If there is only one thing you should know about me is that I’m very much in tune with my sense of direction…in South Africa. In the Netherlands, well let’s just say it’s takes me some time before I figure out what direction is what. I’m not kidding. What I think is the right way is NEVER the actual way. Here is a prime example of my brilliant sense of direction in the small and flat country.
Here is the full caption that I posted with the picture. The sun is shining here in the Netherlands and I decided to somehow find my way to one of my favorite parks I always go to with Onno. Yeah it didn’t exactly go according to plan, swipe right and you will see my attempt. The fact that I tripped over my laces on my way out of the apartment should’ve been a foresight but it doesn’t end there. Oh no my foot slipped on the petals (three times) and the first time (because the seat was still too high) I lost my balance and gracefully fell over. In front of the central station, in the middle of the day…in the holiday period. Yeah people saw. Someone even asked me if I’m okay. I just felt the need to reassure them and myself that I’m not a complete amateur and I know how to bicycle. And as I was trying to find the road to the park I somehow circled back to the station twice till I found the Museum park which wasn’t even that pleasant because it’s packed with screaming kids and I’m an old fart that likes to read in parks. I’m back home, licking my wounds and playing with Speculoos (I then proceeded to tag my cat’s Instagram page. Cringe.)
What is your point women? Well basically I don’t know where the hell I’m going in this country most of the time (well I’m quite good in Rotterdam because I lived here for long enough but take me off my route and I’m lost) so picturing me as a tour guide is laughable. Where are you going with this? Well give me some time. I’m writing a blog for the first time in over a month. Like how do I open a word document? Where is J on the keyboard? Does auto correct still work? Does the internet on my laptop even still work? Is my blog still a thing?
Jokes aside, let me just get to the point. It’s 10pm and I’ve worked on the house the entire day and my brain is losing its ability to put words into functional sentences. I’m not even sure if I’m writing English right now. Oh lord imagine future Cassy trying to edit this blog tomorrow so it can go up on Monday and be like what the fuck?
Okay enough fooling around. For real now. My father’s girlfriend did a European cruise through Italy, Spain, England, Portugal (maybe France?) and the cruise ship made a little pit stop in Amsterdam for the day. I’ve heard so much of her these last few months and was dying to meet her so I took the day off from renovations and went through to meet her and her family. We exchanged gifts and her family members met us at the cruise terminal soon after I arrived. Oh wait you need to know this story. I will get to my day as a tour guide through Amsterdam soon.
So South Africans are known to have a really hard time with going to England. I’m not even kidding. The travel agency told all the South Africans going on this trip that they wouldn’t have to apply for the British VISA as they won’t be leaving the ship on the day it’s stationed there. As this would save a lot of money and time they obviously took the agency’s word for it…Well they flew to the start of the cruise and was denied access to the boat because of this and over 30 South Africans were abandoned. This obviously ruined a lot of holidays for a lot of people. It’s disgusting really. Some of these people have saved for years to do this trip and because of the agency they get abandoned in a foreign country? Unfortunately my father’s girlfriend, Althea not Anthea (my dad got her name wrong and kept calling her Anthea and now it’s a funny joke) family was one of them. Three adults and one child were stranded. They managed to make a bad situation into a good one by still exploring some of the other European countries and met up with us in Amsterdam as they could join the cruise from there.
Okay back to my tour guide story. We started off at the central station and walked through the city center, making a pit stop at Primark because hello it’s Primark, before walking further into the bustling city on the hot day. We headed to the Museum park before taking a break at a small café on the side of a canal. We ended our day with a hour long canal cruise. That’s it folks. Hey I never said I was a good tour guide and there really wasn’t a lot of time to go far and show more of Amsterdam. Wait we did stop to buy cheese and take a picture of a flower decorated bicycle. Oh and we did stop at a little church in a side street. That’s about it. Nothing super fancy. Well that was unsatisfactory.
I had a great day though. I met my father’s soul mate and I can take great comfort in the fact that Althea truly loves and cares for my father. Yeah that’s about it. I’m sorry this blog isn’t that exciting but it’s now 10:30pm and I really can’t think of a fun way to milk out this tour. Maybe, it’s a miracle I didn’t burst into flames in the church? Well that’s a bad and untactful joke. Let me think of something else…we nearly got killed by a hot dog truck? Well not really. The guy came up to us and asked us to get out of the way while his buddy drove into the little area to park the truck. Heck when I say drive, he barely moved forward. Okay so that’s not anything juicy. Let me think…Okay there is honestly nothing. It was just a nice day out, getting to know each other and just walking through the city.
Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!
PS. I apologize for the lack of updates these last few blog days. Some things at the house took longer than what we thought so there honestly wasn’t any time to write. I will make up for it by basically low key, well not even low key, spamming you all with everything renovations related once we’re moved in. I also have a lot of great ideas that’s not related to the fact that we bought a house. I’m so excited to write them all. If I wasn’t struggling to keep my eyes open I would be writing them now.
Okay this time around I won’t have a super long introduction mostly because I literally just wrote the last word in part one so I still have the journal close to hand although I’m getting hungry and want to get up and eat breakfast slash lunch soon. I also need to go to the shops but let’s see how far I can get with rewriting this next part before I need a break. THE CRINGE IS PHYSICALLY PAINFUL.
