How To Stay Inspired – AtholPlace Has the Answers

To stay inspired, to hold on to our sense of purpose, that is all we ask for. In our work, our relationships, ourselves. This is not simply about contentment, this is about creation, about passion, about the impatient calendars and proverbial butterflies getting in the way of us finding the time and space for the things we’d like to do – planning new adventures, writing that book, those vows, researching new projects, taking time to reflect, to find answers, to connect with ourselves, to get creative, to plan our next steps for a life well lived.

Outside of that time and space, everything calls for our attention. There are ways to reel in the mind, but often more is needed: a change of scenery, a new workspace, different faces, nature’s sounds, quiet and calm, good food, prepared by someone else, no kids or pets (love you, Bones)…

Once in a while, we take a kind of retreat – a self-care retreat, a writer’s retreat, an artist’s retreat, a silent retreat, a fitness retreat, a wellness retreat and often something more indulgent – in the inner-city sanctuary of AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, in the great urban forest of Johannesburg, South Africa.

There’s something special about the familiar faces that greet us and know our every whim, who give us the space friends and family sometimes don’t or can’t, but who also know when to lean in, to stay awhile and share in a deeper moment.

There is a great call for these kinds of getaways and often they come with a range of treatments, workshops, health regimes, meditation and breathing practices, times and structures, to help you find peace and serenity. Sometimes, we just need something more moderate, a simple retreat of the mind, or we might prefer to dictate our own time and to go unseen.

Whatever kind of retreat you need or favour – a deserted island or a hotel surrounded by trees and birdsong – the effect is a better you, a clearer, rested, reset individual, ready to give attention to the things you’ve neglected.

AtholPlace Hotel & Villa has the essentials of the perfect retreat: a gym for fitness, rolling green lawns and yoga mats for self-guided yoga, pilates or meditation, adaptable menus and wholesome, healthy food and juice options, a spacious exclusive-use villa or suites for privacy and quiet, organised restorative spa treatments, and a kind and gracious team.

You never really know when inspiration is going to strike but creating the space for it to find a welcome home is the first step. Just put your phone in the draw and take each moment as it comes…

Discover more about AtholPlace Hotel & Villa here.

A Moveable Feast Through Zambia

Tasting Menu 11

Royal Chundu, on the banks of the Zambezi River,  has launched a new locally-inspired Tasting Menu, modelled on a traditional Zambian family feast, with several courses exhibiting the unique flavours of the country.

Describing the new menu, the team at Royal Chundu say: “Consider it a culinary adventure along our riverbank and through our greater national terroir, an honouring of the families living here today and the generations before them, and a celebration of our team of local chefs and waiters and their favourite tastes, textures, scents and memories when it comes to dining.”

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Royal Chundu’s Food & Beverage Manager and Head Chef, Sungani Phiri says it is his ambition to showcase the traditional food of his childhood by creating a “Zambian Feast Explosion” using contemporary techniques and styles. He has built on his previous pioneering menus at Royal Chundu and pushed beyond to explore and engage with new ingredients and innovative methods and presentations.

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It is the Zambian way for families to gather together at mealtimes to enjoy a variety of different dishes served at one time. The joy of community and the art of dining unite as conversation and cuisine are shared and enjoyed as a family.

Guests at Royal Chundu can now experience their own traditional Zambian feast, in a fine-dining style… Over candlelight or beneath our starry skies, the chefs weave the tales behind each dish, but for a teaser of what to expect, take a look below, along with explanations from the Head Chef, Sungani.

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Bread board of Zambian flatbread, mielie bread brioche and sourdough, served with flavoured butter and sour butter powder

This array of breads demonstrates the convergence of traditional Zambian breadmaking and global influences. The Zambian flatbread is similar to Middle-Eastern lavash and uses cassava flour, which is gluten-free. The rich mielie bread brioche is inspired by a traditional French recipe but enhanced with locally-grown sweet corn. Local mabisi (sour milk) is the secret ingredient in the sourdough which elevates this classic.

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Aromatic kapenta with tartar sauce and lemon

Mildly curried tempura-battered giant kapenta (Tanganyika sardine) served with caramelised lemon or lime and finished with a classic tartar sauce.

