Dear Renew-it Rivonia

If you follow me over on twitter , you’ll know by now that over the last two and a half months I’ve had a rather awfuldelightful” run-in with a local repair company. Knowing what I know now I wish I had included all of the car related tweets in a single thread to make it easier to follow, but unfortunately I ONLY started doing this on 21 January 2020…the partial thread is still however rather amusing (in retrospect) and tells a story of broken promises and awful service.

At the time (and for various reasons I won’t go into here) I decided to keep their name off social media while they were still in possession of my vehicle and while I was trying to get them to fix the mess they made. But now that my vehicle has FINALLY been returned to me, in what appears to be the condition it should be, it’s finally time to tell the whole story. In fact, at this point I actually believe that it is my civic duty to warn other people against this company. Trust me…whatever you do….don’t make use of Renew-It Rivonia. I’d also like to warn you that this is a long read and if you’re not interested in the details you can just skip to the end…but facts are important.

It all started on the afternoon of 25 November 2019 when a random entitled idiot decided he had the right to invade my space and tried to break into my car. He was, thankfully, unsuccessful, but left me with a small dent and a messed up lock. While the locking system still worked, I was unable to lock/unlock the vehicle using the key, and the dealer informed me that they couldn’t replace the lock without the dent being fixed.

Car4

As the excess on my vehicle insurance is extremely low I immediately contacted my insurance company to log a claim…It was my first claim through them and it was (as insurance companies go) pretty painless. They provided me with a list of dealer and insurer approved repair centers to choose from. I scanned the list and picked the supplier most conveniently located for me based on the location of my home and my office. What I probably should have done is googled my chosen supplier…..this would have saved me a lot of anger and frustration. Instead, I foolishly assumed that a company endorsed by my insurer should be able to deliver a fairly reasonable service. Experience would teach me that this was a mistake…one I will never make again…I assure you.

The next two and a half months can be summarised as follows:

