Tag Archives: eastern cape

Hidden South African Gems – Port Alfred

I officially graduated from Rhodes University. I am no longer a Rhodent, I now part of the upper echelon of Old Rhodians. Supposedly. But #Rhodent4Life!

My gran was supposed to come down to South Africa from the UK to celebrate my grad, but her goat attacked her. How’s that for an excuse? It was a pretty bad injury, and I’m glad she stayed home and rested and recovered, though it did make some of our “grad-weekend” plans seem a bit dull…

Port Alfred

We figured we could make a beach weekend out of a weekend in Grahamstown, so we booked in a B&B in Port Alfred that was absolutely stunning, right on the beach front. PA is only 40 minutes away (30 if you’re one of the students I tutored last year who did the trip daily), so it seemed convenient at the time. It wasn’t really, because we spent most of our time in GHT, so it was a little bit wasted. But gorgeous nonetheless.

I know my mom will probably hate me for putting this up, but she is beautiful and it's her birthday on Saturday, so all my love to her, lying on some super comfy bed in a really neatly and perfectly finished B&B bedroom

I know my mom will probably hate me for putting this up, but she is beautiful and it’s her birthday on Saturday, so all my love to her, lying on some super comfy bed in a really neatly and perfectly finished B&B bedroom

I was glad to have the opportunity to visit PA again, as beach trips were seriously under-utilized in my time at Rhodes. It made for a great day trip, though one that was difficult to over do, because it was just that little bit too far away. I do regret not spending more time checking out Bathurst as well, which is a quaint little place.

Taught mom how to take a selfie. Not sure if it was a mistake to have done that or not...?

Taught mom how to take a selfie. Not sure if it was a mistake to have done that or not…?

Port Alfred is basically just another one of those gorgeous small towns along the South African coast. It is especially beautiful because it is situated in the Eastern Cape, and somehow most places there are beautiful. It’s a stunning coastal visit that still holds it’s small-town simplicity.

Rock pools

The kind of place that makes you want to attempt to capture each crashing wave and the incredible rows of shells, and the crystal clarity of the water, but its just too beautiful to ever adequately do it justice

We got a local’s recommendation to check out the Three Sisters rock formation just up the coast from Port Alfred, about a 15 minute drive. We were about 45 minutes too late, but if you ever get the chance, make sure to go just before and for the duration of low tide. It truly is a wonder to behold.

This seemed like a good idea in the time before I did it. Then I realised that I am pathetic and spider webs can be icky but it was too late to turn back...

This seemed like a good idea in the time before I did it. Then I realised that I am pathetic and spider webs can be icky but it was too late to turn back… I promise I didn’t Photoshop that sky either.

Port Alfred is just another one of those places that reminds you just how beautiful South Africa is, and how lucky we are to have such simple yet breathtaking places right on our doorstep, and a reminder to take advantage of it before we as humans do the inevitable.

Jay Bay for a Day

Although I am not a huge fan of staying in the remote isolation that is Grahamstown, staying in the Eastern Cape does have a few perks. It can be especially beautiful, and staying in G’Town means I’m not too far away from places that offer much in the way of aesthetics (well, until I go back to Gauteng, which happens to be this coming weekend).

One weekend, we casually decided to pop on over to Jeffrey’s Bay. It’s less than two hours away, so it is perfect for a day visit (or a night over, if you have the time). Unfortunately, we went on a day that was particularly dull, so we didn’t get to see J-Bay in its true glory.

Let's go to the beach, beach, let's go get - oh wait...

Let’s go to the beach, beach, let’s go get – oh wait…

Obviously, I was most excited to have new foods to try. I was in my element, and I nearly bought a brownie at every place we stopped. But that is why we have budgets. It was a charming and new culinary experience, and J-Bay certainly had a bit to offer.

Love Food Cafe had a perfect menu for my tastes, but unfortunately don't cater for gluten intolerant folk

Love Food Cafe had a perfect menu for my tastes, but unfortunately don’t cater for gluten intolerant folk

The motivation for going to this beach town, known to me for its surfing reputation, was the factory shopping. RVCA, billabong, and other cool outlet stores were calling (after all, summer was meant to arrive soon, which means bikini season!). I am almost as obsessed with bikinis as I am with brownies and food, so endless cheap bikinis was like a tiny slice of heaven. Bikinis tend to be more expensive than brownies, which is unfortunate, but not too much so when you’re in J-Bay! Though, you can’t have both at the same time with maximum effectiveness, if you know what I mean. Why can’t we have our cake and eat it? Because there are only so many hours in a day that one can spend exercising.

