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Posts Tagged ‘gardens’

 

It crept stealthily around the great elm tree at the bottom of the garden.  It stopped and its graceful form was silhouetted against the undergrowth. Slowly it moved closer and one leg hovered. It hesitated while it kept an eye out for any impending danger. Satisfied, the great blue heron trusted its surroundings enough to stay a while. It began to scout the blades of grass. This beautiful bird was so reminiscent of its familiar African cousins.  It had a different demeanour and was prepared to risk a closer look. It edged forward as it grabbed the sought after delectable grub.

 

Our graceful visitor

Our graceful visitor

 

There is something inside of me that just sings out loud when I venture into my garden. The inner child just wants to rush out! My garden is full of surprises and still taps into my sense of wonder. The joy of a spring bulb, the revival of an iced shrub and the scurrying visitors all keep me intrigued. It is a place where I can go to and remember who I am. It does not matter what country I live in. The joy and contentment it provides, remains the same.

 

The bastions lure you to explore further....

The bastions lure you to explore further….

 

 There are times in life when you have to dig deep, real deep to find that peace and contentment. Some find it in their chosen career path, others in the things they possess and some simply need to face a challenge. We focus on survival in our concrete jungles but in our gardens we can stop for respite. So I am fortunate that my garden provides that for me! There is something so honest and straight forward about tending a garden. As I wallow about with my plants, it puts all things that I ponder into perspective. It reminds me that there are no short cuts in life. As I begin to cut back the vigorous summer growth, I am also reminded that there is a time for everything in a garden. Each season brings hope and promise.

Some wise man once said: There is no paradise on this earth; it is up to us to create it. I just did!

 

Summer 2012 018

 

 

 

 

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The mountain was clear and there was no rain that day.

The wheels screeched on the tarmac and the aeroplane swayed from side to side. I felt a surge of emotion as I traced the silhouette of Table Mountain with my eyes. It had been a whole year since I had seen that majestic piece of sandstone; I was back on South African soil!

It was a typical Cape Town winter’s evening and I drank in the moist, sea air as I jumped into the car. I tried to pick out the familiar landmarks through the shadows as we caught up on all the news. My soft bed was a welcome sight having spent 24 hours in transit. I could still hear the drone of the engine in my ears. I lay there and was soothed by the soft rain on the tin roof.

 The morning brought more rain but that did not deter the enthusiasm to get out and explore. This was after all, my old stamping ground. I had raced around these very streets in my mini all those years ago……

Waar is daardie dae?

 I looked up at the mountain and was reminded of my student days with the sherry and peanut sundowners, we used to enjoy on the grassy banks. What a combination! But we thought it was grand and of course Old Brown sherry suited our pockets too. These carefree memories all came flooding back and I savoured them. But I was brought back to reality with the surprise that my children had planned for me. I was about to be treated to a grown up version of a similar celebration. It was to be a ‘high tea’ at the Mount Nelson Hotel.

 The vista over the formal gardens was magnificent. It came complete with cascading fountains, white roses, blue plumbago and pink hydrangeas. We sipped on our English Breakfast and tucked into the dainty treats that had been carefully laid out on a tiered white china plate. The stately morning room came complete with the sumptuous furnishings of exquisite brocades and soft velvets. It reminded us of a bygone era and we took in the period paintings, carefully selected cutlery and the strategically placed tassels.

One of the guests appeared as if he had just jumped out of a time machine. He had the hugest handle bar moustache that I had ever seen. The ‘grisly white mouse’ stretched from ear to ear and curled up at the tips. He spoke with an air of authority and can only imagine that he must have had a military background. Major or not, he would still have had to pick that hairy appendage clean each night!

The next hairstyle that I was about to admire was that of a jazz violinist who played foot stomping melodies at a local market. This teased pyramid of hair swayed back and forth as the shoppers poured over the wonderful array of home grown goods. There was everything from honey to home brewed beer. I decided to sip on the latter as the taste of tea had already left my palette.

The mountain, the people and the music…….I was back in Cape Town.

Interesting people abound at the local market.

Here’s to catching up with family and friends in SA!

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The majestic Casa Loma suddenly appeared from behind the stone wall. We had traipsed up the long path from the station in the blazing sun and saw this grande dame nestling between the trees with her flags proudly flapping out her heritage. I had poured over the pictures in my guide book but this was her in the flesh, I had to pinch myself!

A piece of Scotland in Canada.

A piece of Scotland in Canada.

Sir Henry Pellatt began the building process in 1906 which included a team of 300 skilled artisans on the job for 3 years. What makes this whole building so amazing is some of the features and its sheer size. It has a typical castle vantage position perched on a ridge that looks out over the city of Toronto. I could see the CN Tower in the distance from the top turret window. We climbed this narrow staircase right to the top! Casa Loma lauds itself over any surrounding houses and even the condos cannot compete with its splendor! The Gothic revival style with the towers and turrets transports the observer back to a forgotten era when time was given to detail and this was reflected in the finishes which were spectacular. There was a free standing shower with 6 additional heads, overhead stained glass windows, wooden carved paneling, gleaming hard wood inlaid flooring to name but a few. A feeling of mystery had also been created with secret passages, hidden staircases and underground tunnels. I felt those chills when we ran through the narrow 800 foot slippery tunnel to get through to the stables. It was a gracious time and guests were taken between floors with an elevator and soothed with the sounds of an organ in the Great Hall.

Beautiful stained glass windows overhead.....

Beautiful stained glass windows overhead…..

 

Sir Henry was larger than life itself and although he had made his fortune in hydroelectric power, he lost his beloved castle after less than 10 years when the government seized it to pay for outstanding property taxes. The Great Depression left its mark on this gracious building and the years eroded away its splendor. The castle then had a chequered life for a while and was run as a hotel and then as a jazz night club. But this stately home was to redeem itself during World War 11, it served to conceal research that was being conducted on sonar. These sonar devices were built way down in the tunnels under the castle and were used to detect U-boats during World War 11. What a claim to fame that was!

But the best I have left for last, the 5 acres of garden with rolling green lawns, formal laid out terraces, sparkling fountains framed with majestic Elm trees. We ambled through the cascades of the soft blues,  purples and pinks  and enjoyed the irises, azaleas and roses. It was music to my soul!

 

The city of Toronto in the distance...

The city of Toronto in the distance…

The bells rang out their dreaded knell and it was time to make our way back. We looked over our shoulders and through the trees and caught a final glimpse of ‘The Hill House.’

It was a day to remember.

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