  • 27 November 2019 – Tried to make a booking online for a quote from Renew-It Rivonia through their website as I had to provide a quote to my insurer.
  • 28 November – 1 December 2019 – Unsuccessfully attempt to get anyone from Renew-It Rivonia to respond to my online query.
  • 2 December 2019 – Travel to Renew-It Rivonia, march through their doors and request someone to assist me with a quote. Which they finally do (HURRAY). The quote is for all of just over R12k, but as my excess is very low and my insurance does not have a claim free bonus clause, I was happy for my insurance to take this one. The quote is reviewed by an assessor and shortly afterwards approved by my insurer.
  • 5 December 2019 – Book my car in at Renew-It Rivonia. Before I book in my vehicle I confirm with them that I require my vehicle to be ready for collection no later than 19 December 2019, as we will be traveling quite extensively in my vehicle over the holidays. Accommodation had already been booked and paid for. They promise that the work should take an absolute maximum of 7 working days, which is well before the 19th. I go on my merry way and collect my insurance provided courtesy vehicle.
  • 6 – 9 December 2019 – Receive absolutely no feedback from Renew-It Rivonia. I finally managed to get a hold of someone during the course of the 9th and was merrily informed that my vehicle would be ready for collection on 26 December 2019. I politely declined to accept this and stated that the vehicle will be ready on the 19th as promised when I booked it in. The Customer service agent claims to know nothing of this deadline but stated that she would get back to me. (of course no one got back to me and no one responded to my multiple messages for someone to contact me with an update as promised)
  • 10 December 2019 – Finally receive a call from Renew-It Rivonia stating that the vehicle will be ready on 13 December 2019 for collection and they will update me on a daily basis.
  • 11 – 12 December 2019 – Absolutely no updates with no-one returning any calls or responding to emails.
  • 13 December 2019 – Vehicle is not ready as promised. I only know this because I called several times (note that no one ever returns any calls/emails and no one ever calls you as promised). I’m informed the car will be ready on 18 December 2019.
  • 14 – 17 December 2019 – No updates from Renew-It Rivonia
  • 18 December 2019 – I receive a call during the course of the morning informing me that my vehicle will be ready for collection after 4pm. I make arrangements to return my rental vehicle. Literally as I leave the rental agency (15mins before i’m supposed to collect my vehicle) I receive a call from Renew-It informing me that during Quality Control they noted that the INCORRECT LOCK WAS INSTALLED IN THE DOOR. For the love of apple pie…can someone explain to me how that even happens? (Although currently i’m pretty sure this was a lie to try and delay my collection as the vehicle was in fact not ready). I’m told that the car will be ready at 18:00 on the same day as they have already sent someone to purchase the correct lock (yet another lie i’m sure). At 17:30 I receive another call informing me that the car will unfortunately not be ready but that I can collect it at 09:30 on the morning of the 19th.
  • 19 December 2019 – Surprisingly i receive no calls trying to cancel collection of my vehicle. However, upon arrival they delayed with over an hour before I was finally taken to my vehicle (clearly they still weren’t ready for me). As I approached my vehicle I actually started laughing. There were so many obvious things wrong with the car that I found it ludicrous that they were trying to claim it went through a quality control process at all. The snag list included:
    • A “kink” towards the bottom middle of the driver door (which they claimed was a paint issue (SPOILER ALERT: it wasn’t)
    • The lock and handle wasn’t installed correctly and was misaligned and looked completely warped
    • Paint defects on the door itself and the adjacent panels
    • Scratches on the inside of the door
    • Deep scratches in the pain on the frame of the vehicle where the driver door goes
    • The door itself was not installed correctly and was completely misaligned with the dashboard inside and the other panels on the outside
    • Door seals not re-installed correctly
    • Auto-close on the electric window was no longer working.
  • Considering that we were heading on holiday with my vehicle I was informed that I could take the vehicle and book it back in upon our return to JHB to fix the workmanship issues. I decided to do exactly that as we needed the vehicle for holiday purposes and at least it could lock and drove just fine. At this point I notified my insurer of the shocking service and workmanship and informed them that the vehicle would be going for rework at the cost of Renew-it.
  • 20 December – 5 January 2020 – HOLIDAYYYYYYY!
  • 6 January 2020 – 8AM: Contact the customer service agent assigned to my case directly via email in order to arrange for the vehicle to be booked back in. The service agent only got back to me around 4 that afternoon stating that the work would only take 1 day (SPOILER ALERT: it didn’t) and as such no courtesy vehicle would be provided. I respond to inform her that I highly doubt their estimated time frame due to the nature of the issues and insist on a courtesy vehicle as I simply can’t be left without transport.
  • 7 – 8 January 2020: I try to call/email Renew-It Rivonia several times without any luck. As previously mentioned nobody is ever available when you call, nobody responds to messages left with the receptionist and no one responds to your emails.
  • 9 January 2020 – (very late in the day) I finally receive a response insisting that it would only take 1 working day, but that i would be updated should there be a delay. I’m informed i can book my vehicle in on the 14th of January, but unfortunately they would not be able to provide me with a courtesy vehicle.
  • 10 January 2020 – I inform them that i can book the vehicle in any time but that based on past experience I must insist on a courtesy vehicle. The agent responds a few hours later and informs me that she would contact me on Monday the 13th to confirm details as there are currently no vehicles available.
