We both slept well into Tuesday morning, getting up around 7:30am. That was a good 9 hours for me which is very unusual and a little more for Ash. We had coffee in the room – good coffee! – and Ash went to the gym while I continued with the good coffee and got the blog up. He got back just as I posted it and we went down for breakfast.
The restaurant we had dinner at is just around the corner from our building. This hotel is set up as a complex of smaller buildings as opposed to one big one. At any rate, it’s an easy walk and breakfast is served in a different place just above the dinner restaurant.
Ash is at the waffle station although neither of us got one. This area also had cereals, fruit, pastries, yogurt, cold cuts, etc. To my right was all the hot food with eggs, hash browns, and several kinds of meat.
Ash got those hash browns along with grilled tomatoes, nuts, cheese, cherries, and crackers.
I had scrambled eggs, 3 kinds of sausage (chicken, pork, beef), hash browns. That’s a lemon croissant and, much to my surprise, was filled with a lemon creme. It was almost too sweet for dessert; when I picked it up I thought the lemon was just on the outside. And a simple scone.
Ash also had them make him something off the menu – scrambled eggs with salmon, and came with a bit of caviar.
This was our view for breakfast. You can see the Fall in the trees. In May. Trippy.
We ventured out about 10:30. Our first stop was a shopping center Ash had learned about that had a jewelry store he wanted to check out.
It was called Oriental Plaza although here I think that word has a different context.
We came across Sheraz Jewellers right away, tucked away in that corner. We found what we were looking for quickly, Ash haggled the guy until he got the price he wanted – a process that always makes me a little uncomfortable but I’m getting used to it.
We walked around a bit but didn’t see much we needed to look at. In general, we’re not big shoppers unless there’s something specific we already have in mind.
From there we went to Pretoria, about a 40 minute drive north. Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa, serving as the seat of the executive branch of government, and host to all foreign embassies. Population is about 750k.
We started at Freedom Park, a cultural institution which has a museum and memorial dedicated to chronicling and honoring all who contributed to South Africa’s liberation. We bought tickets at the museum, the worker there encourage us to drive a bit and catch a guided tour that had just started, which we did. The park is pretty big and there are quite a few outdoor exhibits in addition to the museum, which we never made it back to! We met up with the tour – just the guide and 3 others, all family members – here, at an exhibit called Eternal Flame. You can’t really see it in this photo – the yellowish dot in the dark under the roof past the water feature. At any rate, it commemorates all those who died in the years of struggle for South African liberation.
This was what was behind me from the shot above it, almost like concrete bleachers built into the hillside.
This exhibit was called Isivivane, which in Zulu literally means piles of stones. It’s an African concept that promotes the spirit of togetherness among people in society. This particular exhibit is “a spiritual place for those who sacrificed their lives during the struggles for freedom and humanity in South Africa, inclusive of all faiths, religions and belief systems, all South Africans are invited to celebrate their shared spirituality and heritage here.”
The guide gave us lots of info about the meaning behind this exhibit. There are 11 boulders: 1 for each of the 9 provinces, 1 representing indigenous South Africans, and one representing help from other nations. I bet he talked about this for at least 15 minutes but that’s about as much as I remember!
Same but from a different angle. It’s a beautiful spot. That tree is an acacia, and way in the back you can see a waterfall coming over a wall.
We were on a hill and looking out over it was this building, something we’d seen from the highway. It was so interesting looking we looked it up: It’s the University of South Africa. That would explain Nelson Mandela’s face on the wall.
Ash didn’t want to take off his shoes, which was required to walk around by the exhibit. When I was done I found him relaxing above another pretty water feature.
From there the guide took us to another spot built for the purpose of reflection. It had a beautiful enclosed pool with an interesting sculpture in it. Ash sitting on a rock pretending to meditate.
From there we went to the walls of names – many, many names of folks who have died in some conflict or another, dating back to the early 1700’s.
You can see the walls here on the right, in the middle, on the left – and some further out and behind me not shown. LOTS of names. It was a little overwhelming.
We were there about 90 minutes without even going into the museum and decided that was enough. We were offered a beuatiful view of downtown Pretoria on the way back to the car.
From there we went to Voortrekkers Monument which was essentially across the freeway from where we were. Voortrekkers is the name given to a large group of Dutch colonists who left the Cape Colony – what eventually would become Cape Town – during the first half of the 1800’s to flee the British. The Dutch had been there since the 1652 via colonization by the Dutch East India company. The British moved in and started taking over around 1802, and by 1836 “the great trek” began, with the Dutch moving north.
It was about 2:30pm at this point and we got a bite to eat at a little place in this complex. Notice the language, which is Afrikaans, a somewhat native language that evolved from Dutch. It’s spoken by about 20 million people in South Africa, Botswana and other neighboring countries.
