Of All the Gin Joints in All the Towns in all the World

There’s a lot to do in Cape Town. You’re going to be distracted. It’s okay, it’s part of the fun of being in a new city. You’re going to get over-excited and you’ll have to fight the urge to see and do it all. But what you really don’t want to miss are those few things that others in Cape Town can’t do. Those things that involve secret sessions on balconies, a private seat to an exclusive art collection, and the city’s finest sunsets. And tiered gin trays.

You’re going to want to start here… at Ellerman House. And in our opinion, begin with gin, in a slinky little bar carved into the boulders of this mountain and sea-side escape.

Here is a look at what to expect at your gin o’clock at Ellerman House’s BAR ROC.

Discover more about Ellerman House in their blog.

The Best South Africanisms for the Out-of-Towner

Even though we both spoke English, my South Africanisms were flowing out unconsciously and muddying the language pool. It was one of the first times I realised just how much our unique communal language, with its mix of words and phrases from Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa and other African languages, made up my everyday, my every thought.

South Africa is a multilingual country with eleven official languages and its linguistic diversity has resulted in locals borrowing words and phrases from each language creating a unique lexicon of South African slang.

The team at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in South Africa’s incredibly diverse and vibrant city, Johannesburg, know this feeling well. So to prevent further lost-in-translation conversation stoppers, they have compiled a list of some local lingo and their favourite “South Africanisms”.

Starting with food..

Braai is a widely-used word for a barbecue, where meat is cooked over a fire or coals. On safari you often enjoy an outdoor meal under the Boma, a word originally from Tanzania meaning enclosure. Sitting around before dinner you might enjoy some biltong, a favourite South African snack made from dried and salted beef, ostrich or game (similar to beef jerky).

When dinner is served you could enjoy boerewors – an Afrikaans term for a traditional South African sausage often served at a braai. If you really enjoy your evening you might wake up the next morning with babelaas – local slang for a hangover. But after a few hours in the bos (bush) spotting the big five you will feel lekker (great) again.

Some other helpful words for the bush include: donga – which means ditch and comes from Zulu.

gogga – is a bug and is from Khoisan, meaning creeping things.

shongololo – millipede comes from Zulu and Xhosa, ukushonga, and means to roll up.

When at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in Johannesburg (jozi), your hosts might pack you some padkos (food for a car trip – originally from Afrikaans). En route, you could hear one of our favourite South Africanisms, the word robot, which in the rest of world refers to traffic lights or traffic signals. Heading towards the city, township slang is everywhere.

Some of our favourites are:

Mzanzi – a popular slang word for South Africa.

Eish: a Xhosa word used to express disbelief, regret or exasperation.

Sharp: often doubled up for effect (sharp sharp!) and means ‘goodbye’ or that everything is alright.

Aikona:  a strong refusal/disagreement, meaning “No! – from Zulu

Mampara: a fool

Tokoloshe: a character from African folklore referring to a mischievous hairy dwarf. Now used as a pejorative term for a small man.

Moegoe: a fool, idiot or simpleton

On arrival at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, you can settle into your room, change your takkies (trainers) for slops (flip-flops) and pop down to the bar which is totally different to a shebeen (an unlicensed bar or tavern). When offered an ice cold drink your answer could be yebo the Zulu word for “yes and is commonly used.

When it comes to fauna and flora, in the Khoisan languages there is buchu – a name applied to a range of medicinal plants traditionally used to make muti – a slang word for medicine (from Zulu umuthi).

A person familiar with the diverse fauna and flora of South Africa would be called a fundi which has its origins in Nguni’s umfundisi, meaning teacher or preacher and now used in mainstream South African English.

When embarking on a nature walk, you might choose to take a kierie – a wooden walking stick. The Khoikhoi indigenous people who were nomadic hunter-gatherers in the Cape and Namibia originally used the word kirri.

And most importantly, the abundant spirit of the nation… Get familiar with the word ubuntu – compassion, kindness and humanity.

