"let your boat of life be light, packed with only
what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, someone to love and someone to love you,
enough to eat and enough to wear
and a little more than enough to drink:
for thirst is a dangerous thing"

Saturday, 3 March 2012

how many days make up a vacation?

Too much work, and no vacation,
Deserves at least a small libation.
So hail! my friends, and raise your glasses,
Work's the curse of the drinking classes.
Oscar Wilde

When I opened my eyes this morning I had no idea where I was.  Although exhausted last night I could not fall asleep.  Four nights of sleep with waves crashing you to sleep can become addictive.  The sound of the sea was so loud and perhaps it was because I don't think I had ever slept so close to the sea before.  

We arrived in Durban on Tuesday morning and the first thing to hit you was the humidity as you stepped out of the airport.  We headed straight to Salt Rock and this amazing cottage where Wayne and Lesley had spent the week.

My first view of the sea walking down the passage of the cottage

The cottage from the sea
An old cottage - most of them at Salt Rock are - but so comfortable that you felt immediately at home.  Some beautiful pieces of furniture and everything was absolutely spotless.  They have a houseman called Salvador who quietly cleans and polishes all day.  Towels are whisked away, washed and dried, nothing was too much trouble and he was never in the way.

We woke up in the morning and before you even brushed your teeth, you put on your costume and headed for your first swim.  It gets light very early and we were in the water before 8.   How amazing to swim in a warm ocean and only have to get out because you are exhausted, not cold.  The water was a bit rough and not body surfing waves but once you got beyond the first breakers you could bob and dive about for hours.  At times Lesley and I were reprimanded by Wayne for drifting out too far (who can blame the lifesaver and yachtsman for being worried about having to rescue both of us?).

On our first day we took a walk along the beach to the Salt Rock Hotel.  They have an awesome tidal pool in front of the hotel but unfortunately they had just given it it's annual dredging so we could not swim there.  I did see the caravan park Carolyn, right above the tidal pool (sorry no camera with me) and also with direct access to the beach.  A funny story that Lesley told us was that the day before they had walked along to the tidal pool and Wayne started chatting to an "older guy" who was supervising the guys dredging sand out of the pool.  They chatted about this and that and the fact that Wayne was originally from Durban and it ended up that they both dated the same girl who had a holiday house along the beach at Salt Rock.    
The tidal pool
It was wonderful to just relax - even a trip to the shops was only done for an emergency (and only once), we ate wonderful meals and got inventive with leftovers.  We spent our days in bathing costumes and most of my clothes came home unworn. I only finished one book (I took along 3), flipped through all the latest magazines, drank champagne for lunch followed by afternoon siestas and chatted lots.  Michael and I went to visit the Hulett house (where he had spent holidays) further along the beach.  Old and gracious but almost in a time-warp and very old and rambling and falling apart. The garden was immaculate and the views from the balcony incredible.  A friendly nanny who had been with the family for 35 years filled Michael on some of the family history.

I enjoyed the novelty of humidity - it makes your skin feel so smooth.  Putting on make up was a waste of time and even my usually straight hair developed kinks and curls. I did not need a night cream as all it did was make my face sweat and I have been bad and tanned my skin a little bit too much.  I love that prickly feeling on your back and shoulders, after a day in the sun, when you shower and then when you lie down in bed.  It feels like a holiday.

Lesley invited old friends Peter and Val Braham (who live in Ballito) over for a braai on Wednesday evening.  It was great to catch up and tell stories.  I had not seen Val for at least 12 years and they have not changed a bit.  Wayne braaied a whole sirloin (which was divine) and we learned that you can't put your crisps out in bowls in Durban as they go soft and limp in 10 minutes.

On our last night Wayne treated us to a very special evening.  We started off with cocktails at the Lighthouse Bar at the Oyster Box.  Old Colonial at it's best.  Mojitas, Pina Coladas (and a Windhoek - no guesses there) on the terrace while the sun went down.