  • 13 January 2020 – Surprise surprise, despite a promise to get back to me to finalise arrangements I didn’t hear from them and no-one responded to my calls/emails. I’m subsequently notified that i can book my vehicle in on 16 January 2020 and that a vehicle will be provided.
  • 16 January 2020 – I go to book in my vehicle.
    • This process took them over 1.5 hours…how is this even possible
    • Once the customer agent inspected the vehicle with me she proceeded to inform me how it is human nature to exaggerate and over react. Now what I’d like to point out is that up until this point (and honestly right up until the point when I finally collected my vehicle) I had been nothing but professional and cordial. While I have made it clear that their service has not been great I have never shouted, never been rude, never called anyone names or acted like a complete bitch. And while you may think whatever the hell you like of me you do NOT tell your client that they are over reacting and exaggerating when YOUR company screwed up (even if they are over reacting – which I didn’t). I calmly proceeded to confirm that all these things that I pointed out were in fact wrong with the vehicle….which she confirmed. I was not happy AT ALL. But I decided to keep my cool and deal with this at a later stage. This was not the time for this argument.
    • She once again insists that the issues are minor paint problems and that I would receive my vehicle back within one working day.  She once again confirmed verbally the same promise I was given in several emails – They would be in contact if for whatever reason there was any delay.
  • 17 January 2020 – Now…for any normal person one working day would equate to 24 hours later as long as it was business days right? So….as the 16th was a Thursday I was fully expecting to have my vehicle back by the same time on the 17th that I booked it in. For good measure and, because I’m clearly too nice, I was quite happy to collect it by COB on the 17th (technically more than a working day but acceptable). Great was my surprise (no not really) when by 17:00 on Friday the 17th I had not received a call or an email with any update on my car. And of course at 17:00 you can no longer reach anyone by phone and no-one had responded to my emails.
  • 18 January 2020 – This place is also open on a Saturday. So at 9am I started calling them in the hopes of being able to collect my car. When asking for my allocated service agent I was informed that she was busy, but that they would give her a message. I called again an hour later and  was informed that she wasn’t there. I calmly requested to speak to a manager. I was informed that the manager was unfortunately busy but that they would take a message and ask her to call me back (yeah sure). An hour and a half passed without any feedback so I called again. When I got the same story I told the receptionist that unfortunately, since no one ever calls me back, I will not be leaving a message. I need to speak to the manger NOW. At which point my call was promptly transferred and the manager answered (so much for not being available). Once I explained my situation as calmly as I could I was informed that while it wasn’t an excuse my agent had been rushed to hospital the day before as she collapsed at work. This would probably explain why my vehicle fell through the cracks and no one contacted me. I’m sure by now you would excuse me for not quite being willing to believe this story. It was just too convenient. Not to mention that even if it were true, surely any company worth their salt would have sent a notification to all affected customers on the system??? Instead they left me with no idea where my vehicle was or when I’d get it back or even a notification that somebody would be in contact. The manager however had no idea what was happening with my car but assured me that she would contact me on the Monday morning. She even provided me with her mobile number and requested that I send her a Whatsapp when I can’t get a hold of her.
  • 20 January 2020 – Of course I don’t get any feedback from the manager until 19:30 that evening (of course I had tried reaching out after lunch as I was promised feedback that morning). Supposedly there was something wrong with the lock but she would confirm the details first thing in the morning and contact me. Now…if you know there is something wrong with the lock and if you committed to giving the client feedback…how can you tell me that you don’t know the details of the problem???
  • 21 January 2020 – The manager contacts me during the morning and confirms that my vehicle will be ready for collection at 16:30. By now I know better than to get excited or believe anything these people say and as a result I was not at all surprised when I received a call after 14:00 informing me that the car would not be ready. Not only won’t the car be ready….no, they now have to replace the ENTIRE DOOR. They’re unable to explain the problem exactly but inform me that they’ve logged a request with my insurer to approve the replacement and confirm that the door has been ordered. They insist that the door has to be replaced as a result of the original damage from the attempted break in. It was at this point that my calm exterior probably started to crack just a little. For one….they were perfectly happy to return the vehicle to me as “fixed” on 19 December 2019 and had I not pointed out the multitude of issues, everyone would have believed the vehicle fixed. How on earth do you NOW want to claim that this was caused by the original damage??? Secondly, (refer to the image above) the damage was at the top of the door and so very minor that I fail to understand how this could result in a whole new door being required. I was convinced that the new door was required as a result of the “kink” we identified on the door which they caused and which they were now unable to fix.
  • Having had quite enough I typed up a long email to my insurer with all the details informing them of my concern. I don’t understand why my insurance (and indirectly me) should have to foot the bill for the new door. At this point I begged them to step in as honestly I no longer wanted to deal with these people, but I also really needed my car back.
