As usual, it is taking me a while to catch up writing – we have been in Leipzig for almost a week and have not really been still for long. Between looking for bikes and playgrounds, visiting friends, and getting used to having to walk everywhere we have been rather tired. However, the memory of our time in Port Elizabeth is still fresh.
G and I had such a brilliant time! Of course, the main attraction is always granny and grandpa and our wonderful friends, but there is so much more – magnificent beaches, wildlife and some of the best coffee shops.
The main beachfront in PE is fabulous, especially when you compare it to beaches in other places across the globe. It isn’t overcrowded or overly built up, has different types of beaches (lots of sand, rock pools, bigger waves etc.) and there is a walking path that extends from one end to the other with fitness points along the way if you fancy doing some physical jerks. Aloes growing naturally in the dunes and one can still find shells. If you are fortunate, you can also see schools of dolphins circling the bay. About halfway there is a pier (there used to be a nightclub in the complex in front of the pier and I remember friends jumping off the pier to have a swim after a night jolling). This time we found a group of people trying to earn an extra rand or two by making sand sculptures on the beach. South Africans, in general, are very entrepreneurial and I have been impressed by the creative ways that people are doing to try and earn money – dancing at traffic lights, making crafts to sell, cooking, recycled artworks.
There are a few great restaurants spread along the beachfront – all with magnificent views. Something Good is great for kids and the soft-serve is delicious. It used to be an old roadhouse with gigantic burgers but is now a family-friendly restaurant and bar. There is a playground and a track for scooters. Blue Waters, a little further up the beach, has an amazing view and has a wonderful deck – enjoyed meeting my beautiful friend Russel for coffee there. Next one up is Havanas – looks out over the McArthur pool complex. I think it is more of a cocktail bar but had a decent Mexican inspired lunch there with mom and Ben. Would so love to go there in the summer! One can see the harbor wall and King’s Beach beautifully.
There are also a couple of new breweries and pretty trendy restaurants in the old Baakens Valley. My cousin and I discovered one behind the very popular Italian restaurant called Remo (who I later found out is partially owned by Megan’s uncle, Dante). The entrance to the Richmond Hill Brewery was through this unassuming pocket door and was in a tent-like structure – loved the protea table decorations. The beer was good and the infused gins added a different touch. Just down the road, there is the Bridge Street Brewery which also has a great atmosphere and good grub. In the same area, there is the old ice-skating rink which is now called Tramways and holds farmer’s markets there a few times a month. Georgie was telling me how she was going to sell some of her vegan delights there one Sunday.
Tracy and I also went to Stanley Street and discovered Mela’s – an Asian Fusion noodle/ potsticker spot. Angelos was perfectly situated across the road for a post-dinner Red Cappucino (made from rooibos). Heather and I met for breakfast at Bocadillos (as I now know, there are two locations – went to the wrong one – pastries and bread to die for), lunch with Megan at another wonderful bakery on Main Road (kids can make their own pastries), dinner at a Japanese fusion restaurant called Sukis with Megan and Lucy, and Grass Roof with Paul and Mel (a nursery/farm stall that has the best playground with pathways and tunnels for kids). All in all – the restaurants were top class with wonderful food. I have to add that I feel so privileged to know (and be related to) so many strong, intelligent, creative and successful women. I learn and am inspired by each of them in so many ways. They are fashion designers, teachers, executives, philanthropists, mothers, entrepreneurs, chefs, graphic designers and beautiful.
Port Elizabeth is also home to two places that anyone with smallish children would love. Homeleigh Farms is a family favorite for us – it’s a big petting zoo/ farmyard with a sweet playground and tea garden. Upon entry, one buys a bucket of feed. G laughed her head off while feeding the goats and donkeys. Just a little down the road from is the Kragga Kamma Game Farm. One can see a variety of buck, rhinos, monkeys, cheetahs, bush pigs and warthogs, zebras, giraffe, and buffalo all wandering around the park and relatively easy to spot (perfect for a kid). Had a wonderful time with mom and Ben there! Another cool spot was SANCCOB – the penguin sanctuary. We met some very cute little penguins and Cape gannets who were there for rehabilitation and would not be released back to sea. We got especially lucky and were even given a secret peek at two penguin babies of four months old who were much fluffier and bigger than I imagined.
We went up the Campanile for the first time while we were in PE. The Campanile was only recently opened to the public and refurbished so that one can climb all the way up and have a view of the harbor. It was originally a monument to the 1820 settlers but now pays to tribute to all South Africans. It was really interesting to see how the Train Station had been renovated – the last time I was there was probably about thirty years ago!
Port Elizabeth is a very special place and I think we were very fortunate to grow up there. We were surrounded by heart-stopping natural beauty and in a place that was just the right size to make you feel like the world was not too big (but also not too small). People are friendly and easy-going. It is good to see so many friends really making their mark on the city and taking advantage of all it can give. What a lekker plekkie!