The nice boys who worked there translated everything on the menu for us! I ended up with chicken, mayo and cheese toasted in these bread pockets. It was way better than it had any right to be – like a hot chicken salad sandwich. And those French fries were delicious – crispy and soft in all the right places.
Ash had what they called chicken strips, but they were grilled not deep fried, in something resembling a bbq sauce.
Above and below are some gardens around the parking lot that I thought were especially pretty.
There were quit a few steps up to the monument. You can see Ash up at the top in his Rocky pose.
I asked Ash to go stand in front of it for perspective. Without him standing there you might think that statue was life-sized but no, it’s pretty big. The whole building is essentially a cube of 40 meters.
This hall is where you enter and where we spent most of our time. The point of it is are the sculptures that line it all along the walls. The guide there walked us through each panel, which details the history of the trekkers. It was quite a story, with quite a bit of death as you can imagine, and conflicts with local tribes, especially the Matabele and Zulu. It’s a bit ironic to me that they were fleeing British rule (who didn’t?) but no sense of acknowledgement that perhaps this wasn’t where they were supposed to be. Which is not at all different from what happened in America, either. Anyway, it gives you a lot to think about, or it did me, anyway. This photo, by the way, was taken after we walked the 196 steps to the top.
And were treated with another lovely view of Pretoria, this time with Freedom Park in it – that’s the hill right of center.
The sub level was a museum of sorts with some artifacts from the trek. The block in the middle – which you could see from the very top as well – represents a tomb but no one is buried there; just a way of acknowledging all those who died along the way.
This huge bible was included in her story, 100s of years old. That’s Ash’s fist to try to give it some perspective but it didn’t really work – its size it not quite captured here.
There were also many beautiful paintings done by local artists – and they were for sale – most of African landscapes and animals. Examples above and below.
It was about 4:15pm and we were done.
We made our own trek back to our hotel and were happy that rush hour traffic was all headed in the opposite direction, as reflected above.
Ash went to the gym again to get more steps in while I started on the blog. We met up about 6:15 in the steam room and relaxed there a bit before heading to dinner.
We were lazy and the prior night’s dinner at the hotel restaurant was so good we decided to just go back rather than venture out again. They presented the same break basket, although this time the hummus mixture was with beets not carrots. Still yummy, maybe moreso.
I enjoyed the springbok carpaccio so much I got it again.
Ash had the lobster bisque, which they had been out of the night before. He’d been counting on this all day so I’m glad they had it. He said it was the best he’s ever had.
I had pork belly, that red sauce is like a bbq sauce. Over spicy bok choy and fried rice with eggs and mushrooms.
Ash had chicken and truffles with mashed potatoes.
He’d asked them to substitue the mashed potatoes for the potatoes I had last night but they brought him a whole side of them instead. I had one of these; just as good as the night before, maybe the best way I’ve ever had potatoes prepared. I’m generally not a huge potato fan (French fries aside) but this preparation is pretty special.
We split a “crunchie creme brulee.” The crunchy was this odd cookie like thing that really tasted like burnt marshmallow. But there was also some chocolate and ice cream and fruit of some kind and a flower. Lots going on here! It was a fun dish.
So, remember when we got here they had given us a bottle of wine? When we were being seated at the restaurant we walked by the bar and that reminded Ash about it. He mentioned it to the hostess, who later came back and asked if it was OK to enter our room. Of course. So, when we got back the wine had been replaced with a bottle of sparkling grape juice. We decided that would make a nice photo with the new rings we bought this morning, if you remember our stop at the jewelers. One of the reasons for the timing of this trip is it will be time for our “handfasting” commitment. It’s based on an old Celtic tradition where a couple commits to each other for “a year and a day” and then, according to the tradition, you could choose to part ways with no questions asked. We first did that on May 24, 2021. And again, in Salbris, France, last year on May 25. This year we will do it on May 26 in Victoria Falls. We decided that each year we’d do it in a new place with new rings. Last year’s rings we bought in Paris. And these are the rings we bought for this year. So far total on all 4 rings we’ve spent less than $200 so nothing extravagant about any of them. We just like the ritual and baking it into our love for travel.
Here’s a little memory from last year:
It’s now about 7am Wednesday morning; I’ve been up since 2am. It’s the traditional 2nd-night-of-the-trip-is-the-worst jet lag experience. So hopefully tonight will be better. Today we are going to the Apartheid Museum and to Soweto.
I'd love to hear from you!
Subscribe to the Blog
Enter your email address to subscribe to my blog, which will provide notifications of new posts. Soon after you enter your email address below, you will receive one to confirm your subscription. Check your spam/junk folder if you don’t see it.
The food looks amazing, have a great trip guys!
We are! Thanks!