Alright you already know the date and all that jazz so here goes. We’re just going to jump straight into the good stuff. Oh lord give me strength.
Around 9pm we set out for a pasta meal because well cravings. The Italian restaurant where the staff spoke French was beautiful and the meal was, insert some fancy word for delicious, exquisite – yes I googled it. Over our meal and a very tasty red wine we talked about a subject that was an obvious tension bringer, Dana, or what’s her face, decided she wants to get a tattoo and Onno said he will go with her. Okay that sounds innocent and yes I’m being unreasonable (At least I knew!) but hear me out okay! I talked about getting my tattoo dedicated for my dad way before Dana even knew she wanted a tattoo. Onno actually gave me the idea! It’s our thing! Onno is the only person that really knows about my fears about my dad leaving me in that one way that he keeps coming close to. (My dad has had a lot of strokes. Ever since I could remember he had strokes. Some were quite serious and we didn’t think he would bounce back from but be always somehow does. It’s really scary every time. He had a stroke in August in my au pair year so a month before this journal entry so it was still very fresh.) And the thing is that Onno and I have experienced a lot of things before we met each other so there isn’t a lot of things that is a first…ironically it was my first weekend away with my loved one and my first time staying in a hotel and my first time bathing with a guy…(No tickled each other’s toes here. We took a bath together. It was cramped and really uncomfortable. I eventually kicked Onno out and relaxed in the bath on my own.) It was just important to me and still is. Onno is my boyfriend (I just smiled thinking back to Onno as my boyfriend. It was truly such a wonderful time but I must say Onno as my husband is ten times better.) and I want him to be with me when I get my tattoo for my dad. It just makes it so much better that it’s his first time ever being in that environment. I just feel like that moment will be so special and I will probably get emotional.
Alright let’s take a short break to talk about all of that. I feel like it’s needed. Looking back onto that fight now nearly two years later I can’t help but think how silly it is. In a way I can kind of see where my past self was going. She wanted to share this super special moment with her boyfriend with him still new to everything. I get it but why did we fight about something so silly? Why did I make it into such a big deal? Thinking back to it now I feel like I was just self conscious and worried. When Onno and I met he had two girl best friends that was attractive and very well out there. I didn’t want to be beaten by them and I wanted to be ‘the only girl’ in his eyes. It’s a little silly considering that Onno doesn’t even talk to these girls anymore and we’re married now but hey you feel what you feel. Sometimes as a couple some damn fights will come up but it’s important to sit down and talk it all out till you reach the root of the problem. Onno and I did that and where that fight could’ve ruined the entire weekend, we came back from it. That’s the one thing I always enjoyed about Onno and I’s relationship. We always talk it out till we find a place where we’re both happy. We never go to bed angry and we never go a day without saying we love each other. We start our day with a good morning kiss and end our day with a good night kiss. Okay let’s return to the journal entry.
After our dinner we originally planned to go out in the town but after finishing most of the wine I was feeling more than tipsy and it didn’t matter to me where we ended up but I have to admit, just being alone with Onno is always the most flattering idea! (Insert future Cassandra cringing her ass off! Please make it stop!) Onno which was also a bit under the influence –
What the hell Cassandra? Under the influence. What? I can’t deal with my past self right now. I need a break. Also Speculoos just dropped onto my journal so I can’t read the next part. And now I also can’t move because my cat chose to cuddle against me.
Let’s try that again…
Onno which was also a bit under the influence made the choice of how the rest of the evening was going to go and steered us back towards the hotel. There we basically climbed back in bed and talked about everything and nothing at the same time. I remember that night. My memory is a bit foggy but we talked about how tiring it is for the partner in their favorite… (Oh you got to be kidding me. Yeah I can’t write that and put it on the internet.) Let’s just skip forward till when it gets safe for work again. We fell asleep shortly afterwards. The both of us woke up at around the same time the next day, perfectly fine and hungry. We decided that after such a busy last two days and the fact that we did see most of what there is to see already that we could take things slow and relax in bed for the most of the day. So after eating a nice portion of breakfast again we cuddled up in bed and actually watched a cooking show before we tickled each other’s toes. Finally around 3pm we needed some fresh air and off we were. I took the last minute photos, we made another Starbucks stop and I couldn’t let us to leave without getting Belgium chocolate. After getting everything we needed we headed back to the hotel with a plan in mind. First we will check out and get the car and then we will head to the Atomiom where we will relax for a bit before heading home. Not everything went according to plan. On our way to the Atomiom we stopped at the church where we made a quick stop to explore and take some pictures. After our a small detour we were back on the road towards the Atomiom by following the signs. Now if only the signs were clear. It literally took us on such a round and about ride that we passed the actual thing twice and then it send us on the highway. We were so close to giving in but Onno was determined to get us there. When we finally found a spot, we had to pay for the parking ticket and then walk more than 20 minutes to the actual building. Rage!
