Friday, May 22, 2015

Limpopo Valley arrival....

After an overnight flight from London to Johannesburg and an hour long drive to another airport we piled into a couple of small planes to get to Botswana. What was supposed to be an hour flight was much longer as we bumped along looking for literally "a" hole to get beneath the cloud layer and land at our destination. I kept sipping fizzy water to still my stomach {I was facing backwards} and looking around for vessels {other than my handbag} to grab in case things got desperate. When he found "the hole", and we all saw it, our pilot took a severe left banked turn and then dove into it like a pro. I don't know if anyone was able to take a breath as we pushed our way down through the blinding, thick layers of clouds but soon, we were clear and able to level out and catch our first glimpse of the Limpopo Valley.

Everyone was beyond relieved when we finally bumped down on the airstrip at the Limpopo Valley Airfield.

The thatched roof and rough hewed architecture quickly helped me to forget about the rough flight. 

I loved the natural elements, the stones, the rustic lanterns, the log supports and then again, my favorite, the thatched roof.

The crew from Limpopo Safaris, who we grew to love over our 8 day adventure, were there to welcome us and helped us to settle into a properly worn and rugged open air Landcrusier. 

We didn't realize it at the time, but it was a good thing that the area had been experiencing an unusual level of precipitation prior to our arrival, because it resulted in less dust for our rides, more lush vegetation and plenty of thick mud on the tires.

As we bound along the muddy roads we saw a few animals and took in the earthy, grassy fragrance of the damp Savannah. Then we pulled into Mashatu camp.

 I was immediately entranced by the 2 bomas, one for gathering before and after outings, breakfast and beverages and the other for dining. 

Next, we settled into our tents. 

For the first two nights we stayed in these tents, set on a teak platforms. I have such fond memories of this tent living, curling up on my cot at night, listening to the lions, hyenas and birds in the distance.

In the mornings we would be awoken by our gentle~giant guide Wes delivering us "good morning coffee" just after lighting the hot water heaters. In our outdoor bathrooms we'd splash off watching the sun rise behind the trees and listening to the birds and monkeys screeching overhead.

But before I experienced that, we were collected in the gathering boma, to have a glass of wine and meet all of the incredible people with whom we would share the week.

Then lunch was served, in my absolute favorite dining situation... elegant food in a rustic setting.

elegant food in a rustic setting
The elegance of this food was that it was so wholesome, delicious and satisfying, yet made under very rugged {by our standards} conditions by our beloved and talented cooks everyday. 

One of our favorites was our first meal {which they kindly replicated on our last day}. Around the table we concurred that this chicken was naturally much more flavorful than any chicken any of us had ever tasted. It was served with a little yellow squash tart and salads, I couldn't have asked for anything more 

{but the wildflower at each place setting was a nice touch}.

After lunch, we were off to the stables where we would meet our horses and take "the test" to see if we were actually capable of cantering across the desert and running away from whatever dangerous wildlife we might encounter. 

The General

Saturday, May 16, 2015

revisiting Poilâine, Paris...

The beginning of my ongoing love affair with France began in Paris. Mr. Splendid and I used to love staying on the Île Saint Louis, a quaint little neighborhood, on a natural island, right in the middle of Paris. If you happen to be traveling to La Ville Lumiere this summer I highly recommend you look into staying at one of these charming boutique hotels, Jeu de Paume {originally a tennis court for the royals built in the 17th century}, or Deux Iles, a former mansion also built in the 1600's. Or, at least stroll over there one night to see the lights of Notre Dame on the neighboring Île de la Cité and have the very best ice cream cone in town at Berthillon.

No trip to Paris was complete without a visit the original Poilâine bakery, at 8 rue de Cherche Midi, a family run bakery where bread has been created with stone ground flour and sea salt in wood fired ovens since 1924. This bread is so renowned in Paris that in many of the bistros you can pay extra to use Poilâine bread for your Croque Monsieur or Croque Madame {the lavish ham and cheese concoction topped with a fried egg}.

It was so nice to catch up with this old friend in London where they now have two stores, one in Chelsea and one in Belgravia. Reportedly it took them years to get the permit to open there due to the wood fired oven needs {the 1866 Great Fire of London started in a bakery}.

Here we munched on tartines with a variety of toppings made from their now world famous, four pound loaves of bread. 

Poilâine created this loaf because he found it kept longer than smaller loaves and it could be cut into larger slices, toasted and topped with whatever sounds delicious.

Then we left for the airport.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Chelsea market...

Woke up, it was a Chelsea Morning and the first thing that I knew I was surround with the most wonderful sight, sounds, smells and tastes.... the Chelsea market may well offer the best buffet in London.

 It was another glorious spring day in the UK so the market was abuzz, we all shopped and shared and grazed our way through the stalls.

They may not look that appetizing in this photo, but one of my favorite things were these delightfully tender dumplings, filled with chicken and pork and plenty of flavor.

There was such a wide range of noshing options, classic meat pies, 

Oysters on the 1/2 shell 

with a vat of mignonette sauce {be still my heart!},

local breads and cheeses,

colorful salads and falafels,

local lox,

massive quantities of paella in the making,

amazing duck confit sandwiches,

with a tapestry of sauces to customize each bite,

and yards and yards of Turkish Delights.

To drink there were fresh juices sweetened with fresh sugar cane;

and Prosecco {if you like that kind of thing}.

So you really don't need to bother with a foofy hotel for brunch next time you're in London, just take over one of the umbrella covered tables, enjoy some serious people watching and an amazing al fresco buffet.

On a side note, do you use Argan Oil? I had brought some for the trip as a space saving measure, because I could use one small bottle to moisturize my face, hair, body, cuticles, etc. I started using it a month or so ago and since I've started using it on my face {usually in conjunction with a moisturizer} my skin has looked so much healthier, never dry or flaky.

There are many brands you can find at health and beauty shops, but, in case you're wondering this is what dried Argan fruit looks like, all of the fruit is grown in South-Western Morocco {hence the first and most famous brand name to include Argan, Moroccan Oil}. 

But, I didn't know that this oil can be eaten as well, the Arganic company sells both a cosmetic and culinary versions of the oil {both are organic}. The oil has a warm, nutty flavor and a beautiful golden color. You can use it as you would use an olive oil, on salads, to dip bread into, etc. 

Counting down the hours to our flight to Johannesburg....

Monday, May 11, 2015

See you at No. 11....

The riders were corralled at No. 11 Codogan Gardens , a dapper little hideaway in Chelsea.

My carry-on bag reminded me that the big city was not my final destination,

so I loved soaking up the scenery as it rushed by my classic London Taxi.

Cosy and comfortable No. 11 is concealed behind the classic brick facades of Codogan Gardens. 

All of the furnishings and details make you feel like you're staying with some fabulously eccentric Auntie rather than in a hotel.

Some of the quarters are a little close but sumptuous details like upholstered walls, marble bathrooms and endless bottles of water somehow open up the space.

Everyone scattered like filly's to take care of last minute details before our flight to Africa. Spring had sprung and the flowers and blue sky almost looked as though it had been painted for our visit.

That night we reconvened at the bar for a kick off celebration for the adventure to come. 

When we hit the pillow that night we all knew it would be our last night in a traditional bed within 4-walls for awhile.