Braais, beers and bikes.+Add.Feed Info1000FOLLOWERS
Welcome to my blog, these are the ramblings and musings of an (upper) middle aged biker and if you enjoy braais, (barbeques) beers and motorbikes then hopefully you will enjoy what Janet and I do; we do lots of braais, we drink lots of beer and we tour South Africa on our motorbike, which at the moment is a BMW R1200RT.
On a beautifully sunny (but cold) winter's day my son in law drove me through to London so that I could visit the bike show, he had something else to do there so it was convenient to drive. We parked and took the "Emirates airline" cable car over the Thames, an interesting experience in itself.
From there it was a short walk past the luxury Dockside hotels and apartment buildings to the massive exhibition centre which was hosting a classic car show at the same time as the motorcycle show, so the crowds were huge.
Pretty much the first thing I saw as I walked in was a display of beautifully restored classics, I have a particular soft spot for the British Matchless and BSA motorcycles as they were the first bikes that I rode as a young policeman in the Rhodesian Police Force, I got my license on a Matchless in the Police driving school way back in 1968 and would probably give up a body part to own a Matchless like this one;
They were such nice bikes to ride, once you got them started! Kickstarting these beasts into action required a technique that we soon became adept at. Next I admired two classic BSAs which had been lovingly restored, I had lots to see so I reluctantly moved on.
I saw a modern remake of the old well known marque, the Brough Superior (left) and something new to me, "Mutt" motorcycles (right), this looks like a fun ride.
I spent quite a bit of time wandering around the numerous trade stalls, still looking for a specific type of cruiser/touring boot but I was unfortunately unsuccessful, I had hoped that this would be the place.
As you would expect, there were a lot of custom bikes on display, I particularly liked the "Green Manalishi" (right) by "Krazyhorse Customs". These bikes, as well as the impressive display of MotoGP bikes were roped off so that the people could not climb onto them. Understandable because all of the other bike manufacturers let people sit on their bikes, this had resulted in the BMW R1200RT having badly scuffed and scratched pannier cases and I wondered if perhaps that bike would have been sold off cheap after the show!
If I lived here in England I might have followed up with an offer because that certainly couldn't be sold as a new bike.
By mid afternoon the place had become very crowded and on my rounds I had noticed that there was a pub, I headed back that way in the hopes of acquiring a cold pint and a place to sit. I joined the long queue and got chatting to an English biker who, on hearing that I was a biker from South Africa, insisted on buying me a beer, thanks Julian! I found a place to sit for a bit and enjoyed my pint. It had been an interesting afternoon and I was in amongst my kind of people but it was time to go, I had a last look around as I made my way to the exit.
Biking is strong in the UK., I don't know much about their club scene but I do see lots of bikes out and about and they are, by necessity good at riding in adverse conditions. Not many of the roads here are suited to high speed riding, being quite narrow and winding, but they are lovely for tourers or cruisers and I would love to ride here.
We're off on another road trip down to the coast next and after that I intend visiting the Sammy Millar motorcycle Museum down near the New Forest, stay with me. Time is running out here in the UK, we head back home mid March where my bike is waiting for me.
For a country-bumpkin like me even driving the car onto the train for the thirty-five minute crossing under the channel from Dover to Calais was an exciting experience and leaving the train in France I had to drive on the wrong side of the road for the first time in my life. I managed alright, mostly because I was following my brother-in-law and he has done it before. I made two very slight mistakes but nothing serious. As we had plenty of time we chose to drive through Northern France avoiding the motorway, through Dunkirk and into Belgium where we found a place for lunch.
In Brugge we were a little early to book into our AirBnb accommodation so we found a quaint little pub nearby and drank some Belgian beer, good stuff.
We were a short distance from the market square, the centre of the old town which we visited the following morning, it was sunny and clear but still very cold, at least it didn't rain while we were there. Brugge is incredibly, almost unbelievably picturesque,
and I discovered that whilst wandering around it was best to turn around every now and then to look back at where you had just walked so as not to miss another amazing view.
Of course when in Belgium you cannot ignore the delicious chocolates and Brugge has 63 chocolatiers, each with mouth watering displays of their wares and of course we bought some!
There was naughty stuff as well but we didn't buy any! We decided to take a boat cruise on the canals which run through and around the town and although it was freezing cold it was another relaxing way of seeing the sights from a different perspective,
In spite of the freezing weather and bitterly cold wind it was a lovely way to see the town, the boat pilot and guide was very knowledgeable and spoke fluent English as well as his native Flemish. We were shown the most amazing buildings dating back as far as the 1500s and 1600s!
When in Belgium obviously you cannot ignore the delicious hot chocolate and the waffles and cream so we found a warm and cosy little cafe after the boat ride in which to warm our bones and to indulge in this decadent delight.
The hot chocolate is served with some home made chocolates and some fresh whipped cream on the side and the waffles are light and crispy-delicious, also with fresh whipped cream, truly delightful.
Generally the food in Brugge was excellent and there was a huge variety of pubs and restaurants to choose from, another thing that must not be missed is the Belgian favourite, "Moules frite" Mussels and chips or fries and we had them on two occasions.
The first was with the traditional wine sauce and later I had them served with Langoustine in a creamy beer sauce, delicious both times. We had a wonderful time in that beautiful place and even though it was winter there were hundreds and hundreds of people around, perhaps winter is the best time to visit because I would imagine the summer time crowds to be enormous.
Before we left we wanted to have a beer in the oldest pub in Belgium, in continuous use since 1515, we found it down a narrow little alley but unfortunately it was closed for the winter! Our bad luck.
I would like to think that I may get a chance to visit this delightful place again, there is certainly a lot to see and do and we didn't get to do a horse carriage ride.
Once there were thirty of these windmills around the town but now only four remain, two of which are still in working condition.
Remember to click on the pictures to see them full size.
Next post will be on the MCN (Motor Cycle News) Motorbike show in London which I attended, watch this space!
We're about halfway through our wonderful holiday in the UK and have managed to do quite a lot of traveling around this fascinating country;
On a visit to Kenley which is in the south of the London Borough of Croydon to visit one of Janet's sisters, we ended up at a pub called "Wattendon Arms" for lunch, where incidentally I had a very nice portion of battered Cod and chips, (I have been complaining about the quality of pub food lately),
While Janet and her sister, who hadn't seen each other for a couple of years chatted I had a look around the pub and noticed the air force theme of the place, it turned out that the former station of the Royal Air force Kenley is nearby and was a station of the Royal Flying Corps in World War 1 and the Royal Air Force in World War 2.
Apparently due to RAF Kenley's strategic importance the Luftwaffe tried to destroy it with a massive bombing raid on 18th August 1940, the raid however was unsuccessful and RAF Kenley was operational again by the following day. Many famous pilots were stationed there amongst them was the well known South African "Sailor" Malan. An interesting place, deserving of another visit.
The next weekend on a cold and windy Sunday we took a drive, with the family, to the coastal village of Whitstable which isnear the mouth of the Thames. This is quite obviously a very popular little fishing village because even though it was a pretty miserable day the place was crowded with tourists, I would not like to go there in summer, you wouldn't be able to move.
We wandered around the market stalls in the picturesque little harbour, found a little pub where we could sit and enjoy a beer and then headed for the Crab and Winkle restaurant where I was hoping to find some good sea food. I was not disappointed.
The ladies opted not to have starters but the guys went for a mixture of fresh oysters, cockles, whelks and winkles;
The oysters were delicious, plump and fresh, and remember I have oysters regularly at home so I know them but I really enjoyed the cockles and whelks, the winkles were quite tasteless but all in all a lovely starter. My main course however was the best meal that I have yet had whilst on this holiday, a fresh whole Sea Bass, I devoured it, head, eyes and all - absolutely delicious!
We got home quite late that evening after a very enjoyable day out and a trip into London was planned for the next morning! Christie (our daughter) and Andy (our son in law) had taken the day off and wanted to show us the Borough Market and one of their favourite Indian restaurants for lunch, talk about being spoiled!
We took the train, almost an hour, then a tube train and then a walk with a huge amount of stairs before arriving at the market, it was a cold and blustery day so we were well covered. The market is a very interesting place with stalls selling all types of food; fresh meat and fish, cheeses, bread, spices as well as street food from many different ethnic groups, one could spend ages (and pounds) there.
The seafood was incredibly tempting but we were going out for lunch, Andy and I did share a portion of whelks which were fresher and better than the ones we had at Whitstable!
I did buy a lovely big piece of Pork belly rib to roast the next evening and Christie bought some wild boar sausages, both of which turned out to be really fantastic - we'll be back!
Lunch at the Bangalore Indian Restaurant was very nice, large portions and plenty of authentic flavour, I had curried goat which I really enjoyed. We relaxed there for quite a while enjoying our meals and a couple of drinks before heading back home.
Not too much walking on the way home, we managed to catch a bus and relaxed on the train ride from London to Dorking after a great day out. Next we will be travelling north into the Cambridgeshire area to visit dear friends living in Ramsay Forty Foot. I will tell you all about the trip in the next post, remember if you want to see the photos full size just click on them.
Monday was an uncharacteristically warm and calm day, actually the temperature got up to 14 celsius for a very pleasant change and we decided to go for a drive. I had been wanting to visit Windsor since we accidentally drove through it on our way to Wales, I had briefly seen the Thames river and some houseboats that warranted further exploration.
I programmed the destination into the GPS with the instruction to avoid motorways, we had plenty of time and I enjoy driving country roads through picturesque villages, with just over an hour to travel we left home around 10h00 and parked the car after a very pleasant drive in the car park on the banks of the river just after 11h00.
Houseboats moored alongside, I fancy cruising canals at a leisurely pace and tying up outside some small country pub for a meal and a beer before resuming the trip, another holiday sometime, preferably in the summer.
We strolled down the river bank towards the town and the Castle, just visible behind the trees.
It was a very picturesque walk, and I don't really enjoy walking very much, there were literally hundreds of birds all over the area, huge ducks - so many that we had to walk carefully to avoid their poop, flocks of seagulls and then also hundreds of swans, all of the latter apparently belong to the Queen.
The town appears to have grown around the Castle which is an incredibly imposing structure, a bit of history here; the original Castle was apparently built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror! Since the time of Henry 1 it has been used by the reigning Monarch and is the longest occupied palace in Europe.
As I had not informed the Royal family that we wold be in Windsor for the day we decided to have lunch at a nearby "Weatherspoons"pub,
The food wasn't bad, I'm not a huge fan of English pub food (I might get shot down for this) but the prices in this chain were quite reasonable and the lagers were good. We relaxed for a bit and then strolled back to the car, it had been a very pleasant outing and I find old castles and churches absolutely fascinating.
We drove back to Dorking via another route, still staying off the motorway. Lots more to see while we are here and in the middle of next month we are going over to Bruges in Belgium for three days, looking forward to that one.
As I write this we are in south Wales with my ex BSAP buddy Dave Hillman and his wife Nicky, they left South Africa some two years ago and it has been wonderful to spend time with them again. It is cold here! We had snow on Tuesday and it has been wet most of the time but we have had time to get out and do some sight seeing in this beautiful area.
The drive here from Dorking in Surrey was interesting to say the least, we left at about 10h00 on Sunday and only arrived in Builth Wells at around 18h00, it took so long because the GPS kept trying to keep me away from the motorway and we drove for hours on narrow roads through admittedly picturesque little villages before I found me way onto the M4 West.
By the time the GPS was telling me we only had 50 miles to go it was also telling me that the rest of the trip would take two hours, I couldn't accept that because we had been traveling at a steady 50mph for ages, by my reckoning that should take only one hour! It was starting to get dark when the lady's voice suddenly said "In 300 metres, turn right." I sped past what looked like a farm track and the GPS re calculated; "In 300 metres, turn right." this time I was ready and turned onto a single lane track, tarred but very narrow that took us into the darkly forested hills!
Janet was by this time quite agitated, I won't go into too much detail but at one stage we passed through a tiny village alongside a babbling brook and took the route instructed only to find ourselves up against a farm gate, I reversed in the dark along that narrow track and took the other fork only to come up to a farm house, I banged on the door but nobody answered. We retraced our tracks back to the village where a kindly local directed us onto the correct route and eventually reached our destination. Had it been daylight I might have enjoyed that journey more, luckily there was no other traffic!
Yesterday we visited the Elan Valley area, a truly picturesque valley with a series of dams, the one we were at was "Craig Goch", with a huge spillway roaring with overflowing water - if only we could have some of that back home!
A pretty church with an unpronounceable name.
A lovely home in the Elan Valley
The roads that are typical of the area, single lane and bordered by moss covered rocks and trees, if you meet an oncoming vehicle one must reverse!
The Main Street scene in Builth Wells, the village nearest to my friend's home. Tomorrow we will be heading back to Surrey but this time I'm taking the slightly longer route to avoid the narrow roads.
Because I am missing my motorbike I took my friend's scooter for some high speed, knee down action just before we left, a bit of fun.
So as you know we are in the UK with our family at the moment and having a good time but I am following the activities of my other family back home; the members of the Meeulanders MCC and I see that fourteen of them went out to "DuVlei" restaurant in the Riebeek valley for the January breakfast run last Sunday - I'm jealous and my motorbike is standing in Craig's garage.
When I saw earlier postings on our "Whatsapp" group that they were planning to go there I was thinking; "Oh man you're going to be sorry!" because usually January in the western cape is very hot, last year we went to Darling which is only about 25kms from the coast and the heat and humidity was stifling, the Riebeek valley is more than 100kms but from the photos it looks like they lucked out, it was overcast and apparently quite pleasant although those that went through to Capetown afterwards got quite wet!
They gathered at our usual starting place; Juffroshoogte for coffee and as several were traveling by car Johlene collected everybody's "Uncle Frank" so that he could also go for breakfast, he no longer rides a bike so it was lovely of her to include him, but she's like that; a lovely caring lady.
Here he is in the car park chatting with "Cactus Jack" who often misses breakfast runs because of shift work, however work unfortunately takes precedence - unless you're retired!
It was also good to see that Louis was back on his bike having recovered, rather quickly from a broken wrist, but you can't keep a biker down and Louis is a tough guy. In the other picture is Murray and Laureen arriving at DuVlei on their recently acquired GS.
They got tables out on the verandah, we've all been there for breakfast before, in fact it is a popular place for bikers from all over the western cape and sometimes pretty crowded at breakfast time.
Monika and Gerrie were there, as well as Bev and Daan accompanied by his sister, they all traveled by car as well.
Kathy and Sampie (centre) were also there proudly sporting their recently acquired colours, I'm very proud of this club, jealous that we weren't there too. Last year I managed to attend every breakfast run, this year I will only start from the April one, I hope they missed me?
Our flight up from Capetown to London was much more comfortable than it normally would have been thanks to our son in law and daughter giving us "Premium economy" class tickets, that's me permanently spoiled for future travel! We boarded in 30 Celsius weather and arrived to about zero Celsius overnight, quite a shock but exhilarating nonetheless.
Getting together with the family was wonderful and the reason we wanted to come in the first place, to spend Christmas with them all, it was a lovely day right from the start when our boys opened their presents, through too much good food at lunch to a lazy evening.
We have so far visited a couple of pubs for lunch, which I love, and we have done some sight seeing but yesterday we were to travel into London to see the Christmas lights, I was dubious because I just knew this was going to involve a lot of walking which is not my favourite pass time.
The train trip of about an hour to Victoria station was comfortable, as was the "tube" to High Street Kensington but it was from there that things went bad! We entered a long wide tunnel, crowded with people moving in both directions, and walked for what felt like fourteen miles but it was probably only seven right under London and probably the Thames too. Eventually we spilled out into Chelsea and Kensington where the streets were dotted with Ferraris, Bentleys, Lamborghinis and Range Rovers. We walked past the Royal Albert Hall where the trees were decorated with lights, "Those lights are nice," I said, "can we go home now?" but they laughed and kept walking for another seven miles,
My son in law Andy found a pub and we went into the cozy warmth where I was able to sit happily once again with a cold lager but it was not to last,
They wanted to walk some more, it was cold and getting dark and we walked, and walked uphill through darkened deserted streets between old buildings, I expected to be accosted by an old man with fingerless woolen gloves and a battered bowler hat; " 'ullo Guv'nor", but it didn't happen and we plunged into the bustling bright lights of Regent Street, we had arrived!
It was crowded! Hundreds and hundreds of people all there to stroll along the street and see the lights, which I must admit were very impressive, "Can we go home now?", luckily everyone by then seemed ready and though I was dreading retracing our steps we boarded a bus and it was interesting to see the hoards of people out for the evening as we headed back to the station. In a previous life I was a bus driver in Durban for a year and I could appreciate how difficult it was for these drivers to negotiate those crowded narrow streets.
We had coffee at the station while we waited for our train and then another comfortable trip back to Dorking, I made my daughter promise that we would not do that again as I relaxed at home with a cold beer. It's great here in England but I just have to get them out of the habit of all that walking!
