Today, I'm going to do something quite different. Furthermore, this will be done over two successive posts, with possibly a third, if necessary. Hopefully, it will pique the interest of my regular readers, who may have started to tire of only seeing and hearing about my garden.
Also, important to state for accuracy and authenticity, I cannot claim a single one of these pictures as my own. All are my husband's own work, kindly given to me to use.
Earlier today, feeling nostalgic, I was looking through our pictures of a memorable holiday we enjoyed as a family, two years ago. At the time, our son was working in KwaZulu Natal. Our daughter was based in Cape Town, but travelled quite a bit for her job. We have always been a closeknit family unit and all felt it would be great to get together and have a Christmas holiday, with a difference..."away from home," for a change. Please click the read more button below to continue ;)
My husband suggested we book with Rovos Rail for their excursion to the Victoria Falls. As we were to board the train in Pretoria, we first needed to fly up to Johannesburg. Our son flew home to join us and the four of us flew from Cape Town to Johannesburg on the 23rd December 2008.
Our objective for that particular holiday was to make it thoroughly relaxing and 100% stress-free for all of us! We wanted to be able to make the most of our time together, enjoying something very special!
Being Christmas, this was a particularly busy time of year. Driving around Johannesburg is stressful even at the best of times and so we had pre-arranged for a taxi to drive us to Pretoria, where we'd booked into an all-suite, Boutique hotel for two nights.
|Our hotel suite.|
|View across the city of Pretoria, from the lookout (below) at the Pretoria Zoo.|
What follows next...some of the animals we saw at the zoo...
|The cablecars at the Pretoria Zoo.|
|On the station platform looking towards the passenger reception area on your left.|
Our train was scheduled for departure at 12h00 on the 25th December. All passengers had to present themselves at the privately-owned, Rovos Rail Station by 10h00, to be checked in and to attend the formal Welcoming Ceremony. This, in itself, was a real treat!
Upon arrival, we were greeted in royal style! Our luggage was checked, labelled with special Rovos Rail buckled, leather tags and quickly whisked away. We were then ushered into the vast, but exceedingly gracious, lounge (think old world grandiose style - huge brass and crystal chandeliers, wood pannelling, antique sculptures and paintings, expansive, upholstered leather couches piled with sumptuous scatter cushions, traditional English High Tea with huge, three tiered, silver servers of dainty sandwiches (salmon, cucumber and egg mayonnaise), delicate petit fours and delectable, melt-in-your mouth shortbread fingers!
|View across one section of the lounge - we were seated at the far side. Each area is 'a lounge within a lounge', allowing for groups to sit together.|
Large silver dishes full of an assortment of fine, imported chocolates, a selection of salted nuts and biltong (a South African, dried meat, delicacy made from Kudu, Springbok and other game), Champagne-on-ice and large crystal jugs of freshly squeezed, iced orange juice. Think dainty silver platters, lead crystal glasses and fine, English, bone china, Rovos Rail embossed, cups and saucers. Think generously cut, starched, linen napkins! If this was the foretaste of what we were in for, it was going to be a "once-in-a-lifetime" experience that we were determined to enjoy fully!
While we were genteely savouring this lavish spread, the old steam engine was lovingly and carefully being put through her paces by her proud and dedicated driver. She was to pull us out of the private Rovos Rail station and transport our carriages to the main- line station, where we were to be hooked up to a modern, diesel engine for the remainder of our three day journey.
|Even I couldn't help but marvel at this Grand Old Lady!|
|An engineer's dream plaything!|
When the whistle blew, we all eagerly moved out on to the wide, covered verandahs and station platform area, to take pictures of the engine and ourselves in the engine (for those who felt thus inclined!) and fully absorb the delicious sense of imminent adventure, upon which we were all about to embark.
|One of the public lounge areas.|
|The dining car, quiet, undressed, between meals. At dinner time, it was turned into sheer magic!|
|For the smoking passengers, there was this Smoking Lounge (we do not smoke!)|
|Beyond the doors at the end of this lounge is the viewing area where we spent a fair amount of our time.|
Our fellow passengers were representatives from no fewer than thirteen different countries from around the world - as South Africans, we were very much in the minority! The anticipation of hearing a range of different accents and languages during the course of our journey, greatly added to the excitement.
Once we'd all returned to the lounge, each family/group was announced (name and country of origin) and summoned in the order of our embarkation. When it was our turn to step forward and head towards our marked carriage, we could barely contain ourselves - I know I was grinning from ear to ear!
|Our double bed in the Deluxe Suites|
|Bedtime "turndown" service ~ the next night, our bed was strewn with red rose petals :)|
The dining cars (there were two) are beautifully appointed and the waitrons, handpicked, are impeccably turned out and trained to the highest standard of excellence. All meals are freshly and meticulously prepared and produced on site by the highly skilled, Rovos Rail chefs. All are beautifully served and presented. The menu changed daily as did the accompanying wines, ports and dessert wines. Any longer than our three days on board would have ensured we'd waddled off the train!
|Each day presented its own magic as we gently rolled along, clickety-clack-clickety-clack...|
|Passing scenes of breath-taking beauty...|
|Our train! I think there were 30 carriages...|
|The road through Africa stretches infinitely ahead...|
The public lounges, library and on-board bar areas are furnished in the same grand style and there is 24 hour service, inclusive of 24 hour room service. Each afternoon, a truly scrumptuous High Tea is served in the lounges. Think chocolate ganaches, cream puffs, ecclairs, strawberry cheesecake. Again, everything is served in only the best quality china and off silver platters. Every single passenger is made to feel like royalty, every moment of the journey. Every request is met courteously, timeously and with immediate attention to detail.
|While you're being waited on hand and foot, the train passes through a continually changing kaleidoscope of captivating beauty...|
|We're coming on right behind!!!|
|Observe and draw the vastness of these wide open spaces into the depths of your soul - once Africa hypnotises you, you'll find it hard to release yourself from her gaze.|
|Rural life quietly going about its own business...|
|Last light waning...|
|Ruin etched by an evening sky...|
|Family groups, captured by my husband's lens...pastoral simplicity|
|Herds of animals grazing off the lush green pastures...|
|Wildebeest with their young...|
|Bridges fording river after river (it was the rainy season, so we had quite a lot of rain on our trip!.|
|Acacia trees...symbol of Africa's soul!|
For anyone interested in reading further about this truly luxurious way of travel, here's the link to Rovos Rail. You may well be tempted to book yourselves on a "once-in-a-lifetime" holiday experience with them, too!
My next post will introduce you to the magnificent, awe-inspiring, Victoria Falls, known locally as
Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders).