It’s Christmas Eve (as I write this) and there are no Christmas decorations in sight and no bauble-decorated pine tree in the corner of the room with shiny presents sat underneath it. In fact, there’s no sign of Christmas around me apart from the two Santa hats BC and I bought from the supermarket the other day.
It all sounds rather unexciting and rather un-festive, but I’m actually really looking forward to Christmas because we’re in Cape Town.
The lack of ‘Christmassness?’ Well that’s because we’ve been travelling around eastern and southern Africa for three months and this year, we opted for a Christmas that was going to be a little less conventional than usual. A little simpler. A little less about the materialism and a lot more about the experience.
A huge part of me really misses the excitement of a British Christmas. I’ve missed seeing London at Christmas, I’ve missed the build up to the big day that is so big in the UK and I’ll really miss getting cosy with a glass of fizz by the fire in my home in Yorkshire, as we watch the Queen’s speech, tell silly jokes from our crackers and tuck into Christmas dinner with mum’s amazing roast potatoes.
But this year, BC and I took the bold step to do something different and see Africa – a country I’d wanted to see for a long time – and a country that in many ways, I’ve fallen in love with. We’ve had ups and downs, met some amazing – and not so amazing – people, had our jaws dropped to the ground and eyes opened wider than ever, and seen some of the most beautiful things along the way.
We’ve stayed in some of the worst places (these stories will come one day), as well as some of the most amazing places (I’m talking about you Sausage Tree Camp, Anabezi, Msambweni, Nimali and Gibb’s). And now we’re in South Africa, it feels weird not to be at home celebrating the festive season. But it also feels really god damn exciting to be doing something, well, a bit different. It also feels good to be away from what sometimes, deserves to be called the silly season.
I haven’t missed the fact that the 25th December has become such a commercial event in the UK. From the Christmassy title our coffee is given, and the numerous sparkly dresses you just have to be seen in at your next Christmas party, to the bombardment of press releases we journos receive with the most tenuous of Christmas links. If you think about it, it’s all a bit silly, isn’t it?
So I guess what I’m saying is I do kind of love the way we get all silly in the UK about Christmas. But I am also finding it quite refreshing that we are in a brand new city, with brand new sights and smells, and the opportunity to spend the lead up to December 25th with no rules, no restrictions and in any way we like!
BC and I have found a fantastic apartment in the very cool area of Woodstock and this will be our home for Christmas and New Year. Many have described it as the Shoreditch or Williamsburg of Cape Town. It’s also one of the city’s most multi-cultural neighbourhoods and was one of the areas which amazingly, remained integrated during South Africa’s Apartheid era despite being declared a ‘whites only’ zone while areas such as nearby District Six were being demolished.
It has a strong industrial history. It’s where the first glass in South Africa was manufactured, which explains why the apartment we are staying in is in a former bottle factory.
Oh, and The Test Kitchen – Africa’s number one restaurant – is just down the road… (yep, I told you this place was cool).
But what I’m saying is I’m really excited to be in a totally new place. Giving ourselves a whole three months to travel has been a liberating experience which I’ll probably be writing about well into 2017. And it’s even more exciting that on 25th December we will go beyond our usual traditions.
What will you be doing, you ask?
We won’t be doing extensive present opening, we won’t be watching the Christmas Eastenders and we won’t be lying on the sofa eating a whole tub of Roses (although that can be pretty fun). If the weather’s good enough (please, please), we will be heading up Table Mountain for some festive food, fresh air and – hopefully – amazing views. If the weather isn’t clear enough, who knows. When you’re travelling, you break your usual habits and I think it’s been good for me.
I will miss my family and friends so much this year but I have a feeling this Christmas is going to be a special one so we’re going to embrace it!
Happy Christmas readers – thanks for following and supporting my ramblings on Oh So London in 2016. I hope you’re all surrounded by good company and the people you love and you will continue to join me in 2017!
Look forward to sharing some more stories on the other side…