I fear that there will not be much added to this blog for at least the next three months, we are leaving for the UK this evening and will only be back in South Africa on 17th March next year. I might be able to write touristy stuff but due to the weather over there my missives will most likely be devoid of both braais and bikes, although beers will still be a feature you can be sure of that!
My buddy Craig is going to be looking after my bike for the time that we are away so I'll take it for a ride shortly just to say goodbye and to leave it at his house, man I'm going to miss my bike!
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very merry Christmas and all of the very best for 2018, thanks for supporting me and reading my blog and please stay with me, I will be back!
There was no breakfast run scheduled for the first Sunday in December so we put out an invite for our club members to come to a cheese and wine brunch at our house, our last function for a couple of months to wish everyone all the best for the festive season.
We were not really sure how many would pitch up as we had had the year end function on the Thursday and some went to Monica's birthday party on the Saturday but bikers are a hardy lot and when there's a party involved they're in!
Twenty two arrived and a really good impromptu party ensued that lasted well into the afternoon.
Our entertainment area was pretty crowded but that's what we like and luckily it was a nice day so the outside area could also be used.
Having been in the aquaculture industry in Saldanha for so long I have contacts and am able to get fresh produce whenever I want, so it was that I had decided to serve up fresh oysters and mussels for everyone;
These oysters come from my friend Kevin's farm and they were delicious, if you're up this way and want to buy some let me know and I'll give you his number.
Young Elsje wasn't sure that she was going to eat oysters, not having had them before but to her credit she gave it a try and actually came back for more.
The mob made short work of the oysters after which I brought out steamed fresh mussels which I had collected from Blue Ocean Mussels, my old work place. They also went down incredibly well.
People relaxed and chatted and finished off with a selection of cheeses, olives, pate' and biscuits washed down with the libation of their choice, it was a lovely day and good to be with my people, I'm going to miss them all for the three months that we are away.
Next Saturday we are going to a different function, a lamb spit braai in Capetown held by my old regiment, the BSAPolice and I will certainly write about that one.
Don't forget to click on the pictures to see them full size and also to vote for this blog by clicking on the "vote" button on the top right of the page if you feel so inclined. Cheers for now.
Thursday 30th November, usually the day of our monthly meeting became the evening to celebrate our year end function at which we carry out any awarding of colours that are due, but this year saw also the celebration of twenty years since the Meeulanders Motorcycle club was established.
After some discussion as to when and where to hold the event, some were not available or could not afford another full weekend sleepover the committee decided that an evening event would be ideal and so it was that we acquired a very suitable space at the picturesque Alegria Restaurant right on the water's edge in Saint Helena Bay. The owners George and Ronelle are also bikers and have ridden with us so they knew exactly what was required.
So it was that most of the club members gathered (some were still not available) for what was to become a very enjoyable evening.
The weather was extremely pleasant, warm and calm and obviously the company was the best, all family.
Once everyone was settled and content it was time to get the business part of the evening done so that the party could commence;
Our youngest member, Prospect Elsje was awarded half colours which was a rather emotional experience for her and then Sampie and Kathy were awarded very well deserved full colours,
These two are both extremely dedicated to the club and it was my honour and privilege to carry out the award ceremony. Craig, in the background happily administered the "strafdop" a wicked concoction of raisins soaked in Stoh Rum!
The award for "Ongeluksvoel" (Accident) went to Louis for dropping his bike outside our start up venue on a breakfast run and his wife Johlene was the recipient of the "MamaMeeu" trophy for being the kind and considerate person that she is.
Gerrie who is the usual provider of most of the photos used in this blog was the recipient of the trophy for the most points accumulated through the year, well done to all of you.
Then three of the original members were called to open the anniversary proceedings, Floors (left) and Steven (right) were members right from the beginning and Frank (centre) just a short time later. Frank gave a short introductory speech, actually Steven made sure it was short by stopping Frank with a mouthful of Craig's medicine!
A very nice meal was provided by the restaurant and shortly afterwards people started making their way home, thanks to all of the members and to George and Ronelle of the Alegria Restaurant in Saint Helena Bay (022 7361393) for making the evening a success. Feedback has been positive.
Those of you reading this please take time (if you feel inclined, or if you deem it worthy) to vote for this blog for the 2017 SA blog awards, the "vote" button is on the top right hand side, thank you.
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