We finally found the place and after our long walk we relaxed on the grass for a bit and talked. The subject of money came up once again. I honestly feel so guilty about how much money Onno spend on our weekend away and I wasn’t helping with the expenses. Although I did pay him back for most of the things he bought for me, almost 80 Euros in total but it wasn’t close to what he spend. It was our first weekend away so now we know to be more careful with money next time and where we could change a few things.
A little add in from future Cassandra. That trip we went all out with spending and shopping and etc. We were basically throwing money at everything. We definitely could’ve been smarter with our money but we definitely learned from our mistakes. Our second trip together was to Greece nearly a year later. There we were careful and smart. I think in the end it was the same cost. Brussels was a weekend and Greece was 7 days if memory serves me correctly.
It was around 7pm when we drove out of Brussels. On the road we talked about the financial aspect of next year (Remember I went back to South Africa January 2016. Three months later I flew back for three months on the tourist visa. It was our test to see if we wanted a long term relationship so to basically get me here in the Netherlands.) and we decided that the both of us will work out a budget and see how much money we can afford to spend each month and etc. I was happy we talked about it. (Being open about your finances with your partner is honestly so important. Sometimes sacrifices and changes needs to be made and you can only figure that out by talking about it…) We also talked about Onno coming to South Africa in the August holiday to meet my family. I’m absolutely in love with that idea! (Onno came to South Africa in January 2017. Around my birthday. It was also around this time we had our pre-wedding.)
On the border of Belgium and the Netherlands we stopped for our dinner. McDonalds! And surprisingly I ate more than Onno, three chicken nuggets more but still more. (Past Cassandra why the hell did you feel compel to brag about this? Just why?) There was a lot of laughing involved and the occasional farting and no it’s almost never Onno. (We ate in the car and also I fart a lot. Gasp. A girl farts. Back then I was really sensitive to lactose and after a weekend of cheesy foods, ice cream, milky drinks and chocolate my stomach wasn’t loving me at all.) It’s the ice cream and cheese! (How lovely. I even made excuses for myself in the journal. Hilarious.) I’m the guy in the relationship and I take my job seriously. (Not really but I was a bit rough around the edges. Onno ‘manned’ up over the years.) After one more detour where Onno took a wrong turn on a highway. We arrived at my place around 9pm or in that area. Our first weekend came to an end and it was amazing to spend quality time with Onno without any distractions. We said goodbyes and with one last kiss Onno was off. That’s the worst part, saying goodbye and watching Onno leave.
FINALLY! I somehow survived this blog. There was cringe, tears and just overall pain. I’m so happy that I finished it. But before I end this blog I should actually give some travel tips (or tip) for Brussels.
The thing we used the most was a map from this website — https://visit.brussels/en — If you’re going to Brussels definitely give this website a look. They have everything you might need.
Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!
I’ve mentioned my journal that I kept the first year of our relationship well I have content for a lot longer but let’s face it…it’s never going to make the journal. Anyway this blog has a point. So the other day my travel tips for South Africa went online and the response was like oh wow people really like my travel blogs I should write another one. Thus this blog was born. Now where does the journal come in Cassandra? Patience my little grasshopper. So back when Onno and I were fresh in the dating pond we went away for the weekend. It is a very short travel but hey it’s in another country so this can count as a travel blog right? Anyway I wrote about this trip in my journal (oh I wish I can copy and paste but instead I have to rewrite everything) but it’s always nice to walk down the memory line. Honestly when I think back to our first few months I blush. I fell deeply and head over heels for this precious Dutch boy. Okay I’m just writing that to make my husband go ‘awwh how sweet’ and get up and make me a cup of tea. Did it work? Well yes it did. I wanted to take a picture but it took my husband ten minutes to get up from the couch and I lost interest and started to browse the internet. By the time I finally got my tea I was so deep in the web that pausing to take a picture just wasn’t an option.
I will be honest with you. It’s Sunday night and I’m extremely lazy. I have to get up to get the journal so I can actually finish this blog but getting up is just so much effort. Honestly I need to pee but once I’m up I just want to go to bed. It’s only 9pm but who is judging. Okay guys, I’m clicking save and I’m getting up. Alright I haven’t moved. Okay I still haven’t gotten up. Okay I’m saving and closing the document. Someone is going to bed. I will finish this blog tomorrow.
Four days later…
I just sat down, got completely comfortable only to remember I still haven’t gotten out the journal. Damn it! I will probably browse YouTube or move to another blog while I wait till I need to go so I can get the journal on my way back. I’m lazy and proud.
Two hours later…
Six YouTube videos later…
Okay I finally had to pee. I already sat down and started to get comfortable when I remembered. No worries. I got up this time around to get the god damn journal. Honestly it wasn’t supposed to be this hard. Here is the journal entry. The cursive writing is straight from the journal from way back then and if I feel there is some empty parts I will add it, it’s the normal writing. Okay enough chatting. Here is the goods. Oh just a quick note from my future self. I was very step by step in this blog. After reading this you will know exactly what we did in Brussels and when. At the moment I’m halfway through writing it over and this blog is turning into a ridiculously long one so I’m going to split it. Here is part one! (Part two will be up next week Monday so you only have to wait two full days for it!)
24 to 27 September 2015
The time has arrived. Our very first weekend away and our destination is Brussels, Belgium. Thursday night Onno arrived at my place just after I put the kids in bed. We laid on my bed and naturally I had to ruin all the excitement of our weekend away by mayor stomach ache. (I now know it was a gluten attack but this is before I was diagnosed. Getting extreme and very painful stomach aches was pretty normal.) I’m talking about full on stomach twisting cramps. I nearly cried. The host parents arrived while I was withering on the bed and even with the stomach ache, I just wanted to leave, because leaving would mean our weekend would start. I fell asleep in the car when the stomach ache dulled enough for me to relax. Before I knew it I was back in our bed cuddling with Onno. We fell asleep shortly afterwards and I have to add, falling asleep with Onno’s arms around my body is one of the best things in the entire world. The alarm pulled us out of our slumber but it sure as hell didn’t pull us apart. We had a nice quick round (Oh my I really didn’t hide anything in our journal. Well I’m going to cut that part out. I’m sure all the adults reading this knows what we did.) of monopoly (I’m hilarious.) before starting our first day of our short trip. We had breakfast and packed our bags and right on time we were in the car. After waiting 10 minutes max for a construction truck to move out of the way – we were on our way! The drive went smoothly for the most part. I took pictures of the moment because naturally I need to document everything. Now what is a short road trip without a detour? The original plan was to go to Antwerpen on one of the travel days (Friday or Sunday) and everything was going according to plan till we took the wrong turn for Antwerpen and landed on a different highway. Our little detour didn’t cost us a lot of time but it did however stop us from seeing Antwerpen.
It was between 11am and 12pm when we finally arrived in Brussels. We left Rotterdam around 9am. We parked the car and with our bags in hand; poor Onno almost died carrying it to the hotel – we arrived in the centre of Brussels. We dropped of our luggage at the hotel (check in time was around 3pm) and set out to explore. We took things slow really. We didn’t rush to see all the tourist attractions. We were on our own pace the entire weekend. No rush involved and if you don’t count the last amount of walking we did (an easy 12km per day) our weekend was pretty relaxed. The check in at the hotel was only at 3pm so we burned time by sitting in a nice and very expensive restaurant for a juice drink. Afterwards we walked to the massive square that Brussels is famous for, ‘Grand-place grote markt’. Onno was genuinely happy to see that there was Starbucks and naturally we couldn’t resist to pop in and look around. This is where I finally tried a frappuccino which basically is ice coffee and let me tell you, it’s heavenly. Onno had his usual and I couldn’t resist getting the sweet little Belgium themed cups. With our drink in hand we walked around sticking close to the centre. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at the second main tourist attraction ‘Manneken pis’. Our second stop was in the shopping area close to the hotel. Onno got a nice long black jersey for himself and at Hema we got a sexy black number, of a dress which I plan to wear to his thesis defense next month. I definitely need to lose a few layers of fat too still fit into it and look good. (What a warped way of thinking. My mindset truly has changed over the years.) Now there is one thing you should know at Brussels, their Primark sucks and I couldn’t find a decent prized pants anywhere and I brilliantly packed only one long pair and after messing my lunch on it, I needed a replacement. We soon gave up on that. The both of us were exhausted after all of our walking and the only thing we wanted was to finally check out our hotel room for the first time.
Our room was on the fourth floor and beautifully decorated. It was neat and very fancy. The bath looked so inviting that we just couldn’t resist trying it out together. Seriously Cassandra why did you go into details? I’m not even sure if I should add this part. Let me see what Onno says when he’s editing this. Our first bath was short because Onno couldn’t keep his hands to himself. Yes, I’m blaming him! Okay maybe I was part of the blame but I’m not admitting to anything and you can’t make me! Insert evil deranged laugh here. We tried out the hotel bed with a very – Okay there is no way I can add all of this. I can see Onno blushing and he’s not even home right now. Onno then showed just how much he loves me by going to Primark which was beyond busy and horrible might I add to buy my replacement jeans. If that isn’t an act of true love then I don’t know what is!
It was about dinner time when we resurfaced to reality. Onno wanted ribs and who am I to deny the boy his meat? The restaurant was packed but our reservations easily gave us a table. I’m going to see if I can find the restaurant because their food was amazing. Here is the link — https://www.tripadvisor.nl/Restaurant_Review-g188644-d946742-Reviews-Amadeus-Brussels.html — I had one big rib and one baked potato and Onno went a bit harder and had two of each or he tried. He was completely smitten with the sauce they gave with the potatoes. I’m pretty sure the large amounts he ate of it made him sick but he would probably never admit that. I did however noticed I was rubbing off on him and he didn’t touch his salad!