  • 22 – 23 January 2020 – No feedback from Renew-It Rivonia on the status of my vehicle or when I can expect the door to arrive despite numerous attempts from me to contact them.
  • 24 January 2020 – Confirmation that the door has been ordered but no estimated date of arrival and no feedback on when I can expect to get my car back.
  • 28 January 2020 – I finally manage to get a hold of someone to find out what is happening and I’m told that they would need to consult with the parts department. I’m promised that I will get a call on the same date. Of course they did no such thing.
  • 29 January 2020 – The manager confirms that the door will be arriving on Friday 31 January 2020.
  • 31 January 2020 – Despite numerous attempts from my side during the day to confirm if the door arrived I am unable to get a hold of anyone.
  • 3 February 2020 – I leave a Whatsapp message for the Manager to call me as I have been unsuccessfully calling and emailing. I receive a reply with a promise to call, but of course I do not receive a call.
  • I should probably point out that in-between all of the above I’ve been following up with my insurer on the matter since the 23rd of January.
  • 4 February 2020 – I receive a call from a Senior individual at Renew-It Rivonia. I’m informed that they have been in discussions with my insurance and that my insurance have not yet approved the replacement of the door. He alleges that Renew-It has proof that they originally requested approval for the door to be replace and the insurance company did not approve this request and instructed them to repair the door. When asked why I was never informed of this or why they were quite happy to provide me with my door “fixed” (not so much) in December he stated that it was a mistake. He stated that they would be negotiating with the insurance company. I insist that the dispute between Renew-It and the insurance company really has nothing to do with me and that they would need to fix the door regardless as there were no issues towards the bottom of the door when I handed in the car and they already “fixed” it. He agreed and assured me he’d be in contact later on the same day to confirm a collection date.
  • Directly after this call I receive a call from the head of Quality Assurance at my Insurer. He apologises for the fact that I’ve had to deal with this issue and assures me that I can sit back and relax. They will sort it out for me and get my car returned as soon as possible. He informs me that Renew-It is now claiming that there is structural damage to the door as a result of a previous incident and previous repairs I had done somewhere else and supposedly this was already a problem before I booked the vehicle in the first time (a claim the guy from Renew-It failed to mention). This of course is a ridiculous statement. I bought my car brand new, it’s been insured with the same insurer since I bought it and I have never claimed anything from my insurance for the vehicle (not to mention that there have no accidents or attempted break-ins ever). Now you could say that perhaps there was damage that I paid for myself and now i’m trying to hide it. But the fact is my excess is all of R500 and I don’t have a no claim bonus on my policy. So why on earth would I pay for any kind of damage myself??? The insurance guy thanks me for confirming what he already knew and told me to sit back and relax.
  • The rest of the day was filled with a bunch of emails flying around between the repairer and my insurer and I’m pretty proud to say my insurer pretty much shut them down. Renew-it is responsible for the “kink” a.k.a structural damage to the door and is responsible for repairing it at their own cost. Honestly…it was nice to be able to step back and have someone else fight on my behalf.
  • Receive a call on the afternoon of the 4th as promised from Renew-It (you’ll pardon me for nearly falling over as this was literally the first time someone did as promised) accepting responsibility for the cost of the new door and informing me that they just ordered the door and it should arrive by COB the same day or the next morning. Now hold up……Renew-It already told me the door was ordered on multiple occasions somewhere between 21 and 24 January 2020. With follow up feedback on the arrival of the door. When this was pointed out to the manager at Renew-It he explained that this was impossible. The door definitely wasn’t ordered previously because they were waiting for approval from the insurance company. I informed him that he just confirmed (again) that his staff lied to my face on several occasions. He obviously had no explanation (the lies are par for the course at this stage though).  He informs me that my car will be ready on Thursday 6 February, alternatively Tuesday 11 February as he would like to be present when I collect and unfortunately he isn’t available on the Friday and the Monday. He promises to inform me of any delays.
  • 6 February 2020 – To absolutely no ones surprise not a peep was heard from Renew-It Rivonia to confirm that I can collect my vehicle or to notify me of a delay. Thankfully my insurer has been physically inspecting the vehicle daily and sending me photos. As a result I knew that my car would not be ready, but this did not take away the responsibility of the repair center who promised to update me should there be any delays.
  • 10 February 2020 – Receive a call from Renew-It Rivonia informing me that my car would be ready for collection by COB on the Monday. As the manager specifically requested to be present I arrange to collect it on the morning of 11 February 2020.
  • 11 February 2020 – I arrive at 8am (as I confirmed with them the day before) to collect my vehicle. They make me wait for nearly 20mins before eventually helping me. As I walk up to my car I notice an issue with the paint on the rear panel and the seals around the window on the driver door which had clearly not been installed correctly. While the paint issue appears to be minor and could likely be polished away, I find it astounding that something as obvious as a seal sitting all strange was not picked up during quality control. They ask me to wait 15 minutes while they fix these issues. Which, to their credit, they manage to fix in about 10 and I was on my merry way.
  • FINALLY after 2,5 months I have my car back.

