All posts by janetstobie

Saturday – Walking, Lots of Walking

Saturday,

We decided that Saturday was Hyde Park Day. The weather was warm, a great day for strolling in the park. And that was exactly what we did but first we went to “Claridge’s of London.” Claridge’s is a hotel for the rich and famous. Our friend Diane whose surname is Claridge had asked us if we could take a picture of the hotel for her. We had thought we would have high tea at Claridge’s. We travelled by tube to the closest station. Our walk took us past the American embassy which was under construction. As is often the case with construction projects there was an extremely high wall all around the building. Tom and I chuckled as we walked by.

Claridge’s of London

On the outside Claridge’s looked somewhat similar to many fancy big city hotels except… Standing on the side walk were three men dressed in tails and cravats waiting to serve us as we entered. Inside the opulence equaled that of the Renaissance. The huge vases of flowers were real. The elaborate plaster work was intricate and beautiful. We wondered through the enormous foyer and into the tea room. Of course there were white table cloths and flowers and …. The woman behind the reception desk smiled and welcomed us. Our jeans didn’t feel quite appropriate for the surroundings.  We had checked on line the night before so we would know what to expect. High tea involved sandwiches, tea, and sweets. Which I’m sure would have been lovely and looked pretty on the plate. It was the price that surprised us. High tea at Claridge’s costs 65 pounds (about 110 Canadian dollars). Maybe if the Queen had joined us we could have justified that extravagance. Since she was busy with Donald Trump we decided to just have a plain cup of tea.

I smiled at the hostess and asked. “How much is a cup of tea.” Her expression told me immediately that I was not a part of “Claridge’s world”. She had to look down at the menu. Very formally she told us, “That would be 7 pounds fifty plus a service charge of 8 pounds. I didn’t even check for Tom’s opinion. 15 pounds fifty (nearly 30 Canadian dollars) for the privilege of tea at Claridge’s. “Thank you very much,” I said. We turned and walked away. We did take lots of pictures which was all that Diane had asked.

Outside with the Footman?
The stairs to the rooms
The Dining Room

We were there. Winston Churchill is in the background.

It was a long walk to Hyde Park. Smart people would have taken a bus. We didn’t know which bus and it was such a lovely warm day. All in all we walked halfway round Hyde Park, saw some beautiful flowers, and watched people having picnics etc. I knew very quickly that This was going to be another 17,000 step day. Eventually, we found a place for lunch.

Hyde Park Flowers
a Gorgeous Umbrella
Memorial for Animals who served in World Wars I & II

Along with this huge plaque that was 16 feet by 14 feet. There were sculptures of donkeys and horses. They looked  exhausted and worn out.

After asking for help we caught a bus back to Covent Garden. We enjoyed walking through the shops. The street entertainers were great. We watched two of their shows. They helped us decide to buy a ticket to the play, “Waitress”. We knew already that the tickets, though expensive were at least within our range for a one time event. We had supper in a little pub called “The Honest Burger”. They even had gluten free buns.

The play was funny, nostalgic and touched our hearts. Good Decision. One of the workers there, one of our angels for the day, took our picture holding two pies. (The star of the play baked the restaurant’s pies.) After the play we spilled back out onto the street with the other theatre goers.

We hadn’t plotted our journey back to Sara’s. So we asked. One very friendly man heard us asking. He opened up his phone. Take number 50 bus, go ten stops and you will be at the tube. Take the central line across town to Polar Station. At Poplar you will change to the above ground and go out to Royal Victoria in the Docklands. At night in a strange city, this man felt like truly one of God’s angels.

We followed his instructions carefully. When we got to the tube station, I took a deep breath, put Tom in front of me so I couldn’t see down, and actually rode the escalator down two very deep levels underground. I was quite proud of myself. That whole late night experience wouldn’t have been possible without my angel Tom. He may not be perfect but he sure is understanding when it comes to me and heights and small places. With his help I stepped way out of my comfort zone many times on this trip. I was rather proud of me and grateful to him.

It was after midnight when we got back to Sara’s. We crept in quietly and collapsed into bed. Tom set the alarm for church.

A Real Castle and Lived in by Real Royalty

Friday – Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle from above

Windsor is a tourist town. Restaurants and souvenir shops line the narrow streets. The castle is spectacular. Built on a hill for good defense, Windsor castle is the summer and weekend home for the royal family.

We left the train and trudged up the winding road, looking up until our necks hurt. About half way we stopped for a snack of cheese, crackers and water.  Tourists flowed by in groups. May 31st and the tourist season appeared to be in full swing.

We passed a long queue of people waiting to buy their entry ticket. Once again our prepurchase on line meant we could almost walk right in. The ever present security check queue took only fifteen minutes. Times have changed.

The castle grounds are beautifully kept. The cobblestone roadway, although a little rough to walk on, added to the ancient atmosphere. I felt as if I were walking into a history book. Centuries of kings and queens have resided here, entertained here, made diplomatic decisions and treaties here. We toured what was called the queen’s apartments. The elaborate halls and smaller rooms are used today for formal meetings of state etc. but are not part of the Queen’s actual home. We did see the room where her official 90th birthday party was held. We did see what had been the actual formal bedroom of king   Charles II .  His going to bed and rising was a formal affair attended by close and important people.

