The Super Model of Swimming Pools Goes to South Africa

Seriously, would you ever return to a country for a swimming pool? Especially when swimming is not really your thing?

Well… some swimming pools are so beautifully situated such as the one shown above in Graskop, South Africa (Panorama Chalets) that yes.. I would consider dragging my family to South Africa to experience this pool, situated on the edge of a cliff over looking the Graskop gorge. I have been twice and this pool, stands out as one of my top memories of South Africa and that is competing with charging elephants in Kruger Park, Table Mountain in Cape Town and the oh so cute penguins on Boulder’s Beach outside Simon’s Town. That says a lot for a simple swimming pool.

When we were on our honeymoon, it was a pool at IL Poggio dei Pettirossi, on a hill overlooking the valley of Bevagna in Italy that made us miss our kids the most. We couldn’t even enjoy it knowing that they would have died and gone to heaven if they were swimming in it overlooking the Umbrian valley and all its sparkling lights at night. Chris honestly said we had to go back to Italy so they could swim in it… and yes, see Rome and Venice and a million other sights but that pool… again stands out.

We didn’t have Abby with us in Guatemala and we missed her the most at the Jungle Lodge in Tikal National Park when we floated in the pool watching and listening to the spider monkeys above in the trees.

So seriously… a pool can definitely play a part in a family’s travel experience when backpacking. I know of some “beyond brilliant ones” in Bali too… another reason to return there as well 🙂

Why Imperfect Trumps When Travelling

It started a long time ago for me and has continued now that I travel with my family. I am a “buck the traditional” kind of woman (“maiden name” – ridiculous words… but I still have mine; quit “traditional” law the minute I became a lawyer; had one daughter and ended up with four daughters (happily); changed careers many times and probably will once more. So needless to say, it is not a huge surprise that my favourite cities are NOT Paris and London as I much prefer grittier Amsterdam. When choosing Spanish language schools in Guatemala, Quetzaltenango beat out perfect Antigua so it was not too shocking that as a family we preferred Lake Atitlan villages again over Antigua, the “jewel” of Guatemala. After visiting Mexico, Chris declared Patzcuaro over San Miguel de Allende, another “expat haven” which is “perfectly aesthetic” but less us, I guess. Hands down we loved Essaouria over Marrakech and Fez in Morocco, strangely for some but again that is how we roll. I do have to admit that I love Bangkok but not for its touristy temples or other “must see” items. I prefer to wander, explore, people watch and get lost. Phnom Penh is my idea of perfectly “imperfect” but that was years ago, and I fear that it might have changed; as most places do. And I know I am very odd… but Cape Town was not a favourite for me; it was beautiful but not me. I much preferred the wild scenery of Lesotho, Swaziland and parts of Kwazulu Natal. When I look at my pictures, I gravitate to the regular, to the gritty side of life. Maybe that is why I am so obsessed with India because it has both; perfect and imperfect; all at the same time. Soon two of our blended family may be headed to a new city (one that when we tell people, the response is usually… umm) so granted to say, it is no Paris, no Vienna, no Florence, no Singapore. But because it will most likely be “perfectly imperfect” , we are not worried, we will be content and of course, find things to love.

A South African Sight I Will Never Forget

Simply put, one of my top 3 days work wise ever. Waking up (or did I even sleep that night?) I headed to my townships east of Joburg. It was April 27, 1994, the morning of South Africa’s first election open to all citizens of South Africa. The people were waiting but this was no ordinary line. This was the most amazing heart warming line I have ever witnessed. The smiles, the joy, the excitement were overwhelming.

I enter the voting station and begin to observe. However, for many people, secret ballot or not, there was no secret; they wanted Mandela! As some required assistance and reassurance, they would gesture me over and sing something that sounded like Votela Mandela and I would show them the spot to mark. I can still hear those words today.

The Jury is Out on Joburg

3 months in Joburg provided enough stuff to last 3 years.

A typical day long ago looked like this:

1 Wake up cold (yes, cold)

2 Slip on ice outside the gated fortress (or otherwise known as my rental house)

3 Decide whether it is safe to walk outside fortress alone to actually try to get some exercise

4 Decide not to and return to house for freezing swim in backyard (need exercise that badly)

5 Read paper (oh, more tourists eaten by lions in Joburg’s lion park…no you can’t just get out of your car to touch)

6 Drive to work on left side of road and park car in scary underground garage; check surroundings and quickly vacate area

7 Go up elevator in office building as business women pull out their guns from their purses to apply lipstick

8 Go to food court in shopping mall with many others; safety in numbers

9 Run and hide behind counter in store when a protest enters the shopping mall; stay there long time

10 Visit my electoral area with the South African defence force in hard vehicle (yes very hard… think tank)

11 Quickly enter local school in my townships to check locations for election – my favourite part of the day 🙂

12 Leave work and drive through red lights on the way home; don’t stop vehicle ever

13 Go grocery shopping with others; like many others; don’t think about going to the public washroom alone; drag friends

14 Invite friends over; check to see they are your friends through the camera security screen; open outside gate to fortress from inside house button

15 Cook braai (SA barbeque) and drink – another personal favourite 🙂

Repeat the next day except for the one time that the bomb went off in my office building and then that day I spent wandering the streets 😦