Alibi – Zippen your Lippen


By the last night of our ski holiday, we decided we were finally ready to brave Saalbach’s hardcore, after dinner night life. The first spot did not disappoint. It was shaped like a gazebo with an inner circle serving as a wrap-around bar. On the one side of the bar was a ladder leading up to a little dancing platform, just big enough for one person. By now, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a Tyrolean milk-maid doing a folk dance up there, but what greeted us was even better. A drunken Hans from amongst the crowd had somehow managed to haul himself up the ladder and was doing the Lambada against the balustrade. He’d obviously got a little warm at some point, because he was bare-chested and down to his ski pants, which were (thankfully) held in place by their all-in-one breeches. Miraculously, he managed to finish up his little gig and he got down the ladder in one piece. Here he is in the pic below, getting a “heil five” from the barman after his performance.

Not one to let a vibe die, the barman soon had another party trick up his sleeve. He came over to us with a microphone and asked our names. As we responded, he triggered a hidden remote in his mike. The mike must have been attached to a deer’s head which was mounted on the wall of the bar, because the animal promptly started moving its jaw as if in speech. A talking buck – I now feel I’ve seen it all.

Once we recovered from that, we somehow got to playing Liar’s Poker. No-one would agree that the loser of each round should be made to dance on the little overhead stage (LLLLosers!), so the penalty was to down Flugels instead – a huge shooter of cherry vodka and Red Bull. (The founder of Red Bull was apparently Austrian, so while the stuff is banned in some European countries, in Austria, they patriotically knock it back like water. We even witnessed parents giving it to their five year olds kids on one occasion. So much for the squeaky clean Von Trapp family image.) Anyway, I managed to get so thumped at Poker, I would’ve spent the rest of the night looking down at everyone from the top of the ladder, so a little Red Bull and vodka went down well in comparison.

Just as we were preparing to leave, they started playing the coolest song. It had the requisite techno beat to it, but this time we could actually make out the chorus: “Alles ist cool in Istanbul!”. How uber cool are those lyrics? I’ve subsequently discovered who’s behind all the Austrian ‘umpah-umpah’ stuff. It all started with a dude who calls himself “DJ Otzi”. (The rather immodest musician apparently named himself after “Otzi the Iceman” – a 5000 year old mummy discovered by archaeologists in the Austrian Alps in 1991.) DJ Otzi is identifiable by his signature white beanie (see pic) and has taken the charts by storm (I kid you not) since he first hit the music scene around 2000. He’s possibly best known for his hit single “Ich bin Anton aus Tirol”. The music video for this song features “Anton” standing in the midst of the Tyrolean countryside – looking not dissimilar to the average Boksburg dweller – singing his heart out. (If you feel like a laugh, check it out on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRe3gLoE0wU&feature=related )

He’s also had several hits with souped up, umpah-umpah remixes of old classics, such as Do Wah Diddy (can’t you just hear it?). And if you thought he only appealed to very drunk Germanophones in Tyrol and Bavaria – think again. The man became an international sensation when one of his chart-toppers made it to number one in Japan! Thanks DJ Otzi and “Don’t Stop the Alpenpop”. (The latter is the ingenious name of one of his hit albums). Next stop for the night: Club Alibi. Alibi is the Rolls Royce of night spots in Saalbach. I’d love to tell you all about it, but I feel compelled to remain true to its ethos and to zippen my lippen…

Ich Bin Eine Kleine Schwein Haxen

I managed to take this pic while Hans, the waiter, was concentrating on ordering our wiener schnitzels on his little waiter computer. How d’ya like the new buck leather knickerbockers? They must drive the frauleins mad.