Our desert was Irish coffee and I refused to try this because it’s a given fact that I wouldn’t like it. So Onno ordered a vanilla ice cream with whip cream on top and let me tell you, it was divine. I was pushing my luck with all the whip cream (I was heavily sensitive to lactose back then.) and the added ice cream wasn’t going to help me at all but hey – I’m only going to be in Brussels once! (Back then I didn’t think I would ever move here to the Netherlands. I was fully prepared to maybe never see Europe again.) After dinner we walked around and I have to say Brussels looks amazing at night time. It was then when something caught my eye, a Ferris wheel in the distance with its lights on proudly. The child and the hopeless romantic inside of me just had to go on that ride and so Onno and I walked through quite a dodgy part of the town. The two of us, only dressed in a very thin sweater, to say we were freezing would be an understatement. The Ferris wheel was shit expensive but definitely worth it. It consisted out of three rounds and there was the one round where we stopped at the top and the little house thing or whatever they call it – started to swing. It totally freaked out. It was swinging. Onno was being so smooth and kissed my fears away (I’m cringing so hard rewriting this.) but I think he was a tiny bit scared! When we finally climbed off the ride I was so relieved. I’m alive! We walked back towards the hotel, stopping at the centre where there was a concert going on in French. We weren’t interested and just went back to the hotel. Back in the hotel room we rolled (Oh come on Cassandra. Why did you document all of this? No one wants to read that.) before falling asleep. The bed was beyond comfortable but I had one problem with it. The fact that there was so much room between Onno and I. (I can’t stop cringing.) Normally when we would sleep together we would cuddle and fall asleep with some physical contact and while this wasn’t different…the thing that bothered me was the fact that when I woke up in the middle of the night Onno would be so far and out of reach where normally he would be just one arm reach away.
Don’t mind me but I kind of just need two minutes away from rewriting this travel blog because all of this cringing is making my teeth hurt. Honestly this is so CRINGY. From now on when Onno and I have sex and I actually wrote it in the journal I’m just going to write that we ate ice cream. Wait that might actually get confusing when we have ice cream. Okay let me rethink this. We tickled each other’s feet. Now that’s not weird. Let’s keep it because it’s going to be so funny to write slash read. Remember we tickled each other’s feet. Nothing else. Just that. Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.
The next morning, the Saturday was our official explore Brussels day. We started our day by eating more than enough food at the hotel’s breakfast buffet. After breakfast we had to lie down because we feared our stomach would explode if we walked. It was then when we planned our activities for the day and the first thing on the agenda was waffle making! We got dressed and off we were to the waffle shop! We were split up in teams but that didn’t stop us! We made the batch. Onno and I was the first one to try the waffle iron out. I’m proud to say it came out nearly perfect and it was delicious. I then came up with the idea to build a waffle house with all the leftovers. Our little house looked beautiful and Onno decorated it beautifully with only little help from me. Proud of our accomplishment and thirsty we stopped at Starbucks. We enjoyed our drink in the hot sun in the centre while planning our own private tour. Literally the second we walked away from the centre I had to pee. If you ask Onno he would say I can take one sip of a drink and two seconds later I need the bathroom. My bladder is weak man. It took 30 minutes easy to find a bathroom and let me tell you. My ears were ringing and my eyes was tearing up by then. The bathroom couldn’t arrive a second later.
We then walked to the tourist attractions close to the centre and stopped at the park across the castle. I think. Anyway we stopped there to chill for a bit. It was then that we decided to walk to the arc thing…and let me tell you…HOLY SHIT that’s a lot of walking. It must have been an easy 30 minutes of walking before we gave in and bought a metro card and traveled with the metro for the rest of the evening. When we arrived at the arc (Let me look up what the hell I’m talking about…It’s called Cinquantenaire) we stopped there for a bit to chill and around 5pm we finally started to head back to the hotel after being up and about in Brussels from 11am. On our way back to the hotel we stopped to buy some lovely treats to snack on. We also bought a bottle of champagne, candles and bubble bath for a romantic night in the hotel room. On our way back to the hotel we passed a street artist and I was so interested in his style that I bought a little artwork of his.
We lit the candles, made a relaxing bubble bath and just sat back and enjoyed the moment. I made Onno a beard and a great hairdo with the bubbles while he failed in doing mine. Naturally we got distracted – damn it Cassandra. We tickled each other’s toes. Around 9pm we set out for a pasta meal because well cravings. The Italian restaurant where the staff spoke French was beautiful and the meal was, insert some fancy word for delicious, exquisite – yes I googled it. Over our meal and a very tasty red wine we talked about a subject that was an obvious tension bringer, Dana*.
Alright folks that’s where I cut you off. I just can’t handle more cringe right now. Reading about this fight made me face palm myself. Truly so ridiculous in the long scheme of things but I will still write about it. Just not in this blog. My teeth are honestly aching from this. I’ve never cringed so hard in my life. Are you cringing?
Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!
PS: In part two I will actually give some travel tips from my experience in Brussels. I don’t know how much is valid now nearly two years later but let’s see.
South Africa is truly a beautiful country even if I do have to say so myself but I don’t because once you see it you will completely agree with me. It has the mountains. It has the sea. It has the wildlife. It has the great food. It has so much more but I can’t really come up with them now but seriously it’s a pretty good deal. Take a look at this video that the YouTube channel ‘We Travel The World’ made. It’s pretty well done.
Now that you’ve watched the video (hands up if you actually watched it!) and you’re interested in the country here is a few things you should know. I first want to say that even though I would love to be able to sugar coat things and really sell you on my home country…I’m not going to do that because I want everyone to enjoy their visit there but most importantly stay safe. As horrible as it is, South Africa isn’t that safe anymore and tourist are the top victims. I’m sorry but it’s true and not just for South Africa it’s for every place in the world.
