Cape Town

Hello there! I must apologize, once again, for the intermittent bursts of blogging. I am still mid-vacay and won’t be back full-time for another week, but I wanted to tell you all about the five days I just spent in Cape Town.

View of Table Mountain from hostel
View of Table Mountain from hostel

After Stellenbosch, I bid my in-laws and Al adieu and stayed on in Cape Town to meet up with two of my friends from DC, Elise and Allison, who were kind enough to visit me in South Africa. We stayed at a somewhat famous backpacking hostel called, appropriately enough, The Backpack. It was named one of the 10 “coolest hostels” in the world by The Guardian in 2010 and has won awards for being sustainable (they use all recycled materials, no bottled water, etc., etc.). It was indeed a very nice place with a cool vibe. The only problem is that I am too old for cool vibes. It’s official. We were put into a room that was right next to the common area, so we were treated to thumping bass, loud bellowing, and assorted screeches for all five nights of our stay. My crotchetiness came out full force last night (or, technically, this morning) at 2:15 am when I marched out into the common area and told the jerks who were playing annoying techno music to please, kindly shut. it. off. already. Youngsters these days, am I right? But, noise pollution aside, I’d recommend The Backpack; if nothing else, it has incredible views of Table Mountain.

Cape Town, seen from Table Mountain
Cape Town, seen from Table Mountain

We got up to a lot of stuff in Cape Town, including some shopping, wine drinking, and delicious dining. We even did some outdoorsy stuff! On our second day in town, we decided to hike stunning Table Mountain, which is the impressive, flat-topped mountain overlooking Cape Town. At the top is Table Mountain National Park, which is a World Heritage site and one of the “new seven wonders of nature,” which may or may not be a made up thing. Although, after seeing the views from the top of the mountain, I’m pretty convinced this is one of the top natural wonders of the world. For real. Check out these views.

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Not bad!

The next day, we went on a wine tasting excursion with a company called Wine Flies (be warned: their website has music — sigh). I had pretty low expectations for the wine trip, since I had just spent the weekend with some veritable wine experts (i.e., my husband and his mom) in Stellenbosch and I figured whatever packaged wine tour we went on would pale in comparison. But actually, the tour was fantastic. The guide was knowledgeable without being condescending, we went to some really good wineries (and had a great cheese tasting at one of them), we met some adorable (and naughty) dachshunds, and we ended the day with brandy and dried apricots.

My new best friend
My new best friend
A lunch companion
She joined us at lunch
Middlevlei winery
Middlevlei winery
Brandy cups
Brandy cups

Needless to say, by the end of the day, everyone on the tour bus had become best friends. At least until we all stumbled out and went our separate ways. Then we totally forgot one another’s names.

The next morning, bright and early, we went on a tour of the Cape Coast, which included stops at an island full of seals, the penguin beach at the nature reserve within Table Mountain National Park, and the Cape of Good Hope itself.  The penguins were my favorite part, obviously. They’re so cute and weird and awkward! And they have a pretty sweet beach they get to hang out on:

Penguin beach

Penguin beach

Nature reserve, Table Mountain National Park


We also saw some pretty stunning vistas as we drove down the coast toward the Cape of Good Hope. Here are just a few photos to give you an idea of the landscape:

Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope

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To round out a trip full of natural beauty and wildlife, we spent our last night in Cape Town stuffing our faces with awesome seafood, wine, and beer, and then dancing at one of the best bars I’ve been to in quite a while, The Waiting Room. The DJ, the so-called Daddy Warbucks, looked like a nerdy, less bald version of Prince William and he was awesome. After dancing for an hour or two, we came back to the hostel and I watched Juno on TV in one of the common rooms, by myself, sitting on a beanbag chair, until I realized it was past 2 am and time for my old bones to be in bed.

Cape Town
Cape Town

This morning, we said goodbye to Cape Town and headed back to Joburg. And even though Cape Town is, by pretty much any standard, way better than Joburg, it still feels good to be back home.


Off to Swaziland

Happy Friday!

There’s no time for a real blog post today, I’m afraid! I am running around on this gray, rainy Joburg day to try and get ready for our weekend trip to Swaziland.  We’re leaving today at 1 pm and before that I need to go grocery shopping for four people, get to the gym to swim, shower, eat, pack, and pick Al up from work so we can get on the road.  Yeesh.