Anyway, back to the wiener schnitzels. You know how we’re constantly marvelling at how the Europeans manage to stay in shape, with books like: “Why French Women Don’t Get Fat”? Well, after some on-the-slopes research in Saalbach, I’m happy to report that one can’t necessarily say the same for ALL Europeans. In Zermatt, it was highly unusual to see someone with a serious belly, on skis. To give you an idea, it was like being in a sauna with five people wrapped in towels and one butt naked person – i.e. you’d notice. But here in Austria, I’ve lost count of the number of severe bratwurst boeps I’ve come across on skis – and I speak only of the tums that are defying even the puffiest of ski jackets. (An excess 5-10kg won’t show sufficiently in a ski suit for a social observer to group the skier amongst the bratwurst brigade). I’ve conducted this casual study only because I have long been fascinated with the whole why-French-women-don’t-get-fat phenomenon. So, using different groups of European skiers as my sample, I can conclude the following: if Austrian skiers are relatively porkier than their Swiss neighbours, it follows that cheese and chocolate is less fattening than schwein haxen (pork knuckle), schnitzel, apfel strudel, schnapps and beer, ja? Good news, except when you’re in the heart of the Austrian Alps. Here, ve have cold meat vir breakfast und dan bratwurst oder schnitzel vir lunch und vir dinner, ve have schwein haxen oder veal mit pork dumplings. Ironically, the conversation has turned to calorie counting at virtually every meal. I have to say that the topic is usually introduced by The Husband with his newfound awareness of health and fitness ahead of the Cape Epic. “Do you know that sausage is 70% fat?” he’ll say while munching on a frankfurter. “This has at least 1,500 calories”. Then, after the meal, he’ll be rolling on the bed, clutching his stomach, vowing never to go near another schnitzel so long as he lives.

Aside from skiing itself, the Austrians have come up with a novel way of burning calories while you wait in line for the ski lift. There is usually a little pub next to the lift, which blares out such catchy tunes, you simply can’t help singing along and doing a little jig in your ski boots. As cringe-inducing as the local folk/pop stuff is, at least the tune is forgotten as soon as you’re on the ski lift. Unfortunately, though, the local tracks are interspersed with a bit of Bananarama here, and a bit of Boney M, there. Actually, quite alot of Boney M. The favourite seems to be one of the their more annoying hits, namely, “Brown girl, in the ring, tra la la la la,” You know the one I mean? “She looks like a sugar in a plum…..blah, blah, blah TRA LA LA LA LA”. I’ve always thought the lyrics went: “Brown owl in the rain, tra la la la la…”. So I was curious (if a little concerned) to know what the heck “brown girl in the ring” refers to. Someone in the group then told us that the reference is highly racist, though this is a little known fact. Perhaps because of this insight, my evil side won’t stop playing the song over and over in my head. It’s as though Boney M has set up camp inside my head. I finally Googled the words to get the full story. As far as I could tell from Wikipedia, it’s the name of a game played by pre-teens in the Caribbean – sort of somewhere between ring-a-ring-a-rosy and spin-the-bottle, where the kids dance around a girl in a circle, while singing this delightful tune. Perfectly innocent, really. Once my conscience was clear, I figured I’d finally get this damn song out of my head. It was gone for a blissful two hours but then someone in the group started singing it out loud and now it’s back with a vengeance.

I could bang on about the delightful ski slope DJ’s here, but it’s 7pm and Boney M, the brown girl and I need to dash to dinner. Tonight, on ze menu, ve have eine “Farmer’s Buffet”. I have absolutely no idea what they farm around these parts but I’m pretty sure it’s not organic chickens. So I’ll be back in Jozi next week looking like eine kleine schwein haxen, but it’ll all be in the name of international research.

Top-of-the-Mountains Treffers in Saalbach


After my two prior skiing experiences in the cosmopolitan resorts of Zermatt and Vail – Saalbach, is proving to be a bit of a culture shock. Our group (consisting of 5 Saffers, 1 Russian and 1 Bahamian) pulled in to this Austrian Alpine resort on Saturday afternoon and decided to hit the après-ski scene immediately. It was about 5pm and the party was pumping. To be precise, I don’t think I’ve seen people this paralytic since Monday nights R5 drink-all-you-can at Springfield (circa 1998) or Sunday afternoons at the Pitcher & Piano in Putney. At first I thought we must have accidentally hit happy hour at the student local but when my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realised that the average age was somewhere between 45 and half-dead. And then I saw two wasted old-timers, beer in hand, sucking face like standard sixes. Gross! I have to admit I couldn’t stop staring. No-one else seemed to bat an eye-lid – perhaps because they were all so dronk they couldn’t see straight. They did, however, have just enough co-ordination to bop to the beat of the music.