I realise that this is a very long post and most of you probably gave up on me ever getting my car back somewhere along the way. But I needed to explain the whole situation and give all the details. It’s been one of the most frustrating service experiences of my entire life and I will never EVER make use of Renew-it again. I will also be more vigilant with performing research on companies before I make use of them.

I’ve embarked on a bit of a process about my experience. Step one was putting the whole series of events down on “paper” (this post) which will be followed by a post on Hello Peter and a detailed letter of complaint to my insurance company.  I’d usually say it’s too much effort and let it go because I have my car back now. But the fact is I can’t let this one go without speaking out and let someone else go down the same route.

Bottom line: Steer clear of Renew-It Rivonia at all costs.

 

Why I lost my heart in Rab

From Rovinj we drove the meandering coastal roads back to Rijeka. On the way we decided to spend some time exploring Velebit (the largest, but not the highest mountains in Croatia). We took a stunning drive as high as we could go and then proceeded to hike to the top. The view from the top is absolutely breathtaking! and you can actually see the islands off the coast of Croatia in the distance.

From Velebit we proceeded to take the ferry across the Adriatic Sea to the island of Rab, where the Gypsy’s mother and Grandmother live. The main town is beautiful and old and charming. Most of the town is not accessible by car, the homes are ancient and most of the town is protected by the National Heritage Council (i.e. if you want to do any home renovations or maintenance you have to get their permission first).

The island is mostly known for the old town of the same name, encircled by ancient walls. The town’s 4 church bell towers include the tower at the Cathedral Svete Marije (St. Mary) and the tower at the ruins of Sveti Ivan Church (St. John the Evangelist). The monastery at the 16th-century Church of St. Justine (Crkva Svete Justine) is now a museum of sacral objects.

The Adriatic sea does not have beaches like the ones we know in SA. There is no sand, but rather a variety of rocks and cement walkways. There are no waves and it’s much like swimming in a gigantic pool for the most part:) I also found the water to be extremely salty and as a result you can quite literally just kinda float around without even trying. It’s quite heavenly really and honestly I prefer this to our sandy beaches and brain scrambling waves when it comes to swimming.

 

While on Rab we explored several other areas on the island including Frkanj, which was probably my favourite. The area is marked by small, private beaches, beautiful rock formations and forests. We spent a good few days of our time on Rab exploring different areas along Frankj.

The Gypsy had been visiting nearly every year and shyly took me to a tree where he had carved our initials the previous year, shortly after we had started dating. He already knew at that point that it was forever….this guy though <3.

IMG_7392

We also visited Lopar, which actually has sandy beaches. To my knowledge these are however man-made.

On one of the days we decided to cycle through the reserve on Rab. We rented bicycles from the hotel in Rab and cycled a total of 25km (12.5 each way). It was probably one of the most beautiful cycling trips in my entire life and we were rewarded with incredible views and a swim in the sea at the halfway mark.

IMG_7546

I was also introduced to a lovely old man called Bogdan, who doesn’t speak a word of english, but is loosely related to the Gypsy’s family. This old man honestly put us all to shame. He’s well over 80 years old, still dives to more than 12m without any gear to catch octopus, fish and to collect shells and stones for his artwork and swims at least 5km each morning. He was kind enough to take us out deeper into the sea away from all the people to go swim and relax a few times and gifted us with a beautiful watercolour painting inspired by the island (which is now proudly hanging in our home).

Rab has quite a unique charm and, apart from the fact that our family lives there, we will definitely be returning this year because it’s simply one of the most beautiful places on earth. The people are amazing and friendly, the roman ruins are incredible and there are views for days no matter where you go.

After a stunning week and a half of relaxing, exploring, swimming and sunbathing we hit the road in our trusty little rental back to Belgrade. It was a long drive, but the border post is lovely…it’s quite literally like going through a drive through or a toll gate in SA. You waste the minimum amount of time and the immigration officers are super friendly. Then it was time to fly back to SA and as usual it’s always great to be home:) And who knew that less than 6 months later we’d be engaged and married six months after that?! It’s been a rollercoaster, but it’s been amazing and I look forward going back there with my husband this year:)

Exploring Rovinj

After visiting Fruška Gora we returned to Belgrade for a few days to explore a bit more, do laundry and pack for our trip to Croatia. We then hit the long road traveling through Zagreb and Rijeka until we finally got to Rovinj.

Rovinj is a Croatian fishing port and truly the most charming little town. The old town stands on a headland, with houses tightly crowded down to the seafront. A tangle of cobbled streets leads to the hilltop church of St. Euphemia, whose towering steeple dominates the skyline. It is a breathtaking view (especially at sunset) and you can’t help but feel romantic and sentimental and relaxed and happy all at the same time.

We spent hours exploring the old town and made our way to the hilltop to St. Euphemia at sunset. It was BEAUTIFUL to say the least. There were a number of visitors, but I think my favourite thing was the casual musician entertaining us with soft guitar music as the sun gently set over the water.

