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Switzerland - There’s a romance to train travel. In this case much enhanced by the comfort of a first class cabin and its impressive curved windows, which allow a full panoramic view towards the impressive Alps.

We travelled from Chur, the oldest town in Switzerland, to St Moritz and the next day onward to the Italian town of Tirano where we stopped for a pizza and cappuccino. As one does whilst moving through  

The area we contains Europe’s highest density of castles, there are mysterious gorges, world famous viaducts and 55 tunnels. 

Crimson coloured train carriages, quaint villages on hills and in valleys, church steeples peeping out above tree line and freshly fallen snow capped mountains in the distance. The beauty astounds, as do the impressive masterpieces of the art of civil engineering. Railways loop and climb within the mountain, circling as they gain altitude. At the one point we saw the same Church three times as we progressed.

We travelled through a UNESCO World Heritage site over railroads planned and laid out over a hundred years before. When tunnels were chiselled by hand men took on the height of the giants. 

Best bit, when planning that trip to Switzerland and once your flights are secured with Swiss Airlines, you can get a Swiss Pass in advance. Rail Europe are the official distributors for the South African market and can be contacted here

Read Switzerland and Beyond with Swiss International Airlines here. And on the official website for the Swiss Travel System.

Switzerland and Beyond With SWISS Airlines.

Switzerland - Breakfast arrives by trolley. A sophisticated spread of cured meats, Swiss cheeses, croissant, muesli and cut fruit. The tone is hushed and the attendant charming and attentive. He brings good coffee and fresh orange juice with a warm smile. I want to freeze time for just a while…

I’ve just woken from a comfortable night’s sleep on Swiss Airlines A340-300 between Johannesburg and Zurich. I’m in their Business Class section and completely understand why its regularly voted the best in Europe. My flat-bed seat is private and snug and I can’t resist a mini stretch whilst pushing the buttons to bring it back to a seated position. I feel as though I have the plane to myself and looking through the window as light returns to the sky, one thing is evident. Life is good.

By invitation of Swiss Airlines I’m on an educational trip to Switzerland, about to be shown much of the beauty this uniquely diverse country has to offer.

From the moment I’d boarded to a glass of bubbly and impeccable care the night before, I knew I could relax into the experience. Efficient, carefully planned and in excellent travel company, I had a whirlwind wonderful few days ahead of me.

I confess that before the trip my knowledge of Switzerland never extended much beyond a collection of cliches: alpines, banks, skiing, funiculars, watches, cheese, chocolate, Heidi and the Hills Being Alive with the Sound of Music. Yes, there is all that and it is wonderful, but there’s much more and the focus of our trip was to learn more about the living customs, traditions, different regions and Switzerland in the Summertime.

This we did by taking three of the Swiss Travel System's Panoramic Routes that criss-cross the towering Alps, walking St Moritz, visiting a glacier and exploring Bellinzona, Locarno and Ascona in the Ticino region. Where Swiss efficiency meets Italian spontaneity. It was an incredible trip!

Starting on arrival in Zurich when we got to really look at the airport, meeting with the Network Development Manager at the Arrival Lounge for a presentation which offered much insight into the intricacies of the Airline business. Routes, connections, demand, client trends, influences, which aircraft to assign to which. It was interesting to learn that there is a curfew at Zurich Airport with no flights outside of 6am to 11pm, so as not to disturb the residents. That their busiest routes are to New York City and the minimum connecting time only 35 minutes! Zurich Airport is a slick effective machine working to deliver. A hub that successfully connects 20000+ passengers - and their luggage - daily. 

We also visited the Product Centre where decisions are made about every aspect of the inflight experience. As a smaller airline they rotate the style of food by selecting a Chef from one of the 23 Cantons every three months. The Chef designs the menu and selects the wines on offer. Much emphasis is placed on small producers, which I really like. Training is offered here for the crew who follow a clear set of guidelines for all in-house service. Who designs the fabric on the chairs, what crockery and cutlery is used, glasses, gift bags, blankets … Every item is carefully considered and thought through. Swiss is also the first allergy friendly airline in the world.