Speaking of music, it appears that the beer is not the only thing that’s home brewed in this part of the world – the tunes are delightfully local too. The “Top of the Mountains” CD in the picture for this posting should give you a sense – the one with the cover photo of a brunette, looking as wholesome as Heidi from the chin up and as tasteful as a Teazer’s billboard, from the chin down. Sort of Amor Vittone on top, but a lot more risqué below eye-level. The music itself is kind of hard rock meets Eurotrash pop, meets folk, meets rave, with some “yodely-yodely yo’s” thrown in. Und one more thing: alles is in Tjerman – ja? Not to knock Germanic music talent – what with Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and all those wunderkinds – but there’s just something about German song lyrics that make them sound like someone barking out orders. It’s just so guttural, so…so scary, ja? So to numb our fears we reached out to Herr Jagermeister. In defence of the music (and the Jagermeister) it did inspire some priceless holiday in-jokes. Not least was the famous “heil five”. This involved two individuals (i.e. two wasted Saffers) looking at one another earnestly, raising their right hands in a militaristic semi-salute, shouting “Heil Five!” in their best German accents and then slapping their palms together in mid-air, before collapsing into fits of very macho giggles.

By 7pm (8pm on our body clocks) we were ready to return to the hotel for dinner. The Husband and I just needed to collect our skis and poles and we’d be right there.

Right.

The Husband could not remember what his skis looked like and we spent the better part of an hour searching for his gear amongst thousands of skis and poles all stacked up outside the bar. He eventually located a pair of skis that he thought looked familiar but his poles were nowhere to be found. Finally, we decided to take advantage of the ski gear insurance and he grabbed a pair of poles that best matched his ski suit. (We later discovered that the name “Angela” was etched onto them so we’re still waiting for a Germanic-looking shot-put champ to attack him on the ski slope. So far so good…)

With all this excitement, it took us a while to join the others back at the hotel. By this time, we were late, sweaty, flustered, exhausted and ravenous. We flew into the dining room, trying to locate our mates. The restaurant staff was looking at us askance as we swished through the dining room in our ski pants and thermal Cape Storm tops. (The next day we came across a discreet little note, which read “Please to dress appropriately for dinner, please. No ski gear or sweatsuits”. Oops). We finally found our table and, as we sat down, we realised that while we were out stealing ski poles, our friends had managed to get spectacularly wasted. The waiters looked decidedly unimpressed with our table (it’s worse when they give you the hairy eye-ball in German – trust me) and the other diners were clearly “not amused”. It was then that I noticed that our fellow diners were actually the PARENTS of the old-timers in the bar. My God. We’d booked into the old age home. Seriously: the guests were 75 in the shade and they were sitting there in their bow ties and dinner jackets. WTF? Any hopes that we’d simply have a great time and ignore Shady Pines, were dashed when the dronkest member of our party decided to audibly enquire:

“What the eff is up with all these OLD PEOPLE???”

Needless to say, we’re about as popular as puffadders in our hotel, but I still maintain that, until the folk dancing entertainment arrives, Shady Pines is lapping up our table’s conversation – not least because it’s the only conversation going down in that dining room. Plus, the waiters asking us to “keep it down” are grown men in New Buck leather pants. I mean, what does one say to them, except for “Yodel-ay-hee-hoo!”

Pinky & the Brain – Again

It’s official: the more The Husband and I travel together, the dumber we get. First there was the time we missed our international flight out of the Bahamas because we meandered to the check-in desk 61 minutes before take-off. We sort of subconsciously assumed – since the whole of the Bahamas has a population the size of George – that backwater airport rules would apply. I mean you don’t need to rock up at cute little George airport a full hour before your flight, right? Turned out that check-in closed 60 minutes before take-off and so (after being duly cr*pped on) we were hastily checked in. We then got stuck in an almighty US immigration queue (yes, US immigration INSIDE the Bahamian airport – who knew?) and missed our flight to Miami. So instead of flying Nassau-Miam-Vale, we flew Nassau-Miami-Dallas-Vale. Perhaps the greatest punishment of all was not the three back-to-back flights. Rather, it was having access to nothing but Delta’s wholesome selection of on-board potato chips and peanuts for 12 hours straight.