Factory shopping is the best kind, am I right?

Factory shopping is the best kind, am I right?

I love to shop, but I never buy anything. I think I have a fear of the commitment to the clothing, because I just love to look at it all, but I am scared to try new things. So I didn’t buy anything, but that doesn’t mean that the retail therapy didn’t work.

We were also fortunate enough to see a little bit of a surfing competition, but by this stage the weather was really rubbish, so we returned to our backwards little G’Town.

Junior Surfing competition

Junior Surfing competition

The best pizza in the country… Apparently

Public holidays are great, especially when you get given money to buy whatever food you want. Granted, it was a limited amount, but still, it’s money that you didn’t have before, and if you were smart, you spread it out nicely over a few meals. Unlike me, who spent it all in one excursion. This is not a bad thing though. It’s not every day you get an opportunity to visit a place you’ve never been before, AND get to try what has been dubbed as the best pizza in the country. So all in all it was a pretty successful midweek public holiday.

When people hear that I’m studying in Grahamstown or the Eastern Cape, they immediately ask if I’ve been to the big pineapple. I still haven’t been to see it, but at least now I can say I’ve been to the dorp that it is situated in, Bathurst. This is kind of a big deal because it is only a 30 minute drive away, it’s unfortunate that I hadn’t been sooner.

Wood fired pizza ovens make the best kinds of pizza

Wood fired pizza ovens make the best kinds of pizza

Pic-Kwik’s menu proclaims “Best pizza in South Africa”, and, as a pizza-lover, this really had me excited. The people I went there with had been there two weeks earlier, and they kept raving about it, although this could have been to make me jealous as well. We sat down for our lunch in the dying-summer sun, in a garden adorned with hair curlers, computer keyboards, and all sorts of other incredibly random items. It certainly had character.

What can you spot in the tree?

What can you spot in the tree?

At times like this, you need to ensure that you don’t waste time deliberating: pick the first thing that you see that appeals to you on the menu. I chose a Milo milkshake, and it was definitely a great choice. I had misgivings at first after I had placed my order and proceeded to peruse the rest of the beverage menu, but I was not disappointed when my milkshake came. You can’t go wrong with that malt-y goodness. It kinda makes me miss Milo Krushers from KFC, but then I realised the milkshake was better. So that says something, if you’ve ever tried one of those Krushers.

Possibly the best drink on the menu

Possibly the best drink on the menu

We had a meander around the second-hand/antique goods store. They had the most wonderful assortment of bizarre things in there, some of which kind of freaked me out (clowns!) and some which truly fascinated me and my friends (“I think it’s a coffee grinder…” “Actually I think it’s a butter churner…” We never got conclusive evidence for what it actually was). Then there were the classic items: old coins, and old type writer, a mix match of mugs, and what could likely be first editions of some of the greatest classic books.

The clown... it's staring at you...

The clown… it’s staring at you…

I don't even understand...

I don’t even understand…

"I have no idea what this is..."

“I have no idea what this is…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So much junk!

So much junk!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They even had old records (LPs?)

They even had old records (LPs?)

Old school

Old school

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the pizza finally came, there was a flurry (at least for me) to swop pieces with my company. That crispy thin base, that melted cheese, those assortments of toppings: all things that make me happy for the existence of pizza. I had a Southwell, named after a place that we drove past on the way to Bathurst. Bacon and chicken is what had me going for it, they’re not paired up often enough at conventional pizza places, and I do think I will do it again next time I get to “make-my-own”.

My Southwell - Bacon and chicken pizza

My Southwell – Bacon and chicken pizza

It was good, don’t get me wrong. Unfortunately, I think they could have done more with it. The bacon was clearly bacon, and it tasted pretty much like bacon, but it didn’t have that happiness-in-a-pan bacon flavour, the one that makes your whole house smell like bacon. The chicken had a similar problem: there was nothing special to it, it pretty much tasted just like cooked chicken, which is a good thing, but it’s also how it should be, so nothing beyond expectations of a cooked meal. Those two ingredients were thus merely average. As a pizza though, it was great: deliciously melted cheese, a trickily thin base that was successfully crispified, but not burnt, and not chewy. Overall, a well-made pizza, with cooked toppings.