All this really gave me a far greater appreciation for the airline industry.

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Me in Business Class, my ridiculously long legs stretched out as I sipped on bubbly and paged through the menu.

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Modern design, natural light, world class shopping, plenty of space.

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Trolleys, chairs, wine and food. All part of the thought and training process at the Product Hub.

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The train track that was to take us South to discover new regions.

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Equipped with more understanding and after a tour of the Airport itself, we took a train into Zurich to meet the Swiss Travel System representative who joined us as we headed to Chur, the oldest town in Switzerland. Connecting from there to our spectacularly scenic train trip down to St Moritz where our ground experience was to unfold … But before that, here are some important things I learned from my experience:

- Think outside the box and book Swiss Airlines when travelling to and through Europe. You can always overnight in Zurich or stay on to explore Switzerland like I did. But the unbelievably efficient and record breaking connection times at Zurich International Airport have been precisely worked out to allow a connection time of less than an hour. It’s brilliant. For South Africans there are no transit visa implications, like there are when going through London, for example. This is a boutique airport for a boutique airline and there is endless attention to detail and customer care to make it work. And it does.

- Buy a SWISS Pass suited to the number of days that you will be travelling in Switzerland. There are flexible options available that include the panoramic routes, public transport in 75+ cities and towns, entrance to over 480 museums and additional discounts. Best value travel that makes exploring Switzerland very easy and convenient.

- We checked in our luggage in Bellinzona and received boarding passes, not having to give it another thought until we arrived in Johannesburg the next day. A wonderful way to free yourself up for a full last day of exploring. Talk about Swiss efficiency.

- If you’re shopping for Swiss Chocolate and the airport is your only option, there’s a supermarket downstairs that offers very good prices and an excellent selection. 

- Everybody should take home a cowbell and a Heidi t-shirt, or you’ve really missed an opportunity to get into the spirit of this incredible country. I did. I actually think that the sound of the cowbells across the Alps will be one that I will always remember with much fondness.

- My travel companions where host Axel Simon of SWISS Airlines, Kate Turkington, Brendon Seery and Tyson Jopson. Get on a trip with them if you can!

My thanks to Swiss Airlines, Switzerland Tourism, Swiss Travel System, Engadin St Moritz, Ticino Turismo and Luzern Tourismus for taking care of us. Also to the Schweizerhof Hotel in St Moritz and the Hotel and Spa Internationale in Bellinzona where we stayed.

Please find more photos and stories on my trip by clicking on Switzerland

Switzerland. - The day is here. Tonight I join Swiss airlines on their #SwitzerlandwithSWISS Media Trip to the St Moritz and Bellinzona regions. 
It’s my first time there and the excitement and anticipation is HUGE. 
Here’s to the ‘Swiss efficiency mixed with Italian Spontaneity' that awaits me. The people, history, culture, tradition, alpines, funiculars, cowbells, watches, cheese and chocolate that I am about to encounter.
Thank you for the opportunity Myswitzerland x

Switzerland. - The day is here. Tonight I join Swiss airlines on their #SwitzerlandwithSWISS Media Trip to the St Moritz and Bellinzona regions.

It’s my first time there and the excitement and anticipation is HUGE.

Here’s to the ‘Swiss efficiency mixed with Italian Spontaneity' that awaits me. The people, history, culture, tradition, alpines, funiculars, cowbells, watches, cheese and chocolate that I am about to encounter.

Thank you for the opportunity Myswitzerland x

Giveaway. Old Mac Daddy #SecretSunday. Don’t Miss It!

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Elgin. Old Mac Daddy. - There’s a valley just over an hour’s drive from the city which offers a myriad of attractions, cool climate wines, the country’s only MCC Estate and endless views across apple orchards and vineyard covered hills. Here is a place for mountain bikers, hiking trails, restaurants and eating superior local produce. 

