Friday, April 22, 2005

Stolen from Big Gay Sam, with absolutely no shame whatsoever.

Accent: Godawful East Coast Jersey accent, which often gets mistaken for New Yawk.
Bra size: Too big.
Chore I hate: Unloading dishwasher, cleaning shower.
Dad's name: Gothard Burg Martin (Gary).
Essential makeup: Chanel Lipstick, I don't care HOW much it costs because it is the best! Thanks to Melissa who got me hooked.
Favourite perfume: Thierry Mugler's Angel, also thanks to Melissa.
Gold or silver: Gold.
Interesting Fact: I never ate a banana until I was 21.
Job Title: Unemployed pain in the ass.
Kids: Sadly, none, but one very overindulged Labrador Retriever.
Living arrangements: Tiny apartment in Munich, soon to be nice house in New Jersey!
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Number of apples eaten last week: Zero.
Overnight hospital stays: Maybe two. Thank goodness.
Phobias: Spiders
Question you ask yourself a lot: Where the hell is....(insert item here)?
Religious affiliation: None. Practically raised by wolves when it came to religion.
Time I wake up: 7:00 a.m. Used to be 5:30 a.m. and I would like it to be that early again as I get all my best work done early and my production fades after lunch.
Unnatural hair color: Chestnut brown.
Natural hair color: Chestnut brown and gray.
Vegetable I refuse to eat: None.
Worst habit: Occasional bouts of nail biting
Yummy food I make: All the food I make is pretty damn good. I go through phases. After years of French and Italian country cooking, I now seem to be stuck on Thai and Vietnamese.
Zodiac sign: Aquarius.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

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Stir Fried Chicken, Green Beans, Broccoli and Couscous

3 T garlic, minced
3 T fresh ginger, minced
4 fresh red chilies, minced, with seeds
2 shallots, sliced thinly
1 red onion, sliced thinly
2 T olive oil
3 T dry sherry
3 T best quality Vietnamese or Thai Fish sauce
1 T soy sauce
2 T sesame oil
300 g boneless chicken, cut in bite sized pieces
1 head of broccoli
thin green beans, trimmed, a handful or two
8 or 9 mushrooms, quartered
¾ C chicken broth, hot
¾ C couscous
Fresh mint, chopped, a handful
Fresh coriander, chopped, a handful
Fresh Thai basil, or Italian basil, chopped, a handful

Saute garlic, ginger, chilies, shallots and red onion in olive oil until soft. Turn up heat to just above medium and add sherry, fish sauce and soy sauce. Reduce by three quarters and add sesame oil. When sesame oil is adequately hot, add chicken pices and stir fry. Add broccoli, green beans and mushrooms and cook until crisp. Add the chicken broth and bring to boil. Add one half of the chopped mint, coriander and basil.Add couscous and mix thoroughly. Take off heat and put the lid on. Wait five minutes and toss with remaining chopped herbs. Serve immediately.

Makes a good meal for three people. You can stretch it by adding more chicken, vegetables or couscous.

Please keep in mind that my measurements are approximate as I never use conventional measuring tools, unless baking. I just toss things in willy nilly and taste, taste, taste.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I often listen to WXPN, which is a member supported non commercial radio station run by the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. I have been listening to it for years in addition to WHYY 91FM, the National Public Radio station in Philly and since moving here, I have continued to listen to both on the net. What always gives me get a giggle is when I hear local traffic updates from home. They make me feel like I am right there in the midst of all the snarls and jams on 295, The Schuylkill Expressway, the bridges and I-95. It’s kinda neat.

I do miss tooling around in the car or puttering in my kitchen listening to great radio.WHYY 91 FM, in particular, on a Saturday afternoon was really great with Wait, Wait - Don't Tell Me!, the really fun quiz show and my favorite show of all, Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know? , which often had me laughing out loud as I peeled potatoes or chopped vegetables. I am really looking forward to getting back into that groove again. Radio, it's a good thing.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Henry is a pig in dog’s clothing. He is a scavenger of the highest order and hanging around the dishwasher as I fill it is his favorite sport. No amount of admonishing him helps and I guess I have just about given up. Chris calls this concoction he slurps up “Dishwasher Soup." Mmmmm.
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Asparagus is universally worshipped by all here in Germany and I am no exception. Tonight I made a really tasty Asparagus and Smoked Salmon Frittata, which served with a lightly dressed green salad and a cold glass of white wine, makes an elegant and tasty meal. The recipe follows:

3 cloves garlic, minced
4 shallots, chopped
1-1/2 T butter
1 bunch asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces
150 g. good quality smoked salmon
4 T grated parmigiano reggiano
5 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the garlic and shallots in the butter until soft. At the same time, blanch the asparagus. Drain the asparagus and combine in bowl with shallot/garlic mixture. Let come to room temperature. Butter a medium baking dish. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat 5 eggs and add to asparagus mixture. Add grated parmigiano reggiano and salt and pepper. Tear smoked salmon into bite sized pieces and add to everything else. Pour into buttered dish and bake for 20 minutes, or until sharp knife comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool down. Cut into pieces and serve. Serves 4 – 6 as an appetizer, or 2 as a healthy main dish.
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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Friday night, I went to the Haidhauser Augustiner with Lise, Paul, Sandra, Sarah and her boyfriend. It was a good night. I love Sandra - she is funny, smart and nice. Paul and I had a really deep conversation, the kind that you only have when you are half soused. I can only remember bits and pieces of it, but it seemed good...

Chris came home from South Africa on Saturday morning and Henry and I were both thrilled to see him. It was a bit of a lonely week for me, but I managed to handle it.

That afternoon, despite threatening looking skies, we strolled over to the Augustiner Beer Garden to hook up with Paul, Pete, Simon and Richard. We had last week's Sunday New York Times and we played with doing the crossword. Richard and Chris are hilarious together. They just bounce off each other in the most relaxed and natural way. Then we went to Swagat for a curry, which was delicious. Swagat is till my favorite cury house in Munich, must be a sentimental thing with me! Afterwards, we popped over to Lise and Richard's local, a great favorite of ours. I hadn't been in there since New Year's Eve when Chris and I had gotten into a knock down drag out row. No theatrics this time.

Yesterday, we walked to the Hirschau for Planty's birthday. The forecast was for shitty weather but as I said "the sun always shines on Planty." It was another totally pleasant afternoon. They have a jazz combo playing there and the music just wafts through the trees. We were just drinking mineral water after our marathon day on Saturday. I sat at one corner of the huge table we'd cobbled together of four tables. We had gotten the papers and were dissecting them with Gary, Bev, and Paul. Simon was there with Chrissy as was Pete, Alan and Annette (looking gloriously pregnant), Lise and Richard, Cal and Ingrid (who I really have taken to. She's smart, funny, and really with it.) among other folks I don't know so well. Planty was getting happily drunk. Bev, Gary, Lise, Richard, Chris, Paul (Jen was still in South Africa) talked about our upcoming week in Provence at Will's house, which we are all getting really excited about. We stayed for a few hours and then wandered back home slowly to just relax with each other.
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Planty, Pete, Andy and Gary
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Pete, Paul, Simon and Chrissy
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Paul, looking happy
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Lise and Richard
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Gary, in amazingly good form, despite tantrum thrown the day before after Southampton let Richard's team, Aston Villa, beat them after being up 2-0 at halftime.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

When Claire was murdered senselessly and brutally almost two years ago, it rocked my world. Having known her as a most exceptional child and teenager from our years at the beach, Gina, John and I were stunned. Her killer was sentenced yesterday. After hearing testimony from her family about what an amazing woman she was (and she was, it was all heartbreakingly true), the judge sentenced her murderer to 31 to 62 years and, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, he seemed wholly unrepentant. I cannot imagine how her family felt. We've known Monica, Claire's aunt, forever, and this just about broke the hearts of this amazing family.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

One of the really difficult things about being so far from home is the frustration you feel when someone dies or gets sick. It has taken me years to come to terms with both death and illness and I still struggle to find the right words to say to people who are experiencing those things. I guess I have learned that the best thing you can do for anyone is just be there.

Marilyn and Diane have been friends of mine for eight or nine years since I moved into Haddonfield. We have had a lot of laughter over the years, have shared meals, a million cups of coffee, have watched fireworks together, sat naked in a hot tub sipping wine and have talked about anything and everything. They are impossible to not love. Both of them are life forces, positive and giving. And they are soul mates to one another, of that I have absolutely no doubt. They met at a spiritual retreat and had an immediate connection even though Marilyn was a recently separated mother of five at the time. They have lived together with five school age kids in a small town, something which wasn't easy for either of them. Marilyn had lived there all her life and was the object of much gossip. Diane, an out lesbian for years in Philadelphia, was floored by the level of small town scrutiny., Yet they stayed, demonstrated their commitment to each other and the town, and people absolutely took them to their hearts.