Possibly the second best pizza of the day

Possibly the second best pizza of the day

The Salami bomb pizza, with some additional garlic and peppadews

The Salami bomb pizza, with some additional garlic and peppadews

IMG_4479

Mmmm, cooked pineapple

Spinach pizza

Spinach pizza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other pizzas were quite nice as well. The Salami Bomb was subtly meaty, the spinach and feta pizza somehow ended up a bit soggy in one patch, but, so long as you really enjoy the taste of spinach, it was a good pizza, one that knew just how to emphasise spinach flavour. The other to pizzas don’t stand out in my memory apart from: cooked pineapple (I’m not a fan…) on the one, and peppadews on the other, which complemented the meat on that pizza quite well.

Definitely worth the trip though, if you enjoy pizza. It certainly deserves to be near the top of the pizza crop in South Africa, but not quite in first position.

Dessert was an educational experience: Dutch Speculaas – a traditional spicy tart-cake thing with almonds. This was my first time hearing about it, and I was told that it involved chocolate, so I was almost disappointed by the cinnamon-y gingerness I found. It turned out to be great, however. I need to learn how to make this and publish the recipe so that you can enjoy this little piece of yumminess from my country.

Not quite a chocolate tart like I had been led to believe, but a deliciously spicy traditional (apparently) pudding

Not quite a chocolate tart like I had been led to believe, but a deliciously spicy traditional (apparently) pudding

It was a public holiday well-spent, and definitely worth the visit for anyone passing nearby. It needs to build a reputation like that of the Pig and Whistle across the way (which I have also yet to visit…), so that everyone will learn to appreciate great pizza, and share my love for great food.

Kettle baths and loads of laundry

(This post originally featured on my other blog, but I don’t post from there anymore)

The water supply was dodgy from Sunday lunchtime, something we became aware of as we were served our lunch on polystyrene plates with plastic knives and forks. This is becoming more and more of a problem, as it is now Wednesday, and we are still unable to flush our toilets, or have a shower.

Luckily, we have rainwater tanks behind our building. Unfortunately, it hasn’t rained in a few weeks, so this supply is dwindling as well (unsurprisingly, as it has to cater to the water needs of 73 girls), and our neighbouring building of 88 boys has run out of their rainwater supply completely, so I hear.

I had my first kettle bath yesterday. I am fortunate to have a sink in my room: I don’t know how I would feel about bathing from a sink in the bathroom where people come, do their business, and leave, unable to flush after themselves, and leaving a horrible smell behind them. You come into the building, and you are just hit by a wall of odours, emanating from bodies who, like me, have been unable to shower as often as they might have, and who, apparently, don’t know how to fill up a bucket of water to flush the toilet after themselves. It is severely unpleasant.

This morning I decided the kettle bath wouldn’t work for me, so I went down to the gym where there was rumoured to be water. Apparently I was not the only one to have heard such rumours: the change rooms, which are normally otherwise fairly empty at 6:30 am, was full, the floors wet, as ladies endured harsh conditions. My shower was brief: it was cold, with little water pressure (a huge disappointment, as the gym pressure is normally exceptionally good). One of the showers was blocked, verging on flooding. But I got to wash my hair, and my whole body. I now wait with anticipation for the water to come back, dreading the possibility of it not returning before my Spinning class that I have to instruct later today (the uniform for which I have to wash by hand, again).

My laundry is piling up: it was my intention to do laundry the other afternoon. I could have done it in the morning, but I was procrastinating. “It’s fine, I’ll do it this afternoon!” I had thought. I will never put off doing my laundry again: I am nearly down to my last set of underwear, and I am running out of laundry “shelf” space (the laundry basket was full a very long time ago).

Hold thumbs that pressure returns the water to us on the hill soon, and I am able to clean myself before I return home on Friday: we wouldn’t want my mother thinking I am unable to look after myself at university.

Study time

Travels are over and now I have had to return to my studies, away from home as well, so it’s almost like I am travelling.

Student life in Grahamstown is really vibrant, and as small as this frontier town is, there is always something to do. For the next month or so, my posts will be focusing more on the Student Life in and around Grahamstown, the stereotypical exploits of 18-25-year-olds (or thereabouts), and the many ways that I get myself involved in the community.

Grahamstown

I will post photographs of Grahamstown in the hope that you can experience some of its beauty captured, so you can see the views I experience every day as I walk to and from lectures, practicals, tutorials, and sports.

Occasionally I may post some news to the site, but we’ll see how it goes, I’m more likely to post links to the Rhodes University newspaper Activate’s (turning 65-years-old this year) website where most of my stories will be featured.

All this as I bide my time until 2 April. The East awaits me…