Ducks on Vergenoegd Wine Estate

Yesterday we celebrated Lois’ dad’s 70th birthday party at the Pomegranate restaurant at Vergenoegd wine estate. They have turned the old manor house into the restaurant.

While having lunch, I saw the most strange thing – a duck parade! The farm has about 300 Indian runner ducks living on the farm. These ducks run through the vinyards, looking for snails and small insects to eat. This novel solution to pest control keeps the vineyards pest-free in an environmentally friendly manner.

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So, in the middle of lunch, about 100 ducks came marching through the outside of the restaurnant, much like a class of school children out on a school outing.

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They marched onto the lawns, ate everything in site (at least all the snails), and left. Thinking about it, it sounds more like varsity students than school kids.

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Although they are both noisy and smelly, it is kind-of cute to watch. And I was really glad that I had decided to order the fish and not the duck that was on the lunch menu!

If you get the opportunity to go to the farm, do so. It is not something that you will see everyday!

Seared tuna…

One of the great things about summer in Cape Town, is the ample supply of fresh yellow-fin tuna.

Seared tuna

There is nothing that can beat freshly seared tuna, cooked on hot coals. It is a gloriously warm summer evening, so I decided to cook fresh tuna on my father’s old gas grille. You need to heat the grill at least 1/2 hour before cooking, and cook the tuna for about a minute MAX each side, but it is magic, tender and melting in the month. Just look at how it turned out.

The grill entered our family in the early 80’s, so it has been in the family for over 30 years. My father gave it to me in a weak moment a few years ago, and has been asking for it back ever since.

It still cooks the best beef steaks in Africa, and as you can see, the best tuna as well.

How to renew your South African drivers license

I have just got back from renewing my drivers license at the Hillstar Traffic Department in Cape Town. With visions of long queues, tedious forms, and a complicated and slow eNaTS computer system, I was dreading the experience. Well, to my utter surprise, it was nothing like that. It was a fast and painless experience.

In theory, my new license will be ready in 6-8 weeks.

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So, here is the process.

What do you need to bring?

  1. 2x passport photos (preferably black and white, but colour seems to be fine)
  2. R100 fee R140 (as at July 2011)
  3. a black pen (they don’t have any there)
  4. Your old drivers license and your ID book
  5. book / magazine / ipod etc

What is the best time to renew?

I can only get there on a Friday, so all the details below relate to a Friday experience. I originally arrived at about 12:00pm, and they were very busy, it clearly was not going to get less busy in the afternoon, so I left. Yes I admit that lunch time is probably not the best time to renew.

Next time, I arrived at about 8:30am, and they were not very busy. In total, it took me about an hour from start to finish, which was not too bad. However, when I left at 9:30am, they were almost empty, so I think that about 9:30-10am would probably be the best time.

They are open from 7:45am until 3:00pm, but they did warn that if the queue’s are too long, they will close the doors earlier, so be careful.

What is the process?

  1. Stand in the reception queue – they will give you whatever forms you need (the green form for drivers license renewal)
  2. Go to the eye test/fingerprint queue. You can fill out your form while you wait. It is quite long but moves reasonably quickly. The eye test and fingerprinting is done at the same time.
  3. Pay at the cashiers desk. Keep the receipt, because it extends the validity of your current drivers license by 2 months should the new license not arrive before your old one expires.
  4. They will send you a postcard when your new license is ready – in theory in about 6-8 weeks. Update (13 Feb 2009) After three months, I was still waiting and had not received notification. So, on the off change that it was ready I went to the collections dept. Sure enough, it was ready, and I was told that they had stopped sending out notification. So, don’t hold your breath waiting for any postcard, whatever they tell you! Oh, and there was no queue at collections.

That’s it  – easy and painless.

By the way, don’t bother trying to phone them – the phone just rings.

Note: please read the comments below for feedback from people who have recently renewed their licenses.

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Safe in Calgary – but almost never made it

We arrived in Calgary, Canada last night. However, we almost did not make it. We were flying out of Philadelphia airport via Toronto, but when we went to check in, it seemed that were were booked onto an earlier flight, but via Denver! There had been some miscommunication between me and the travel agent!

Thank goodness that there wa extra space available on the Toronto leg. So, 3 orchids to the very helpful lady from Air Canada that managed to sort everything out for us so that we could get onto the Toronto flight.

Calgary is a very pretty (and clean) city. Downtown has loads of great restaurants and pubs, mostly located on 8th Ave – Stevens Walk.

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Calgary Downtown

We had dinner at the Unicorn which was a great pub. I was told that they do the best fish and chips in the world, and they were pretty fine. We will go back later this week.

Not to be missed is the Calgary Tower, a climb of over 540 feet, with a great panoramic view from the top. They even have a section where you can stand on glass, and look straight down – an adrenalin inducing experience.

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A long way down…

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View from the top of the Calgary Tower

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