We managed to enjoy an amazing dinner in a little restaurant over the water and the food was quite spectacular. As always…fish is served including heads and scales and everything (a new experience on this trip for this little South African) but it was spectacularly prepared and worth the “eeeeuw”-factor. Also…piiiiiizzzzzaaaa and lemon beer were a firm favourite!

During our stay we also ventured a visit to a charming nearby town called Pula. Pula is a seafront city on the tip of Croatia’s Peninsula and is known for its protected harbor, beach-lined coast and Roman ruins. The Roman ruins being one of the main reasons we decided to visit this quiet little town. Did you know that amongst these ruins is a Colosseum?! Much smaller of course than the one in Rome, but impressive nonetheless and definitely worth a visit! And of course we consumed our bodyweight in Burek and Lemon beer to fight the hunger and heat.

2018 in retrospect

As I sit here and stare back over the year that was 2018 I can hardly believe that all of 12 months have passed. It’s been a crazy whirlwind of a year. It’s been an insane mixture of good and bad and crazy moments stitched together. But we made it! We survived! And while I know that most people had a really hard 2018, mine for the most part, has been good.

  • Firstly, and perhaps the most extraordinary part of this year, was the fact that I married the love of my life. On 30 June 2018 on a beautiful Northern Natal guest farm, we promised each other honestly, love, support and to stick by each other even when things got hard. It was the most perfect day. Literally nothing went wrong, and we were super chilled. I did pretty much everything myself with the help of my family (old and new) and even my dress appealed to the sentimental in me…it was made by my mother dearest. It really was the best day in the history of forever!
  • My brother, SIL and my two gorgeous nephews came for a visit (especially for the wedding) and I got to spend a week with them before the wedding. It was so lovely to have them!
  • We spent an amazing two weeks exploring Italy as part of our honeymoon!

img_0241

  • I obtained my international certification.
  • I spent the first 5 months of the year traveling up and down between SA and Namibia and planned most of my wedding from my hotel room and the hotel’s skybar.

img_9147

  • My husband (yes I still love the sound of that) spent the bulk of the year traveling to Cape Town for a few days each week…let’s just say this got exhausting eventually.
  • After the wedding we moved in together and attempted to merge two completely furnished homes. It was easier than I thought and there were literally no disagreements. We spent ages beforehand discussing which big-ticket items we were keeping and which we will be getting rid of…I honestly believe this helped.
  • Husband attacked a second degree (which he plans to finish in 3 years max despite working full-time) and passed his first year cum laude (ALL THE PRIDE).
  • My parents retired and will be moving away from my hometown early in the new year to start a whole new life as adventurous retirees. So excited for them.

img_1354

  • Saying goodbye to my hometown (I will probably never go back there as there really is no reason to) was harder than I thought it would be and it made me a little sad.
  • There were some health scares in the family. I don’t want to go into this in detail, but it’s been a bit scary and plenty sobering. Every single day is a gift by grace…truly.
  • I said goodbye to friends who moved overseas. I find rather than easier this becomes harder every single time.
  • I became godmother for the second time!

img_8936

All in all it’s been a crazy beautiful year with some unexpected twists and turns. I am grateful for each moment, each lesson, each adventure, each blessing, each memory and each day we receive as a gift by grace.

Bring on 2019!

img_9347

 

Exploring Fruška Gora

Fruška Gora (pronounced Frushka Ghora), more commonly known as the Frankish mountain outside of Serbia, is a beautiful forest-covered mountain in Serbia. A small part of it also extends into Croatia, but mostly it’s a Serbian thing. It’s also referred to as the “jewel of Serbia” due to the amazing landscape.

From Belgrade we traveled by car to a small and picturesque town called Vrdnik, just on the edge of the park. It vaguely reminded me of the small Swiss towns on the edge of the Alps and was filled with lush greenery, sweet little homes and local establishments. Here we rented two apartments for a few nights and I was genuinely impressed with the low cost.

From Vrdnik we proceeded to explore the beauty that is Fruška Gora. There are tons of old Serbian Orthodox monasteries in and around the park which are a delight to visit. The forests are incredibly beautiful and lush and there are hidden treasures everywhere you look. The Gypsy’s family also owns a plot of land inside the park and we had fun finding it and having a look around. Sadly the little cabin had long since suffered massive damage due to disuse and general decay, but we have dreams of building a little cabin on it one day:)

img_7079
This was probably one of my favourite spots. If I had my way i would be getting married right there! Unfortunately things haven’t worked out quite that way…but it is spectacularly beautiful. This spot is just a short walk into the forest behind one of the little monasteries..and boy was it worth every meter walked.
img_7084
More or less where the family plot is…it’s truly beautiful!
img_7093
Just one of the many beautiful Serbian Orthodox Monasteries nestled inside the park we explored.

