Every now and again I come across something which reminds me why I love travelling. Why I put up with the airline food, stuffy airports and endless queues. In amongst the hours at the keyboard and mounds of email this video reminds that at the end of it all it is all so, so worthwhile. Let it preload, make some coffee and then wait for that smile to spread across your face.
And keep an eye out for the hairy guy in Paris... what's up with that!?
I discovered a great new restaurant in Cape Town the other day. I've been reviewing restaurants for EatOut magazine and this was one on my hit-list.
It's called Addis in Cape and is just off Long Street in Upper Church Street. Basically, it's on the opposite corner to Mesopotamia at the top of Church Street, that little paved road with the antique market and Café Mozart.
As you may have guessed from the name it's an Ethiopian restaurant, and as far as I can tell it's as authentic as can be. Tables are low conical affairs surrounded by small wooden stools, rather than your usual table and chairs. If it sounds uncomfortable, trust me it isn't.
The meal is shared communally, and the traditional injera flatbread is the central focus of the meal. Whatever dishes you order are served directly on the large flatbread, with copious rolls of bread on the side to soak and mop up the juices. The Doro Wat (spicy chicken stew) is one of the best, and make sure you end off with the incense-laden Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
It's an awesome spot with traditional Ethiopian food… a cuisine I hadn't experienced before. Cape Town is often criticised for being too Euro-centric, so it's great to see more cuisine from the rest of the continent pitching up in town. What's more, it's aimed squarely at locals, not the tourist coachloads as so many 'African restaurants in the city bowl seem to be.
Visit http://www.addisincape.co.za/ to find out more.
The best of the best of the best
Well, more exciting news. I have been invited to join the judging panel of an exciting new award launched at the Tourism Indaba earlier this year: The Amarula Best Retreats in Africa Awards 2008.
Africa has become the darling of the international jet set and the awards are set to recognise the most outstanding retreats on the continent, and will be an annual celebration showcasing the finest and most innovative of Africa's retreats.
As part of the 'Amarula Best Retreats in Africa Awards, 2008' iafrica.com is sponsoring the special 'Consumer Choice Award' where you can vote for your favourite Retreat.
Up at the sharp end
All in all it's not a bad way to travel, really… up at the sharp end of the plane. Two days after getting back from Indonesia it was back on another plane, this time on a Cathay Pacific trip to Hong Kong. Billecart-Salmon champagne certainly helps ease the ills of inter-continental travel, as does being treated like a human being!
Cathay is in the process of rolling out a new business class product which will offer fully-flat beds, but most exciting is what they have planned in the economy cabin which is, let's face it, where most of us do most of our flying.
They're completely redesigning the economy seat and will be the first airline to offer business-class-style hard-shell seats in economy. This means that when the over-sized guy in front of you whacks his seat back to make his belly fit, it won't intrude into your space, but will stay within its shell.
They've also done clever things to make flying more comfortable, like moving the magazine pouch away from your knees to under the seat, giving you a few extra centimetres of legroom. Can't wait to try it out. Check out www.cathaypacific.com to find out more.
Anyway, the trip was to check out the foodie delights of Hong Kong, which is far and away my favourite big city in Asia. With a sizeable expat population it's no surprise that you can get anything from McDonalds to Beluga caviar, but without doubt the best 'Hongers' (as the colonials would've called it) has to offer comes in packages a little more discreet.
Ever since my first visit to Hong Kong in 2006 dim sum has become one of my favourite foods; small steamed parcels containing anything from prawn, scallop and shark fin to barbecue pork.
You'll find dim sum anywhere in the city, but your best bet is to find a friendly local and ask them for a good local breakfast restaurant. Hong Kong apartments are so small it's easier for locals to eat out than cook at home, so you'll find people tucking in any time of the day.
Perhaps the best dim sum I found was at the Eaton Hotel, about halfway up Nathan Road in Mongkok. They have over 25 varieties of dim sum, and each is a work of art. It's not cheap though, with dishes ranging from HK$10-HK$45, but it's popular with tourists and locals. Bright lights, big tables and lots of dishes… just what a Cantonese restaurant should look like!
If you can't get to Hong, Kong Ping Pong in London does a passable 'bao' and is always on the itinerary when I'm in the UK, but I'm yet to find anywhere in Cape Town that does decent dim sum. If you know of somewhere that does I'd love to know where I can have that culinary itch scratched. Regardless, for the real deal Hong Kong is the business.
Feast or famine?
Is it feed a cold and starve a fever, or starve a cold and vice versa… I can never remember which way it goes, but it would have come in darn useful this last week.
Shortly after touching down for a 3-day whirlwind visit to Hong Kong, my Singapore Sniffle (picked up on the way back from Indonesia) turned into a full-on 'bird-flu-is-nothing' stonker of a cold. Ah yes, cold and fever… just what you want when traipsing around Asia in 33° heat and 80 percent humidity!
Regardless, Sinumax and Asia's-tissue-supply in hand, I hit the streets with Joe Lee from the Hong Kong Tourism Board to explore some of the foodie hotspots of the 'fragrant harbour'.
Whether I should have been starving or feeding my dose of SARS, my guide assured me that the bitter green tea would help. That I agreed to… what I wasn't so sure about was the Steamed Chicken Feet, Duck Feet with taro and the Pork Dim Sum wrapped with Fish Stomach. For once, the lack of olfactory senses came in handy, and pushing the images of footloose poultry from my mind I think I did quite well for a Westerner!
Battling my mini-epidemic I hardly expected to pick up Foot in mouth disease too… I don't think I'll be ordering duck feet in the near future. When it comes to global cuisine my worldly wisdom simply doesn't stretch to webbed.