We’ll be back Sunday.  In the meantime, here are a list of things you can do:

  1. Send me a question to answer in my Sound Advice Thursday advice column
  2. Read all the archives of my blog and laugh uproariously, when appropriate
  3. Pine away for me
  4. Watch this video of a baby Bassett hound who does not want to go on a walk:

Enjoy your weekend!! See you Monday!

Bad dogs

I grew up with dogs. In fact, from before the time I was born to now, my parents have never not had a dog.  And every single one of our dogs was bad — loveably bad — in its own way, to the point where I’m pretty much ruined for good dogs.  I need my dogs to be just a *little* mischievous.

My parents’ history with bad dogs started — before I was born — with the infamous Fritzi, a black-and-tan dachshund that someone at my mom’s work was trying to give away.  Although this should have been a red flag (“take this dog, please”), my parents took no notice.  Nor did they heed any of the other warning signs that Fritzi may not have been the best choice for a family pet, including the fact that he came from a decidedly rough background (he was a stray dachshund on the streets of downtown Baltimore for Pete’s sake) and, inexplicably, he only ate steak.  Nonetheless, my parents adopted him.  Soon after, they also took on another bad dog, Max, a thirty pound behemoth of a dachshund.

Max thought he was smaller than he was

Max and Fritzi became fast, misbehaved friends.

Max and Fritzi celebrating their birthday(s)

Although Max was severely naughty in a number of creative ways (he would jump into strangers’ cars, he ran away frequently, he ate garbage – both ours and our neighbors’–, he enjoyed rolling in poop and worms, he got stung in the mouth by a bee because he was trying to eat it, he ate an entire wicker dog bed, etc., etc.), he wasn’t actively malevolent.  Fritzi, on the other hand, was bad to the bone.  He bit people (including the poor, hapless mailman) and attacked animals.  One terrible day, when my mother was eight months’ pregnant with yours truly, she and my dad took Max and Fritzi to a friend’s farm.  While Max happily rolled around in cow manure, Fritzi set about biting a horse on the nose (he had to jump up in order to accomplish this) and mauling a duck.  When my parents got the dogs back into the car at the end of the day, Max was happy and covered in poop, while Fritzi had an evil gleam in his eye and blood and feathers stuck to his mouth.

My mom realized Fritzi had to go.  So, with a heavy heart, they gave him away and hung onto Max, my older brother.  It worked out well.

Me and Max sharing toys

For a long time, we were a family of four: Margie, Tom, Max, and Stephanie. In that order.

Our family

Then, when I was in second grade, we adopted Towser, my baby.  Towser Ivy Early was an exception to the bad dachshund rule: she was sweet, loved everyone, and only occasionally ate rotting garbage.  She did, however, pee everywhere whenever she got excited (this happened often), despite our best efforts to train her.  She did win “Smallest Dog” in our local kids’ dog show, though, so her life was not without distinction.

Max died at the ripe old age of 17 and was bad until the end.  Towser went to the Great Doggie Beyond when I was studying abroad (and it still hurts to think about it).  For a little while, there was a lonely gap in our lives when we didn’t have a dog.


Then, we got Dougal.  Oh, Dougal. What to say about Dougal?

Not a huge fan of baths

First, he’s adorable.  He looks like a little old man with a mohawk.  But is he normal?  Good God, no.  He’s as weird as they come.  He’s afraid of babies and old people and leaves.  He doesn’t like loud noises and is scared of traffic.  He’s a sensitive, artistic soul.  He may be a touch autistic.  Did I mention he sings?  Dougal sings Greensleeves

But he’s not bad.  Not really.  Not compared to dogs of our past.  We love him anyway.

Safety first

My husband and I share a predilection for bad dogs.  When Al was growing up, he had a dog named Midnight that was half-Pointer, half-black Lab, and was exceedingly naughty.  My favorite Midnight story (and I’ve heard a lot of them) is when he distracted the entire family by barking crazily at the front door until everyone got up to see what was going on, and while everyone was at the front door, he ran back into the dining room and ate the food off the table.  Pretty genius, no?

Anyway, a little bit of badness in a dog can be a good thing.  Max introduced us to some of our best family friends in Baltimore because he ran away and a family, the Erpensteins, found him and called the number on his collar.  We’re still friends with them today, over twenty years later.  We never would have met them if it weren’t for that naughty dog.  So, whenever Al and I get a dog, we’ll be in the market for a dog with a lot of personality — and a little dose of badness, for good measure.

Just a little evil