King Charles II Bedroom. Check out the ceiling. 

The rooms were elaborate.

We followed a self-guided audio tour which meant we could move along at our own pace. There were a number of stairs so we had special guides for the handicapped take us up and down in the tiniest of old elevators. There was just room for Tom and I inside. Needless to say, I said a prayer before I entered.

When the tour was over we enjoyed a very late lunch in one of the local pubs. We returned to the castle chapel for a 5:00 p.m. prayer service. This time there was no security check. We had access through one castle gate that led right to the chapel. This service was freely open to local residents and any tourists that were interested. Once again we sat in the “Quire”. The chapel was a small version of Westminister Abbey. There was no choir present, no hymns sung and no pomp and circumstance. We could hear but not see the priest who led us through a twenty minute service of prayers and scripture.

King George’s Chapel

The service over we followed the smallish crowd back out through the castle gate and joined those who were shopping. We wandered up and down the streets checking out some of the stores. We had already bought our souvenir tour book in the castle shop so were only looking. At this point we were tired. It is amazing how exhausting being a tourist can be.

We walked back down the hill to the train. On the trip home, I napped a bit and enjoyed the few minutes of country scenery. By the time we had returned to our Air B&B in the docklands it was after nine. We had a great visit with our hostess Sara and crawled wearily into bed.

Just two more days and our holiday would end. Where were the angels today. Well certainly the two women who cheerfully stuffed us into the tiny elevator had been very helpful and friendly. Mostly Tom and I had been our own angels for each other. This was definitely a day for us together. At times it felt like we were alone in our own little world in the midst of a crowd. We enjoy each other and walking in history so we had a grand day.

London  Days two and three

Covent Garden and Westminster Abbey

These two days we walked miles. My fit bit registered 17,898 steps on Wednesday. We had intended using the Hop On and Off bus but instead we bought an Oyster Card for the local transit. London Transit is wonderful. It’s quick, easy, very accessible by lift and except in rush hour not too terribly crowded. We followed our pattern of sleeping in until 8. This slow beginning for our day kept us relaxed and fairly stress free.

Wednesday

Covent Garden – a stray piano

We took the above ground railway to the boat bus and walked to Covent Garden. We wondered past a lot of sellers’ stalls and bought nothing. We checked out the live theatre productions and considered buying tickets to something but didn’t. We had lunch in Covent Garden entertained by a string ensemble in the courtyard.

We had a long walk along the river. Tom took my picture in front of the Scotland Yard headquarters. We walked past the parliament buildings and stopped to talk to a police officer. We asked about tours. He said the best tour was of Westminster Abbey. We walked over and discovered that there was a huge lineup to buy tickets. We decided it would be better to order the tickets on line and go tomorrow. We had a lovely quiet day. The only real angel this time was the policeman.

At supper time we ate in a typical British pub.

We returned to our lodging and visited with Sarah. She is a lovely young woman who loves to talk and discuss things, particularly religion. That was so good.

Thursday,

First task of the day, was arranging tomorrow. We decided to visit Windsor Castle which is in the town of Windsor on the outskirts of London. We had to organize where we caught the regular train and make sure we could get a ticket. That meant travelling to Waterloo station downtown. I would have to ride the “tube” down several layers into the earth. Since I struggle with feeling closed in, I knew this was going to stret……ch my comfort zone. We hopped on the DLR – the above ground transit – a piece of cake. One station and we transferred to the underground – the first layer. The train hurtled along screeching so loud on the corners and the downward slopes that I had to remove my hearing aids. The noise was painful. In about ten minutes we were at Waterloo station. The escalators up looked like at least 20 stories and we had to take two of them. The incline was frightful. At least we were going up so I didn’t have to look down. At street level Tom went up yet another level to buy our ticket to Windsor. I had had enough. I settled on a stool at a bar in MacDonald’s to wait.

The man beside me was eating – it looked like Timbits. I watched him pour HP sauce on his Timbits. I couldn’t resist. I asked, “What are you eating?” Turned out the Timbits were actually some form of breaded meat balls. The ice broken, we talked until Tom returned. He worked nearby and lived in the north end of the city. As we talked, my heart rate slowed. Riding the subway hadn’t been that bad, I told myself. Besides there is a lift so I won’t have to stand on those escalators to get home. Not that I like elevators. They too are closed in.

When Tom returned we walked out past the parliament buildings towards Westminster Abbey and beyond. We wandered through St. James Park which is lovely. We had a late lunch. And toured the Abby.