So I have to say that my heart has been a little broken these past eight or nine months by Marilyn's illness. After months, her specialists finally arrived at a diagnosis of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, as it is commonly known. She has a particularly aggressive form of it and it is making rapid progression. She was dancing at my going away party in March, 2004 and was only beginning to feel strange neurological symptoms last summer. Now she is in a wheelchair, unable to speak or care for herself. She and her partner, Diane, who have been unceasingly kind to me since the day I met them, were plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought by Lambda Legal against thea State of New Jersey for the right of gay people to marry. It took incredible courage but neither of them shied away from it, because for them, it felt right. And it felt right to me, and my friends, and we went to rallies in support of them. They didn't want to be domestic partners because they felt that demeaned their relationship and commitment to one another. They wanted to be on equal footing with straight people, and why not? Anyway, the case got stalled in the courts and they were forced to register for domestic partnership, so Diane could ensure that she is able to make decisions for Marilyn if she is unable to herself and that she can visit and be with Marilyn during her illness. They wanted to marry. To me, it is utterly heartbreaking that they will never able to do so. Our country needs to take a long look at our priorities.

I haven’t been able to write about this because each time I attempt it, I am flooded with emotions which have been easier to bottle up than deal with. But that time is over. Time to grow up.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Last night was terrific and utterly relaxing. Jen and Paul made a great pasta with seafood dish for dinner followed by a banana chocolate chip cake, which was delectable. We brought a few nice wines. One was a really lovely Shiraz we had bought in South Africa and the other was a Brunello di Montalcino from Castello Banfi, which I feel very sentimental about, having spent a memorable afternoon there years ago with Jen, Paul, Tom, John and Joanna. Paul broke out one of his nice bottles of Brunello as well, which was nice. We had a good night sipping upper echelon wines in ample quantity. It was fun.

Jen is headed to Cape Town for a week today. She has a conference there. Coincidentally, Chris is headed back to Johannesburg tomorrow, but they won't be able to meet, which is sort of a shame.

We had a good long talk about the political landscape in South Africa, which Jen seemed really interested in. Chris is great about summing things up in a concise and clear manner, much better than me. It was a good conversation.

We also talked about our upcoming trip to Provence, which should be a hoot. Our last hurrah in Europe as it were...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Am feeling a bit foggy today. I went out to a Greek place for Laura's fortieth birthday and she kept buying shots of ouzo for all of us. God forbid I should ever say no. It was fun though. I sat with Ros, Christina, Jo and this gal, Helen. We had a really fun chat. I always have a laugh with that gang. Ros is full of life and I enjoy being in her company. Christina is so nice. Lise calls her the German Doris Day, which is spot on. Surreal moment of the night - singing "Que Sera Sera" with her. Very funny. Lise is in Ireland, so she didn't witness it. I had fun with Jo too. She has been incredibly kind to me. It was a good night. I really like all of those women very much.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I MUST force myself to stop looking at real estate on the internet. I keep looking at houses, and so does Chris, and keep getting disappointed when they get sold. It's ridiculous. I simply cannot wait till we get a place of our own and can liberate all of my stuff from storage. I want to cook in my own pots with recipes from my own cookbooks, stand on my own carpets, listen to my own tunes and look at my own art. I am going insane in this impersonal apartment. It's nice enough, but it is not me and I need to have my stamp on a place.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Chris had to work late yesterday which gave me the opportunity to have a single girl supper, which I miss a bit as I usually try to cook us a traditional meal. In other words, I am not standing in front of the fridge eating all sorts of weird stuff anymore. When I was living alone, I could have broccoli rabe five nights in a row and no one would be the wiser! Last night I sautéed some garlic in extra virgin olive oil and added a fresh trimmed artichoke together with some salt, pepper, lemon and about a half an inch of water and steamed it in a saucepan with the lid on for 30 minutes. I also roasted an entire bunch of asparagus which I had tossed in olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon. Utter bliss.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Lise and Richard came to dinner last night. I made a pork tenderloin with a charmoula paste, which was really tasty. I used John Joyce’s standby recipe. I also made a vegetable studded couscous which was out of this world and broccoli sautéed with ginger, garlic and chicken broth. It was a very healthy meal, but made for a lovely presentation.

Richard got there before anyone and we had a good chance to have a chat. I really like him. He’s adorable, funny, charming and kind. Really easy to be around.