Its also home to Old Mac Daddy and the collection of antique Airstream trailers that lux-up the hillside, offering the most charmed and comfortable accommodation with meals served in the Brinny Breezes Restaurant.

I was invited to spend last Sunday night here and by Doctor’s Orders, bunk off work on Monday. I couldn’t resist. 

Collected together by invitation of Destinate we settled on the deck after a full and happy day. Enjoying an offering of local wines, cider and beer before pizza-making and relaxed chatting next to the fire. Now this is the way to bring closure to a weekend.

Old Mac Daddy is changing the Sunday night game from that anti-climax feeling that seeps in as the weekend draws to a close to one more night of spoils in the country. Every sunday night, under the banner #SecretSunday, they break the rule. And so should you!

To help you get going I’ve got a Sunday night’s accommodation to give away so that you can have this experience yourself. It’s easy. All you have to do is follow the Old Mac Daddy Twitter account @old_mac_daddy and tell me your favourite way to spend a relaxed Sunday. All suggestions are welcome!

The winner will be announced on Friday 5th September. Good luck!

In the meantime and for more information on #SecretSundays or to book, contact +27 21 844 0241 or reservations@oldmacdaddy.co.za. Oh, and for all #SecretSunday bookings in November, they’re throwing in the mini bar for free. Yep - now that’s a deal!

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For other post on Old Mac Daddy have a look here. It’s a very special place!

Elgin. - I’m a bubbly girl. I’d rather drink bubbly than any other thing I can think of. Except water of course. But then water is like air and bubbly like the million inspired senses that make you want to breath it in. They go well together.

Which is why when at Old Mac Daddy for #SecretSunday, I was delighted to hop onto the Adventure Wine Tours carriage and head down the road to the Charles Fox Cap Classique Estate for a tour and tasting. South Africa’s only MCC Estate.

Originally a fruit farm, Charles and Zelda Fox bought this land in 2005 after searching for the perfect MCC terroir, completing the cellar with its holding capacity for 200 000 bottles by 2010. Now transformed into an impressive estate with a tasting room that commands forever views, this is a place of personal pride and natural exuberance.

After enjoying a tasting on the terrace we headed downstairs, glass of MCC in hand, to learn more about the production line. Wine tanks, barrels, bottler and cappers. And most beautiful of all, the layers of Brut Rose gracefully ageing in the bottle.

The romance is alive and well here and the passion palpable. This is a classic French style of Champagne bringing pride to the South African MCC label. Oh, and they deliver anywhere in the country for free. Minimum of 6 bottles. But we both know, you’ll need at least that. 

Contact details to learn more here.

Elgin. - Behind the landmark Peregrine Farmstall on the N2 beyond Sir Lowry’s Pass, is a little tar road that winds towards the pristinely kept and very charming 5,5km Belfied Wine Estate. Home to Mike and Mel Kreft, two lovely dogs, a cool cat, couple of beautifully appointed self-catering cottages and a trio of award winning wines.

This idyllic piece of land has been in their care for ten years, during which time old buildings have been renovated, a vineyard nurtured to full production, boutique wine cellar established and a perfect garden grown.

This is a labour of love and we’re able to share in the benefits.

During my visit to the area to stay at Old Mac Daddy for #SecretSunday, I stopped here for a private tasting with Mike Kreft who talked me through a tasting. Starting with the 2010 Aristata, moving onto the 2010 Syrah and peaking with the delicious 2011 Magnifica. Please see tasting notes here. The Magnifica lives up to its name, given after the King Protea, and is bold and glorious with flavours long lasting. i was delighted to be given a bottle to bring home with me. 

Make a note of the estate and do visit, for the charming hospitality and secluded wonder that it is, from start to finish. Thank you for hosting me.

A Coffee Lesson with Tribe.