How to Celebrate Christmas in the Sun

Above: North Island Resort, Seychelles

When the sun comes out, we follow. Not merely we, the sun lovers, but we, life lovers. Like flowers looking to the light. A whole world opens up to us in summer; the great outdoors and bright city streets are all the more enticing with the sun shining down, with the days longer and the nights shorter.

This Christmas, switch the skis and eggnog in the winter wonderlands of the north for warms seas and G&Ts in the sunshine of Africa. For islands, nature reserves, great rivers and their banks, beaches and Winelands. Think of it as something new, a special kind of festive season with the family and the kind of gift you won’t find under a Christmas tree.

Above: Camp Jabulani, South Africa


9 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in the Sun

  1. Cocktails by the pool

Don’t let anyone tell you it’s lazy. Lying beside a pool is a matter of therapy. Necessity. For all others know you’re pondering your deepest thoughts while swigging that mojito and brainstorming the next creative project while gazing at your navel. Thing is, you can do whatever you like. It’s Christmas and you’ll drink all the Mai Tais you want to.

Best head to Ellerman House,  Delaire Graff Estate or The Cellars-Hohenort for poolside time under the sun in Cape Town. When in Johannesburg, pull up a lounger beside the pool at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, with life’s simple pleasures: a book, a drink, and your costume. The villa is perfect for families to make their own home away from home, with kiddie activities available to keep little ones entertained. Alternatively, combine your safari and pool time at any of our safari lodges, including Esiweni Luxury Safari Lodge.

Above: Ellerman House, Cape Town

Above: AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, Johannesburg

Above: Esiweni Luxury Safari Lodge

2. Island Living

You can pretend you like the cold all you want. We know the idea of sinking into warm sea water and lolling on sandy beaches in a teeny weeny yellow polka-dot bikini speaks to you too. The islands of the Indian Ocean do that. They call you from afar with the promise of romance, adventure and relaxation – the perfect Christmas trifactor.

Head to North Island Resort and Château de Feuilles in the Seychelles, 20 Degrés Sud in Mauritius, Blue Margouillat Seaview Hotel in Reunion, Anjajavy le Lodge in Madagascar, or Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas in Zanzibar, for a  holiday of swimming, snorkelling, diving, eating and playing. Lots of playing.

Above: North Island, Seychelles

Above: Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas

3. Picnic in the wild

Picnics demand you slow down, let go, sit down, sit still. Ok, they demand a lot, but it’s all in your best interests. Their casual, outdoorsy quality has a way of bringing families together. They strip away distractions and impel us to enjoy the beauty of being in nature, with sweet sun and wholesome food to warm the heart.

Head to Royal Chundu, on the Zambezi River in Zambia. Start with a canoe trip downstream and pull in to a private riverbank picnic already laid out – Persian rugs, cushions, hammocks, a table under the shade of an umbrella, private waiters, and that spread… Simply help yourself to the treats and sink into picnic mode with a Pimm’s.

Alternatively, picnic beside the deep blue of the Indian Ocean at North Island Resort in the Seychelles, on Honeymoon Beach, your own private beach to share with loved ones. Feel free to take photos and tell the guys and dolls back home that you’ve bought an island. Because it sure will feel like it.

Above: Royal Chundu

Above: North Island Resort

4. My family and other animals

We don’t advise you leave Africa without going on safari. Besides being one of those occasions in life you’ll never forget, and that you’ll make sure your friends never forget you had, being on safari for Christmas adds an extra something special. Dine under the stars to the sounds of lions in the night, gather with loved ones around a campfire while buffalo roam closeby, head out on game drives and walks to share in the gift of witnessing wild animals in their natural habitat – whether its the big cats or dancing lemurs.

Head to Camp Jabulani, Londolozi Private Game Reserve or Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat in South Africa; Duba Plains Camp and Zarafa Camp in Botswana; or Mara Plains Camp or ol Donyo Lodge in Kenya. Witness the wholly unique wildlife of Madagascar at Anjajavy le Lodge.