The other day I was talking to a friend who showed interested in visiting South Africa. I just started to lists great places to go too and what you should keep into account and etc. It was a lot and I’m not even sure if most of it settled so I figured a blog post dedicated to travel tips.
I’m going to start off in Cape Town mostly because that’s where I spend most of my life and I actually know my stuff in that area. So like most countries you can go through a travel company but I’m writing this blog to those who are do it on your own types of travelers. Renting a car is incredibly important. Public transports isn’t a thing. There is Ubers but not in all the small towns and can be quite expensive. Car rental companies are luckily all over the place, heck there is one right at the airport. Now because you don’t know the area GPS is going to make a massive difference. I would recommend you spend the extra money on insurance. There is a lot of hit and runs, or scratch and bumps in South Africa. You could’ve parked your car and went out and about and come back with a massive scratch on the side or a bump in the back. The last thing you want is to have that type of damage on you. Luckily the petrol isn’t that expensive with most rental cars so really, get that insurance.
Okay so there is a lot to see and experience in Cape Town itself, there is probably a lot of information about all the tourist sites in the city on the web. Here is a link to one — http://www.touropia.com/tourist-attractions-in-cape-town/ — I’m going to talk a little more about the towns and experiences close by. I will be up front, you will be traveling a lot via the car but I promise you some of it will make it worthwhile. I will also recommend you try to find a place to stay outside the big cities. Cape Town hotels can be quite expensive and you can get just as great sea view on the side of a mountain with a hour drive. Don’t worry. I will tell you all about it. There is a small beach town really close to Cape Town, Hout Bay, you can look into staying there. The views are pretty amazing.
The main thing I would recommend is the table mountain I mean just look at this view.
I’m going to recommended a small but sweet beach town called Gordon’s Bay. It’s where I used to stay so I can tell you that it’s a pretty great spot to spend some time. The drive from Cape Town to there is very short, here is a screenshot from Google. There is a few things I want to tell you about driving in South Africa. We drive on the left side of the road. We have stop streets and we call traffic lights robots. We also have taxis which are famous for being the worst drivers around. They’re not like you’re imagining that I can tell you now. It’s like a mini bus – always over crowded, painted with graffiti art and a little beat up – and they drive however they want too. They will speed up next to you, half push you out of the road, go in front of you and then suddenly stop on the side of the road to drop someone off. It’s very annoying but just keep an eye out. Also while we’re talking about pigs on the road. When a traffic light turns green of red, don’t immediately floor it and go for it. Give it five seconds and double check there isn’t a straggler trying to make it through the red light. I almost got killed once. Seriously just look. Don’t trust the other people on the road.
Try to avoid driving on the highway in the middle of the night and never stop. Never go into the townships, you will know what it is when you see it. I mean no offence but that’s the last place you want to be as a tourist in the middle of the night. Unfortunately there is a lot of people who would steal that nice car and all your belongings right under from you. I really don’t want to scare you but all countries have areas where bad folk gather a little more. Just keep your doors lock and don’t stop on the side of the highway if you can help it. Awhile ago the people from the township would throw rocks from the bridge over the highway to get the cars to stop. Once the cars stop, friends waiting on the side of the road pounce.
Okay the drive to Gordon’s Bay is quite nice. Close by you have Stellenbosch which is small little university towns that’s famous for great wine and going out to party. Somerset West is just as close, which has a great nature reserve if you want to go for a hike. Here is the pictures I took when I hiked that nature reserve. It’s a hike I’ve done quite a few times and I enjoy it every time.
Strand is next to Somerset West, it has a nice beach but Gordon’s bay is literally a throw away with a small beach too. Here is a picture I took when I was still there.
After you seen and done what you wanted to do in Gordon’s Bay here is a great drive I want you to take. It’s in the mountains. It’s a beautiful ride. On the one side you have you mountain and on the other side you have you ocean. There is many beautiful small towns that you can stop and maybe even stay a night. Look on airbnb for a possible place to stay but there is hotels if you’re feeling fancy. The dollars/euros/pounds compared to the ZAR is quite nice. You can go all out for a lot less money in South Africa.
You make this a day drive trip as there is quite a few pretty small towns. Betty’s Bay is beautiful small beach town. You will find penguins there! Kleinmond also has it’s attractions to tourist but I want to take you too Hermanus. They are pretty famous for their whale watching points (although they’re only around certain times in the year. Find more information here — http://www.hermanus.co.za/whale-watching —) but they also have some great fish food. The restaurant on the edge, wait let me find their website (—http://www.bientangscave.com/ —) has the best fish food I’ve tried in a long time. Their prawns is magical! The view from the restaurant is also pretty beautiful. Seriously if you’re in Hermanus GO THERE!
Here is some of the views you can find on this drive.