Next, there was Pinky & the Brain Part One. This occurred two months ago, when we (okay, I) miscalculated our arrival date in Buenos Aires by 24 hours, leaving us without a hotel room the day before Christmas Eve.

Thirdly, ladies and gentlemen, may I present the absolute coup de grace on the International Travel Dumbometer. Pinky and the Brain Part Two has a similar beginning to Part One. At 5am on Thursday 4 February The Husband awakes with a start. We are booked to depart for a skiing trip in Austria at 5pm on Friday 5 February.

“Do I need a visa for Austria?” he goes.

We both freeze. Okay, deep breaths. Let’s apply our minds. (Where are our minds?) We locate the passport. We check the Schengen visa expiration date. 31 January 2010. Four freaking days ago! We are screwed. I can’t quite believe it. We planned this trip months ago. We’ve been lining up our gear on the bedroom floor for the last week: ski jacket, snow boots, ski goggles – the works. We even have the little thin, thermal gloves that go under your ski gloves. But the rather huge matter of eine kleine visa for Osterreich just did not cross our minds. Not once. Not until 36 hours prior to departure.

On the bright side, yours truly is A-for-away with my British passport. Screw Stuyvesant cigarettes: an EU passport is the international passport to smoking hot, travel pleasure. Every time my eyes rest on that burgundy beauty I sigh happily and thank my grandmother over and over again, for giving birth to my father in the snow.

I pretty much resign myself to the fact that it’ll be solo skiing for me for at least three or four days until The Husband can sort out his paperwork. I spend the whole of Thursday moping around and wondering who the heck is going to carry my skis from the hotel to the ski lifts? Those bad boys weigh an absolute ton. Life is so unfair. (And we are such morons).

In the meantime, the husband manages to secure an interview at the Austrian embassy first thing on Friday morning – i.e. the day of our supposed departure. Upon arrival, he is greeted by the following sign: `’POOR PLANNING ON YOUR PART DOES NOT NECESSARILY CONSTITUTE AN EMERGENCY FOR US” Er, good point. The only option is to plead complete and utter stupidity (not an act, if you think about it), to apologise profusely and, well, to beg. All of which The Husband duly does. He then endures a justifiable amount of finger wagging and tongue lashing from Klaus von Whats-his-face (deservedly so), before – miracle of miracles – Klaus marches over to a computer terminal, starts punching in data and tells The Husband to report back at 12pm when there may or may not be an answer from the Motherland. “But,” Klaus counsels, “don’t be too hopeful because all civil servants knock off at 12pm sharp on a Friday.” ’Course they do. Das is der government!

Mercifully, Pinky and the Brain Part Two has a happy ending. At 12pm yesterday The Husband was issued with a 7 day, multiple entry Schengen visa. Look out Austrian Alps – Dumb and Dumber have arrived! (Plus we’re Saffers on skis which means we’re armed and dangerous…)

Fishing Competition


Despite my fear of piranhas (a very healthy fear, if you ask me), I was determined to give piranha fishing a try myself. I mean, how many times in my life would I get to fish in the Amazon? The more appropriate question would have been “how many times had I fished – ever, anywhere?” There had been a couple of occasions in my pre-teens but I now suspect that my Dad did everything for me all the while making me believe that I had some skill.

Anyway, by the time I got going with my rod/ stick thing, Hemingway (a.ka. The Husband) had already caught about six piranhas in succession and was looking mighty chuffed with himself. Now, I know that I need to grow up and simply accept that he will forevermore be better than me at basically everything related to sport and/or the outdoors.

But I can’t.

And so, given that Hemingway has never expressed any interest in fishing whatsoever in the ten years I’ve known him, I decided to take him on. After many failed attempts on my part, Ricardo, (the junior guide) decided to intervene in an attempt to be helpful and took hold of the fishing rod.

With me.

Fishing “a deux”.

At the age of 30.

How cute.

I felt like saying: “I know, that you know, that I know, that you are the one actually doing the fishing here, so for goodness sake, LET GO!!!!!!”

But the poor, sweet Spaniards had caught their one piranha each, taken their photo with the monstrous fish and were now plastered to their seats, drenched in sweat and yawning up a storm. So I played pretend fishing with Ricardo.

E V E E E E E E e e e e e e e N T U A L L Y, I (Ricardo) had something.

