For long moments the British Airways flight flew south with the scarlet sunset illuminating the horizon then slowly fading into night. Once again British Airways surprised me with their food. It was simple, but it was good.
Fading away was a day that I would relive again and again. I look back at the pictures of me 'walking Lillian' the magnificent cheetah. Looking at the pictures it is obvious that Lillian was in charge. She knew where she was going - I was just an anchor at the end of the leash. She was looking, smelling, sensing the world around her. She would stop where paths intersected, she would look up and down and then decide where we would go.
When would I do this again? The sun would set over there again and again, but this had been a day that I would never experience again. But, what I didn't know was this day wasn't yet over and Table Bay Hotel and Cape Town would deliver their own surprises and delights.
I had long wanted to go to Cape Town and now I was minutes from landing there. I knew, as I hadn't five days earlier, that I would be staying in a great place, managed and staffed by great people. I did not think that I would have experiences that came close to any of those that I had experienced on any of the earlier days of this trip. I was wrong. I was more than 'pleasantly' surprised. I was amazed.
As it was a domestic flight - I'd already gone through Johannesburg immigration - I didn't have to go through customs / immigration again. Coming from Zambia into SA the lady on the other side of the glass asked me rather coldly why I was coming into South Africa.
"I'm a travel writer and I've come here to write about the beautiful things about your country."
Her head jerked up. "That's pretty good." She didn't smiled, but she stamped my passport and I was in.
Table Bay Hotel is another quality hotel of the Sun Lux collection. I was getting unpacked in another superb room with views of Table Mountain - which I couldn't see so well as there was a mist over the mountain and it was dark - and I was tired. And a little dark.
20h00 Check in and meet the senior management
20h30 Wine tasting and Hosted Dinner at Camissa.
I wasn't feeling very sociable, but I did what I do. I put the toiletries in the bathroom - which was rather nice. I plugged in everything that needed to be charged. I got on the Internet - which was most convenient because Sun Lux made it that way. No long user names and passwords. Every device I had, laptop and phone was easily connected. I changed into clothes appropriate for their five star dining room and took the elevator down to the Camissa Brasserie.
The Camissa Brasserie is easy to describe, but a little harder to photograph. It is long and narrow with a retro design. I liked the posters, I liked the colours, I liked the wood, the leather chairs, and the African 'relics' - not really sure that is the word for the bowls, and the pictures and the kitchen / cooking utensils, bookshelves with books and jars brick, croc pots, that spoke to the philosophy of the people who create the dishes for the restaurant.
It was easy to show you pictures of the magnificent of the Palace Resort, of the Royal Livingstone and the even easier with the incredible natural setting that they exist in. There are no pictures that can capture the taste, the quality and the uniqueness of the food and the wine that were served to me by a knowledgeable and dedicated staff at the Camissa.
Ezra, the Restaurant and Bar Supervisor got me seated and menued and informed me that I would be dining alone. I was okay with that, but only because I didn't yet know the company I was missing.
Ezra stated: "All the food is from South Africa. We forage for some of the vegetables and seafood. The wine, the red and the white, are specially blended for the Hotel."
He gave me a moment to look at the menu. I remembered the words of Nicole Turner from Sun City. "Why didn't you try something more exotic? Like the springbok." Made me feel guilty. I am there for you the reader, not for me and not for my comfort food. So I carefully read about every item on the menu and I decided that I would have the 'West Coast Mussels in Cape Malay coconut water and coriander pot brood.' Mussels are fine.
For my main I went with the Local Line Fish in parsnip pureé. sweet corn. Mange Trout, Peas & Mint, Watercress Confit Red Onion and Lemon Segments. Forced out of my box - springbok? - I had to rethink my natural inclinations. I went with the white, rather than the red wine. When I told all this to Ezra he looked at me in surprise - than a hint of admiration that I had chosen so well. I think he expected less of me.
I don't expect the mussels to be particularly good. These West Coast Mussels were - my over used word - amazing! No hint of the sea. No hint of their ancestors. My inadequate words - it was the closest to candy that I'd ever tasted in seafood. In texture it was like the softest freshest liquorish - but not in taste. And then blend in the white wine and it was so succulent.
And there was still the main to come. The trout.
So I am alone in the white of the wine. Camissa is making me forget the long walks in Johannesburg airport, forget the long line ups going through security with three bags and a giraffe and forget leaving behind the beautiful Royal Livingstone - I've lived enough already - forget the mist full of rainbows over Victoria Falls. The experiences kept coming.
I am alone thinking of the fish that I am about to eat. If it is undercooked it can be flaccid, slimy. If it is over cooked I might be chewing on the hide of a wildebeest.
And while I am lost in thoughts of how things could be better Amari de Jager, the Sous Chef approaches in the kindest manner and asks me how everything is. "We forage for our ingredients," she explains. "We changed some of the traditional South African food to something a little more... urban, something a little more contemporary."
The food may be the best expression of the freedom being enjoyed in SA. And when Amari left me to my own thoughts, and I was still trying to anticipate what the texture of that fish might be, I wrote notes about the wine - comparing its citrus flavours to the South African winter sunshine.
When the trout came it was - don't wait for it - amazing! It hit that sweet spot - perfectly cooked. Not under done, not over done. Even the onion insisted it is like no other. What a meal. Absolutely perfect in every way. This was fine dining at its best.
"I never recommend things I don't like," said Ezra. Good words from a good man. And neither would I.
I didn't go straight to bed, but went out the entrance that faces onto the harbour where there are a variety of ships and boats and a drizzly rain had people bundled up and hurrying on their way. By then the shops and stores were closed and there weren't many people about.
I took a few pictures then went to bed. If I had known how interesting the next day was to be, I would've gone to sleep earlier.