, any glass jar would do but consider this:  the Solar Jar is not just a decorative object but is also a source of light so you can use it in the dark.  It is simply to recharge, eco and child friendly and is hugely versatile.
Solar Jar/lantern
Think about other occasions that you can use it for: Valentine's Day, Father's Day or a great Christmas gift.  It can even hold your precious collection of buttons and coins.
Solar Jar/lantern
Also, there are so many options to incorporate it into your existing decor:  flowers, little nicks-nacks, sand and shells, basically anything goes.  Here are just a few ideas that you might help you to get started.
Solar Jar/lantern

Solar Jar/lantern
 You can even use it as a table setting for your next big party.
Solar Jar/lantern
If you love alfresco dining and entertaining, the Solar Jar/Lantern is not only will light up your party or function but you also do not need to be worried about the danger of an open flame.
Solar Jar/lantern
If you like to know more about this amazing product, please follow this link and if you live in USA, Canada or Mexico and would like to purchase it, you can buy directly from Amazon by clicking on the link here.
For those of you who live in Australia, please send your e-mail to solarjar@optusnet.com.au and we will help you to find a stockist near you.
Go get the Solar Jar and get creative.
And I would like to see your work, so please send me your images to annamarcus@optusnet.com.au
Have fun
Anna
xoxo

Sunday, 15 April 2018

WHITE LACE DRESS I BOUGHT IN SORRENTO

Hello dear friends,
Now that I have finally finished my long story about our latest holiday (the first post begins here), I can go back to writing about clothes and would like to start by showing you what I bought on that trip.
WHITE LACE DRESS I BOUGHT IN SORRENTO
My first item was purchased during our exploration of the Old Medina of Marrakesh (you can read more about this amazing place here) where I spotted a stall selling criss-cross slides of many colours and sizes.  After trying a couple of pairs in darker colours, I settled on a pair of whites.  Knowing in advance that bargaining in the souk is a must, my husband locked horns with the vendor until he relented and agreed to sell the sandals for a fraction of what I would be paying for them back in OZ.
On our way to next destination, ie Sorrento, I was fantasising about the clothes and shoes that I would be able to buy there.  I had heard, seen and read so many beautiful things about the Amalfi Coast and its la dolce vita that I could almost picture myself all dressed up in fashionable linen and elegant looking shoes sauntering along the promenade overlooking the Bay of Naples.
WHITE LACE DRESS I BOUGHT IN SORRENTO
Sadly, my fantasies went unfulfilled, in terms of fashion, that is, as I found the  majority of shops were targeting tourists and their stock was rather old fashioned, cheap-looking and totally uninspiring.  Having said that, I found this lovely lacy dress in Sorrento, in the shop called Antica Sartoria Positano.  
WHITE LACE DRESS I BOUGHT IN SORRENTO
When we walked pass its windows on our first night in Sorrento, my initial reaction was:"It's too much lace and embroidery, it is not my style at all and I am not going inside to try on these boho looking clothes" but by the third day I'd changed my mind and stepped inside.  I instantly felt overwhelmed by rack upon rack of similar looking white dresses but the shop assistants were extremely helpful and friendly and helped me to choose a dress which I really liked.
Although, I've seen this how this type of dress was typically worn over a swimming costume when you are at the beach, the intricate decorative beading gives it a sense of a day dress and I feel quite happy to be seen wearing it around town.  I just replaced  a swimming costume with a black colour slip for some contrast.
WHITE LACE DRESS I BOUGHT IN SORRENTO
As for the ring, it was bought on the same trip but later on when we were in Havana from a stall at a small market in Obispo Street, one of the most famous and well travelled streets in Havana.
They are made out of soft metal painted by a pleasant young female artist.  She was selling them so cheaply that I bought about 10 of them in order to give them to my friends and relatives in OZ upon our return.
WHITE LACE DRESS I BOUGHT IN SORRENTO
You have seen my Coach handbag here and here, the reason I chose it is because of its punchy turquoise colour which attracts the eye and brightens up the outfit.
WHITE LACE DRESS I BOUGHT IN SORRENTO

THE INTRICATE DECORATIVE BEADING GIVES IT A SENSE OF A DAY DRESS AND I FEEL QUITE HAPPY TO BE SEEN WEARING IT AROUND TOWN

WHITE LACE DRESS I BOUGHT IN SORRENTO

Love
Anna
xoxo



Wednesday, 11 April 2018

BUENOS AIRES AT A GLANCE

Hello everyone,

This is my last post in the series "Our 10th Wedding Anniversary trip"  that took me a few months to complete but I am almost there.  So please bear with  me one more time.
Buenos Aires city centre
We arrived in Buenos Aires in the late afternoon flying from Rio de Janeiro.  To our great relief, the weather was much cooler there than in all of our previous stops which made walking around the city so much easier and much more pleasurable.  We checked into a small boutique hotel within a five minute walk from the world famous La Recoleta Cemetery.