After the meal, we watched Coronation Street, which is heating up at the moment

Monday, April 04, 2005

Yesterday afternoon, we took a walk to the beer garden at Nockherberg (a really healthy stroll from Josephplatz, by the way) for a book club meeting. Jen and Paul had planned to host a brunch at their place but it was so nice outside they decided to shift the venue. It was a good group – us, Jen and Paul, Lise and Richard, Stine and Christian and his twin sister, Joanna, Gary and Bev and Simon and Chrissy. The book group is really loose. I think everyone has given up on getting all of us to read the same thing at the same time, so basically we just sit around and talk about what each of us has on our bedside table at the moment. I talked a little about the two Alan Hollinghurst books I’d read recently and loved, The Line of Beauty and The Swimming Pool Library and Lise and I chatted about Colm Toibin's The Master, which we read simultaneously and thought brilliant, if a bit obtuse because of the Henry James style, which, though calculated to mimic the master, seemed heavy handed at times. It was a nice afternoon. Stine is always great to be around. Her zest and enthusiasm is infectious. I had never met her boyfriend, but he seemed like a really affable guy.
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Meeting of the Minds, Nockherberg, April 3, 2004

We came home and had a nice meal and collapsed on the couch. Chris finally called his sisters and told them about our plans for the future – namely us getting married and moving to America. I have been urging him to do this, but he’s been putting it off. His family communication is almost nil while my family is constantly talking with utterly no holds barred. His sisters were both happy for us and not a bit surprised. Once they got over the initial shock of me moving here last year, I suppose there’s nothing else that’s going to rock the boat too much. I like them both and really look forward to forging a relationship with them.
After spending a few hours in the English Garden, we headed across town to celebrate Bev’s birthday, which was another really good time. Bev picked a place none of us had ever tried before, Villa Flora, and everyone agreed it was good food in a great atmosphere. Jenny and I shared a huge sushi platter, which is getting to be our routine. It wasn’t Sagami, but for landlocked Munich, it wasn’t bad. We had a long table to accommodate all of us – Gary and Bev, Jen and Paul, Lise and Richard, a couple whose names I can’t recall, Alan and Annette (looking gloriously pregnant), Planty and Martina, Cal and Ingrid, Joanna, Simon and Pete. Everyone was in good form. Bev, who is normally the most grown-up of us, was loaded, which was fun to see. I like her so much. We have a lot of stuff in common and always have a good conversation and a good laugh. Gary is a great guy too, interested in a zillion different things and always quick with a funny comment. These folks have been Chris’ friends for years and I have enjoyed getting to know them and will be sad to say goodbye. Chris knows my gang at home, and I look forward to his getting to know them as well as I have gotten to know his group.
Saturday was spectacular so we, along with everyone else in the world, headed out to the beer garden at the Chinese Tower. We had a nice little crew along – Andy and Nicola, Gary, Brian, Jamie, Paul and his children, Rita and Greg with their daughter and newborn son, Allison and Stuart, Alan and Ulrike with their daughter and Pete, who kindly allowed me to use his photos to illustrate this entry. The weather was perfect to just chit chat and laugh. I love these kinds of afternoons, when you feel as if you don’t have a care in the world. I also ran into Lisa Bartman, one of my favorite Munich people, who, strangely has a Haddonfield connection. It was good to see her and usual, we promised to get together soon.
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Mid-Afternoon Madness

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Ally with Stu, having a good laugh

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Me with Greg and Rita’s newborn son

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Chris, having a giggle, most likely at Gary’s expense

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Gary and Brian

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Jamie, Andy and Ally
It was great to come back and have a fun weekend with friends now that our days here are numbered. Allison and Stuart were in town for the first time since they left Munich last summer so it was fantastic to catch up with them on Friday night at the Augustiner am Dom. I sat next to Allison and we had the most personal, revealing conversation we’ve ever had and I feel that I know her much more intimately now. At times, I’ve felt out of it with that particular group of Chris’ friends because I am much older than some of them, but each time I have a one-on-one conversation with one of them, we manage to bridge the gap. Allison is physically very beautiful, and has a lovely way about her. There are no false notes about her – she’s genuinely nice. We talked about things which are important to both of us, namely our relationship to and with our families. I love Stu too. He makes me laugh. He’s just got a job on some wacky breakfast radio show in Liverpool, which can be listened to on the internet so I plan to follow his exploits. I think it’s the perfect occupation for him.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