I (Ricardo) pulled it up out of the water.

It didn’t look like the same species of piranha the others had caught. It wasn’t bloated like a blaashoppie, with reddish bits on the edges. Instead, it was slender and silver.

I was thinking, “maybe, I (Ricardo) have caught a really RARE type of piranha. That would be cool.”

No such luck, as it turns out. I don’t think Ricardo had the heart to break the news to me because he just kept quiet and looked at Victor.

“It’s a sardine,” Victor announced.

Awesome.

So that’s the story of how, in a two square metre stretch of water, infested with piranhas so starved they had begun to feed on their own family members, I – The Fabulous Fisherwoman from Keurboomstrand – caught the one surviving sardine.

Piranhas and Havaianas

Piranhas and Havaianas: it’s got such a good nursery rhyme ring to it, I couldn’t resist. In reality, however, flip flops and piranha fishing are not a good combination. In case there were any lion-petting type tourists on our Amazon cruise, our guides specifically told us to wear closed shoes on the morning of the fishing expedition, “unless you want to get a pedicure”. This is apparently Amazonian for ‘losing a toe’ – or ten.

“Who wants to fish first?” Victor (our guide) asked when we’d reached what he deemed to be a piranha-infested spot (right next to the bank of the river, by the way). Before you could say ‘anaconda’, The Husband – ever the competitor – had practically flown across the skiff to grab hold of the make-shift rod. His only real competition besides myself and a lovely, soft spoken Spanish girl, was the Spanish girl’s boyfriend, Ramon. Ramon didn’t react at all to Victor’s fishing offer, so my Hemingway-esque other half needn’t have risked his life for the rod.

Anyhoo. He did. He survived and he set about fishing, like a man. Within seconds he had a podgy little silver and red thing flailing about madly on the end of the line, before he lost control almost completely, causing the Piranha to writhe and bounce on the floor of the our suddenly SUFFOCATINGLY SMALL skiff.

The scene that ensued resembled what I picture happening at a book club after someone has just pointed to the floor, yelling “MOUSE!” In an attempt to save our toes (closed shoes or not), we three terrified tourists were jumping on top of our seats, screeching uncontrollably (Ramon included), praying and trying not to fall overboard. In his defence, my Hemingway really did try to control the wriggly little b*gger. Unfortunately, he failed miserably. As a result, the purportedly lethal fish continued to convulse unpredictably across the length of the skiff’s floor while we shrieked in terror. And then Victor saved the day. If there was ever proof that looks can be deceiving, Victor is it. He is boyishly adorable looking with the kind of podgy little cheeks that your grandmother would like to grab and go “gootchie gootchie GOO” to. But when he stabilised that writhing Piranha he was the Camel Man incarnate. He grabbed hold of the fish (which honestly looks like a harmless  blaashoppie and if we hadn’t been warned about its dangers, I might’ve been the lion-petter in the group) with both hands and managed to get it still enough to show us its teeth.

Then he further educated us on how vicious these things are. He told us about an American tourist who’d refused to listen to him and lost a piece of finger in split seconds. He told us that the chef on our boat had lost part of a finger AFTER he had gutted a piranha – the fish was practically in pieces but the biting reflex was evidently still intact and so it promptly munched off a piece of his finger right there on the chopping board. He told us that piranhas have been watched by scientists, completely devouring a 300kg cow – down to its carcass – in 18 seconds. He could see us mentally dividing our weight into 300 to figure out how long we’d last. He showed us a bloody gash on the piranha’s body apparently caused by his fellow piranhas when they’d gotten a bit peckish.

As sweet as it was to think that Hemingway had possibly saved this dudie’s life, I was going to make sure he was going straight back into the water with his buddies. I didn’t want any ‘impulsive’ piranhas outside of Victor’s brave hands.

Amazon 101: What They Don’t Teach at Brownie Camp


It turns out that even the luxest of luxury, airconned Amazon cruises require a teensy bit of outdoor savvy. Not exactly being the camping/trekking/hiking type, I knew I didn’t possess too much of this. Boy, did that turn out to be an understatement.