Lighthouse Bar
View from the terrace
The venue for the SA version of their wedding

We then had dinner at Ile Maurice, Wayne's favourite restaurant.  On arrival we were made to feel special, introductions, hugs and two cheek kisses all round (everyone knows Wayne and I was waiting for the mother of the chef to come to our table and kiss and hug him (but she didn't)).  
Ile Maurice, Umhlanga Rocks, Umhlanga, Northern Suburbs, Durban and Surrounds, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa restaurants

TO anne nov 4
Our "new best friend" in the middle

We followed Wayne's advice on what to eat and were not disappointed.  Lesley and I had the crab starter - sweet and delicate and very delish.  Michael had the rack of lamb, Wayne had a fish curry and Lesley an octopus curry.  I had the highly recommended Vindaye de Poisson -  fresh filleted barracuda spiced with turmeric, garlic, ginger and cooked with baby onions.  One of the best meals I have ever had.
The name of the dish has a history.  The Portuguese had a dish called "vinha-d"alho" (meat marinated in wine vinegar with herbs, garlic and spices).  When the Portuguese colonised Goa (in India) the name got corrupted to "vindaloo" (one of India's spiciest curries).  In Mauritius (where the owners and managers are from) the name got "frenchified"  into "vin d'ail", and ended up as "vindaye" in Creole.  You can also use the sauce with meat, like pork.

The Vindaye dish has to be made with a firm fish - tuna, barracuda, yellowtail.  Wayne's curry was made with a Durban fish called Rock Cod (which I tasted for the first time).  His dish was also divine - he always orders the Vindaye de Poisson but was told by his mate to "be more adventurous" so he ordered something different .  (I think I spotted a bit of sadness in his eyes when he saw my dish arrive though).

I have been doing some research and have found a recipe for a Vindaye sauce, which I am going to try as soon as possible and have Wayne and Lesley around to sample it:-

List of ingredients:
1 pound fish with firm meat
1 large or 2 small onions, sliced thinly
1/2 decilitre (1/4 cup) vinegar
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground ginger or 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
red chillies to taste (a small variety)
2 to 3 garlic cloves, crushed
salt to taste
olive oil

Preparation in advance:
Temper the vinegar with the turmeric.
Remove the seeds from the chillies, chop them small. Take care not to rub your eyes (or pick your nose) even long after handling the chillies. Or use latex gloves.

Fry the sliced onions in oil until soft, remove them. Add the fish (whole, fillets or diced) to the same oil. After a few minutes, add garlic, ginger and chillies, then return the onions to the pan and pour in the vinegar/turmeric. Bring to the boil, poach the fish until done (three to ten minutes, depending on what fish and in what form it is prepared). If you want more sauce, add some water, the vindaye is a rather dry curry.

To serve:
Vindaye can be served either hot or at room temperature.

Ile Maurice served the dish with basmati rice and brown lentils.  I was also given the recipe of an awesome chilli sauce which they served on the side.  It looked pretty much like a yogurt type chilli but I was warned.  There was no yogurt in it but consisted of whole green chillies, ginger, onion, vinegar and olive oil all blended together.  Nothing was too strong and the flavours were brilliant.  The wine was just perfect, too!!

We arrived back yesterday afternoon.  Between Matthew (who is back again for a couple of days) and Nicholas the garden was looked after, Janette our char was locked out and the fridge was not refilled with beers (otherwise all 100%).  We are off to watch Nic play rugby this afternoon, Matthew has headed off for a surf and I think we will probably have the family around for an early supper.  

It was a wonderful 4 days.  Thank you Wayne and Lesley for your generosity and for sharing your holiday with us.   (Interested whether they get to read this.  I showed them how to find this blog on their iPads - Wayne is relatively new to the internet and was having lots of fun experimenting with "google" but we shall see - let me know when your are ready for Vindaye ala Jennifer!!)

The cure for everything is salt water - sweat, tears or the sea.

Forget the "sweat and tears", I'll go with "the sea".


  1. This is now on our family favorites list.
    do visit my mauritian curried fish when u get time