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.


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.

Cape Town International

I’ve always reckoned that a good rule of thumb on 'planes is that if your neighbour hasn’t proved to be Chatty Pants in the first ten minutes, then you’re home free. A couple of weeks ago, though, I realised that I’m going to need to modify this theory on the free booze flights (the few that still exist). Two mini bottles of Chenin Blanc down, my 60-something neighbour decided it was time we met, JUST as we were preparing to land. By this stage all my leave-me-the-eff-alone-accessories had been dutifully packed away (laptop, I-pod, book) and I was left with little option but to speak back.

He was an ex-Joburger who’d emigrated to CT and was a die hard Kaapener my whole life before converting to Jozi-ism. Invariably, we had the “why-Cape-Town-is-so-much-better-than-Joburg” debate. My favourite. No, really. In the same way as Jews for Jesus are even more fervent than their reborn counter-parts, I am constantly shooting my mouth off about how FAN-tastic Joburg is.

Anyhoo, after old Chenin Blanc had run through all the obvious CT selling points (wine, mountains, wine, the new stadium and wine), he launched into his promotional pitch for the new airport. “It’s bigger, better, faster, classier, sharper, hotter, cooler, hipper, better,” etc, etc.

Great,” I thought, a week later. Because, you see, yesterday, I walked Cavendish square STUKKEND for a Christmas present for my darling husband – aka “the-man-who-has-everything-or-if-he-doesn’t-he’ll-buy-it”. (This characteristic of his is fantastic when you need any make or shape of electronic device – pronto, but it’s less fun when you need to buy him a present.) However, given old Chenin’s sales pitch on the super new, super fab airport, I figured I’d simply pick up something there. So NOT. Unless you are looking for a wooden Giraffe carving from not one but TWO curio stores (out of a total of about 8 shops), do not leave your holiday shopping to the last minute. Needless to say, my husband cannot be left cooped up in a security enclosed retail space without being absolutely compelled to contribute to consumer spending. Bless him. Even under the utterly miserable retail conditions in Cape Town’s new international airport, he managed to get some gadgets. (All I can do now is hi-jack his goods and wrap them up as his Christmas gift).

On the bright side, though, Cape Town really has made airport security a mega-priority. I was lucky enough to experience this first hand when I witnessed three uniformed policemen trying to sweet-talk the Premier lounge receptionist into smuggling out free drinks for them. But she was hardcore and she wasn’t having any of it. “Can you see the cameras?” she responded, wagging her finger at them. “There they are”.

Nice one, officers.

Failing in that little endeavour, the Kaap se Coppers decided to amuse themselves in other ways. I happened to be standing at the reception desk at the time.

“Don’t I know you from somewhere?” the one asked.

Mentally rolling my eyes, I replied that I didn’t think so as I tried to stay on the right side of the law. (I don’t think he saw the irony).

Naai, man,” he said, “aren’t you on the TV?”

Much better, dude.
For that you can have a celebrity smile.

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.


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?