South Africa, day 2: the cheetah and the sore nose 

Today we headed outside Cape Town to the wine region. At 10.30 am Roderik (our guide) came and picked us up from our apartment. We didn’t really want to spend the whole day drinking wine, because we aren’t upper fussed over it, so we headed to the cheetah sanctuary that the guy at the reception at the apartment had suggested we go to.

The outfit: black dungarees, jazzy shirt, frilly socks and white Nikes. Oh, and the rucksack.

I’m always a bit nervous about going to places like zoos or animal “sanctuaries”, because I worry a lot about the welfare of the animals and I can’t stand seeing the animals suffering, it breaks me. We went to Seaworld in San Diego when I was a kid (this well before the whole Blackfish thing) and even at 10 it broke my heart to see those beautiful creatures contained within concrete walls. I also remember seeing an elephant at a zoo not so long ago, swaying from left to right (just like a person rocking backwards and forwards in the foetal position), and it genuinely reduced me to tears. Seeing such intelligent and wonderful animals in such a state of clear depression – I can’t deal with it. So, I was a bit nervous about going to see the cheetah at the sanctuary.
We arrived at the sanctuary and we paid to go in and have a “cub experience”. This was where you got to go in the enclosure with the cubs (who were around 9 months old) and stroke them and sit with them for a bit. Here we met Kito and his brother. These two little guys had been born at a sanctuary a few miles away and their mother unfortunately hadn’t made it. They had been brought here and had grown up in the sanctuary. The people looking after the cheetah made is very clear that under no circumstances were we to touch their faces, tummies or tails, as this was more likely to agitate them – just like it would your domestic cat.
We had to always keep one foot planted on the ground if we were in a kneeling position, so you could move away quickly if needs be, and you were only to stroke the cheetah with a flat palm, so it didn’t tickle them. The lady who was telling us about Kito and his brother, is old us his brother was a bit agitated today and we wouldn’t be able to have any contact time with him; he kept jumping up and looking at what was going on around him and was distracted by the cars moving around outside and the comings and goings of the people. The staff let the animals get up and move around as they pleased, and we were to move out of the way if either of the animals wanted to get up, look at something or have a wander.
I was the last to stroke Kito, he’d decided he wanted to leap up and jump on a box when someone else was stroking him, so I got to stoke him whilst he was sitting up rather than laying down. After a few strokes, he started purring, and I stared talking to him (just like I do my kitties at home) and told him he was much bigger than my little cats back home. He turned around to face me and looked at me with his head cocked slightly to one side. The keeper who was standing by him said he never does that with anyone and that he must like me, which obviously made me feel like the Queen of the Cheetah, and I went out of the enclosure a very happy Bonnie.
Kito’s fur was rougher than I had imagined it was going to be, and at least I can say I have stroked a cheetah and put some money towards a sanctuary. I still hate seeing them cooped up like that, but they have been born in captivity, and it’s much better than them being someone’s pet.

Lil’ Kito

After meeting Kito, we went to Spiers 1692 and went for their premium wine tasting option. This was made up of 6 wines; 2 white and 4 red. As someone who is certainly no wine conesoir, all of these wines were very pallettable, rather than tasting like vinegar.

Moi in picture frame

My favourites were the Sauvignon blanc and the Pinotage, and we were soon feeling rather sozzled.

Moi avec wine

I went to the shop after and bought a bottle of the Sauv to take home with me – so, Claire, if you are reading this, please free up your schedule for my return.

The white
The red
The snacks

The highlight of this day however, had to be when Gail walked into the glass door on our way out. It was like a slapstick comedy, and she strode straight into it and bonked her nose on it. I thought it was absolutely hilarious and I had to walk away as she recovered to save myself from laughing in her face. At this point she couldn’t see the funny side of it and was still insisting that she hadn’t seen it, rather than it being as a result of her wine intake (whatever you say mama G).

Sulky Gail

After that we went to another winery which was actually closed for renovation, but the door was open and the lady inside gave us a free glass of wine for our troubles and we met a massive dog panned Gustav. I generally don’t like dogs, but be was super chill and I even forgave him when he dribbled on me a bit.


Our final stop was another winery called Tokara which was beautifully situated and also grew its own olives.


We tasted their house wines (2 red and 2 white) and I’m not going to beat about the bush or sugarcoat matters here; they were disgusting. They practically too, the skin off of the roof of my mouth and they burnt my throat on the way down.

