Lunch at the Gherkin

“The Gherkin is opening its restaurant to none members in August” “What?!  Yes, yes we need to go! ” Yes that was my reaction to hearing that the Gherkin was celebrating its 10th Birthday by opening its members only restaurant right at the very top of the building for the month of August to us lowly folk! Firstly I couldn’t believe the Gherkin was only 10 years old, it feels like its been there forever, it’s so iconic in the London skyline. But 10 years old it is. The iconic building designed by Sir Norman Foster which was opened in 2004 is 180m tall and from the top offers spectacular views of London. The opportunity to get in the Gherkin, and enjoy the views over food could not be passed up.

There she is!

There she is!

The restaurant itself is owned by Searcy’s and is a private members club so normally you cannot get up there if you are just ordinary folk. The top floor is the dome of the Gherkin and is usually a bar / restaurant, the floor below is the proper restaurant. We ate in the dome which was amazing!

Dining in the dome of the Gherkin

Dining in the dome of the Gherkin

Approaching the Gherkin, as you get closer and closer and you realise just what a beautiful building it is, the glass shimmering in the sunlight. I should mention at this point we ate at the Gherkin the day storms were hitting London. Thanks to the tail end weather of a hurricane London was being hit by freak rain. This only added to the atmosphere in the restaurant. So as we reached the base of the tower, a question was raised, where is the entrance in this circular building! As we walked around the circular base we finally found the entrance and were met with a crazy amount of security. ID, check. Through the X-ray machine and metal detector, check. Accompanied in the lift by security, check. As we finally reached what we thought was the top and the restaurant entrance we checked out coats and were ushered to another lift – we are going higher! So level 39 here we come. The staff were incredibly polite, and as we stepped out of the lift at level 39 we were told we were dining on the top floor, level 40 – excited we were. Up a few stairs and you enter the dome of the Gherkin, the very top, a room made of glass. Outside you are surrounded by the London skyline, simply stunning, and luckily the rain was still at bay. The menu was simple, three choices on each course. To start I went with the Serrano Ham Eggs Benedict. It was a great choice, although it did fill me up as it was a little large for a starter. For Main, Poussin, fondant, leek ash and saffron sauce. The Poussin was beautifully cooked. The desert, something light, lemon tart with raspberry sorbet. Again it was very nice. The tart was fresh and zingy, but the pastry was a little hard but I survived. Overall the food was very nice, however, it wasn’t a meal that would blow you away. Would I go back….  I am not sure. The main reason for going is that you are in the Gherkin and you are dining with amazing views, but for food like this you could go to a number of other places in London that do the same thing at the same level or better for the price.

Serrano Ham Eggs Benedict

Serrano Ham Eggs Benedict

Poussin, fondant, leek ash and saffron sauce

Lemon Tart with raspberry sorbet

Lemon Tart with raspberry sorbet

The views of course did not disappoint. As I mentioned there was freak rain going on throughout the day. As we ate desert we watched a storm move over London from West to East, the dark grey sky getting closer and closer until all of a sudden we were in the of it and the heavens opened around us and then as quickly as it came the rain was gone and blue sky followed. Sitting in a glass room with a storm around us was simply fantastic!

Views from the top  - hello shard!

Views from the top – hello shard!

Views from the top

Views from the top

The Storm is coming!

The Storm is coming!

I am glad that we got the chance to go up to the top of the Gherkin, it was I think a once in a life time thing…. unless of course I come across a handsome gentleman that has a membership! I love going to the top of London and looking out upon this fabulous city, so much below, the history and the architecture. If you ever get the chance to go to level 39 and 40 of the Gherkin do it – standing in that circular glass room is a fabulous experience.

A trip around Fullers Brewery

Beer, it’s one of the oldest beverages in the world! It’s been drunk through every great empire, it became a staple in Europe thanks to the brewing by monks in monasteries and today is a global business. Over the last decade or so the craft of beer has become more and more popular, with fine ale and craft beer societies making their way into the University society lists, micro breweries popping up all over the place and pubs now offering a brilliant choice of beer rather than the run of the mill european larger that have a monopoly on the market.

