Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Delectable Carvery at Fern Hill Hotel

On the 23rd of July we celebrated my mother-in-law's 80th birthday with close family at the Fern Hill Hotel in Howick. My sister-in-law Alison chose the hotel for their Sunday carvery and she did all the organising while my daughter Laura and I made a surprise cake for Mom. The staff at Fern Hill Hotel did a fabulous job decorating the table and we were treated to five star service at all times. Fern Hill Hotel has its own hotel school and the students assist at the Sunday carvery.



The carvery consists of hot and cold starters, the regular meat (chicken, beef, lamb and pork) and vegetables, but it is the desserts that are truly sensational (yes I do look at the dessert section first when I look at a menu). The desserts change all the time (according to the photos I have seen).  We oohed and aahed our way through lemon tartlets, chocolate and caramel tartlets, chocolate mousse cake and berry cheesecake. There were a few other items and a warm bread and butter pudding with custard. The whole carvery was a taste sensation and all the food was perfectly prepared and served.





The hotel uses Skyline Coffee and I enjoyed my cappuccino before and after the carvery.






We so enjoyed our time at Fern Hill Hotel and my husband Neil keeps mentioning that we need to return. Hope to see you again very soon Fern Hill Hotel and thank you again for making Mom's birthday so special.

The carvery is very popular so make sure you book in advance.

Fern Hill Hotel
R103 Midmar, Tweedie
Howick
KZN

Monday, 21 August 2017

Impodimo Game Lodge

South Africa is filled with so much splendour and whether you love the ocean, mountains or the bush, there will always be something new for you to experience. My husband and I were very blessed recently to stay at the amazing Impodimo Game Lodge and be able to experience a safari in Madikwe Game Reserve. We felt just like tourists.

We entered Madikwe through the Wonderboom gate which is outside Zeerust and approximately 4 hours from Jhb. The guard at the gate radioed Impodimo Game Lodge to announce our arrival and then gave us directions on how to get to the lodge. We were warmly greeted by Jacques who is one of the chef’s at the lodge and a few of the staff who were there to take our luggage for us. Welcome drinks were waiting for us inside and we were able to sit for awhile and relax after the drive. Jacques also showed us to our room and explained to us times for meals and for the safari drives. South Africa is in drought so we were requested to only use the showers (there is one indoor and one outside on a deck). He then left us to relax and investigate our fabulous accommodation. The first thing Neil did was open the door to step out onto our own private deck and then head back inside to make coffee. We took our own coffee plunger with and made sure we had a large supply of Skyline Coffee’s Ethiopian Sidamo. We sat drinking coffee and watching the Impala and Kudu stroll by. There is also abundant bird life either flying, sitting in the trees, in among the bushes and even on the ground.

Our stunning room


The main lodge


Just after 3pm we walked over to the pool area for High Tea. We had our jackets with as after High Tea we would be going on our first safari drive. While enjoying our savoury and sweet eats, Jacques came to ask us to choose what items we would like to have for supper. Declan one of the safari guides also came to introduce himself and we discovered that he was also from Durban. He was our guide for our entire stay. Just before 4pm we got into the safari vehicle and set off into Madikwe. If you are thinking that these are slow drives down the roads trying to see the animals – then you are very wrong. We went on a few roads, on lots of little tracks and many times completely off road and over thorn bushes and other vegetation. Now I know exactly what the term Bundu Bashing entails! We were taken to see a pride of Lions sleeping in the bush and the main Lion male lying out in the open. He was not concerned at all with the vehicles and the people staring at him and he just carried on sleeping.



Before the sun went down Declan found us an open space to stop so that we could get out. Declan and Lots the tracker set up a small table (with tablecloth), drinks and snacks. We chose what we wished to drink – I had Amarula and ice (safari = Amarula) and we enjoyed the snacks which were chocolate nuts and mini hamburgers. It was a beautiful evening and we were excited to see Elephants in the distance moving through the bush. Once we were done it was time to get back in our vehicle for the night drive. The darkness descends very quickly once the sun goes down and it also gets very cold. Impodimo Game Lodge supplies their vehicles with blankets which we were very grateful for. I was silly though not to have brought my hat or gloves with on the drive as I would have been much warmer. Lots the tracker held a search light to try and spot any animals in the bush on the side of the road. It was a lovely night drive and we managed to see a Small Spotted Genet. We made our way back to the lodge at about 8pm.

Happy, dusty tourists were met inside the lodge with a warm fragrant face cloth and a warming glass of brandy. Snacks were set up on the bar and we chatted and relaxed around the lodge fireplace. Two tables were set for dinner and we sat at the table hosted by Declan our guide. On the menu that evening was a salmon starter, Wildebeest for mains and a yummy lemon tart for dessert. It was nice to sit and chat with the other guests about what animals had been seen that day. Since Impodimo Game Lodge is not fenced we had to be accompanied to our room by Declan when we were ready.



