28 June 2012

A Surprise Party for Jurg!!!

It's Jurgen's birthday today!... 28th birthday to be exact!

{old man.}

It's hard to believe we met when he was just 23 years old and I was a little baby at 20.  So much has happened between then and now and I'm so grateful to be celebrating yet another wonderful year of this boy's life.  With each and every year that passes we continue to grow and learn and experience life together, and I must say that it's been one exciting, exhilarating, and {sometimes} challenging journey so far.  I can't wait to see what the next year holds, I have a hunch that it's going to be one of the best yet :)

To commemorate his birthday this year I decided to throw a surprise party of sorts!

The Venue

Since moving to Jo'burg we had heard a lot of great things about Die Blou Hond {Afrikaans for The Blue Dog}, but hadn't had a chance to attend one of their events in the two and a half years that we've been living here.  Die Blou Hond books local Afrikaans artists from around South Africa to come and play at the venue and provides guests with a casual and cozy dining experience and serves a three course home-cooked meal throughout the show.  Sticking with their "dog" theme, they serve meals out of dog bowls and ask guests to "woof" when they like something instead of applaud.  Sounds like fun, right!?  Definitely something different from the ordinary. 

 On a whim I decided to check out their website and see who would be playing around the end of June.  As I scanned the list of artists and musicians, the name of Koos Kombuis immediately jumped out at me.  He would be playing on the 23rd of June.

Bingo.  Birthday dilemma solved.

{Note: Koos Kombuis is somewhat of a legend in Afrikaans music and we were fortunate to see him play back in 2009 when we were still living and studying in Stellenbosch.  We went with a big group of friends and ended up having one of the best nights in Stellenbosch history {which is saying a lot!}.  Jurgen still talks about that evening all. the. time.}


Combine awesome music, dinner, wine, and six good friends {two of which flew all the way up from Cape Town}, and you have yourself one great birthday surprise!  

And I can honestly say, he was really surprised.  He was already over the moon when he came back from the gym to find two of his best friends from Cape Town waiting for him, and he was even more surprised when we arrived at the venue and he figured out who was playing.  Then two of his other best friends joined the party and the result was one big happy reunion / celebration.  

Birthdays should always be celebrated with good friends :)

The evening ended up being a huge success.  The venue was amazing {we will definitely be going back for many more shows}, the food was good, and the conversation even better.  We are so blessed to have great friends who are willing to make such an effort {and even hop on a plane} to celebrate important life events with us.  

Great company
Starters served in dog bowls
Koos Kombuis!
Suzanne & Ryno
Koos in costume ;)
We were even able to meet him after the show!
Happy Birthday Jurg!

After the show we all went out together for a few drinks before calling it a night, and I think it's safe to say that this birthday will also go down in the books as one of the best ever.  We had such a wonderful time with such wonderful people.  On the rare occasion that we all get to meet up, I always wish that there was some way we could live close to each other again.  A two and a half hour plane flight is too far!

- - - - -

Happy Birthday Jurg!

Love you to the moon and back - here's to another incredible year!

Can't wait to celebrate over dinner and a nice bottle of red wine tonight :)

- - - - -

Die Blou Hond hosts musicians every weekend as well as on selected week days.  Shows start at 6:30pm and last until approximately 10:00pm.  Tickets start at R275.00 p.p. and include the show as well as a delicious three-course meal.  For more information on upcoming dates and artists see here!

26 June 2012

{Stellenbosch}: A Photo Essay

My long-term love affair with Stellenbosch is no secret and some of you may vaguely recall seeing past posts on the blog dedicated to this stunning little town nestled in the heart of the Cape Winelands {see here and here}.  You see, Stellenbosch just so happens to be where I had the pleasure of living during my first year and a half in South Africa, where Jurgen and I first met, where we started dating, where I held my first waitressing job, where I started learning Afrikaans, where I studied abroad for two semesters of my undergrad career... and the list could go on and on.  As you may imagine, I am just about as sentimental as one can get about this picturesque little student's town and every time I return for a visit I seem to fall in love with it all over again.  

As I walk down the main street {the one with all the huge trees, pictured above}, or step foot onto the University's campus {also pictured above}, or admire all of the old Cape Dutch architecture, I always get that nostalgic feeling that sends chills up your spine and tells you that you are really and truly returning to a place that once was home, and always will be home.  

I simply love this place.

{Note: these photos were taken last month when I flew to the Cape to meet up with my {American} ex-roommates and very dear friends that studied abroad with me in Stellenbosch in 2008.  It was such a great weekend.  Fortunately for me, I will be heading back to good old "Stellies" for a week in July to attend a conference.  I can't wait!  Definitely lots more photos and good times to come!}

20 June 2012

{Wine Tasting With A View}: Delaire Graff Estate

Straight after my trip to Rwanda and Uganda last month, I hopped on a plane to Cape Town to meet up for a mini-reunion with two of my old roommates {we all roomed together when we studied abroad!}.  It was quite the special occasion since the last time we were all together was in 2008 and I was so glad that I was able to make the trip out at the last minute.  Jenny and Brigid both live in the United States now, and it was their first time setting foot back on South African soil since the end of our semester abroad over four years ago.  Reunions like these ones always make for unforgettable memories!

