<a href=”http://www.sleeping-out.co.za/goto/GrendonHouse://&#8221;.Grendon House</a> is a find!! A guest house best described as “urban elegance”. In a beautiful 1 acre garden this is the type of place you might walk past and really want to look in! A stay here is a treat- with the antiques, space and artifacts collected from around the world by the hosts making it truly special. And it is so central to Hyde Park Shopping Centre and the boutique shopping areas of Parkhurst and Stanley Avenue. Perfect for a World Cup stay !

 

It is hard to imagine that you are just 3 hours away from the great metropolis of Johannesburg when you are staying at Marakele National Park (telephone 014 777 1745) just the other side of Tabazimbi.

We headed out on the road to Warmbaths but a deviation on the highway sent us off to the directions of the ever faithful Garmin and we ended up on the R511- this turned out to be a much more interesting route! About 32kms past Brits we came to a< href=”http://www.beestekraalstasie.com/”>Beestekraal Stasie Restaurant</a>  (tel 012 2771297) the old station house converted into a restaurant and coffee shop.( closed on Mondays We only had a coffee here but the meals coming out of the kitchen looked hearty if not nouvelle cuisine and we decided next time we will leave Johannesburg before breakfast and stop there for eggs and bacon!

There are four choices of accommodation in the Parks board reserve but we always plan our nature getaways around tented camps so checked in to Tlopi Camp. Ten tents set along the banks of a beautiful little dam make up this camp. We were so excited to arrive at our designated tent- tent barbet, equipped with a kitchen, deck and spacious en suite bedroom tent. We always find the National Parks tented camps really well appointed and equipped and a pleasure to stay in. This camp is fully serviced and after a morning drive it is a great to get back to a clean and tidy camp!

TT1. If you can, book tent 10 – the last tent that means it has slightly more privacy. Called Lourie it faces the other way and has a large tree over the deck. Our ten, tent 9 or barbet, was lovely in winter but would be extremely hot in summer as there is no shade on the deck. My second choice would be tent 8 that also has a tree over the deck.

TT2 The monkeys are a real nuisance so take a trunk or lockable cooler box in which to store food- they even opened the small cupboard and stole a packet of dried fruit.. from then on we stored our dry foods in a cooler box that we secured shut with a piece of wire.

TT3 You must take charcoal and wood and we took a coffee plunger as none are provided!

TT4 We always travel with a ball of string, knife sharper and champagne glasses!

TT5 The water is fine for drinking and as they now say bottled water creates 600 times more CO2 than tap water and South African water is rated the third cleanest in the world don’t take bottled water but do take anything else you want as the small shop at the entrance has no food items.

Ok I know this is probably not the thing to say but I really do not like Florence!! What a beautiful city it is and the Duomo is so beautiful it literally takes your breath away when you first see it – to say nothing of the almost “life-changing” moment of seeing Leonardo de Vinci’s David. Follow that wonderfully experience with a private tour of the Uffizzi Gallery and what more could you want. But oh dear the crowds and vendors and continuous harassment by people trying to sell anything from locusts made from palm leaves to fake Louis Vuitton make this a disappointing and tiring place to visit.
TT1 Do not stay in Florence! Rather take the hour and fifteen-minute, 5euro bus trip from Lucca for the day and see what have to rate as some of the most beautiful things in the world.
TT2 Do take a private guided tour to see the Duomo, David and the Gallery- it is expensive but there is little queuing and really we found that this made our experience of seeing these things even more special.
TT3 If you don’t take a private tour at least reserve entrance tickets on line-you cannot believe the queues outside the museums!
TT4 Get off the very congested streets around the Duomo for lunch and have a peaceful and excellent meal at Robiglio at 11 via Tosinghi. You can eat outside but we prefer a table in their air-conditioned dinning room.
TT5 A great place for a cocktail is the roof top of Renaisance-a large department store on Piazza de la Republica
TT6 If you do rent an apartment in Florence check before hand the terms of the deposit-our deposit was not returned but the full amount retained as electricity payment when we could have used no more than a fraction of it on electcity(this is the only place in the world this has happened)

Yes there are 2 Montecarlos- and actually I think I would prefer this little village! About a twenty minute drive from Lucca(get onto via Romania and follow the signs) it is really just one cobbled street and a few good restaurants set high in the hills so the views add to great eating experiences. And they are definitely more reasonable than restaurants in Lucca. But another reason for visiting this place is a most beautiful small church that we chanced by on our first visit. If you park in the public parking area at the beginning of the town you have a bit of an uphill walk and then as you walk down to LaTerrazzo look for Chesa di S.Anna on your right-no grand entrance just a large wooden door and then you see the breathtakingly beautiful Madonna-go in and say a prayer or just be surrounded by the peace.
TT1 La Terrazza is very casual but do expected beautiful starched pink linen. You sit on the terrace overlooking olive farms and the valley-everything is delicious, cooked by the family as you order- just remember they are closed on a Thursday. We never book because they don’t understand me but here is the phone number anyway- tel:0583.22094. It is quite a good idea to call before hand-if someone answers you know they are open!
TT2Ristorante Forassiepi is further down via Contea but still has a lovely view and is a very elegant, more formal dining experience. Order anything that is served with a porcini mushroom sauce-I truly have never tasted anything quite so delicious.- tel: 0583 229475

We always marvel at the amazing snacks or appetizers that the bars and “drogherias” offer at aperitif time-midday and evenings! From slices if delicious spinach pie to tiny mushroom pastries this puts a whole new meaning on cocktail time! We have two favourite spots
TT1 Stella Polare, 21 via Vittorio Veneto, far from the crowds and a perfect place for a midday glass of champagne accompanied by small squares of delicious frittata
TT2 And perhaps our very favorite-run by a divine family and just about the only place in Europe that mixes a true vodka martini, with an array of appetizers that is quite amazing is Bar Pasticceria on via San Croce.
TT3 Buy delicious dinner to take home at one of the food shops near Bar Pasticceria-the one on the same side as this old “drogheria” has wonderful spinach and ricotta ravioli that you serve with their “out-of-this-world” walnut sauce!

As you know I love towns and cities early in the morning- and a great thing to do is go for an early morning ride on the wall and then head for Bar S. Michele on Piazza S. Michele for a coffee-it is on the sunny side of the piazza in the early morning and it is so lovely sitting there overlooking the beautiful Church of S. Michele.
TT1 Have a glass of their freshly squeezed orange juice and a piece of thin forcaccio with ham!

Lucca has the oldest complete wall in Europe and is the only place “in the whole world” that has an opera festival every day of the year! In the beautiful Church of San Giovanni you can hear auras of Puccini’s sung by Luccesians every evening. The performance starts at 7 o’clock..more or less!!!..and lasts about an hour.
TT1 Really do go more than once as it is such a wonderful experience-remember to take your tickets from the first visit and get a good reduction on your second set of tickets!
TT2 You do not need to buy tickets before the performance and we find it is perfect to go for an aperitif and then wander to the church just before seven.
TT3 During the short interval stroll through the church.