While at university I was like most people and would drink what ever the cheapest bottle beer was, as it was cheap and you could dance with it in your hand. However, moving to London I have slowly become a lover of craft beers, I blame this partially on long weekends in Berlin, and over the last couple of years with the emergence of micro-breweries around me its hard not to like these new beers. Brixton Brewery is down the road from me, Camden Town brewery is also close, plus the smaller ones like the Kernel Brewery are all temptations. Plus We Bought Beer have just opened their first shop in Balham! Of course all this fine ale drinking means more time in the gym so a beer gut doesn’t form but I feel its worth it!

Now there are some bigger breweries that have been going for much longer but still hold onto the traditional values and want to create fine craft ales that can be appreciated and not just chugged down. One of these which I have been a fan of since moving to London and stumbling upon them ( and their pies!) is Fullers. They are London’s last traditional family brewery and strive to produce quality beer like they have been doing for 160 years.  Based in Chiswick and all their beer is made on site there they are heavy weight in British beer. A majority of their pubs are based in or around London but also get as far as the midlands. They are a familiar scene in London and if I was given the choice of one of their pubs and another brewery, I would take Fullers. Not only is the beer good, the pubs full of atmosphere but the food is also great. They are a company that are focused on quality produce.

I was lucky enough to recently get a chance at touring the brewery. It was great! Not only did I learn about how beer is brewed but I also got to sample some of the fine ales they produce. Now this tour is something they offer and its such a good idea. It runs Monday – Friday between 11am- 3pm and only costs £10 and that includes tastings.

Fullers BreweryThe tour starts in the Mawson Arms, the brewery pub, where your knowledgable guide will collect you. From there you are taken around the brewery, shown the processes, questions answered and all in all very educational. I always had a general idea of how beer was made but now, now I know all. I think on tours like this the guide makes it or breaks it, our guide completely made it. He was humorous and entertaining and was a wealth of knowledge, he clearly loved what he was doing.

Who doesn't love a tour with a high vis-vest

Who doesn’t love a tour with a high vis-vest

On Tour!

On Tour!

At the end of the tour you end up in the tasting room, of course what we had all been waiting for! As it was a hot sunny day, a cold bottle of Indian Pale Ale – the Bengal Lancer was very much enjoyed. We also tried our hand at the Honey Dew, which as its name suggests has a hint of honey about it.

Old School delivery bike

Old School delivery bike

Fullers BreweryThe tour was such a good idea and something I would definitely do again. Its nice in a world where there are so many faceless food and beverage companies that a company like Fullers that has been around for such a long time is still so accessible and open. Its staff are friendly and love what they are doing. Lets hope that it stays a family business for another 160 years as it would be sad to see such a London institution get absorbed into a faceless company!

Fullers BreweryIf you are looking for something a little bit different to do with a day off or a visit to London then head to Fullers Brewery!

Moose Maple Butter

It’s amazing how you discover new things. I sometimes wonder how much social media actually helps self promotion until I am looking at Twitter and discover something new. Someone I follow had retweeted a message from Moose Maple Butter and I was instantly intrigued by the name. Could this company possibly be creating a maple syrup butter – oh my pancakes! After a wee bit of investigation and nosing around the internet I saw it was true, maple flavoured butter.

Growing up in a household where your mother cannot get enough of maple syrup I know the sweet sticky smell well. Now of course it was a weekend treat but there is always a sad face when the bottle runs dry.

I of course had to get my hands on this delightful treat. Stalking Farrah of Moose Maple Butter  I got my hands on a tub of the sweet smelling butter.

So how does one come around to creating such an ingenious idea? Well its the brain child of Farrah. During a business trip to NYC she was faced with a breakfast dilemma, what to put on your toast. Trying to avoid sugary jams she reached for the maple syrup but butter and syrup now that’s going to get a bit messy and with syrup all over her hands she got thinking, surely there must be maple syrup butter out there. Searching NYC and asking around she soon realised that there was an opening in the market.

After lots of recipe testing on nieces and nephews she had the wining combination, a maple syrup butter that wasnt too sweet and a wholesome alternative to nutella or jam.