So, my advice; if you want a decent wine, pay for a decent wine. If you don’t want your throat to feel like it has been stripped with acid that is. Practically like Oprah aren’t I? Full of good advice.
Bonnie

Madrid: Day 3, uncorked 

Our last full day in Madrid left nothing to be desired – it was exactly as we wanted it to be (which happens less than you may think on holidays). I think the reason behind this was becasue we had no time pressures, we weren’t going to see anything,we had nothing planned and we had no set timings. We also had no preconceived ideas of what the day was going to be like or how we wanted it to go.

We woke up around 11 am, so we had a good lay in (which to be honest I hardly ever get a chance to do when I’m away because my days tend to be packed full of things to do). Once we were up and about we wandered back to a shop we had found the day before which sold empanadas, where we bought not one, not two, but four different empanadas to share. We also picked up a bottle of wine, some lemonade and some crisps in a little super market. Now laden with picnic items, we began to meander our way to the Buen Retiro Park. 


We got there and there were these really odd trees, the had been shaped so they looked like strange little puffs of green stuck on the end of the branches – so that obviously meant 10 minutes of iPhone photography to try and nail the good lighting through the tree that made us look all glowy (you tell me whether we succeeded or not – I suspect not). With the photo shoot completed we walked on toward the ‘lake’. Now ‘lake’ is a very loose term here, as what it really is, is a giant swimming pool with some fish and a few terrapins in it, but it has boats on it, so a lake we shall call it. 

We found a nice sunny spot next to the lake with a bit of shade from some trees so I could hide my pale skin from the inevitable burn when the sun got too hot. We laid out the picnic blanket with a flourish and parked our buttocks firmly on the (slightly damp) grass. The menu was as follows:

Empanada 1: spicy tuna – yummo

Empanada 2: chicken – not sure where the chicken was 

Empanada 3: cheese and ham – tasted like a cat food filled doughnut 
Empanada 4: chorizo [insert Spanish lisp here] – yummo 

White wine: nice and tasty, but harder to consume than planned, which I will explain. 
We made the classic idiot English mistake of buying a bottle of wine with a corkscrew in it and not a screw top. And not being seasoned alcoholics, neither of us had a corkscrew in out bags. I know, I can practically hear you sighing at me over this. It is THE classic mistake to make when getting wine for a picnic and you look so typically touristy googling ‘How to uncork wine without a corkscrew’. So stupidly, the first thing we tried to do was push the cork inside the bottle. Now I think about it this is clearly a terrible idea as obviously you can’t push it inside the bottle because of the pressure, but I’m going to say we had had to much sun at this point and it had affected our intelligence. We then read online that you can get the cork out but firmly hitting the bottom of the bottle against a tree or similar, but we were too scared to do this for fear of the bottle smashing and wasting wine or resulting in serious injury.
So forlorn and seriously sober, I began to search through my bag for an implement that may assist us in our quest for alcoholic grape juice. And low, the holy grail was found – a pair of tweezers. I promptly set about gouging out the cork (which was halfway down the neck of the bottle after the previously ill fated attempt at removal) which took distinctly longer than I had anticipated. One pair of ruined tweezers later we were finally able to consume our wine, and thank God it was decent to drink – otherwise I think I would have lost my shit after all that effort. 
Wine consumed, we decided it would be a great idea to take out one of the bathtubs they were calling a rowing boat on the lake. We hired a ‘boat’ for 45 minutes for the mere price of €6, which we thought was rather reasonable. We plonked ourselves down in the boat and headed out on to the lake. To say it was utter carnage out there would be an understatement. Boats were lurching around in all directions, the oarsmen bearing no regard to the other vessels. We managed to make it out to a clear spot, on the way to which we saw a dead fish (cod rest his sole) and a terrapin, or a floaty tortoise (which I think is a much better name). Here is where Claire spied a ledge that she thought would be the perfect place to precariously rest her Polaroid camera so we could use the remaining 2 photos doing ‘action’ shots of us rowing. 


We rowed into place, rested the camera precariously on the ledge and set the timer and with the 3 seconds we had, pushed off hard from the side and quickly posed for the camera, then rowed hastily back to the side so a gust of wind didn’t blow our polaroid away. We did this twice in all, and it is safe to say we must have looked like utter nutters to any passers by, of which there must have been many. But I don’t care, because the photos were great and the proof is here for all to see.


Bonnie