Westminster Abbey

Westminister Abbey is an imposing elaborate structure. Beautiful inside and out. It has witnessed so much history. As I stepped inside, I remembered seeing the queen’s coronation on our brand new black and white TV, when I was a little girl. The self-guided tour focused on the many historical people whose remains have been encrypted in the Abbey. It felt like a tour of death rather than life. After a while, I grew tired of looking at stone sculptures of famous figures laid out on stone coffins. I gratefully found a seat in the main abbey sanctuary and sat down for a rest. After the tour we attended a special sung communion worship to celebrate the Ascension of Christ. It was beautiful. They ushered Tom and I and many others in to sit in the Quire (choir). Tom actually sat in the Canada chair – the chair where the Canadian ambassadors, and other dignitaries sit for special services. Tom of course was in his glory. I sat down below expecting to hear his voice soar out over me.

It just didn’t happen, partly because the actual choir took up a portion of the seats. They led the crowd sitting below us. The organ and the combined voices poured forth their song. Being one of many, Tom even at his best, would never have been heard.  And Tom was not at his best. The beautiful formal Anglican service began with a procession. The lead man in a white gown overlaid with a gorgeous cloak of embroidered gold swung an incense pot. The aromatic fragrance rose up and swirled among us. Tom’s throat had closed up.

The priest and a number of others processed in behind the incense all of them dressed in white gowns with gold embroidered cassocks. I felt as if I was present at Lady Diana’s wedding or the coronation. The sermon was interesting, the music fabulous. I felt honoured to worship in Westminster Abbey.

Afterward, we had supper at a British pub. and took the “tube” (subway) home. Our day had been full. We were ready to sleep.

 

God Works in Mysterious Ways – Monday, we arrive.

It’s hard to believe that I haven’t written all week. Well I have but only in my journal. Tom and I are enjoying London at our leisurely pace. We get up when we naturally waken, enjoy breakfast and then we’re off – 10 a.m.  We return here after supper. Yes, we could see more but this pace suits us. Now for the last few days.

God Works in Mysterious Ways

God’s angels have literally surrounded us.  We ended up taking a taxi from the airport to our Air b&b. Not our intention of course. We started by having a caring London information agent at the airport setting up an Uber ride for us. Tom and I are obviously not suited for Uber. The first one cancelled. The second one we thought was booked wasn’t. We gave up after an hour of failure, and called a taxi. The info agent was an angel for sure, but this taxi driver must have had direct instructions from the Almighty. He had to park his unmarked cab (Mercedes) and come searching for us, as we stood their waiting for a SkyX taxi. He loaded us and all our luggage and we finally pulled out of the airport, travelling in total luxury.

Tom looked around the cab, saw no credit card signs and said, “You do take AMEX or VISA, I hope. That’s what the cab company said.”

At the next traffic light and our driver looked around at us. “You paid over the phone?”

“No.”

“I have no way of processing a card in the taxi.”

“We have no English money.”

“Can we stop at a bank?” I asked.

“Certainly.”

“We stopped at a bank fairly close to our Air B&B. I hopped out. The bank machine defeated me. I went inside and waited in line. (Always lots of lines in London). At the wicket the clerk callously said, “you have to go outside to the machine. We can’t take your cards – not any of them. Even though I was desperate for the “loo” at this point, I had the sense to say, “Is there a limit on withdrawals.”

“Yes, 300 pounds.”

I returned to the machine and requested only 300 pounds. Almost immediately the paper money spewed forth. I tore back to the car, well aware of the cost of keeping a taxi waiting in Canada.

Problem number two – we couldn’t find the Air B&B. We found the street and drove back and forth. No sign of number 19. By this time Tom and I were both desperate for the Loo.

“We’ll check at this hotel,” the driver said.

“Good,” I replied. Throwing caution to the wind, I added, “Can we go to the ‘loo’ here.”

“Certainly,” he replied. “I need to go too.”

He shepherded us into the hotel and helped us find the appropriate places. By the time I returned to the foyer, the driver had instructions.

He parked the car, unloaded us and then dragged our two biggest suitcases, with a carry on top of one, to the bottom of 25 steps. We all looked up. “I’ll help,” he said.

He took us to our building. We had no key. We called. The person who answered said, “follow the instructions in the email, I sent you.”

We had no email. We, of course, were not yet on wifi and not using our cell phone because of roaming charges. “Please send it again.”

We turned on our phone and got the email.

“You’ll be ok then,” the driver asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “How much do we owe you.” In my head I was expecting the entire 300 pounds. Uber was supposed to cost between 60 and 70 pounds from the airport. This accommodating driver sighed and said, “Would 70 pounds be okay.” I grinned and handed him 80 pounds and we thanked him profusely. We even told him he was our angel for the day.

Eventually, we got keys, got inside and said, “We’re here, in London, a dream come true.”

 

Graduation – Friday, Saturday, Sunday

 

Graduation was lovely. The American International School of Johannesburg does it well. The ritual is spread over two days which makes it extra special. Friday there are several practices for both Friday and Saturday, a senior’s class luncheon and the awards presentation. I liked having the awards given out at a separate time from the diplomas. Our Jenna received Athlete of the Year. There were a multitude of awards for academics, service and sports. The kids had a very busy day.

They also received their red envelopes on Friday. Family and friends had been asked to write letters, send cards, pictures etc. to support their beloved student. Jenna will keep those letters always. Hopefully when the tough times come, as they do for all of us, she will be able to read them and gain courage as she soaks in the love that came with those letters. It is a lovely tradition.