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Cape Town. - Because there’s so much more to a cappuccino than meet the eyes, or tastebuds.
Together with a couple of local bloggers, I was treated to a lesson in the ‘Art of Coffee and Coffeemaking' by the dynamic Jake Easton. Artist. Scientist. Coffee Roaster. Friend of 12 years plus and co-owner of Tribe Coffee Roasting at the Woodstock Junction.
What I learnt on the night is that coffee, like wine, writing, photography and painting, is an art.  It’s also a matter of personal preference.
The freshly roasted beans vary much in aroma from those freshly ground. They are volatile and interesting, taking on characteristics from their countries’ of origin. My preference predictably lay with those from Africa. After all coffee originated in Ethiopia.

Creating the perfect espresso is also much harder than it looks. There’s a magic formula founded by the Italian’s that dictates a ‘60ml in 25 seconds’ rule, which brings you just what you want. Achieving that took practice while I floundered over the portable filter, double and single basket, knee bending tampering and desired consistency.
Then there was the milk which needed frothing and heating to perfection. I wasn’t very good at this - ‘more jet plane than tearing paper’ I’m told. What’s to be expected from a girl like me, I replied …

What a fun evening that equipped me with more knowledge than I couldn have hoped for. 
From now on my coffee orders will be based on insight and understanding, not to mention a new found expectation and mountain of appreciation.
To quote the man himself - ‘Coffee Saves Lives. Have a Double Shot’.

These are the previous times I’ve spoken about my obvious love for Tribe Coffee Roasting.

Pop by and place an order. Time the pouring process of the espresso machine and listen for the sound of paper tearing as your cappuccino milk gets warmed. Should you wish to do a coffee course yourself, contact Jake at e-mail and make sure you stay in touch with them on Facebook and Twitter.

More pics on my Facebook page

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Tools of the trade.

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Big ol’ Bertha the roasting queen.

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The end result.

Jake pateintly instructing … And on hands practicing.

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Trec1000 - Just over a year ago I joined the TREC1000 team on the last days of their 1000km walk. Bringing home the poignant fact that every step matters, Fritz Breytenbach and team added spiritual meaning and hope to the fight for the rhino in Southern Africa. A dynamic and inspired group of people that ‘had to do something’, and did.  
Fritz was joined by filmmaker Steven Lyon as he captured the experience for the Something that Matters documentary. This is the trailer to it, which brings back strong memories and renewed purpose. Because of security issues it can’t be viewed here, but click on this link to watch and learn more. I cannot wait for the whole production.
Read about TREC1000 involvement here.

Trec1000 - Just over a year ago I joined the TREC1000 team on the last days of their 1000km walk. Bringing home the poignant fact that every step matters, Fritz Breytenbach and team added spiritual meaning and hope to the fight for the rhino in Southern Africa. A dynamic and inspired group of people that ‘had to do something’, and did.  

Fritz was joined by filmmaker Steven Lyon as he captured the experience for the Something that Matters documentary. This is the trailer to it, which brings back strong memories and renewed purpose. Because of security issues it can’t be viewed here, but click on this link to watch and learn more. I cannot wait for the whole production.

Read about TREC1000 involvement here.

The Jonsson Journey. Everybody has a story.

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Taking a photo is like pushing pause on time.”

Recently I had a mail from Jessica Fowlds of Jonsson Workwear telling me about the amazing Jonsson Journey and their Legacy Hunter who is travelling around Southern Africa in search of Everyday Unsung Heroes

The journey is being captured through the lens of incredible photographer and adventurer Kyle Mijlof. Armed with a red Land Rover and camera, Kyle has embarked on a 9-month journey of a lifetime capturing stories of impassioned, purpose driven individuals, dressed in the brand.

Chefs, conservationists, firefighters, sports teams, tour guides, pointsmen, security, fly fishermen, travellers, police, workers, cleaners, shop attendants and dreamers. 

Everybody has a story and I’m thrilled to be able to follow them here.

Have a look at the people with  purpose who have already been introduced. But allow enough time as each story and individual is worth the time, respect and recognition.

Such admiration for Jonsson Workwear, Kyle and this road trip of a difference. I love our people and how The Jonsson Journey is honouring them.

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And a look at some of the stories captured:

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Watch this video for more on Kyle and follow the Jonsson Journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.