We just got back from two eye opening weeks in South Africa, weeks which will take a long time to digest and will remain with me for the rest of my life. Chris had to work in Pretoria for five days of our trip and there’s not a huge lot to do there so I spent much of the time he was in the office lounging by the pool reading like a madwoman and going to the movies. We were staying in a somewhat swanky guest house in the suburbs of Pretoria, run by Akrikaners, the white, mostly Dutch people, who first successfully colonized South Africa in the 17th century and were essentially in charge until the Brits decided that they needed a piece of the action. In any case, the Afrikaner influence is everywhere, particularly in the language. They were warm and friendly towards me and very hospitable, but I found them to be inherently racist, referring constantly to “them” and making wide sweeping comments such as “you know how they are” about anyone of color, which was a problem for me in many ways. Not voicing my opinion felt like collusion, but I decided to be polite and keep my mouth shut, a major feat for me as everyone knows. There’s also a level of condescension towards people of color that bothered me, sort of like a convoluted noblesse oblige which takes the form of “only WE know what’s best for THEM.” It was hard to handle in some cases, and not as evident in the Cape Town area as it was in Pretoria and Johannesburg, where quite a bit of the Akrikaners retreated in the 19th century in wagon trains in what is called “The Great Trek.” after the British abolished slavery in the Cape. At the time, one of the trekkers wrote about the blacks “it’s not so much their freedom that drove us to such great lengths, as their being placed on an equal footing with Christians, contrary to the laws of God and the natural distinction of race.” Chris and I spent a good deal of our time away just shaking our heads.

We took a tour of Soweto, the famous black township outside of Johannesburg, from where both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu hail. It was conducted by an Afrikaner, with whom I was at loggerheads almost immediately. He seemed really more interested in making excuses than in telling us the truth about anything. I guess he thought I wasn’t informed. Too bad for him, I was. Soweto is huge in area and its population is estimated to be 4 million people, many of whom are living in shacks made of corrugated metal and other scrounged and found building materials. The roofs are covered with large rocks and cinder blocks to keep them from blowing away. Laundry flaps in the wind, dogs run along the side of the roads and kids play. Many of these people have neither electricity nor running water. There are banks of outhouses everywhere. No one has a phone which has risen to the very entrepreneurial phenomenon of folks using discarded shipping containers as phone centers. These are on every corner. Much of the living is done outdoors. Each neighborhood has several “tuck shops” which are basically niche in someone’s home where they sell necessities like bread, eggs and milk. The thing I liked the most were the outdoor barber shops and hair salons. Folks were getting their hair coiffed in broad daylight and no one was blinking an eye. Everywhere you turn is another street market selling all sorts of stuff, including live animals, which walk freely on the streets. Little fires burn everywhere, as they did in Egypt – a convenient way for township people to get rid of their trash. It’s normal life for them, a fact that is hard to accept for a spoiled American like me. People stuff themselves into mini busses to commute to mostly menial jobs and have a really tough life by our standards, but mostly everyone I came across from the townships was up for a laugh and getting on with it by and certainly not dwelling on their circumstances. We took a tour of the Hector Pieterson Museum, dedicated to the violent Soweto uprisings in 1976 in which black students demonstrated peacefully against the forced learning of Afrikaners in their schools only to be met with a hail of gunfire by the police killing dozens and leading to general revolt allover South Africa in the coming months bringing the problem of apartheid front and center in the world’s eyes. The museum was very moving and left me in tears, but it was important to see it.

Enough of politics for now. South Africa is stunningly beautiful in a way which surprised me completely. From the bush to the lush Cape, it seemed so wild and varied. Our first weekend was spent in a private game reserve. We went on dawn and dusk game drives in a land rover to spot animals. It was wonderful. I think sunrise in the bush has got to rank among my life’s greatest experiences. In fact, one morning, I saw a falling star which was magical. Everything was new to me and therefore very exciting – from the amazing animals in their own environment to the bird songs to the sensuous smell of the bush. Seeing eye to eye with an elephant was frightening but exhilarating. We saw a few huge rhinos as well as masses of zebras, all sorts of varieties of antelopes, hippos, wildebeests, giraffe, crocodiles, snakes, owls, hawks, eagles, rabbits, lizards and jackals among other things. Even the smaller less dramatic animals were beautiful. I loved every single minute of it! It met all of my expectations.