Both Friday and Saturday the sun shone filling our hearts with a sense of well-being. God was smiling and celebrating with us. Saturday afternoon we gathered once again in the auditorium. There were the usual speeches. A musical interlude by a student acapella singing group added to the occasion. The final speech was fantastic.  One of the teachers, chosen by the kids, spoke to them from her heart. She did a wonderful job. She closed her talk with a popular song that she had rewritten just for the graduates. She had all the teachers join her on the chorus. We were all in tears. She brought God’s blessing of love to the grad’s. She was my choice for angel of the day.

The presentation of the diplomas was unique. As each student’s name was called they came forward and stood facing the crowd while the vice principal read out the student’s message for parents, grandparents, siblings, friends. They had 40 words, no more. There were many thank you’s and future plans. Some were entertaining. All were important. It gave each student a moment in the limelight before they received their diploma. I liked it.

The afternoon ceremony was followed by an elegant dinner in the ballroom of a local hotel. The students paraded in and then joined their family circle at a table. Champagne was provided for a toast. A milky way of tiny lights turned the hall into a magic place. The meal was delicious. The students were excited about the dance that was to follow.  Once the graduates dance with their mother or father was complete, the music volume increased. We took one look at the overcrowded dance floor and gratefully accepted a ride back to Dave’s. Dave and Jo followed about an hour later. Over the years our opportunities to celebrate Jenna’s special days have been rare. We are so glad we came.

We crawled into bed early and slept well. I rose and shone at 6:30 Sunday morning. We returned to All Saints Anglican church for worship. Everyone welcomed us. Nourished in the Spirit, we climbed into Dave’s car and headed out of town a bit to participate in a music and wine tasting festival with Dave, Jo, Lee, Russell, Steve and John. The day was warm and sunny, the music far enough away to be enjoyable, the wine and food delicious.

We could have packed Sunday night but just weren’t up to it. So we packed this morning and left for the airport at 3:00.

Who were are angels. Certainly Jenna, first and foremost. Lee and Russell, drove us home from the dance, and welcomed us into their circle. They helped make the graduation special for us. And then there was Noni. I’ll write a separate blog about Noni. And also at the top of my angel list was Jenna’s lovely mom, Joanne. She is so generous and loving. At the festival she wanted to buy everything I looked at. We need to buy the things that people have made. They are trying to make a living and we want to help them was always her excuse. She is an amazing woman.

 

God’s Angels Saved the Day (or maybe the night)

Days 6, 7, 8

We left Johannesburg in the dark. Around six, an arc of orangy red light slid up from the horizon. The moon faded to a ghostly ball as the rising sun gradually grew into a blood red circle with a golden halo. Very quickly the light dispersed, giving us a glorious clear day.

The trip to Clarens through the flat golden farmland was lovely and uneventful except when we took a wrong turn. A little more than a half hour had passed before we realized our mistake. There was no real problem except the time it took to get back on track. As we approached Clarens (over an hour late) the road gradually started rolling up and down gentle hills.

Our guide Neels was waiting. After a pit stop we left for Lesotho. Crossing the border was a breeze. We did have to get out of the car and take our passports to be stamped. All was done without question. Neels said, “This is one of the most fluid borders in the world.”

This part of Lesotho is hilly and beautiful as is all of God’s world. Neels told us that contrary to South Africa, the people of Lesotho own their homes, even though the government owns the property. Most of the settlement  homes are built with blocks making them much more permanent. Although still tiny, one room homes, from the outside they  look much more comfortable than the tar paper shacks in the Soweto type settlements outside of Johannesburg.

Neels took us to Lesotho National Park, and the          Caves. Similar yet different from the petroglyphs near Peterborough, these cave paintings told stories of the aboriginal people who lived in the area thousands of years ago. The park officer, obviously enjoyed interpreting the paintings for us, and telling us about the caves.

He also took us inside a traditional aboriginal Lesotho home and explained the functions of many of the items we could see there. After about two hours at the park, there we were very ready for a late lunch.

Neals led us to a special restaurant, well not exactly a restaurant, called Mamohase Bed and Breakfast.  We had our lunch (actually more like dinner) prepared by the mother of our host and local guide, MoRuti. He showed us to their own family dining room table and sat down to eat with us. The food was delicious. We had fried chicken, special stewed tomatoes and onions, shredded spinach salad, pumpkin and parsnips mixed, papa (porridge made of corn meal somewhat like potatoes but much drier, and steamed bread.

Tummies full, MoRuti took us on a tour of the area. The main road was fine but the side roads? They were not just gravel roads full of pot holes, they were country tracks over rocks and boulders, not very well defined. Victor drove with great skill up and down hills, around switch backs over these sort of desert wilderness trails. We were grateful Dave had loaned us his 4-wheeled drive SUV for this excursion, although we wondered if maybe his range rover would have enjoyed the journey more.

Our tour over we headed for Clarens and our Mt Horeb Manor B&B. Night had descended and the three of us were exhausted. Neels made sure we found our bed and breakfast. On arrival our host said that a table at a local hotel restaurant had been reserved for us. Not at all hungry and desperate to relax in our room, we felt obligated to go at least for a glass of wine and something very light. The restaurant was lovely. Tom and I shared a meal of turf and serf and sipped a glass of wine. Not exactly a light meal but at least small, since we shared. Victor did not feel obligated. He returned for us and ferried us to our home for the night.

Tom and I would both recommend Neels as a guide. He’s pleasant, friendly, extremely helpful, knowledgeable. We enjoyed our day with him. (contact info below.)

Mt Horeb Manor is the best, offering luxury, more than luxury. Lit with tiny lights encircling the path and the archway we stepped into a room fit for royalty. Spacious, more than spacious, the room contained a king size bed, a love seat, comfy chair, and coffee table. The bathroom had a big jacuzzi as well.  Regretfully, we climbed into bed at 9:30 too tired to soak in the luxury.

In the morning we opened the curtains in our glassed in room, to a spectacular view of the Drakensberg Mountains glowing in the South African morning sun. Breakfast in the beautifully appointed dining room, was delicious. Mt. Horeb Manor has a resident chef. Tom had biscuits, freshly made that morning, with his amazing omelet. Of course I had rice cakes. Our omelets were loaded with mushrooms, cheese, bacon and tomatoes. There were sauces to add and a salad as well. Of course there were the usual cereal, yoghurt, juice, etc. We aren’t used to this kind of opulence but we certainly enjoyed every bite and every moment.

Breakfast over we headed to the Dakensberg Boys school for the afternoon concert. We were leaving way too early, but after our wrong turn yesterday, the three of us agreed it was wise. We drove through Golden Gate National Park, stopping to take pictures of the spectacular scenery. We stopped in Winterton for lunch. Shopping lacked interest but one of the locals suggested that we tried shopping at a mall close to the school. It was a mall, but unlike any mall at home. The individual shops with their reed roofs and stucco sides were cool in the South African sun. Still it was a tourist spot and we had fun being tourists.

At the school, we were welcomed and given a tour. When the concert started, I gave thanks to God for this opportunity. The sound, the boys expressions, the choreography – we were in the presence of  approx.. 80 of God’s angels dressed in blue and singing from their hearts. The Holy Spirit sent prickles up and down my arms and brought tears to my eyes. On my right sat a couple from Holland who come twice a year just for the choir. I understood why. These young people go on tours. They’ve been to Canada. If they ever come again we will certainly be there to welcome them.

The choir was the highlight of this little three day tour. The concert ended at dusk. When we went looking for the Cathkin Bed and Breakfast, down a very dark, rough gravel twisting side road we felt once again we were on an adventure. Our adventure turned to high stress, as we struggled to find our way in the inky black of a South African night. Finallym after consultation with a gatekeeper, we pulled into a driveway. We had arrived, we hoped. I foolishly volunteered to make sure this was the place. It wasn’t well lit. The front of the cottage had no doors. I followed a path along the side. As I rounded a curve I was blinded by a green light and stumbled. I didn’t quite fall down. As I struggled to get my balance I shifted my body away from the light and saw four shallow very wide steps. At the top was grass and a few lights illuminating sliding glass doorways to three rooms. Up ahead I saw the dark shadow of a dog coming silently towards me. As usual I panicked. I turned and retraced my steps to the car. By this time, Tom and Victor had found a sign saying we were at Cathkin Cottage. At least we were in the right place. Tom took my hand and we went back around and up the steps. At that point we were by a young woman. She identified herself as Laura and said she wasn’t the owner. The owner had left because of an emergency. She would find out what to do. Tom and I returned to Victor and the car.

In a few moments a young man, Byron appeared with Laura and a telephone. He was talking to the owner. He handed the phone to me. “You are not registered,” Leila said.

“Yes, we are,” I declared. “My son David made the reservation and paid for it.”

“ You must have the wrong day,” she said. “It’s Wednesday May 22nd. Is your reservation for next week.”

“No!” I said.

“Well, I can give you a room since you’re here.”

“I have a receipt,” I said. “It’s already paid for.”

“Alright, I’ll talk with your son. You can leave the receipt in your room.”

“Thank you,”  I handed the phone back to Byron. Once again we traipsed around, up the steps to the back of the house. Laura produced a key to room too. We dragged in our luggage. At this point Victor was feeling nervous about his accommodation. Would he be able to find it. Would his reservation be ok. The three of us were hungry as well. We had passed the Drakensberg Sun Resort just down the road. Victor wasn’t enthusiastic about coming for supper with us. He just want to get himself settled for the night at River Crossing wherever that was. Byron volunteered to drive us to the hotel, since they were going for supper there as well, so Victor left.

Byron and Laura owned a truck, a two seater. Laura sat on the transmission housing, Tom took the passenger seat, and I sat on his lap, my head bent against the windshield. I was grateful that it was only five minutes to the hotel. We enjoyed a beautiful buffet. When we called Victor, he was fine. All settled in a lovely place and already eating dinner. At the end of the meal Byron came to our table and assured us he would take us home and return for Laura.

This time I sat on the transmission housing, which was much more comfortable compared to the last trip. Byron offered to make two trips but I said, “Oh no, we’re already putting you out enough”.

At breakfast the next day, we learned that Byron and Laura were guests of Cathkin B&B, and friends of the owners daughter. They had come for Leila’s daughter’s wedding last Saturday and decided to stay a few extra days. When we arrived they had just volunteered to help.

They were certainly God’s angels for us. They couldn’t have been more helpful. We will remember them as we rock in our rocking chairs.

Cathkin B&B we will try to forget. Our room was small, and not even a little luxurious. It was more like staying a tiny motel. After the sumptuous Mt Horeb, we were obviously spoiled. When I checked the receipts for the two places, I was surprised to discover that the cost was the same. Booking on line can give you surprises. It gave us an experience, and we did have a place to stay. I’m sure the Drakensberg Sun Lodge up the road would have been triple the cost.

Breakfast was good, not as fancy as Mt. Horeb but just fine. Today we are trekking back to Johannesburg. The angel’s of the last two days? Byron, Laura, the Drakensberg choir and Neels have shown us the goodness of humankind.

If you ever are in South Africa, I would recommend a side trip to Lasotho led by Neels who is based in Clarens, the Mt. Horeb Manor Bed and Breakfast in Clarens and the Drakensberg Choir.

More pictures tomorrow.

Neels Lesotho Tour Guide:  Cell: 076 392 2605

Mamohase Bed & Breakfast hosted by Moruti

Cell:5904 7042   WhatsApp: +266 5904 7042

Mt. Horeb Manor, 139 Roos Street, Clarens, S.A.                               Phone: +27 76 392 2605

 

An Amazing Opportunity!!!!

Hi Friends,

As you know, we are in Johannesburg, South Africa with my son Dave and his family. Dave and Jo teach at the international school of Johannesburg. Granddaughter Jenna graduates grade 12 this year and will be returning to Canada to study at Queens in Kingston.

This letter is about one of Jenna’s classmates and sports teammates, Noni   Dube .

Noni is an amazing young woman. At the end of grade 7, in her township school, Noni earned a scholarship to the International School of Johannesburg. Her courage, intelligence, enthusiasm and hard work, have now earned her a 4 yr. tuition scholarship to Trent University in Peterborough. For a foreign student to study in Canada, they must have the money up front to cover accommodation, food, return flight, books etc.  Noni lives in one of the “townships” of South Africa.  Although her single parent Mom, is hardworking, she could never amass that kind of money.

Noni wants to study overseas because she understands that an international education will empower her to help her people. Already she is part of a program to help young girls from her township stay in school. Obviously a top student, excellent athlete and team player, Noni is loved by everyone around her.

I believe that education is the first step to world peace.  As Mother Theresa so wisely said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.  This is our opportunity to share our abundant blessings through supporting Noni.

Noni’s teammates have opened a “Go Fund Me” site for Noni.

Please click Noni’s page  .  Read about Noni and her accomplishments. Please contribute to this beautiful young woman’s future. She needs your help, to help others.

 

 

Arrival in Joburg – Days 3,4,5

It’s Tuesday morning. I have three days to catch up. Our flight Friday night was excellent. I know that because neither Tom nor I slept at all. This time Tom had an aisle seat, praise God, and I was right next to him. We read, watched movies. I wrote up Day 2.

We chose to be the last off the plane. It meant we had lots of time to gather our stuff and hobble down the skinny aisle. Waiting for us as we stepped off was not one wheelchair, but two. I gladly appropriated the second one and collapsed into it for a long ride. Our wheelchair angels kindly stopped for a bathroom break along the way.

Luggage came through quickly. With our baggage in hand, they wheeled us to Dave and Joanne. After big hugs all around and a Canadian money tip for our angels, (all we had at the moment. They gave us huge smiles.  Probably was more than usual when exchanged for African Rand), we loaded into the car and drove to Dave’s. The weather of course was lovely – warm and sunny. We sat and talked on their patio for about an hour, then sank into bed. I slept two hours, Tom a little more.

Once awake, Dave made us a delicious supper. This is a vegetarian household. One of the blessings in that is both Dave and Joanne are excellent cooks. We managed to stay awake until ten.

Sunday morning was great. We started with Dave’s hearty breakfast.

Back home we had searched out on Google, the closest church. Dave and Joanne were busy that morning so Dave summoned an Uber driver to ferry us to All Saints Anglican Church. As you can see from the pictures, the architecture is a little different from home and quite beautiful. Inside everything was familiar except for the rows of clear glass picture windows that looked out on their parklike grounds. Being at Sunday worship grounded us. Anastasia, their new priest is a gracious and an excellent speaker. The highlight came at the end of the service. Anastasia invited one of the more senior members of the congregation to lead us in an African praise and blessing. The people’s voices came alive as they sang.

After church, we were welcomed, loved and fed, coffee, tea  and sandwiches. At one point, I looked out the window of the spacious reception area and spied a special visitor. A spectacular peacock had come to worship.