Moose Maple ButterBefore I tried it I was a bit scared by how sweet it was going to be. There is sweet and there is sickly sweet and I was really hoping it wasn’t going to be sickly.With toasted brioche I was incredibly generous with my butter serving – it would be rude not to on first try, and it was delicious! The butter melted perfectly on the warm brioche giving off the faint sweet smell of maple syrup. It was sweet but not overwhelmingly so – this is something you could quite happily keep in your fridge and not get sick of it.

mmmm maple butter on brioche!

mmmm maple butter on brioche!

To continue ones testing ( got to be thorough!) I tried it on pancakes and then of course the real test came, would the maple syrup loving mother like it – the answer was yes! She was even more generous with her butter serving than I was.

Moose Maple Butter is a fab little indulgence, perfect for weekend breakfast treats or actually any time treats. I have even tried it on my Pumpkin loaf!

Whether you spread it on brioche, toast, pancakes or waffles makes sure you are spreading it!

Moose Maple Butter launches properly in London in November ( you can currently get it in  a couple of places in South West London) and then hopefully the rest of the UK before Christmas. I am very much looking forward to lazy cold winter mornings with maple butter on toast and a hot cup of tea!

 

Brasserie Chavot

I first came across Eric Chavot on a saturday morning while sitting in my parents kitchen. He was one of the chefs on Saturday Kitchen and instantly impressed. He was your typical no-nonsense French chef, he was funny and was wearing a flat cap! At this point both me and my sister turned to each other and said, we have to go to his restaurant.

Now Chavot is relatively unknown when it comes to Celebrity Chefs, he is very low-key and gained a Michelin star when working at the Capital but left there in 2009 to work with Pierre Koffman at a pop up at Selfridges. In 2013 the eponymous Brasserie Chavot was launched on Conduit Street and is part of the Westbury Hotel.

It took us almost a year to get ourselves sorted but eventually a table was booked at Brasserie Chavot, for my birthday no less, and on a hot summer Tuesday evening we headed to Brasserie Chavot.

Now of course building something up in your head can end up disappointing, but thank goodness this didn’t. From the moment you step inside you are greeted with excellent service, the staff were friendly and welcoming and completely attentive the entire evening. You couldnt fault the staff and their impeccable service at all. The treat was that Eric Chavot was actually cooking in his own kitchen! He wandered out occasionally to say hello to the odd customer.

The food, the main star of any restaurant, was fantastic. Beautifully presented and full of flavour. To start we went with soft shell crab which had been deep fried and served simply with aioli, and chacuterie. The soft shell crab was light and not in the least bit greasy. The batter had flavour but didn’t overpower the crab. The chacuterie was beautiful presented and each meat on the board offered something different.

soft shell crab and aioli

soft shell crab and aioli

Chacuterie

Chacuterie

To follow I went with the canette aux cerises et macaroni. A succulent duck breast perfectly cooked, in a sweet yet slightly sour cherry sauce with a decadent truffle laced macaroni and cheese. My sister went with roasted cod with peas a la francaise, which was just the perfect summer dish. A thick piece of cod on a bed of peas, bacon and vegetables in a creamy sauce. Both dishes were the perfect size, bursting with flavour and colour and presented elegantly.

canette aux cerises et macaroni

canette aux cerises et macaroni

roasted cod with peas a la francaise

roasted cod with peas a la francaise

To finish I went oh so traditionally french and had a rich and sugary creme brulee, which was lovely and my sister had the desert of the day, a peach parfait with sorbet.

Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee

Peach Parfait

Peach Parfait

Throughout the whole meal you just couldn’t fault a thing, well other than how much we had just eaten…. but it was so good! The atmosphere, thanks to the delightful French waiters and food, made it feel like you could have been in a beautiful Parisian brasserie and not a 5 minute walk from Regent Street. I think Brasserie Chavot has quickly gone straight into the top of the my favourite restaurants, it can jostle for first place with Le Gavroche! I would certainly return here without a second thought.

Ferrero Rocher Cheesecake

I think for most people your association with the Ferrero Rocher is christmas or your parents dinner parties. They are something we used to insist on having at Christmas at our house as they were seen as so luxurious… maybe be it was just me and my siblings (shiny things when younger are so appealing!)  Now its more associated with slighty kitche or being funny and saying ‘Ambassador you are spoiling us’.

