Thursday, December 27, 2007

SA Trip 0: The Plan

For the last three years my client had imposed a three week shut down for contract staff as a cost saving measure. In anticipation of this happening again, we booked this trip to South Africa way back in January.

The plan was to use airmiles buy one business class return flight and use our Amex 2-for-1 voucher to buy the second. This was scuppered by them changing the rules. As it was we had enough BA miles to scrape together two World Traveller Plus flights: Heathrow / Jo'burg / Cape Town / Heathrow.

Using girl logic - look at the money we've saved on the air fare - we decided to make it a trip of a lifetime and upgrade ourselves to 5-star hotels all the way. This ended up as our final itinerary:

11-15 Madikwe (safari)
15-18 Hermanus (wine)
18-21 Franschhoek (wine)
21-24 Stellenbosch (wine)
24-28 Plettenburg Bay (the garden route)
28-31 Robertson (wine)
31-02 Constantia (wine)

The flight down was overnight. I am lucky and can sleep even in economy. As soon as they served the meal I changed into my jim-jams, put in the ear plugs, put on the eye shades and slept for 7 hours. I woke to the smell of breakfast to discover it had been and gone half an hour before.

Then we landed at Jo'burg about 6:30 their time and the trip had begun!

More on each leg of the trip in following posts...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lion and cubs playing in Madikwe Game Reserve

Mary pointed out that my new camera (early Christmas present) has video capability so I started taking a few video clips to supplement all the photos. This is Mary's favourite:

South African Safari

Posts will be a little intermittent for the next couple of weeks as we are taking a three week vacation in South Africa.

Our trip started wih a 4-day safari at the wonderful Makanyane Safari Lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve. Even before we arrived the trip was an adventure in itself. The transfer from Jo'burg airport was in a 4-seater "paraffin pigeon", a Beechcraft Baron. Our first attempt at landing had to be aborted due to Kudu on the airstrip. On the short transfer from strip to lodge we saw giraffe, wildebeest and impala with young. Over the next few days we saw more wild animals than I could ever have hoped for.

More to follow...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Office Christmas Party

Once again the M&M Enterprises Christmas party was held in the Michelin 2 star venue of Le Gavroche. The tax man allows GBP 150 per employee for staff entertainment so we use ours to subsidise a very fine afternoon of eating and drinking. And we came in under budget!

Le menu
Les vins
Tartare de thon au gingembre pimente et huile de sesame
Raw marinated tuna with spicy ginger and sesame dressing
Chateau de sours 2004 bordeaux blanc
Petit souffle suissesse
Cheese souffle cooked on double cream
Champagne henriot 1995
Fricassee de st pierre bouillabaisse
Roasted fillet of john dory in a light broth, fennel, mussels and garlic crouton
Domaine Gavoty "cuvee clarendon" rose 2006 cotes de provence
Escalope de foie gras chaud et pastilla a la cannelle
Hot foie gras and crispy pancake of duck flavoured with cinnamon
Banyuls "reserva " domaine de la tour vieille
Noisettes de chevreuil a la sauce poivrade et airelles
Loin of venison with a pepper and cranberry sauce, wild mushrooms and caramelised vegetables
Chateau vieux sarpe 2003 st. Emilion
Buche de Noel
Traditional french chocolate christmas cake
Vin de constance 2002 klein constantia
Cafe, petits fours et mince pies
See also "Christmas Daffodil at Le Gavroche"

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Think of the Money We Saved

Last year we (Mary really) invested in a case of the 2001 Chateau d'Yquem from Berry Bros & Rudd. BBR wrote to us recently saying that Robert Parker has now awarded it his top mark of 100/100. That guarantees it will fly off the shelves and our investment will hold its value. BBR's write-up:

2001 Yquem is one of the best wines this exalted estate has ever made and has been awarded the 'perfect' score by ourselves and Robert Parker alike. This is breathtakingly complex, with a vibrant perfume of crème brûlée, white peaches, apricots, mustard seed and gorgeous light new oak which heralds the most magnificent mouthfilling essence. With the texture of melted butter, it feels more fresh, zingy and exciting than any wine you can imagine. If the nose and the palate aren't enough to blow you away, the 30 minute (at least) after-taste is ethereal. This is already approachable, but if you don't get round to opening the bottle this year you could cellar it until 2100!

BBR Score: 20/20
Parker Score: 100/100

BBR are offering a 20% discount if you buy 24 half bottles at a saving of GBP 1286.16. Yes, you did read that correctly a *saving* of USD 2,600. So that's only GBP 260 per half bottle or 4,200 for a case of 24 halves (In Bond, you will still to pay Duty and VAT at some later date).

I am glad to say we did not pay that much but it never was going to be a cheap wine.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Scales Family Tree

All this family research was triggered by my Mum. She has been wanting to research her family for a while and this year went to St Andrews church in Hertford. There she got a whole heap of births, marriages and deaths plus some census records for assorted Scales in and around Hertingfordbury Road. Having got all the pieces we proceeded to assemble the jigsaw into a family tree:

scales family tree

There were a couple of false starts. For example the gravestones revealed that the earliest Thomas Scales turned out to have married twice which suddenly made sense of the ages of the children. And one of his children by the second wife had two sons both called Thomas: one was Thomas William (sometimes just called William) and one called Thomas (sometimes called Thomas Jnr).

I think we have cracked it now and this is an extract showing the direct line:
extract from scales family tree 1
extract from scales family tree 2

Complete family tree as pdf
Genealogy Report as pdf
Genealogy Report as txt

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Charteris Wine Tasting - ABC

No, not the usual "Anything But Chardonnay" but instead "Anything But Champagne". A seasonal tasting of sparkling wines from around the world to see who could give France a run for its money.

(Region, Country) Method
Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Frizzante
(Veneto, Italy) Tank
Cremant de Luxembourg Riesling Cuvee de, l'Ecusson Brut
(Luxembourg Moselle, Luxembourg) Traditionelle
Sumarroca Extra Brut
(Cava(Subirates), Spain) Traditionelle
Pelorus, Vintage 2002
(Cloudy Bay, Marlborough, New Zealand) Traditionelle
Mumm Cuvee Napa Rose NV
(California, USA) Traditionelle
Chapel Down Century Extra Dry
(Kent, England) Traditionelle
Bleasdale Langhorne Creek Sparkling Shiraz
(South Australia, Australia) Tank
Perrone Moscato d'Asti
(Asti, Piemonte, Italy) Tank
Blanquette de Limoux
(Limoux, France) Ancestrale
A tasting of two halves: dry sparkling, a half-time rosé and then the sweet sparkling. For me champagnes normally run from the crisp lemon end of the spectrum to the biscuity, yeasty end. These, oddly enough, all seemed to major on apple, with the odd hint of melon (Sumarroca) , lychee (Pelorus) or blackcurrant (Bleasdale).

My favourite of the first flight was the Cremant de Luxembourg and of the second the Chapel Down. Interesting since neither Luxembourg nor England are the obvious place to look for a good sparkling.

And as for the sparkling shiraz the kindest thing one could say is it was an interesting experiment but not one that should be repeated.