A warm and welcoming fire was burning and the mosquito nets had been lowered around the bed. On the bed had been placed two sleep well nougat and a Hambakush Story about why a Lion does not eat fruit. Even though it was winter we were not going to miss out on having a shower outside. Let’s just say it was rather chilly but lots of fun. We were very glad to have the fire in the room and also the thick terry cloth gowns. The coffee we made also helped to warm us up. We snuggled into the comfortable bed and had a refreshing sleep.

Neil and I are early risers so we were up, dressed and drinking our coffee by the time Declan gave us our morning wake-up call at 6am. We made sure we had our hats and gloves this time and we had on our takkies as we were going to be doing a bush walk. It was still dark when we walked to the main lodge which had a cheery fire in the fire place and tea/coffee and biscuits and rusks set up for the guests. Neil and I had a few biscuits but we didn’t have anything more to drink as we didn’t relish the thought of having to take a toilet break in the bush. At 6:30am we were in the game viewing vehicle and on our way. It was really cold as we drove and we were so, so grateful for the hot water bottles that we found in the vehicle. It was a glorious morning and nothing can beat a sunrise in the bush. Declan drove to the place where he wanted to take us for a bush walk but it was occupied by a herd of Buffalo so we had to move on. He parked the vehicle under a Marula tree and we walked single file with Declan in front and Lots at the back. No loud talking was allowed and we had to make a sound by tapping our leg if we saw something. Declan found Lion spoor and told us about the various bushes and bird life, we also saw Giraffe and Impala.



We walked back to the vehicle and continued the game drive seeing Wildebeest and the best part was the Elephants drinking at the waterhole. Because of the drought Madikwe has to pump water into the watering holes to make sure that the animals get water. It was breakfast time so we took a slow drive back to the lodge. The tables were set and waiting and a variety of cold cereal, cheese and other items were available. I went straight for the muesli and yoghurt #yummy. I must, must ask if they can give the recipe for the muesli or where I can buy it from. It was so amazing! For the hot breakfast I ordered a cheese and mushroom omelette and some boerewors. It was about 10:30am when we had finished breakfast and went back to our room. We made coffee and sat on our deck and then Neil went for a long nap. I just continued to sit on the deck with my feet up and had a doze in the warm winter sun. It was so relaxing to just do nothing.

Just after 3pm we went to the pool area for High Tea. There were a few of the same treats from the day before and new ones – the mini doughnuts filled with caramel. Oh my, oh my, oh my! Decided on our choices for supper again and laughed at a naughty Ground Squirrel that was stealing sausage rolls and then having the sausage roll taken from it by a Dwarf Mongoose. Once we were fuelled it was time for the afternoon/evening game drive.

Not far from the lodge we saw a lot of Giraffe, Kudu and Zebra but the best was yet to come. What is wonderful about Madikwe is that all the guide’s work together to find the animals and there is constant chatter on the radio. That afternoon the chatter was all about looking for Cheetah as fresh spoor had been spotted. There was a lot of excitement and very fast driving when a guide from another lodge found 2 Cheetah brothers after hearing the alarm call of a Kudu. We were fortunate to be the 2nd vehicle there. The reason there was so much excitement is that there are only 4 Cheetah in Madikwe. It was an amazing experience as I have never seen Cheetah before (TV doesn’t count). After that sighting we went for our early evening sundowners, yes Amarula for me again and this time the snacks were chicken strips, dried mango and crunchy chickpeas.



With jackets zipped up and gloves on we were ready for the night drive. Declan didn’t have to do any searching this time as he heard on the radio that the Lions had been spotted at the dam. We drove out there and Lots shone the spotlight on the group of Lions drinking on the far bank. After they had finished drinking they walked back over the dam wall and Declan drove around so we could get a closer look. It was amazing to see them up close at night and they were not bothered by the spotlights. They came very close to the vehicle, almost in touching distance and we had to keep very still. We spent quite a bit of time looking at the Lions and then drove back to the lodge for supper.

That night’s supper had been set up outside in the boma with 2 tables, comfortable camping chairs, gas lanterns and a fire in the fire pit. We enjoyed soup as the starter served with a fresh warm bread roll, oxtail for mains and a minty chocolate dessert with caramel sauce. The dessert was so divine that I could have eaten another one and Neil threatened to lick the plate. After supper we sat around the fire pit and chatted to Declan and enjoyed being outside under the stars. Ruan, the other guide at Impodimo accompanied us to our room. As usual the room was warmed by the fire and the net curtains were down around the bed. A new bedtime story was on the bed – Elephant, Hare and Hippo (a Shangaan story). Since we had used the outdoor shower the night before, we decided to use the indoor one and because we were not keen to feel the outside chill again. But before showering we made coffee and went out on the deck to enjoy our last night in the bush.