For me I never stopped like the Ferrero Rocher, they combine hazelnut and chocolate, what is not to love. It’s like a grown up spoonsful of nutella! But for some reason they seem to have stopped coming out at Christmas, and you very rarely seem them in shops, they are usually hidden at the bottom on the sweet aisle of the supermarket. When did Ferrero Roche stop being cool?!

who doesn't love these guys?

who doesn’t love these guys?

Well I have decided to say hurrah for the Ferrero Rocher and I recently found a cheesecake recipe that brings the FR back to life. It was my birthday recently and I had a small wine and cheese soiree with friends as one of my many celebrations and I decided as hostess I was going to make this Ferrero Rocher cheesecake as it just looked simply decadent. The original recipe calls for it to be made as one large one but I decided to go crazy and make enough individual ones seen as I have an abundance of ramekins lying around the flat.

Ingredients

140g unsalted butter

300g digestive biscuits, broken up

500g cream cheese, softened ( I used low-fat cream cheese in mine and worked perfectly)

85g icing sugar

300ml double cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

15 Ferrero Rocher, 5 roughly chopped

4 tbsp hazelnut chocolate spread

25g hazelnuts, roughly chopped

1. Make the cheesecake base first by melting the butter in a small pan over a low heat. Then blitz the biscuits in a food processor until they are a fine crumb. Add the meted butter to the biscuits and pulse until well combined. Tip the biscuit mix either into a 23cm spring form cake tin or into individual ramekins( you will get 10 individual cheesecakes if using ramekins) and press the mix down firmly into the base. Chill while you make the filling.

For the base, blitz the biscuits

For the base, blitz the biscuits

and then mix with the melted butter to make your base

and then mix with the melted butter to make your base

2. Beat the cream cheese and icing sugar in a bowl until soft. In another bowl whisk the cream and vanilla into soft peaks then fold it into the cream cheese. Stir through the chopped chocolates and spoon the mix on top of the biscuit base ( either large version or individuals). Cover with cling film and put in the fridge to chill. The large version will take at least 6 hours to chill but the small ones take about 2-3 hours until they are fully set.

Mix the cream cheese with the icing sugar

Mix the cream cheese with the icing sugar

add the whipped cream to the cream cheese mix

add the whipped cream to the cream cheese mix

Get those chopped up chocolates in the mix!

Get those chopped up chocolates in the mix!

Take the bases out of the fridge and top with the cream cheese mix

Take the bases out of the fridge and top with the cream cheese mix

mmm cheesecakes... back in the fridge with you

mmm cheesecakes… back in the fridge with you

3. Once the cheesecake has set its time to top it. Place the hazelnut spread in a small saucepan and melt over a low heat for 3-4 mins until runny. Spread the chocolate over the top of each cheesecake ( or the one large one) and sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts and the remaining chocolates.

Melt the hazelnut chocolate spread for topping the cheesecake

Melt the hazelnut chocolate spread for topping the cheesecake

Top the cheesecakes with the melted chocolate, along with chopped hazelnuts and ferrero rocher!

Top the cheesecakes with the melted chocolate, along with chopped hazelnuts and ferrero rocher!

Chill the cheesecake until you are ready to serve.

This was a massive hit! Its rich and creamy and covered in chocolate and nuts, there is nothing not to love. Of course you can use the basic cheesecake mix as a starting point for creating any kind of cheesecake you like if Ferrero Rocher doesn’t take your fancy. You could make a cookie based one ( Oreos seem to be everywhere), or some soft fruit like blueberries.

If you are having a party or friends round for dinner this is a real winner!

Enjoy xx

Interview with Jimmy Garcia

I was lucky enough back at the beginning of summer to go to Jimmy’s Pop up in Clapham which I have posted about here. He is one busy chap with a Tuesday night pop up in Brixton Village but also he is planning on opening a pop up Alpine Lodge in Balham ( conveniently located very close to my house) for the winter.

This is one chef who is on the up and up and I recently did an interview with him for one of the online food websites I write for, Flavour First. As he is always so busy with one project or another it was hard to pin him down but I managed to pick his brain about his food history, what inspires him and what is in the future pipeline!

http://www.flavourfirst.org/work-food-jimmy-garcia/

Check it out and enjoy! xx

South Africa – Cape Town

When you arrive into Cape Town the landscape is dominated by one thing, Table Mountain! It’s ever present when you are staying there and the views from it are beautiful. Situated on the coast of the Western Cape, the ‘Mother City’ as it is known due to its historical role in the development of modern South Africa, has golden beaches, a national park at the heart of the city and is multicultural with many stories to tell.

There is so much to see and do on the Cape Peninsula, you are surrounded by history, a beautiful national park, wildlife and of course the winelands. I had just over four days in the Cape and it was not enough. This is a destination where you could quite happily spend a week or two exploring the beaches, walking through the various parts of the national park and of course head to the winelands. Instead of rambling on about it, here are some of my favourite photos, hopefully they will give you an idea of just have stunning it is. I have fallen for Cape Town and will most definitely be returning to carry on exploring and getting more of its fantastic food and wine!

Cape Town

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, a fabulous development of shops, restaurants and entertainment

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, a fabulous development of shops, restaurants and entertainment

For something a little more challenging why not walk up Table Mountain rather than get the cable car - not for the faint hearted as its steep and hot but the views are well worth it - Cape Town at dawn!

For something a little more challenging why not walk up Table Mountain rather than get the cable car – not for the faint hearted as its steep and hot but the views are well worth it – Cape Town at dawn!

Cape Town and the ever dominering Table Mountain from the ferry to Robben Island

Cape Town and the ever domineering Table Mountain from the ferry to Robben Island

Cape Town is full of architectual diversity thanks to its colonial history and more recently becoming the world design capital for 2015

Cape Town is full of architectural diversity thanks to its colonial history and more recently becoming the world design capital for 2015

While in Cape Town we went on a walk around one of the townships, it was incredibly eye opening to meet the people who lived there, see how things are and how they are changing.

While in Cape Town we went on a walk around one of the townships, it was incredibly eye-opening to meet the people who lived there, see how things are and how they are changing.

One of the ingenious ways that people are making life better for themselves in the townships is by using old shipping containers and turning them into shops and business, such as hairdressers, clothes shops and street food venders.

One of the ingenious ways that people are making life better for themselves in the townships is by using old shipping containers and turning them into shops and business, such as hairdressers, clothes shops and street food venders.

night time at the V&A Waterfront

night-time at the V&A Waterfront

One of the best things about Cape Town is that you are only short taxi rides from the next town. Just around the corner from Cape Town is Camps Bay, a fantastic spot to go and watch the sun set. There are sea front restaurants and bars a plenty to enjoy it from.

One of the best things about Cape Town is that you are only short taxi rides from the next town. Just around the corner from Cape Town is Camps Bay, a fantastic spot to go and watch the sun set. There are sea front restaurants and bars a plenty to enjoy it from.

 

Around the Cape Peninsula

The scenery around the Cape is just beautiful, so hard to capture on camera but I tried, this is up the road from Houts Bay.

The scenery around the Cape is just beautiful, so hard to capture on camera but I tried, this is up the road from Houts Bay.

One of the highlights of the Cape Penninsular are the terribly cute Cape Penguins at Boulders

One of the highlights of the Cape Peninsula are the terribly cute Cape Penguins at Boulders

so many penguins, so little time!

so many penguins, so little time!

The Cape of Good Hope!

The Cape of Good Hope!

The beautiful beach at the Cape of Good Hope

The beautiful beach at the Cape of Good Hope

The rugged coastline of Cape Point, just beautiful

The rugged coastline of Cape Point, just beautiful

The Cape Penninsular- where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic

The Cape Peninsula where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic

 

The Winelands

Beautiful Colonial Stellenbosch

Beautiful Colonial Stellenbosch

One of the best things about Stellenbosch, other than the wine were the sculptures that were dotted around the streets, an interesting way of exhibiting art and a great insight into the minds of young south african art students

One of the best things about Stellenbosch, other than the wine were the sculptures that were dotted around the streets, an interesting way of exhibiting art and a great insight into the minds of young south african art students

The beautiful landscape of the Winelands of the Western Cape

The beautiful landscape of the Winelands of the Western Cape

wine tasting in Franschhoek

wine tasting in Franschhoek

Blue skies, stunning landscape and wine tasting, this is the place for it!