From Hermanus I’m going to take you down a very famous drive in South Africa, the garden route. It’s a drive I’ve taken so many times in my life its actually almost painful. After this route I’m going to take you down a little bit more before I end this part one. As you can see you can’t see the entire country in three weeks. I would break it up if I were you. I mean we’re just touching the surface but you’re seeing quite a bit of the Western and Eastern Cape. Alright let’s go back to the garden route.
Here is a website that has a ton of information about everything. I mean why would I go through everything when this website has already done it for me. — http://www.gardenroute.co.za/ — I would recommended you stop in as many towns that pulls your attention as you can. My favourite places that I would recommend a overnight stop is Mossel Bay, Knysna (Sedgefield and Plettenberg Bay is just as beautiful and a short drive away), Jeffrey’s Bay and Port Elizabeth.
Mossel Bay is a harbour town with many great tourist stops. Knysna is beautiful with its forest walks and so much more. I would recommend you go to the heads and this restaurant. They’re food is amazing — http://www.sirocco.co.za/ — Sedgefield has a great flea and farmer market every Saturday right on the outside. You have to drive through but you can’t miss it. Let me see if I can find a link to it — http://www.wildoatsmarket.co.za/ — Plettenberg Bay has a beautiful beach and let’s not even begin to talk about all the little tourist parks on the way there. There is a elephant park (Here is the link for you — https://knysnaelephantpark.co.za/ —), a wolf sanctuary (Here is the link for you — http://wolfsanctuary.co.za/ —) and so much more. Google will probably give you more information. There is also a great nature park just outside Knysna. Here is the link — https://www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route/ — You can even stay inside the park and I’m sure it would be a wonderful experience. Just look up ‘knysna tsitsikamma national park’ for more information. There is some great actives you can do there.
I personally went to the wolf sanctuary a few years back with my dad and I loved every second of it mostly because I’m obsessed with wolves. Here is a few photos from that day.
There is so many things you can do that I would seriously recommended you plan the drive and look up every town and see what there is to do that you would like. It’s a big country hey. If I have to go through every single town and what you can do there this would become a very long post (it already is but still). Also stop in Oudshoorn if you can because this — https://www.gardenroute.com/Cango-Caves-Garden-Route-South-Africa_content_op_view_id_41 — There is so many other places I could go into detail that it’s almost difficult to decide on one thing. Maybe I should make a separate blog and go through every town…someone probably did that. Google will probably pull through where I don’t. I mean I found this website after one second of searching — https://www.goatsontheroad.com/top-stops-garden-route-south-africa/ — so just take the time to look into everything. The last stop I want to recommend is Port Elizabeth. They have a small elephant slash game reserve park there that I would recommend. You drive through in your car and you might just sit between elephants.
Here is the photos we took when we went there. It was amazing.
You can also stay inside the park and do tour through them which is probably an experience by itself. It’s a smaller park I mean if you think game reserve park in South Africa you think — https://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/ — but that’s on the other side and can be a completely other trip all together. otherwise you can also just trade in your rental car at Port Elizabeth, catch a plane to Johannesburg, get a new car and go from there. Depends on how you want to go about it. From Port Elizabeth you can go to East London but I have never been there personally so Google will have to fill in the blanks.
I think that’s about it for part one. There is just a few things I want to recommend for the entire country all together. Mug ‘n Bean is a restaurant you will find all over. They’re food is high quality and pretty great. Woolworths almost always have the nicest fruit and vegetables (they are very strict with they’re quality). I would also recommend you buy some clothes there if you need some because they’re quality is quite nice. It’s like a cheat. We bought work pants for my husband when he was in South Africa and for the price of one here in Europe we could get two to three really great quality ones. There is Truworths too but use your own judgement. It’s quite easy to see which is great quality clothing and which is not. For the ladies you can stop at Foschini for makeup and perfume. They have some brands that paying in ZAR can save you a bit of money. YOU NEED TO TRY A BRAAI, there is probably some restaurants that can give you something similar but I’m sure if you go to a park or something the opportunity will arise. It’s a barbeque (but don’t call it that) but South Africans are quite passionate about their meat on the fire. It’s really great though. I saw some airbnb places offer a Braai with the package. Safety wise don’t walk around in the dead of the night in side streets. Lock your car and don’t leave valuables in eye sight. Hold tight onto your handbag and don’t walk around with a phone in your hand (outside) if you can help it. Don’t leave your wallet or phone on the table at a restaurant where someone can grab it. Just be conscious about it and you will be fine.
There is so much more I can tell you but I should probably end it here before this gets ridiculously long. I’ve never really explored the countries at the top but I will do some research and ask friends and family and make a part two sometime in the next few weeks. If you end up going to South Africa I hope you would enjoy it fully. It’s truly a beautiful country with great food, people and experiences.
I wish you all the best and I will see you in a click!
First of all I want to clarify that the girl I traveled with was awesome and we’re still in touch. She made the trip bearable but the both of us expected more and I would never in my life use this tour company again. You will have to drag my dead body onto their bus and lock me up in their little ‘hotel’ rooms. I’m not going to mention the travel company because honestly badmouthing is bad karma and I don’t want any of that on my page. Let’s just call them Fudge Monkey only because I like the name and it makes me chuckle.