 

 

img_7094
Inside one of the many churches. Photos couldn’t possibly do the art inside these buildings any justice, and out of respect I did not take close-ups.
img_7095
Another beautifully hidden one. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go inside as I wasn’t wearing appropriate clothing…neither was the Gypsy as he was wearing a pair of shorts 😉
img_7096
This was probably one of my most favourite signs outside one of the churches. No hand holding No smoking No cameras No make-up No dogs I had to take this picture hiding behind the Gypsy and keeping a wary eye out for the rather stern Nun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

img_7137
All throughout the forest we found these sweet little hearts painted on trees. To this day I still have no idea why they are there or who put them there and none of the locals I was able to converse with could give me a reason, but they did make for some really cool photos:)

img_7083img_7138

img_7163

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of many selfies taken during the course of our trip. This specific one was outside one of the churches where we weren’t allowed to explore the inside due to lack of appropriate dress. In our defense it was really boiling and i was wearing a spaghetti top dress and he was wearing a pair of shorts. Neither were considered appropriate. So we soaked up a bit of sun and explored the outside of the monastery instead.

img_7144

The bee population in the park is doing exceptionally well:) All across the park there are thousands upon thousands of multi-coloured beehives and if you asked me what sound i would associate with the park it would definitely be the sound of bees. In some cases old trucks or buses had been converted to house these hives in order to move them around more easily. The bees are MASSIVE and slightly scary looking. Those smudges in the pic are due to bees buzzing outside the car window:)

img_7090

 

This is probably one of my favourite signs in the whole wide world. Literally every town has them. “You are now entering a town”, “You are now exiting a town”. Hours of entertainment during our long drives at spotting them…..because sometimes it doesn’t exactly LOOK like a town….

 

 

On one of the days we traveled to the City of Novi Sad, explored the old fortress and the old part of town and had an amazing meal on the banks of the Danube.

img_7105
With The Gypsy’s parents on top of the wall of the old fort in Novi Sad
img_7110
“Old Town” Novi Sad with just a dash of the modern city on the left hand side.

img_7119Lunch started with fish soup….which to be honest I wasn’t sure i’d like. I’ve never been a fan. but it was delicious! Served with a bowl small pieces of raw dough, cheese and bacon pieces which you add to your hot soup (the finely chopped pieces of dough quickly cooks through) it was SUPER delicious and I could easily have eaten only that! This was followed by fresh fish…now let me tell you…in SA we are spoiled. Fish is processed and provided to you sans head and fins and STUFF. Not here. As you can see the Smooch is quite literally cooked as is with head and tail and fins and EVERYTHING. It freaked me out a bit at first, but it was delicious and I enjoyed every single bite (once I stopped looking at what i was eating:P )

img_7121

All in all Fruška Gora is a spectacular place and if you ever find yourself in Serbia or even just in the general area I would SERIOUSLY recommend a visit. VERY affordable, absolutely beautiful and a place that will steal your heart over and over and over again:)

Dear 2017…

I feel like a walking, talking cliché whenever I write posts like these. Currently everyone is furiously writing (or wrote, if you’re an over achiever) a post about the year that was. But the fact is: I enjoy writing them. They remind me of what I’ve been through this year and what I’ve achieved. Sometimes I even remember about things that were significant which I completely forgot about…and it’s nice to spend some time thinking bout what I’ve done the last 12 months and to start the year on a clean slate.