Blue skies, stunning landscape and wine tasting, this is the place for it!

I very much recommend a trip to Cape Town!

This was the end of my South African journey, and I can say I fell in love with the country and its people who are all so welcoming. I will most definitely be going back!!

 

 

Black Pepper and Parmesan Beer Bread

Summer, its the time of picnics, long lunches in the sun and staying out of a hot kitchen for as long as possible. When its hot and the sun is shining you want food that takes little effort and can be enjoyed al fresco or in a picnic. I look for any excuse to have a picnic on the common and having yummy food to bring along is even better.

Last week I went to a fabulous evening of Jazz at Fulham Palace, it was beautiful. Jazz in the background as we sat in the gardens of this historic house and enjoying the wonderful company of friends. It was an uber picnic affair, some people were taking it very seriously. We of course took the Pimms very seriously, but a few home made treats did make it including this delicious black pepper and parmesan beer bread which just goes so well with slightly warm camembert!

A fabulous evening of Jazz in the gardens of Fulham Palace

A fabulous evening of Jazz in the gardens of Fulham Palace

The beautiful gardens of Fulham Palace

The beautiful gardens of Fulham Palace

This little loaf slices perfectly, is a great picnic staple.

This recipe comes from the fabulous ladies at Spoon Fork Bacon, one of my favourite blogs!

Ingredients

485g Plain Flour

2 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

385ml beer ( get a good one full of flavour)

115g melted unsalted butter

zest of 1 lemon (optional0

85g grated parmesan cheese

2 tbsp freshly cracked black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees, lightly grease the loaf pan and set aside.

2. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt ina  mixing bowl and whisk together. Create a small well in the flour mixture and add the beer, half the melted butter, lemon zest, parmesan and black pepper. Stir together until the dough just comes together. Do not over mix it!

Add the beer, black pepper and cheese to the flour mix

Add the beer, black pepper and cheese to the flour mix

lots of cheese and pepper - two great ingredients

lots of cheese and pepper – two great ingredients

Mix to a dough!

Mix to a dough!

3. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Pour the remaining butter over the top and bake for about 1 hour to 1 hour 10mins, or until a scewer comes out clean.

Into the loaf pan and top with the remaining butter

Into the loaf pan and top with the remaining butter

4. Remove the load from the tin and allow it to cool until warm to the touch before slicing. Serve with butter or eat plain.

Slice and serve warm with lots of butter!

Slice and serve warm with lots of butter!

Enjoy! xx

Discovering the Stromboli

I am always looking for new recipes to try, new exciting flavours and interesting ingredients combinations, because at the end of the day boring food is just boring! So when you discover something new its great. For me its recently been the Stromboli. Before coming across a recipe for one I had never heard of it! I know shocking! I thought I knew all the pizza forms. For those that do not know, a Stromboli is a rolled up pizza – its ingenious and I do not know how I haven’t come across this before.

It’s just as easy to make as pizza but it has a novelty factor. If you are in the mood for making pizza ( and home-made is always so much better than shop bought!) then give this a go for something different!

Ingredients

250g Basic Pizza Dough

3 tbsp tomato puree

100g thin salami

120g spinach

100g thinly sliced mozzarella

1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees and place a large baking tray in the oven to heat up. Roll out the pizza dough to a 24xm x 30cm rectangle.

rolling out my dough!

rolling out my dough!

2. Spread the tomato puree over the rolled out pizza dough. Then lay the salami over the top, then the scatter the spinach. Finally put the mozzarella over the top. Carefully roll the dough from the shortest side with the seam facing down. Brush with a little olive oil.

base!

base!

layer up those toppings

layer up those toppings

what is a pizza without cheese!

what is a pizza without cheese!

carefully roll that bad boy up!

carefully roll that bad boy up!

3. Carefully lift the rolled pizza onto the pre heated baking tray and place in the oven for 20-25mins until golden brown.

full off oozy cheese goodness - its sooo good!

full off oozy cheese goodness – its sooo good!