Above: Camp Jabulani, Kapama Private Game Reserve

Above: Anjajavy le Lodge, Madagascar

5. The gourmand’s getaway

Imagine your traditional Christmas lunch or dinner recreated by the hands of Relais & Châteaux chefs. With the sun out and about, enjoy long lunches on the terrace and late evening dinners outdoors. We’re not sure you need any more persuasion than that. So…

Check into Ellerman House or The Cellars-Hohenort with its Conservatory and Greenhouse restaurants, in Cape Town, the Delaire Graff Estate,  in the Cape Winelands, or AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in Johannesburg. Dining outdoors is particularly special in wild places like Botswana’s Duba Plains Camp or the Cederberg Mountains’ Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat.

Above: Duba Plains Camp, Botswana

Above: Zarafa Camp, Botswana

Above: ol Donyo Lodge, Kenya

6. For the love of wine

Tis the season, as they say. Time for being generous. Generous with the wine… The variety of wines to sample while on holiday in Africa or the Indian Ocean islands could fill up all your hours. Let’s leave some time aside for that scuba-diving or mountain climbing, but by all means, unwind and drink wine. Little ones can enjoy the experience on strolls through the vineyards of the Cape Winelands, with the warmth of the summer sun following you.

Enjoy a wine lover’s Christmas at Delaire Graff Estate, The Cellars-Hohenort or Ellerman House in Cape Town, or head to the Indian Ocean for a night of private candlelit wine tastings on the beach at North Island in the Seychelles, with a sommelier guiding the way.

Above: Delaire Graff Estate, Cape Winelands

Above: The Cellars-Hohenort, Cape Town

7. Travel deeper

You might not notice it at first. It might only happen on the plane back home, or weeks later when your loved one, little or old, turns to you and says something that makes you go, woah, who are you? Africa does that. It has a way of transforming its visitors, opening their minds and hearts by showing them whole new landscapes, spaces where wild animals run freely,where people live in an entirely different way, with different priorities, values, and customs. Since you’re never too old to widen your horizon, to welcome the element of surprise, show the whole family just how big this world is.

Be a student in the school of life while discovering Masai culture at ol Donyo Lodge and Mara Plains Camp in Kenya, village life on the banks of the Zambezi at Royal Chundu or in the remote stretches of Madagascar at Anjajavy le Lodge, or the rock art of the Bushmen at Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat.

Above: Mara Plains Camp, Kenya

8. A healing holiday

How about trading the rush and ruckus of traditional Christmases for something calmer? Something involving massages on your deck overlooking the Zambezi or yoga on a white sand beach or above Big 5 wilderness, healthy Christmas meals and fresh juices (gin is a juice, right?) under African skies? A holiday where you can hear yourself think, learn the art of being here, now, and have others care for you for a change.

Indulge in a slow Christmas on the island of Zanzibar, at Zanzibar White Sands Luxury Villas, or Château de Feuilles in the Seychelles, with open sided spa rooms that let the birdsong in. Head to Royal Chundu in Zambia; Camp Jabulani, Esiweni Luxury Safari Lodge, Londolozi Private Game Reserve, or Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat in South Africa.

Above: Château de Feuilles

Above: Londolozi Private Game Reserve

9. Wild and free in the mountains

As a self-confessed mountain lover myself, this might just be my favourite idea. Sunshine, rocks to run on, mountain streams, birdlife and sweet silence… The mountains of Cape Town are something special, with trails for all types: strollers, runners, hikers, explorers, athletes, photographers, paragliders, little legs and old. They are the city’s source of adventure and take one within minutes from the excitement of city life to the beauty of nature. Further inland are the mountains of the Cederberg that call rock climbers and mountain lovers from all around the world.

Escape to Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat in the Cederberg for a Christmas of wide open spaces as well as cavernous mountainscapes, rivulets, rockpools and shooting stars. Explore Cape Town’s peaks from your base at Ellerman House or The Cellars-Hohenort.

Above: Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat.