Last night, I attended a very elegant and enjoyable dinner party in Johannesburg given by Bernice Morrell, a most charming lady who loves flowers.
She also owns a series of under-the-radar luxury properties that include two very private boutique hotels, a bistro, a wedding venue, a retail outlet for gifts and the home, and this very special venue for events and celebrations.
All her properties are a photographer's dream, full of quaint touches and elegant accents. And filled to the brim with the most beautiful flowers.
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HISTORY IN HER BUILDINGS
Most of her properties are historic buildings that have been lovingly restored.
One of her boutique hotels is a 19th century dairy farmhouse, while the other is an elegant mansion that was once owned and lived in by one of South Africa's most prominent judges who fought against apartheid.
More on these lovely places later.
A MERRY DINNER FOR EIGHT
Last night, I was invited to join her dinner, and I was the only foreigner in our very merry party of eight.
We all arrived at seven, and were greeted in the driveway and then led to the garden where butlers waited with glasses of bubbly.
Then we all sat down in her flower-filled patio, as it was a very fine evening, and the conversation flowed ever so naturally even if we had just met.
A PASSION FOR LIFE
I liked this lady immediately when I met her.
She has an amazing passion for what she is doing, and this is something I can identify with.
She also has a very big heart, incredible taste, and a great sense of humor.
We sat next to each other, and if I did not have jetlag and an early start the next day, as over two sozen friends of Travelife Magazine were arriving in Johannesburg via Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to experience a wonderful adventure with me in South Africa, we would have talked all night.
And laughed all night as well.
TALENT FROM THE KITCHEN
Meanwhile, her very talented chef prepared a four-course dinner sourced mostly from local ingredents, and this was paired with some very lovely wines.
We had figs wrapped in Parma ham to start, and then very delicious main courses of fish and meat, including his version of a deconstructed Beef Wellington.
A WINE WITH A NAME
THAT REMINDED ME OF KOREA'S WAR ZONE
My discovery for the evening was a local wine called DMZ, which -- being Travelife -- immediately made me think of something in the world: Korea's DMZ, meaning the demilitarized zone.
I'd visited it as a child, one summer holiday, at the height of the one of the tensions between the two Koreas.
But the DMZ at the dinner was happily a more palatable version. It was a sauvignon blanc that was so full of delightful complexities.
HAPPINESS IS MADE OF THIS...
This evening made me feel so happy and at home in South Africa.
It was so relaxing to just sit around, with a roaring fireplace next to us, enjoying the best of South African hospitality on a beautiful evening in Johannesburg, living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.