Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Out of Africa

“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Nagong Hills...”  
Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen). 
Can you almost hear Meryl Streep ?

Last April Don and I celebrated a milestone birthday with a trip to South Africa and Botswana.  In anticipation we watched OUT OF AFRICA and WHITE MISCHIEF again and read a few books to get into safari mode.  Though Kenya was not a part of our itinerary,  it was interesting to  immerse in the lives  ex-pats living in Happy Valley (Kenya) in the years before World War II.  

Isak Dinesen and her house

THE BOLTER is the biography of Idina Sackville, one of the bright young things who partied hard and often... usually without her clothes (she established the trend for women wearing safari pants in the bush)  Sex-alcohol-drugs and ultimately murder-- obviously they had way too much time on their hands.  

WEST WITH THE NIGHT, Beryl  Markham’s autobiography is a beautiful read even if you have no plans to go to Africa.

“She can write rings around all of us who consider
ourselves writers...I wish you would get it and read it 
because it is a bloody wonderful book."
Ernest Hemmingway

I agree!  It’s a beautifully written journal of a love affair with Africa.  Born in England in 1902, the exquisite Beryl  spent most of her life in East Africa where she became the first woman bush pilot.  She was also the first to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.  Beryl was having an affair with Denys Finch-Hatton (AKA Robert Redford - Out of Africa) at the same time he was “listening to Mozart“ with Meryl (AKA Karen Blixen).  What a guy!

Rumor has it Beryl was pregnant with his child when he was killed in the airplane crash that broke Meryl’s heart.   Meryl - Beryl - easy to get confused .

Oh -- and by the way -- Isak Dinesen also wrote Babette's Feast.

We took off from San Francisco on the British Airways evening flight to London.  Arrival time is practically at O-dark-thirty the next morning, giving you an entire day of layover before the overnight flight to Johannesberg.  There is plenty of time to go into London on the Heathrow Express Train for a day of shopping or museum hopping.

On arrival in J-berg we boarded a prop 12-seater and flew to Sabi Sands, a game preserve adjacent to Krueger National Park in the northeast corner of South Africa. 

No security lines- no shake downs- just the old fashioned way to fly.

With good friends Gary and Maggie Lencioni
and guides Pete and Dave

We landed on a dirt air strip with the help of a windsock and a couple of guides chasing hyenas off the runway.   A Land Rover was  waiting to take us to  camp.

It seems that Suzanne Tucker has crossed this bridge.

The New  Caravan  Collection

Thatched roofing and bee hive chimney on the reception lodge at Singita Boulders

Everything is built by hand of indigenous materials.

 The walkways wind their way from tent to tent

The accomodations blend beautifully into the environment and there is no absence of comfort or services in the middle of the wilderness.

 Mosquito netting canopies are de rigueur on all beds

Cocktails in the Bush

I love the bold graphics of Zebra stripes


Black and white makes for a great design scheme  and a zebra rug packs a powerful punch.  The government of South Africa carefully controls the culling of the herds.  Laws are strictly enforced and hides for export are all certified.  Those species of Zebra that are endangered are off-limits.


Last Sunday I found a bound volume of original HOUSE AND GARDEN magazines from 1929.  The home of artist and illustrator Porter Woodruff  - he did many  VOGUE covers- is featured in the September issue. 

The rooms are dramatically modern- a zebra rug- black satin sofas - pale grey walls - Shining oilcloth curtains - and white accents.  It was daring and bold  as were the flappers and the bootleggers of the day.  As Cole Porter said "Anything Goes"

Love in the tree tops
No two giraffes have the same markings-- I'm crazy
for the glowing curry color of their coats

A touch of glowing amber adds a warm note when paired with cool colors like grey.  The mohair pillow even has the feel of fur.

I never pass up antique leather books at the flea market.  The worn and often tattered bindings speak of the love of human hands that held them as pages were turned by candlelight.

The burnished patina of waxed fruitwood on this 18th century French chest has that same mellow glow.

It's a color that often appears in nature.

My buddy Finley has velvet ears that same delicious color.

Leopard skins are a NO-NO
but the pattern and coloration 
are so great that even 

No doubt leopards are endangered because of the popularity of their skins from fashion to furniture.  Leopard is sophisticated - 
 Leopard is chic - 
Leopard is fun ! 
 With that kind of versatility it's no wonder you see it everywhere from shoes to chair seats.
Ballerina flats made of leopard printed cowhide

An artist's studio in Paris
  An Empire daybed in the Paris home of one of the Mitford Sisters,
Diana Mosely

 Suzanna Allen and Star sporting a new coat at the Alameda Flea Market

From the bush we headed for  Cape Town at the southern most point of South Africa.   Set by the sea near the Cape of Good Hope where the South Atlantic and the Indian Oceans come together, it is a beautiful city blending many cultures evident in it's architecture.  I was blown away by the vivid colors in the Muslim Quarter.

A riot of clear bright colors border the impeccably clean streets. No two houses are alike-- they stand proudly competing with each other for BEST PAINT JOB

A mosque  in bright blue against the blue of the sky in the southern hemisphere

You can tour the city by pedalling.   I love the repetition of pattern here-- a really strong design element 

Beach cabanas on the shore of St James- a suburb of Cape Town-- which has some pretty good antique shops.  The riot of color which I captured on my iPhone came home with me and inspired the bold brights of our Fall 2011 Summer Hill Fabric Collection