First of all, I get that a rainforest is a forest where it rains. Duh. But who knew that it rains so much in parts of the Amazon that entire villages get temporarily sub-merged by the river during the rainy season? Okay, “entire village” equals miniscule hamlet with four open-sided huts and 50 people. BUT STILL!! And how is this relevant for travellers aboard the lovely “Aqua” riverboat? I’ll tell you how. During our briefing on the first night, I nearly spat out my Pisco Sour when they told us to “be prepared to rough it in the bushes during your excursions. There are no ablutions in the wild – ha ha ha ha ha”.

Ha ha ha. Heeee-larious.

Yes, of course there’re no ablutions in the middle of the Amazon jungle, you eegits, but why do you have to take us away from the safety of this magnificent mothership for FOUR HOURS on the trot? What do you think we are? Camels? So I nearly spat out my cocktail for two reasons: partly out of shock that I would have to pee in the bush on our five star holiday and partly because I didn’t want to swallow another millilitre of liquid before I was safely back in my cabin, post excursion.

But it gets better. As it turned out, even the most die-hard outdoor enthusiasts would have had a hard time doing their business in the bushes. That’s because we did not come across one inch of terra firma on our first excursion (nor on very many of the subsequent excursions, for that matter). The jungle simply emerged from the water all around our little excursion boats (skiffs) but there was no sign of the land the trees were anchored to. So unless you were a boy, and happy to heed the call of mother nature over the side of the skiff, in the company of the six charming Canadian retirees you had dinner with last night, each and every one of us had to cross our legs and try to drown out the sounds of the Amazon gently lapping against the boat.

Second lesson: protection from Amazonian mozzies does not simply mean covering up and slapping on some Tabard. Not at all. During the briefing Aqua recommended we use a spray containing at least 40% DEET. Now, I’m no farmer but something from Std 3 science is ringing a bell here. DEET? Isn’t that, like, illegal? I mean we’re only in a national park in the middle of the endangered Amazon Rainforest, aren’t we? Needless to say, my save-the-pandas side went out the window the next day, after I counted no fewer than 38 mozzie bits – on one limb. The leetle b*stards had munched me silly – THROUGH my pants. The pants I’d bought specially for the trip since my wardrobe doesn’t exactly contain clothing for jungle jols. Thereafter I wore my only other pair of outdoor longs (also purchased solely for the trip) morning, noon and night. By Day 5 they could basically stand up by themselves, not to mention that they smelt divine.

But that’s not all. On the day of the great mozzie attack, The Husband and I were walking in the jungle (on one of the few occasions we were actually able to access dry land) behind Victor, our naturalist guide. I say “walking” but we were actually trudging almost knee-deep in water. (When we saw higher ground to our left, we rushed towards it but then Victor told us to stick to the middle of the mud as there’d be snakes to the right. Nothing like the threat of an Amazonian serpent to send me diving back to the centre of the swamp.) Anyway, for our first and only jungle walk, we were covered from neck to foot in clothing to try to protect ourselves from insects. We were sweating like pigs in the sweltering humidity and furiously swatting mozzies away from our heads. Victor looked at us in our cute little tomato red Cape Storm waterproof jackets and said:

“You know, mosquitos are attracted to the colour red.” Ah, right – like bulls. We knew that.

That’s what they DON’T teach you at Boy Scouts and Brownies. (Not that I was ever a Brownie. Even at age 10, I wouldn’t have been caught in a long-sleeved poo-brown tunic and floppy hat, after school hours).

Did they get it from their mammas?


I was both shocked and relieved when the character of Samantha Jones on Sex & the City came out with the line: “Since when did tanning come back into style?” I was like: “since when did it GO OUT of style?” I’ve been sufficiently indoctrinated by those who “didn’t know when we were young” (i.e. my mother) to have grown up knowing that the sun gives you wrinkles, but I’ve also inherently understood that it’s just not cool to be pasty. And so when Samantha uttered that line, I thought, “Oh my God! In the States, tanning is like smoking – it USED TO be super cool, but now it’s all about health and longevity.” The pressure to grill oneself in tan cans and to frazzle on deck chairs has fizzled out!

