Monday, September 22, 2014

Arrival in Franschhoek

Here is the itinerary for our Africa trip.

We left Johannesburg with our driver at 8:00 am for our 10:00 am flight to Cape Town. Thinking that the company would know how early was necessary we accepted that time as normal. Turned out that we were too late to get seats on the plane. Since we did not have assigned seats yet, we needed to take care of that earlier and since it was a full flight, we were bumped to the next one an hour later. That was fine, but then we hit another glitch when picking up our rental car. Budget wanted a printed voucher and we only had an itinerary. Our agent had said that everything was electronic and that would be fine, but it seems that Budget did not get the memo about going paperless. Fortunately, we had an off-hours number for our agent locally and were able to get a voucher emailed so we could get the car. Otherwise, we would have been paying again for the car and having to get reimbursement – a hassle at best.
The view from our veranda.
Additionally, Linda’s new credit card wouldn’t work for Budget even though it has an electronic chip to enable its use all over the world. Her new card is not embossed, the number is simply printed on card and Budget has to use the imprint to get the credit card number onto the contract. I was shocked because Visa and MasterCard both have said that using a swipe machine is no longer acceptable. Those manual machines put the entire number on paper making the number much easier to steal. One would think that a major world company like Budget would have a computer system that did not require the number on a sheet of paper. So even though they had a record of the reservation and we had a valid credit card, they could not process the rental normally. Because the rental was in Linda’s name they needed her card. Fortunately, the agent was a problem solver who worked to make certain we got the car we needed. He used my card for the rental because it still has the embossing and them made explanatory notes all over the rental agreement and in the computer. He also made certain that I do not count as an additional driver raising the rental fee. Then, before assigning us a car, he asked to see how much luggage we have and gave us a VW Jetta because it has the largest trunk and was large enough to take all of our luggage – barely. We have slimmed down our packing considerably, but four people for seven and ten weeks still need a lot of stuff. I have one small backpack just for camera, lenses, binoculars and computer. So, even though it took three times as long as it should have, we left with all of our luggage in the trunk where it belongs and no worries about payments.

Franschhoek is nearly surrounded by these mountains.
We are staying in a lovely home in Franschhoek in a gated community, La Petite Provence. Franschhoek was settled by French Hugonots fleeing the religious discrimination they were facing in France. Streams gurgle past the rear of the house and across the street in the front. A large field and several small vineyards dot the complex making it a lovely place to walk in the morning or evening. A patio in the back offers a great venue for coffee and bird watching to start the day while those slower to get started shower and ....

One of the streams running through the property
The only trouble we had upon arriving was getting me to listen carefully enough to Linda as she explained how to turn off the alarm system. We have a fob with three buttons. The red one opens the garage after you remove the padlock; the green one is for an emergency, and the blue one turns the alarm on and off. To my amazement, since my listening skills have deteriorated, there is no delay before the alarm begins screaming that you have improperly entered the property. Linda quickly explained – again – that I had to push the blue button and the screaming stopped. No more than a minute later the security team was there to make sure everything was ok. That was comforting even as it was a bit embarrassing. It was even more embarrassing to have the same thing happen the next day because we weren’t sure if the system was on or off. The other challenge has been dealing with the fact that every door has a different skeleton key for its lock. That is seven different keys. Fortunately they are well-labeled.

Helmeted Guineahens have the run of the place.
The other negative is that there is NO internet service at the house, but we have found a nice solution to that problem. Once we were settled in, we drove the short distance to town to do a bit of grocery shopping and find a nice place for a casual meal. We settled on “The Stall” – less than a mile from our house. The food was outstanding. I had a burger with gouda, grilled onions and cranberry, a surprisingly good mix. Linda had a regular cheeseburger. Jim had some excellent fried Patagonian calamari. Marcia had a penne pasta with chicken in a white pesto sauce. They also have what look like fantastic wood fired pizzas. Most importantly, we had a great time talking with the owner drinking some of the excellent local wine at about $5 per bottle. Really. The wine here is very good and really inexpensive. Since they also have free wireless, we have decided that we will drop in for coffee in the morning or wine in the evening to catch up on all those must-do things that computers have imposed on our lives. Lisa, the owner, said that they officially open at noon, but since the pizza oven requires 90 minutes to warm up, the rest of their menu is available and since they make everything fresh, we can get just about anything we want. The owners live at Le Petite Provence where we are staying, so we will probably be seeing them here well.

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