Alright so first off I discovered the Fudge Monkey Tours online after hours of searching trying to find a way for a poor Au pair to travel and see another big city in Europe. At this time I had no idea I would end up moving to the Netherlands so I was just trying to see as much as Europe I could before I go back to South Africa. However as I was saving up money to pay for my next Au pair year (in America) I didn’t have a ton of money lying around so traveling wasn’t something I could afford. You had to go about it a different way and really look for great deals online. Fudge Monkey Tours seemed like the perfect deal. They had all the right headlines. Three Days In Berlin. Three Days in Prague. Three Days in Brussels. Three Days in Paris. They even had one day and five day deals. Travel and Accommodation cost included? Count me in! There prices was right inside my budget and it all seemed perfect. I reached out to another Au pair who also wanted to travel and we went together. It was one of those things you had to buy two tickets so two people as they don’t have one person rooms. We booked our ticket with no idea what our future holds for us.
My first BIG problem with this tour was the bus ride. Oh I shiver just by remembering it. Now there is one thing you should know, I’ve been traveling on buses since I turned 9. It was never short rides, most of the time it was around 10 hours of travel time on my own so I could go visit my dad. I’ve sat next to those in your face, hear, feel and smell me people for so long I wanted to jump out of a moving bus. I’ve had a bus ride where the bus broke down in the middle of nowhere two hours in and we sat at that spot for two hours before we drove for one hour before we stopped again for three hours. After the bus was finally fixed I had another six-seven hours ahead of me. I also started my first ever period on a bus and had to panic shop at a bus stop and buy pads for the very first time. So my tolerance for bad bus rides are high and when I tell you this bus ride was bad, believe me. It was bad. Now there wasn’t a lot of in your face, hear, feel and smell me people. There was some loud people and some smells really nothing to out of the ordinary. The thing that really grinds my gears was the music that played, the fact that I had no internet connection, over giggly people around me and the worst thing yet…the bus driver was driving so slow a fucking snail could pass him. We stopped what felt like every two minutes and what was supposed to be a seven hour drive turned into a fourteen hour drive. I can’t handle slow drivers. It just rubs me up the wrong way. I would rather sit next to a constant farting person for one hour then sit in pure luxury with an internet connection for 14 hours with an average speed of 60km/h (on a highway. I mean buddy you can go 100km/h.) It’s my pet peeve. Slow drivers is my Achilles heel.
The next thing goes hand in hand with my imagination and fine print. I’ve mentioned before that accommodation was included and in my head we will be quite close in the Berlin city center, so night exploring would be an option. What we got was a semi creepy old hotel (but more like a motel) a 45min drive away from the hustle and bustle. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t good either. Our room didn’t even get a WIFI connection so it was very annoying. The place did offer breakfast free of charge but dinner you had to pay quite a lot of money so we ventured out and luckily found a McDonald’s around the corner and that’s where we ate every night.
The first day in Berlin the tour bus took us to a few tourist stops and what I didn’t like was the time factor that went with it. They were like okay so you have 15 minutes at this stop. Take your pictures and get a move on. If you’re not on the bus in 15 minutes we’re leaving. So I was obviously stressing out. There wasn’t a lot of WIFI points so I was on my own if shit hits the fan. Around the afternoon they dropped us in the city center and arranged to meet us at the spot in 4-6 hours. This I really enjoyed. My friend and I had so much fun walking around the city and seeing everything there was to see at that spot. We walked so much my feet was killing me. After the bus picked us up they showed us a few spots before we headed back to the motel around dinner time. We had McDonald’s and considered our plans for the night. The two of us wanted to go back to the city for the night crawl scene. There was a bus stop close to the motel but our entire stay there I never saw the bus go by. We checked the time but the bus never showed and the problem was the time they run and how to buy a ticket and etc. Basically we were stranded. A taxi ride would be ridiculously expensive and not worth it. It was disappointing but we had one more full day in Berlin and decided to make the most of it. Oh the fine print. The second day in Berlin the bus dropped us off at another location in the city and this time around. It was right in the middle of all the luxury shops and as an Au pair you can’t even buy a lipstick much less actually shop. We made the most of it by exploring the streets but all in all we weren’t that happy with the stop. We made up for it by drowning one litre of beer each in record time. Around dinner time the bus picked us up and we visited a few more tourists stops but nothing glamorous. The bus driver dropped us off and arranged the leaving time the next day.
And you guessed it. The drive back was snail slow. The first stop back in the Netherlands I practically jumped off and took a train. The train ride would be quicker than this guy. 90 minutes later I knocked on my boyfriends door (now husband) and ate pizza (he ordered and had it ready for me). All in all the friend I was with truly made a bad situation great but I won’t ever go back to Berlin. The people were rude and impatient (although I get it. Tourists are annoying). From my little travels I’ve made Berlin is by far my worst experience. Although I guess the title was semi misleading. You guys probably expected something straight out of hell and not just slow bus ride but guys. Slow drivers makes me want to pull my hair out of my scalp. Fucking 14 hours on a 7 hour drive. I would rather eat toe nails. The city itself probably has more to offer and could be a great experience…I’m just not interested to go back very soon. I would rather visit the other cities in Europe on my bucket list than go back.