To serve slice the stromboli and serve with a green salad. To make it veggie why not use ricotta, spinach and mozzarella or through in some roasted peppers – Yum!!

Enjoy! xx

South Africa – The Panoramic Route

Its been a while since my last South Africa post, I thought I would give you all a break! One thing that amazed me most about South Africa was it’s ever changing landscape, there is just so much to see that its impossible to do it all in one trip. Leaving our lodge on the edge of Kruger we travelled to Hazyview which is further south but still on the edge of Kruger and used by many people as their base for safaris. We used Hazyview and our lovely hotel, the Hippo Hollow as a base to explore the region and of course the world famous Panoramic route.

We had been blessed up to this point with great weather, however that all changed the morning we were due to head out onto the Panoramic Route – the heavens opened and it didn’t look like it was going to stop!!

As we left Hazyview behind and wound our way around the hills and climbed higher, even through the rain soaked windows we could see the amazing scenery outside – deep valleys, thick forests and stunning waterfalls, we were a long way from the flat savannahs we had experienced while on safari. On a clear sunny day this would have been a photographers paradise.

Our first stop was Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon in the world. As we stepped out of the bus to make the short walk to the viewing areas it suddenly stopped raining, we couldn’t believe it! As you approach the viewing areas the sheer vastness of the canyon becomes apparent, its beautiful. You feel like you are not in the modern world but this is the landscape for some prehistoric era. This was certainly the place to just sit on a rock and take in the majesty of your surroundings.

Panoramic of Blyde River Canyon - the rain stopped just long enough to get a couple of photos in

Panoramic of Blyde River Canyon – the rain stopped just long enough to get a couple of photos in

 

Blyde River Canyon

Blyde River Canyon

This is of course the ideal place for great photos, and we ladies did not hesitate to get some posed photos in while the sun was trying to come out.

Selfies at Blyde River Canyon, of course!

Selfies at Blyde River Canyon, of course!

 

Now of course the Canyon is stunning but it’s not the only stopping spot on the Panoramic Route. Our next call was Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Now I had no idea what we were going to see when I heard the name, to me potholes are the things in the road that cause all sorts of trouble! However when you see these potholes you are in awe of the sheer power that water has to shape rock. The power of the river has over centuries formed amazing rock formations and pools in the striking red rock.

Bourke's Luck Potholes

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

Bourke's Luck Potholes

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

 

Bourke's Luck Potholes

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

Now I would have loved to have filled this blog with fabulous panoramic views of the valleys and scenery we passed but unfortunately the rain came back and the rest of my photos are pretty grey and miserable.  The weather got so bad that we had to skip Gods Window! The Panoramic Route is definitely worth a visit as it gives you a whole different view on the country but also lets you delve into its history and see what life was like back during the days of the prospectors and gold rush.

The chance to go on an elephant ride - amazing!

The chance to go on an elephant ride – amazing!

While we were in Hazyview we got the opportunity to go on an elephant experience with Elephant Whispers. I have had the amazing chance to ride elephants and play with them before but in Asia, so the chance to get up close to an African elephant was a definite must. We spent about an hour learning about the elephants, getting to feed them, touch them ( the back of their ears are SO warm and soft!), it was truly unique. After that we went for a short ride, not the best I have done, but the first timers loved it.

Standing between an elephants legs.... not in the least bit scary!

Standing between an elephants legs…. not in the least bit scary!

One thing that we all enjoyed was the Boma Dinner that our hotel put on. We had an amazing traditional dance show which was so high energy, I don’t know how they kept going for so long! I know it’s quite a ‘tourist’ thing to do, but it was really fun!

Boma Dinner - traditional South African dancing and music- the energy these dancers have is amazing!

Boma Dinner – traditional South African dancing and music- the energy these dancers have is amazing!

Panoramic Route - South Africa

Fabulous dancing!

It’s such a shame we had such terrible weather the day we were due to drive the Panoramic Route but we still got to see some of it and it did not disappoint. Spectacular scenery that just made me further fall in love with South Africa. Having Hazyview as a base was great as we got to further explore and enjoy a bit of the culture. We were here for three nights which was enough time as we had already done our safari. Next and final stop on the adventure was Cape Town!