Tasting Menu

Medley of locally-sourced vegetables

Impwa Piccata (fried Zambian eggplant with tomato and onion relish), sautéed pumpkin leaves, crispy sweet potato leaves and tempura okra (ladies’ fingers). These popular Zambian vegetables are locally-grown in the neighbouring villages and are the accompaniments to all dishes served during the meal. Presented on platters and placed at the centre of the table, they are the heart of a classic Zambian meal.

Pan-roasted Zambezi bream with white mongu beans

“This is my favourite dish on the menu as it truly demonstrates the local culture and the area along the Zambezi River which borders Royal Chundu,” says Sungani. Local fishermen deliver freshly-caught bream to the lodge daily where the chefs create magic with saffron-infused mongu beans, sweet and sour mundambi (an indigenous spinach) and a fresh tomato coulis. The lodge vegetable garden is the source of the delicate radish microgreens, used as a garnish, as well as other fresh vegetables on the menu.

Tasting Menu 3

Ifisashi of beef with sweet potato and bacon

This dish features beef brisket slowly braised for 5 ½ hours, allowing the meat to gently soften. Next the meat is pulled apart using forks, hand-rolled into small balls, battered with egg and breadcrumbs and deep fried until golden brown. These delicacies are served piping hot with ifisashi (a classic Zambian vegetarian dish made from local spinach and peanuts), sweet potato puree and sweet potato fries with bacon foam. There is a local saying about ifisashi that says, “Nothing gets lost, everything should be consumed,” which you will find quite fitting when experiencing this feast for yourself.

Tasting Menu 2

Dumpling of Zambian dry fish, freshwater crayfish, pork mince and cabbage with spicy chilli broth

Asian style dumplings with a local twist – made from dry fish, freshwater crayfish, pork mince and cabbage served with a mild spicy broth drizzled with chive oil. Dry fish is a common Zambian meal and various species are used including tilapia and tiger fish. Although a landlocked country, Zambia turns to indigenous rivers, lakes and wetlands to harvest fish which are part of the nation’s staple diet.

Tasting Menu 1

Palate cleanser of calabash sorbet infused with moringa

“We serve our palate cleanser in miniature wire baskets which are crafted by local villagers. It takes me back to the old days, when we used wire as children to make various items, namely, as boys, to make wire cars to play with in the streets,” says Sungani.

This dish is filled with nostalgia and fond memories as well as the nutrition and natural healing found in the moringa leaves. Moringa, now recognised as a powerful health-enhancing plant, is used to infuse the calabash sorbet (calabash is a locally grown type of sweet melon).

Scent cleanser

Zambian coffee beans are served as a scent cleanser in a chitenge (a traditional Zambian printed wax fabric) bean bag. Diners sniff the beans to clear the nose and olfactory so to prepare the senses for the next taste experience.

Tasting Menu 8

Mbaula (stove) roasted vinkubala, served with beef bone marrow and jus

BBQ-style beef fillet, grilled over hot coals, with a vinkubala crust served with oven-roasted bone marrow and a jus of onion puree and sweet baby carrots harvested from local farms. Vinkubala is a local delicacy similar to mopani worms (caterpillars).

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Moringa ice-cream with berry jelly, garnished with shards of meringue infused with lemon zest

Homemade moringa ice-cream is served with a berry jelly, seasonal fruit and classic meringue shards infused with lemon zest.

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Tasting Menu 10

Baobab fruit panna cotta with tamarind jelly, mielie foam and popcorn crumble

This a rare treat. The ancient Baobab is called Africa’s ‘Tree of Life‘ and it produces the only fruit in the world that dries naturally on the branch. The baobab fruit bakes in the sun for six months, transforming the green fruit into a smooth, brown, coconut-like shell. Inside this hard casing is the dry white pulp of the fruit which is used to make a panna cotta. This is accompanied by a sweet and sour tamarind jelly, mielie foam and popcorn crumble.

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At Royal Chundu, all fresh supplies are sourced within a 3 km radius of the lodge to minimise the carbon footprint, provide income for the local community and farmers and deliver the freshest tastes to guests.

Please note that ingredients may change with seasonality and availability.