We spent the last week of our trip on the Cape, one of the most spectacularly situated cities I have ever visited. Dubbed the “Mother City”, Cape Town sits under Table Mountain, a huge mountain with a flat long top, and on the Atlantic Ocean, which is surprisingly frigid here. Architecturally, it’s a wonder with much variety from lovely gabled homes in the Dutch colonial style, some with thatched roofs, English and Georgian style buildings, Mosques, and an area called Bo-Kaap, the Muslim Malay quarter with brightly colored homes. It’s a beautiful city, but you are warned not to really walk the streets in certain areas, which seemed safe to me, because of the high crime rate. There’s a beautiful waterfront area which has been developed extremely well. Being from Philadelphia, where no matter how hard we try, we just cannot seem to get our waterfront done right, I was very impressed with just how functional and fun this area was. Loaded with shops and restaurants and people, it was buzzing with activity. One evening, we sat on a dock drinking beer and eating fish under the protection of Table Mountain and looking out to sea with the most perfect full moon hanging low in the sky. For me, it was one of those perfect moments to file away and bring out later when I am having a stressful day.

We took the obligatory cable car ride up Table Mountain, which made me think of my friend Tom Baglivo, and an ascent we’d made to the top of Anacapri in Italy in ski lift chairs, laughing the whole time. The view from Table Mountain to the sea is nothing short of dramatic and extraordinary, with a range of peaks adjacent called The Twelve Apostles, and the sea crashing onto white beaches in one direction, with all of Cape Town below. As usual, I was pronouncing it “the most beautiful place” I have ever visited, but Chris had to remind me that I have said that about at least four other places this past year. To which I replied, as usual, “I know, but this really is the most the beautiful.”

We also took a trip to the Cape of Good Hope, which is set in a nature reserve again with a really amazing array of animal and bird life including some really funny baboons. We were told a story about a baboon swiping a New York tourist’s Chanel bag and not giving it up and weeks later seen with it slung over his shoulder, insouciantly, like any other shopper on Park Avenue!

We also went to a great penguin colony, which was absolutely delightful. Thousands of them were waddling and nesting on a beach. When you’re from New Jersey and the wildest thing you see are chipmunks, something like these creatures are absolutely joyful!

We spent an entire morning touring Robben Island, the prison off Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela and thousands of other political prisoners were held for years. Our tour was conducted by a former political prisoner and it was one of the highlights of the trip. Mandela’s standing is as high as it has ever been and paying homage to him by making a pilgrimage here seemed necessary to both of us. Our guide was wonderful, not bitter in any way, stressing the need for reconciliation and forgiveness in South Africa. There was a palpable serenity about him that I’ve not felt many times in my life. I really feel lucky to have been in his presence. Robben Island is full of wildlife including penguins, ortriches, antelopes and seals all living unfettered, which is in marked contrast to the tiny solitary cell where Mandela lived for over twenty years. I have always thought of Mandela as a real hero for our times, but when you see how he lived for so long, you’re even more touched by his seemingly indomitable spirit.

We also did the Winelands outside of Cape Town, which made for a fun afternoon. We did some tasting and liked the Pinotage, which is unique to South Africa, the most. There are hundreds of estates along the wine routes, many of which offer tastings. It’s a lovely area, full of small vineyards, surrounded by dramatic mountains and smaller hills. It was a really memorable afternoon.

Our last few days were spent on the Garden Route, in the Western Cape. We stayed in a beautiful lodge overlooking the Indian Ocean and spent most of our time there going from one deserted pristine beach to the next. It’s an amazing landscape with forested mountains going straight down to sea, with small waterways and lagoons dotted throughout. We spent Easter Sunday at a restaurant overlooking the beach eating oysters and mussels and drinking ice cold white wine, just a bit different from eating rare leg of lamb at my mother’s house!

Speaking of food, the meat, seafood and fish in South Africa were among the tastiest I have ever had. Living in Germany, where the beef is substandard, I was licking my chops each night at the sight of a bloody piece of meat being delivered to me. The South Africans claim that they do not take responsibility for any well done meat, an attitude I like! I even got Chris to eat a rather sanguine piece as well and he wasn’t complaining. I have been trying like mad to break him of his British well done habit because in my family it simply will not do, so think I may have a success on my hands! We had all sorts of good fish which I had never tried before which was delicious, as well as antelope carpaccio (yes, the same cute antelope I had been marveling over in the game reserve were now small raw pieces of delectable meat on my plate.) and ostrich filets, which were fantastic. All this washed down with great wine and chatter about our day’s adventures was really nice.

I really feel privileged to have been to South Africa, a place with tons of problems, but also a boundless heart and capacity for reconciliation and moving forward. It’s a place I will want to return someday – when hopefully, some progress has been made in the area of lessening the gap between the haves and have nots.