We didn’t have to call Uber to get home, because one of the congregation offered us a ride.  We were invited back  for our second Sunday. As always happens back home,Tom was told he was needed to help with the singing.  We will see what is on the agenda. A lot will happen between now and then.

We slept Sunday afternoon and enjoyed one of my favorite meals. Jo laid out a huge wooden tray filled with cheeses and sauces and crackers and bread and fruit and …..  We watched a little tennis with her while we ate.

Jenna stopped studying long enough to join us for supper. She is in the midst of her final exams. She’s in the International Baccalaureat program and a top student. Already she’s been awarded a scholarship to come to Queen’s in Kingston next year and study Kinesiology. We are delighted to have her back in Canada.

Monday was a quiet day. Jet lag had set in,V in earnest. We slept til ten, had a slow yoghurt breakfast. In the afternoon, Tom and I walked to a strip mall to the bank machine to fill our pockets with South African Rand. Problem: Back home in Canada I had been given the names of two banks that would accept our debit card. Neither bank was represented in the four machines available. We walked back to Dave’s. A Google search revealed the friendly Scotia Bank representative had given us the names of one bank in Senegal and one in Australia. Google told us to use Absa bank in Johannesburg. By this time, Dave was home from school and drove me back to the mall. My hip has been doing a lot of complaining.

The driver, Victor, for the next day’s excursion, arrived to check out Dave’s car and get his instructions. Victor is the father of a colleague of Dave and Joanne, a Phys. Ed instructor at the International School. He is also a retired driver for government celebrities coming to South Africa.crazy tourists. We will be in good, experienced hands.

That finished, Jenna, Jo and I slipped away to shop for a grad dress for Jenna. Of course, I had a grand time with that. It’s always a pleasure to take one of my granddaughters shopping. Once the dress was chosen and purchased, we relaxed at a restaurant for supper. I had crushed sweet potato and pine nuts on a delicious tangy white sauce and vegetarian falafels with avocado dip. Totally yummy.

We returned home to pack and get to bed early. Departure this morning was 5:30 a.m.

Angels, I didn’t mention our angels. Well, Dave, Jo and Jenna are certainly filling that role. It felt as if we attended a church full of angels on Sunday, especially the generous woman who drove us home. In some ways, Tom and I were visiting angels there as well. I did bring a couple of my books as gifts.

This morning we’re driving into the sunrise. The grasses covering the land alongside the highway are dipped in gold. This 3 day adventure to Lesotho and into the Drakensberg mountains to hear the Drakensberg boys choir has begun. The air is misty. The moon is nearly full. We are truly blessed.

That’s it for this morning.

Airports and “Old Folks”

Day Two

Flying is amazing and can be tough. Assigned the middle two seats in a row of four in the centre of the plane,  we slid our sceptical bodies into place. One saving Grace was the 1/2 inch of clearance  forTom’s knees with the seat ahead. Our dreams of Tom pacing up and down the 18 inch aisles every time his hip started to complain, were the first to take flight. The youngish man, who sat on my left, smiled and said hello, as he sat down. So far, so good, I thought. He took one look at both of us and said, “Just wake me up anytime you need to  get up. I’m going home and I don’t sleep much on planes anyway.  He did get up willingly and with a smile, each time we asked. Now that’s an angel. I’m sure the quiet young man seated on Tom’s right  who slept for most of the flight, would have wakened If we had asked. Thankfully, we didn’t need to disturb him. We scouted over to my left and stood up as needed.

We arrived in Frankfurt, Germany at 11:05 Frankfurt time on Friday. We had lost 6 hours in real time. Neither of us had slept for even five minutes. Maybe it was excitement about the trip or maybe not. Regardless we felt like we were about 110 years old.

Tom hobbled off the plane and sank gratefully into the wheelchair.  We piled a carry-on and a knapsack on Tom’s lap. A friendly and strong young man, pushed Tom’s wheelchair and pulled a carry-on, down the endless corridors to the elevator. I limped along beside, my knapsack secure on my back. At the elevators, our wheelchair angel, passed us on to another angel, Katie, an enthusiastic youngish woman.  She looked at our papers. “Shaking her head,” she said, “You’ve ten hours to wait! We’ll go to the wheel chair lounge.”

“But we’re flying economy,” I answered.

“No matter.” She helped us settle on the two lounge chairs, organizing our luggage.  She pointed at the corner, “There’s coffee and tea right over there.  I’ll be back to take you for supper. If you need anything just ask at the desk.”

God’s angels certainly are caring for us, I thought.   The chairs were made of plastic wood, a little hard, at least we could stretch out. We slept for about an hour. My trip to the washroom revealed the children’s corner and a small bed. It was just big enough for me to curl up. Best of all, it had a slightly soft, one  inch thick cushion on it. I slept another hour, at which point both of us woke. Once again, Katie the wheelchair angel appeared. This time she whizzed us off in a golf cart, gave us a riding tour of that part of the airport and finally, deposited us at a Bavarian restaurant.