The Art of Embracing Life – and the Sea

North Island, Seychelles

The Indian Ocean… it sinks beneath your skin and starts to alter the very ways you define yourself, the way you see life. I’ve never considered myself much of a sea person, opting for the mountains and forests instead, but perhaps the things we love most are simply the things we’ve given more of our attention to.

In the name of embracing life, in all its intricacies and dimensions, my mission has been to learn more about that which I don’t know, that which I sometimes even fear.  For instance, the ocean.

Anjajavy le Lodge, Madagascar

There have been a few muses on my escapade. The first was an ocean unlike any I was used to. One much warmer and with several islands to hop to and from. The Indian Ocean. Starting with Madagascar…

At Anjajavy le Lodge on the north-west coast of the island, a new world of sea life I’d never before glimpsed showed itself to me. And, beside my guide, heading down, down, down with our flippers and snorkels, I felt safe, protected, excited by the unfamiliar rather than daunted.

Anjajavy le Lodge, Madagascar

Hanli Prinsloo, an experienced freediver and ocean lover, talks about this new world and the feeling of merging with it in a piece entitled, “What freediving can teach you about your body’s potential.”

It is insight that has inspired my own journey, because, as she writes, “it’s when you’ve discovered your inner aquatic animal that you can experience the ocean as just another creature, not an interloper with a big, bubbling gas tank. The beauty of our oceans … becomes yours to explore.”

North Island, Seychelles

She continues: “On one breath I leave the surface and kick my way down to where the liquid turns black. The sun is only a memory. Water presses in on me from all sides squeezing me harder than I think I can survive. But it’s still only water. Kicking, I fall deeper and deeper. Down there, the ocean feels like my private ocean. I’m reminded: I am water.

North Island, Seychelles

“To freedive is to feel the deep ancestry of our species—and to know that our species is still adapted to life under water.” The sea is “the place where we came from, and where we can return at least temporarily.” Read more from her here.

20 Degres Sud, Mauritius

I returned to the ocean for further practice at mammalian diving on a trip to Mauritius, at 20 Degres Sud. For several hours, we snorkelled off the side of an old pirogue, in a sea so blue, soft pastel in its hue. We played in the warmth and freedom, the silence and solitude, for so long that I started to feel the shift.

No mermaid tail grew, but I understood, then, how surfers spend every waking hour in the waves, how a wet-suit or surfboard might replace running shoes or Nordic poles.

Blue Margouillat, Reunion Island

Flying over the island of Reunion in a helicopter, starting at Blue Margouillat, I saw the bigger picture: ocean surrounding land, connecting each island to the next; and around Reunion: the warm waters of the lagoon lapping the sand, ocean waves beating against cliffs. Down below, in the island’s clear blue, other divers would be gliding over coral that is described as twisted like ancient trees, with stalactites and large-leaved marine plants. Trunkfish, surgeonfish, butterflyfish: friends whose names I was starting to remember.

Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa, Zanzibar

On the east coast of Zanzibar, at Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa, the same warm sea flowed in and out, in and out, on shore. But deeper in the turquoise, and with new sea legs, I found the peace again. Surrounded by sea like my own personal island, society and its restraints, rules and responsibilities were mere imaginings. Around me, others experienced the wilder side of ocean life, windsurfing, stand-up-paddleboarding, kayaking.

North Island, Seychelles

In the Seychelles, I sat on the sandy beach of a private island – North Island – and let the transformation take place. I pondered pre-human existence and the rich life I’d witnessed in the deep big blue. I watched a hatchback turtle lay her eggs in a nest on land and then return to the sea.

How much easier her travels appeared once the waves had taken her! On shore, she braked after each tiring step, lugging her heavy shell along with her. Her flippers could let go of the burden once in those crystal waters. For the first time in my life, I wanted to be a weightless hatchling swimming beside her, to trace her journey into the great unknown – a land where no maps detail each road and highway, because there simply are none.

North Island, Seychelles

There is still much more to learn, but as I write this there is a snorkelling mask beside me – and a wetsuit that has finally made it out of the wardrobe. Which is a glide in the right direction – one out of fear, toward understanding. And maybe even love…