Alas, alack. If, indeed, tanning ever did go out of fashion, I can confirm that it’s back with a bang amongst the pooling population at Hotel Faena. It has taken me a couple of days to realise that there are actually umbrellas here. Tons of them. They’re dutifully dotted between each and every deck chair. It’s just I hadn’t noticed them because I’d never seen them in use. Any form of sombrero also appears to be wildly untrendy in these parts. With my super practical floppy travel hat I look more out of place than the woman who has her legs permanently spread so the sun won’t miss a spot. And the fact that the deck chairs on either side of the pool face one another, means that the person opposite her gets one helluva view.

I reckon it was destiny that placed me at Faena’s poolside shortly before the advent of the New Year. Just in time to remind myself of my annual New Year’s Resolution: To Get in Shape. Basically, the men can be divided into two categories: they are either fat or they sport six packs. The women, on the other hand, belong overwhelmingly to one category: the “body-to-die-for” one. The Europeans are all slim and in great shape but the Latin American chicks are in a league all of their own: they pretty much look like versions of Giselle Bunchen from neck to toe (above the neck looks pretty good too). It’s either something in the water over here or else they really did just “get it from their mammas”.

Which gets me thinking: is it really nature or is it nurture – i.e. is it in the genes or in the gym? Hmmm. Tricky one. I reckon I’ll need to ponder this over cocktails until the New Year kicks in.

Faena Forever


The Faeana Hotel & Universe.

Sigh.

Warning: it’s going to be hard not to sound fawning, but it’s such a phenomenal universe that we’ve had a hard time tearing ourselves away from the mirrored pool bar, the gentleman’s club-style “library bar” and the Versailles-meets-modernity red and white resto.

For all the arrogance supposed to be exuded by “portenos” (residents of Buenos Aires), the staff could not be nicer. The pool-side service has tended be a bit laid-back-Latino-whenever-wherever but the waitrons are so divine, it’s hard to get hit up about it. They’ve got things so right that as the temperature starts dropping from afternoon to evening, the pool temperature begins to rise slowly, slowly… Mmmmm.

And my personal fave: Dear Guests: Naturally Cocktails May Be Consumed In The Pool. Naturally. (They’re served in plastic cups that look exactly like the real glass deal, for when the co-ords are a teensy bit shaky). On the downside, guests may be accompanied by their offspring. Having said that, this does not seem to be the general trend so being roused from your margarita-induced slumber by a chorus of “Marco Polos” is fairly rare. Not counting kiddies, the average age is exactly what you’d want it to be if you were between 20 and 45 and single. This dawned on me on my first evening in the pool when I overhead a conversation between two Californian playboys:

“Yeah, if ya stay at the Four Seasons, everyone there is like, OLD, man.”

Looking around, I realised he was so right. Maybe for this was one of the reasons why we bumped into an SA acquaintance and his two, single, thirty-something mates at the pool on our first night. The guy was so tanned I didn’t recognise him at first. “Argentinian women are so incredibly beautiful,” he was saying. (Can’t argue with you on that one, Bru.) “But I think the Argentine men are greasy”.

Er, ja. Keep telling yourself that, mate.

Pinky & the Brain

Our South American adventure started out even before our 5am alarm this morning. That was when I realised that I had not married my husband for his prowess in the kitchen, but rather for his mathematical genius (to give our unborn children a chance in life, and all). For some reason (ask me not what), I was utterly convinced that we were leaving Cape Town at 10am this morning, travelling for 9 hours to Buenos Aires (which is 5 hours BEHIND SA) and then landing in Buenos Aires at 2pm THE NEXT DAY – i.e. 24 December.

Thank God someone in our team has a functioning brain. At 4:30am this morning, hubby woke up with a start, declaring that the little travel itinerary I’d verbally relayed to him did not make logical sense. I mulled it over, frowned, drew a time-line, got our my calculator. No indeed it did not.

B*gger.

With no job, reports, no deadlines, basically NO responsibilities, except to book a frigging holiday – I still manage to c*ck it up.

Muy bien, Natalie.

The upshot of all this is that we had nowhere to stay on our first night – peak season in Buenos Aires. Fortunately, Father Christmas must have decided that I’ve been a good girl this year because when I got through to Santiago on the night shift, he said: “No problem, no problem. We see you later.” (Gotta love the laidback Latinos). Crisis (and divorce), averted. Who needs higher grade Maths, anyway?