Of course, I took pictures of both food and restaurant. The meal was good, sort of. I ordered the traditional meatloaf slice and potato salad. The slice tasted a great deal like a giant hot dog. Tom, of course, reminded me that hotdogs are skinny frankfurters. Tom fared a little better with his pig’s knuckle. The best part of the meal was a sweet mustard sauce that transformed everything.

Our meal over, we retired to the nearby movie lounge. The big soft chairs, and charging station meant we could power up our technology and connect to the internet. Several hours passed. Tom laid down on the floor to sleep with his legs up on the chair, as he does sometimes at home.  I posted yesterday’s blog and answered a few emails. I couldn’t stay awake any longer. We gathered up our luggage and started to walk back to the lounge.  In less than a minute, angel Katie appeared, her golf cart a gift from heaven.  Two solid hours of sleep in the kid’s bed helped a great deal. When I woke up, I noticed a sign: “This area is only for unattended minors.” I chuckled and thought, that might describe the state of me at the moment.

At 9:00 p.m,. Katie ushered us to the gate for our flight for Johannesburg. We flew off into the sunset. This flight was longer, but more luxurious. We even had real stainless-steel cutlery with our late night dinner. It reminded me of flying Ward Air years ago. Of course, there was wine, beer and liquor aplenty to drink. The meal was served on formica dishes, not plastic. It tasted pretty good, too. International flights are radically different from Air Canada’s domestic ones.

David will pick us up at the airport in Johannesburg. I think I’ll sleep all day Saturday. It’s not the jet lag it’s the inability to sleep. Years ago, when I was flying to New Zealand the seats were bigger and the flights weren’t full. Yes, it was forever on the plane, but I could stretch out across three seats.

More angels tonight. They lifted and lugged suitcases, brought us headphones that actually worked, and helped us work the controls on the on-board entertainment system. I watched a movie, wrote this blog, read my book and just stayed busy instead of sleeping. At that point, I had become to tired to see the angels that surrounded me.

Travelling with God’s Angels – South African Adventure

Travelling with God’s Angels

Our Adventure Has Begun

Day One: Travelling with God’s Angels.

Hi everyone, we have had quite a day, a memorable start to our trip. I’ve decided that during this trip I will keep my eyes and ears open for God’s angels. This morning God came first in grandson Tim. He stays with us, although he spends most of his time at his mom’s home, caring for the dogs. This morning Tim was with us. He lugged the two heavy suitcases out to the car. Of course the car was full of books which he had to carry inside. We heard not a word of complaint. It was almost as if we were doing Tim a favour by letting him help us. He came and went all morning.

Tim brought his sister, Ellie, for lunch. Two of our special angels to see us off. It was lovely. They took pictures. Their hugs were a great send off. Surely, God was there in them surrounding us with love.

On the way to the home of Tom’s brother, Bob, we delivered some books I had borrowed from a fellow writer. We had a wonderful conversation about writing and faith and church. We stopped much longer than we had intended. It felt like we had been God’s angels for each other. God was certainly present in our conversation.

We enjoyed our conversation with Bob on the way to the airport. We unloaded, hugged goodbye, and headed straight for Air Canada’s special care desk. We were four hours ahead of flight departure. Both Tom and Bob were amused at my need to arrive so early.

All was well until we stepped up to the desk to check our luggage. Tom reached for his passport. “Oh my God,” he said. “I’ve left my sports jacket hanging over the car seat. In the pocket is my wallet and my passport.” It would have been fairly simple if we could have called Bob who was driving our car back to his condo for a 3 week rest. Bob keeps his cell phone in his own car for emergencies only.

Without the passport, we couldn’t check our baggage and board the plane. Traffic of course was frightful at 5 p.m. and Bob took an hour and a half to drive across the city through supper time traffic to his condo. In the meantime, Tom was frantically calling Bob’s condo every five minutes . You can imagine our relief when Bob finally called to tell us he was on his way back through the traffic to bring the neglected blazer and documents.

The Air Canada agent assured us all would be well, because we had arrived at the airport so early. I just nodded and smiled. a trip that normally takes about 40 minutes. Bob’s first words when he handed Tom his jacket were ,”Brother you owe me big time.” And of course, we do. Were there angels in the midst of our turmoil Of course. The Air Canada reps who were so helpful and reassuring certainly felt like God’s angels. They couldn’t have been more understanding even as they kept shaking their heads and telling us we needed that passport.

For me, I thanked God that Bob went directly home after he dropped us at the airport. I thank God that Bob’s friend Anne made sure that Bob got the message. We had called her when we couldn’t reach Bob at home. Bob was definitely God’s angel. I’m sure it was only family loyalty and Bob’s native generosity that brought him back to the airport. Four times across the city during rush hour traffic was definitely angel work.

The wonderful Air Canada staff cheerfully coped with two upset passengers. They loaded Tom into the wheelchair and delivered us through the long journey within the airport to our loading gate with a half hour to spare.

Yes, we are not alone on this journey. It could have started out as the trip from hell. Instead, with the help of God’s angels, we have weathered the obstacles without an unkind word to each other or from anyone else. We are truly blessed.