We slept in later than we normally do but were awake for our early morning call from Declan. Once we were warmly dressed we walked to the lodge and then got into the vehicle for our last game drive. The chatter on the radio that Sunday morning was about the 2 Lion brothers spoor and Declan and Lots were determined to find them. Going as far as stopping the vehicle and walking through a dried out watering hole to try and find where they had walked. They were successful and it was wonderful to spend time in close proximity to the 2 Lions. Their camouflage is so good that I didn’t realise that one of them was about 2 meters away from my side of the vehicle. They started walking and we followed them for quite awhile before allowing another vehicle to take our place.  



The next animal Declan was determined to find for us to see was a Leopard. We looked for awhile and then stopped to look at the Rhino. I was very glad to see the Rhino as I had been worried we wouldn’t get to see them. There were many game vehicles out looking for the Leopard and it was finally spotted by Ruan from Impodimo. Only 2 vehicles follow the Leopard and we were the 3rd vehicle there so we had to wait our turn. What a majestic animal, so sleek and powerful. My camera battery died just as I was about to take photos and I was so glad to have my cellphone with me.  After seeing the Leopard we headed back to the lodge and passed a herd of Elephants. Declan laughed and said that all we needed to see now was Buffalo and we would have seen the Big Five. Well 10 minutes later there was a herd of Buffalo! He said it had been a long time since the Big Five was seen on one game drive.



I had muesli and yoghurt again for breakfast but decided not to have a hot breakfast and instead had pastries and fresh fruit. It was just after 10:30am and check out was at 11am. We sadly made our way back to our room to finish packing our things and then left the luggage in the room so that we could check out. We didn’t have to worry about carrying the luggage to the car as it was taken there for us. We said goodbye to the staff, loaded our luggage and took a slow drive to the Wonderboom gate.


What an amazing stay at Impodimo Game Lodge and safari experience in Madikwe Game Reserve and I hope that we get to go back one day.



Monday, 7 August 2017

Get Some Barista Love at Sihle's Brew

My husband and I recently took a trip up to Johannesburg and beyond to have a short holiday at a game reserve (look out for that blog post). The journey was too long to do in one trip so we stayed over at my sister's house in North Riding. My husband negotiated the Jhb traffic while I enjoyed looking at the shopping centres and other sights along the way. By now you should know that I LOVE coffee and I am always keen to find a new place to visit. We drove past a small shopping centre very near to my sister's place and my eye was immediately drawn to the sign on the metal fence - Sihle's Brew Barista Love. It looked so interesting but I wasn't sure we would get to see it as our weekend was going to be very busy. That was late on a Thursday afternoon.

We returned to Jhb from the game reserve on the Sunday and while en-route I discussed with my sister where we would go for coffee that afternoon. Two of the places she suggested were not open in the afternoon and then I remembered about Sihle's Brew. Google is a great friend and I was pleased to discover that the coffee shop closed at 5pm. 

The coffee shop is small, intimate and decorated with pallet wood couches and a few other tables and chairs. At the back of the shop is the pallet wood covered counter. A lot of care and attention to detail has made the place warm and welcoming. 

Yes, yes you say - but how is the coffee?

We ordered four cappuccino's and decided to sit on the long couch while they were made. A very friendly barista made and brought the cappuccino's to us. And ............. they were divine! Perfect drinking temperature, perfect foam and beautifully presented with latte art. We happily sat, chatted and drank our coffee's. We enjoyed the coffee so much that I bought a bag of the Signature blend beans to take home and a bag of ground coffee for my sister.







We opened and enjoyed some of my sister's bag of Sihle's Brew that evening and the following morning. After breakfast it was time to head back to Durban and it didn't take much convincing for my husband to stop at Sihle's Brew for large takeaway cappuccino's. This time we got to meet Sihle and he made the cappuccino's for us. It was nice to find out that he came from Durban and he was very excited about the new menu that he was launching in the coffee shop. Yes the cappuccino's he made were also divine!

Sihle Magubane owner of Sihle's Brew





So the next time you are in Jhb and need your coffee kick - I really, really recommend that you go to Sihle's Brew. Sit back, relax and enjoy the coffee.


Sihle's Brew
Barista Love
Shop B3 Northview Shopping Centre
Olievenhout Avenue, North Riding

Shop times :

Mon - Fri 6am to 8pm
Sat 7am to 5pm
Sun 8am to 5pm

011 - 0427440
082 041 4552

They have WiFi

Email