DC and I were on a very special holiday (I shall leave you to decide what we had to celebrate). We decided to forgo our usual dive trip and go for a safari. Our first stop was Nairobi, Kenya and I was excited to be in Africa for the first time. On strong recommendation from good friends, we stayed at the Fairview Hotel. It was a charming garden hotel on sprawling grounds.
There was a swimming pool on the new wing, but it was too cold to go swimming. Nairobi being high up on a plateau had a big change in temperature from day to night. In the hottest noon, it hit the high 20s (and I count in Celcius). At night, it could drop to the low 10s. There’s no need for airconditioning here, especially since the weather is rather dry. Even the hottest early afternoon was quite comfortable for us lowland equatorial dwellers that we were in long sleeves most of the time. There was no way we’d go swimming in this weather that was cold for us!
The hotel also had little apartments, presumably for long-stay guests…
… and bizarre bronze sculptures of strange mammals. Nonetheless, the garden setting was a lovely rustic difference from the polished 5-star hotels in Asia. If you’re ever in Nairobi, be sure to book ahead as it fills up really quickly. We very much enjoyed the satisfying breakfast buffet, so do make an effort to wake up for that before heading out to safari.
Before heading out into the wild, we spent a day in Nairobi acclimatising and sightseeing. We went to see the Karen Blixen museum in the suburb of Nairobi named after her. Karen Blixen was a famous Danish author who wrote books such as “Out of Africa” under the pen name Isak Dinesen. I hadn’t a clue who she was and had only vaguely heard of “Out of Africa”. As I walked down the driveway to her house, DC was very excited that we were at Karen Blixen’s house. I, however, was oblivious and was more taken with the pretty flowers on the way!
And here I am outside her house. It’s a beautiful manor surrounded by old trees and plenty of greenery. No wonder she thought it’d be a good place for a coffee plantation when she moved here.
See how red the soil is here! Even cacti grow into trees in such soil.
It was a pity that the plantation failed as coffee somehow didn’t grow well here. Left practically destitute by by the failure of both crops and love affairs, she returned to her native Denmark. The experience was not to be wasted as she started writing about Africa. And then the fame. It’s all full circle now as the whole plantation is now part of the museum and they even kept the coffee carts in the garden.
What is a holiday without the food? Knowing that the quality of food on safari wouldn’t be as good, we headed out to one of the best restaurants in Nairobi as recommended by Chris. Talisman, like most of the Karen suburb, is set in a garden. It’s very cosy with both outside seating and inside seating by a fireplace. If the weather is good like how it was on the day we were there, do sit outside and enjoy the garden.
I’m sure if you ask nicely, they’d arrange for you to picnic in the garden too. But we were happy to sit at proper tables and enjoy the good food.
I had tree tomato juice to start off the meal. It’s quite like tomato juice – a tart yet sweet and slightly earthy version of tomato juice, almost as if a little beetroot was added. DC liked it so much he had more at breakfast the next morning.
On to the coriander and feta cheese samosas. I was a bit sceptical when the waiter enthusiastically recommended this starter as my idea of samosa involves potato curry filling. Nonetheless, the idea of fusion samosas intrigued me and boy was I rewarded. It was perfect with crisp, light pastry that wasn’t too oily, and rich, oozing cheese coming out. The tomato-chilli jam (not hot at all!) was simply gilding the lily.
DC had these massive grilled prawns (who knows where they shipped them inland from!) which were fresh and nicely charred from the barbecue. Yummy!
I was feeling the slight nip in the air (it felt like a beautiful summer day in the UK) and ordered something slightly more stodgy – calf livers in red wine sauce. It was the first time I had calf liver and it was very smooth-textured, not quite like pork liver, perhaps an intermediate between duck and pork liver. It was lovely with the rich sauce and buttery mash. With the weather and food like that, I had these moments of disorientation where I thought I was in the UK!
This was a gentle start to our holiday with the bucolic charms and great food. More soon!