As I mentioned many times before, our most preferred way to get the first impression of the city is on board a Hop on-Hop off bus and luckily for us, there was one in Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires city centre
Being on the top deck of the Hop-on Hop-off bus gives you a unique opportunity to look at the city and its people from a totally different point of view, you see everything from another perspective noticing the things that would be hard to see from the sidewalk.  Also the bus takes you around all the important and well known city landmarks and points of interest so you have the ability of either exploring them on the spot or mark them to do it later.

The itinerary offered two routes around the city and we opted to take both.
Buenos Aires city centre
Our first impression of Buenos Aires was how much it reminded us of big European cities which explains why this capital of Argentina is called "Paris of South America".
Buenos Aires city centre
The same tall elegant buildings with slim colonnaded facades and slanted roofs, wide boulevards lined with large trees and elegant looking lampposts and lots and lots of parks and big open spaces.
Buenos Aires city centre

Buenos Aires city centre

"IT REMINDED ME OF A BIG EUROPEAN CITY WHICH EXPLAINS
WHY BUENOS AIRES IS CALLED "PARIS OF SOUTH AMERICA"
Buenos Aires city centre
But as with every big city, including Paris, Buenos Aires has many different faces as we discovered during the tour, from the bohemian vibe of San Telmo and its multitude of flea markets, art galleries and stylish clothing boutique
to the working class area of La Boca with its brightly painted zinc shacks that evoked the district's early immigrant days.
La Boca, Buenos Aires

La Boca, Buenos Aires

La Boca, Buenos Aires

La Boca, Buenos Aires
It was very informative tour and we were glad that we did it.

We started the next day with a walk around La Recoleta Cemetery.  It contains graves of notable people including Eva Peron, Argentinian presidents and many other dignitaries and we spent quite a considerable time walking around the magnificent looking crypts and statutes. They were all a work of art but I felt sightly eerie surrounded by dead people and was not in the mood for taking pictures.  In the end I was glad when we walked through the exit gates and into the sunshine and the bustle of the city.
TEATRO COLON, BUENOS AIRES
Our next destination was a visit to Teatro Colon, one of the most important opera houses in the world.  "Its rich and prestigious history and its exceptional acoustics and architectural features rank it among theatres such as Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Paris Opera House, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House in London, and the Metropolitan Opera House in New York".  Sadly the troupe was still on summer vacation but the theatre was offering regular tours for visitors and we gladly joined one.  
INSIDE TEATRO COLON, BUENOS AIRES

INSIDE TEATRO COLON, BUENOS AIRES
 It looked magnificent, richly furnished and decorated throughout and we couldn't help but look everywhere in pure admiration.
INSIDE TEATRO COLON, BUENOS AIRES

INSIDE TEATRO COLON, BUENOS AIRES
Once our souls were fed, it was time to feed our bodies.  For this particular evening we were about to go and have dinner at one of the most famous and frequented restaurants. The other thing that we always practise is to try a book a good restaurant well in advance.  In case of Buenos Aires, nobody can miss the place like Don Julio Parilla, a popular destination for classic steaks, local dishes and an extensive wine list.  Recommended by my daughter "as the place you must eat at while in BA", we prudently made a booking way in advance and rightfully so because as we arrived we were greeted by the long queue of hungry people.
We both ordered the same main course, a steak, one of the house specialities, which was huge but succulent and utterly delicious; as for dessert, I couldn't say no to cream caramel while my husband was enjoying a chocolate mousse with hazelnut praline.  If you happened to plan your trip to Buenos Aires, I strongly recommend that you make your way to this place.

Another food for soul that I can never have enough of is Dulce de Leche, a divine confection produced as a result of slowly boiling sweet condensed milk and is similar to caramel in taste and colour.  
On the streets San Telmo, Buenos Aires
When on a Sunday morning we travelled to the San Telmo neighbourhood to browse through the Antique Fair, we came across a shop which was stocked with Dulce de Leche in more ways that I could think possible:  light and dark, sickly or not too sweet, packed in various sizes of jars and tins, it was a total sugar overload.
Dolce de leche shop in San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Dolce de leche shop in San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Dolce de leche shop in San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Dolce de leche shop in San Telmo, Buenos Aires
We spent  the whole day in San Telmo. Not only this area is well known and liked by the locals for having a myriads of different flea markets operating every weekend, it is also has the coolest shops and places to eat. 
On the streets of San Telmo, Buenos Aires
We spent a really nice four days in Buenos Aires and if you planning a trio to South America, I would suggest that you allocate time to come and visit this "Paris of South America".

Anna
xoxo