We had planned on going for a full day wine tour one of the days, but time slipped away from us {as it has a tendency of doing} and we ended up only having time for one quick tasting that Friday afternoon.  Brigid and Jenny left the choice of winery up to me and I quickly decided to take them to Delaire Graff Wine Estate for three reasons: 

1) It's a relatively new winery and vineyard that they had never seen before;
2) Their tasting room offers the most delicious cheese platters, and;
3) The estate sits on a mountain overlooking Helshoogte Pass and the quaint little French town of Franschhoek, offering some of the most unparalleled views in South Africa.

As might be expected, the estate also offers some lovely wines to sip on, but since their vineyards are still so young and we are so spoiled for choice when it comes to wine in South Africa, they certainly don't {yet} rank among the best in the area.  Fortunately, the three of us aren't too picky when it comes to wine ;)

We thoroughly enjoyed an afternoon full of cheese, wine, good company, and the most beautiful scenery.  

Here are a few pictures from our little outing.

Delaire Graff Estate also boasts an amazing restaurant {with the most beautiful fire place I've ever laid eyes on}, an internationally renowned lodge, a spa {which can be used by both hotel guests and day visitors}, and a Diamond Salon {!}.  They sure do know the way to a girl's heart ;) 

A stop {or stay} at Delaire is definitely a must if you're ever in the Stellenbosch area!

{for directions and more information see here}

18 June 2012

Uganda {Part II}: Our Little Island Bungalow

Today I'm happy to be back with another recap post from my trip last month to Rwanda & Uganda

Some of you may have noticed that I took a little hiatus from my travel recap posts since I was worried that if I posted them all in succession I was going to send you all into Rwanda/Uganda overload!  Plus, Jurg and I have had a lot of other exciting and blog worthy things happening in our lives over the past couple of weeks that I wanted to share on here.  But today, I'm finally back on track with another :)

To see {Part I} of my Uganda trip to Lake Bunyonyi see here.

One of the many things that makes Lake Bunyonyi such a beautiful and mesmerizing place to visit is the fact that the lake is speckled with hundreds and hundreds of tiny green islands.  Many of these islands house local villages, schools, and orphanages, but some of them also offer tourists and backpackers a place for rest and relaxation.  We opted to stay on one of the islands rather than along the shore and, based on the recommendation of our boat driver, found ourselves checking in at Byoona Amagara Island Resort.  

We were allocated the most adorable little wooden cottage for three and thoroughly enjoyed our short stay in this tiny paradise.  The food was amazing {it's incredible what they can put together with only a few ingredients!} and we had the coolest solar powered outdoor shower that I've ever seen {I think I showered 3 times in the span of 24 hours!}.  We spent a lot of time lounging in their common area, reading our books, and sipping on fantas straight from the bottle.  Since electricity is limited to solar panels, at night it's very dark - the kind of dark where you can't see your hands when you hold them right in front on your face - so we headed back to our cabin pretty early that evening, lit the candles they provided, and watched movies on Katie's iPad.  The next morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of apple cinnamon crepes and french toast before heading back to the mainland.

Our adorable little cabin!
Scoping out the inside
Each bed had a mosquito net over it - Uganda has a serious Malaria problem.
Family photo ;)
The "resort's" awesome lounge/common area
It's a proven fact that fantas are even more delicious from a glass bottle.
Last glimpse of daylight over the lake
Only candles at night!
6am view of the lake - stunning!
Complimentary Ugandan tea with breakfast :)
My apple cinnamon crepe - it was just as good as it looks and definitely hit the spot!
Our shower - quite possibly my very favorite part of our stay!  It was outdoor and solar heated with a perfect panoramic view of the lake!  Doesn't get much better than that my friends.
And of course, we had to squeeze in a jumping pic :)

Byoona Amagara Island must be close to the top of my list of coolest places I've ever stayed and on the off chance that you decide to visit Lake Bunyonyi one day, I definitely recommend staying at this little island resort.  In fact, I'm dying to convince Jurgen to hop on a plane with me back to Uganda since I know he would fall in love with Lake Bunyonyi and all of its third world "middle of nowhere" charm.  I'm not sure what their prices were as I never really got a good grasp on the whole Ugandan currency exchange thing, but I know that they were cheap!

What's the coolest/most unique/most memorable hotel/backpackers/accommodation experience you've ever had while travelling?

Ps: I'm Daryl's featured fave this week!  Head on over to her blog and check out some of my favorite things about living in South Africa here!