Valentine’ Day was great fun. Of course, we struggled with a small glitch here and there. Hope you enjoy the story.
After yesterday’s bus tour starting so early, we slept in a bit. When I woke at eight, my leg muscles were screaming. They were totally indignant. How dare I push them so hard. I limped downstairs for breakfast. Judith and Norman were just leaving for their Cape Tour. They had rented a car for their stay in the area, so they could set their own pace. After breakfast Shennoz (I think that‘s the spelling) walked with us to the bus stop. “I’ll call Leonie,” she said. “Leonie will leave work, meet you downtown and take you to get your ticket for the “On/Off bus. Now remember the name and number of the bus, so you will know what one to take back.” Carefully we repeated the name and number. “If you forget, just call Leonie. She will be home from work by then.”
The ride downtown didn’t take long. It was easy to recognize the bus station. Leonie was there. Since we were right in front of an ABSA bank, which has connection with the Scotia Bank here at home through Barclay’s Bank in England, we asked to stop at the ATM. Leonie agreed. We expected it to be simple and take at the most three minutes. We followed the instructions and the screen said, “Pin number too short.” We tried again. Same problem. Leonie took us inside. Bank teller couldn’t help. She didn’t know anything about Barclay’s or Scotia. Leonie advised we spend the day using our credit card. We had some Rand (S.A. currency) so we would be fine. That small glitch of course, threw my system off and we next had to locate a washroom. “Public Toilets” are not quite as plentiful here. Leonie asked at a restaurant and they let me use the “Staff Toilet”. That emergency dealt with, we headed for the “On/Off Bus Depot.”
As we marched along a busy main street of Cape town, with Leonie talking a mile a minute, we encountered a family from Chile. Like most of us foreigners, they were nervous. The young boy about ten, obviously excited about using his English, asked us where we were from. That opened a great conversation. We learned that they were looking for the same bus so Leonie adopted them. Now we were 6 as we hurried along to keep up with Leonie, our “Pied Piper”. What fun she was. At our destination, she ensured we all got our required tickets and onto the correct bus. We waved goodbye and climbed up the steep steps (my legs objected strenuously), to the top level.
After a half-hour ride in the beautiful sunshine, we arrived at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Acres and acres of trees, grass, flowers and plants. A place of peace and learning. We wandered for several hours learning about traditional medicinal plants, enjoying the flowers and trees, soaking in the sunshine, and finding rest for our souls. The terrain was slightly rolling hills. My legs complained bitterly. I ignored them as much as possible. We sat down a lot, on the multitude of benches that were sprinkled along every pathway. After about three hours, we dragged ourselves away.
Our next stop was the Groot Constantia Winery. We started with a Valentine’s Lunch. Constantia’s Valentine special was two glasses of their sparkling wine (they can’t call it champagne) for the price of one. It was extremely windy outside, so we chose to enjoy the atmosphere of this ancient winery, inside. The food was delicious, the presentation lovely and unique. The handsome young waiter took good care of us. We had a traditional long African lunch, followed by a wine tour which included tasting. We were allowed to taste five wines. For me, on top of wine for lunch, I was glad neither of us were driving. The friendly woman serving us obviously wanted to please. She gave us those giant red wine glasses and then poured our first choice. Instead of the traditional single swallow we receive at home, my glass was 1/3 filled. The wine was delicious so I drank it all. At which point I realized that this kind of generosity was going to do me in. I had to at least be able to walk to the bus stop (which would take about 10 minutes.) With taste number two, I asked for less. Taste number three was the best. Taste number four finished me. No more I said and laughed. She smiled. “It’s good?” she asked. “Yes, yes,” I responded. I just can’t have more.” She laughed. Tom did not have my problem.
We arrived back at the bus stop and waited about two minutes for what we discovered was the last bus of the day. It was already 5:00 p.m. We hopped on. Well, I don’t think either one of us hopped. If you remember we were only at the second stop of the day. There were many more stops but since this was the last bus, we enjoyed a long scenic bus tour in the still wonderful sunshine and wind. It would have been a long walk or expensive taxi ride back to Leoni’s. As we came past the white sand beaches of Camps Bay, Clifton and Bantry Bay, the wind showered us with sand. We were plugged into a recorded commentary that was magically coordinated with the sights, even though we were plodding along in rush hour traffic.
Sandy, gritty and exhausted once again, we walked back to the city bus station and stood in front of the map. As usual, I couldn’t remember the name of the bus. This time neither could Tom. “It’s number 126,” he said. “I’m sure.” There was no 126 on the map. A different map hung on another wall. Still no number 126.
“We’ll just call Leonie,” I said. We searched our pockets, our back pack, nothing. We searched them again. By this time it was 6:30 and heading for dusk. We asked the girl at the ticket office. She wasn’t sure where Essex street was. Finally she offered a bus route into an industrial district. We knew that wasn’t safe. We couldn’t ask her to call Leonie because we had Leonie’s number on the phone, not in our brains. At that moment, we couldn’t remember Leonie’s last name either. As we stood there talking about our predicament, there were several women in line waiting to buy a ticket. Overhearing us, they talked together. Finally, an older one said, “I think you want the Omarhumba bus I’m taking.” Immediately Tom recognized the name. “That’s #261,” she said. We had reversed the numbers. With profuse appreciation we climbed on the bus behind the wonderful woman. Tom helped her daughter lift the stroller with a sweet 18 month old grandson, onto the bus. At least Tom recognized our stop and we got off and walked the three blocks back to Leonie’s.
Leonie greeted us with, “You left your phone on the bus. I was worried and tried to call you. The bus driver answered. He’s left it at the office. We can get it tomorrow.”
As I told our story, I willingly admitted to having been slightly upset. I kept repeating that I knew we could get a taxi. Our address was deeply embedded in both our brains.
Excitement over, we showered and dressed up a little, for our romantic valentine’s dinner with Judith and Norman.
Valentine’s Day in South Africa is a big event. The day before Leonie had volunteered to find us a nice restaurant. She called a lot of places and eventually got us a table at Meloncino’s Italian Restaurant where there was a special menu for the night at a reasonable price. She drove us to the waterfront and gave us instructions on finding the restaurant in Victoria Square.
The whole experience was absolutely spectacular. At the waterfront, there were lots of people, lights, music, a giant ferris wheel. The air was electric. Meloncino’s was up above, looking down on the water. It had white table cloths, fine linen, complimentary champagne, gourmet food. The menu included appetizers and dessert. Tom and I both enjoyed chocolate cheesecake African Style. The four of us shared stories of how we met and our lives together.
We had a lovely evening. Tom and I considered going dancing but when Norm and Judith were ready for home and sleep, we decided that would be best for us too. Taxi’s waited. We shared a ride home and all of us I’m sure were asleep in minutes. We had enjoyed a Valentine’s Day to remember. No pictures of dinner out. We forgot the camera.
I haven’t picked out the instances of Joy in this day. There were lots. You can decide which was our deepest joy and who brought it to us. I’m just sure that our world became a little lighter today. I hope this long blog has brought light to your day too. Now, enjoy the pictures.
Groot Constantia Winery
Next came wine tasting. We forgot to take pictures. I wonder why.