So here is a summary of the year that was 2017:

  • Firstly, and I think most importantly as it was definitely the highlight of my year, I GOT ENGAGED! I can’t even begin to tell you how happy this made me and how excited I am to spend the rest of my life with my Gypsy. Wedding planning is currently in full swing in this house and everyone is getting in on the highly animated discussions about it.
  • During the past 12 months I spent more time out of the country than in it (literally). Countries visited and passed through this year include: USA, England (passed through), Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya, Serbia, Croatia and the UAE (stop overs). My travels also included a few weeks in CT, but this is obviously not a different country (even though it feels like it sometimes).
  • I had the most amazing holiday traveling in Serbia and Croatia with my Gypsy. I explored so much and got to experience so much in his home countries…I can’t WAIT to go back. That place is incredible.
  • I had endless trouble with my MINI this year and had to fork out in excess of R50k in total in repairs and services….this was NOT so much fun.
  • As a result of the above I sold my darling little MINI after 6 wonderful years and bought a new car.
  • My darling nephews turned 2 and 5 respectively and my darling godson also turned 2.
  • I lost some friends (by choice) and made some amazing new ones.
  • Professionally I kicked ass (sadly there is very little I can elaborate here as a result of the nature of my job).
  • A bad guy got away (through no fault of ours) through public sector uselessness. I HATE it when the bad guys get away.
  • I saw Kilimanjaro (from an airplane…but still!)
  • I continued on my cycling journey (although not as much as I would have liked as constantly being out of the country was a bit of a challenge)
  • My dad’s best friend of 41 years passed away…he was pretty much family.
  • Mostly being out of the country meant that I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked with family and friends.
  • I bought a pastamaker and started making my own pasta. This might sound like something small and insignificant, but I’m pretty obsessed with the whole thing right now.
  • Got to see in the new year (2017) with my American tribe and my parents.
  • I started sewing again and made some beautiful things to wear.
  • Did I mention that I got engaged?

The list isn’t spectacularly long this year. Mostly because traveling so much for work made it hard. I know a lot of people had a really rough 2017 and honestly it wasn’t the easiest year. I faced a lot of professional and personal down times and being away from my people so much due to work related travel was hard. But overall it was a GOOD year and am unable to find any reasons to hold a grudge against 2017.

For those of you who had a rough 2017 I sincerely hope and pray that 2018 will be better. That you will be overwhelmed by blessings and adventures. For those of you that had a good 2017, I pray that you will have an even better 2018 and that the year will be filled with amazing things. Love and blessings and adventure. But most of all I hope that 2018 will be filled laughter and acceptance and people who bring out the best in each of you. Because we all deserve a little laughter.

Happy 2018 my lovelies!

Dear Belgrade, Serbia

As promised, I am finally getting around to writing about our amazing holiday earlier this year. I posted a ton of photos on instagram and twitter (#RAGISAC) and tried to send a message to my family at the end of each day with a little summary of what we did and a few photos to show them.

We traveled from Jozitown to Belgrade, Serbia via Abu Dhabi, explored Serbia and then proceeded to drive to Croatia. We spent the first few days in Rovinj and then took a ferry through to the island of Rab, where The Gypsy’s mother lives. In this post I’ll be focusing on my experience of Belgrade.

img_7002
On the plane and on our way! #RAGISAC

We arrived in Belgrade on a Saturday morning and was greeted at the airport by The Gypsy’s parents as a surprise. We were only supposed to meet up with them a bit later in the day, but they took a bus to the airport to surprise us instead. His father awaited me with a bunch of flowers and a big bear hug and his mom wouldn’t let me touch my own suitcase once we showed our faces in arrivals. And this behaviour continued throughout our trip. Whenever we spent any time with them we were spoiled rotten! And it was glorious:)

Belgrade is an incredible city. We spent a day or so exploring before heading off to Fruška Gora (more on this in another post) and then did some more exploring in-between returning from Fruška Gora and heading off to Croatia. It is a city of absolute contradictions. In one block you will see the most beautiful houses right next to a building that looks like something that should be condemned. But even the buildings that are falling apart are beautiful in their own way. It was later explained to me that in some cases the people let the buildings deteriorate on the outside in order to avoid paying property taxes, but i was assured that on the inside they are quite beautiful. In addition, due to the suspicious nature of the people, you may be labelled as an associate of the “mafioso” if you flaunt any sort of money, and not beautifying the homes on the outside is one way of avoiding such flaunting. I have no idea if this is true or one of those “jokes with a hint of truth” or complete fabrication, but honestly it kind of makes sense.

img_7186

I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, considering that they were in civil war like only 20 years ago, but let’s just say Belgrade won my heart. The little shops hidden away in holes in the wall (literally), the friendly (yet slightly suspicious) people and the food was an amazing experience and i would definitely recommend people to visit.

 

img_7016
On the bus tour with The Gypsy’s parentals

On the day of our arrival we decided to do a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city and then proceeded to explore the forts, city wall and the spot where the Sava and the Danube rivers meet. It is SPECTACULARLY beautiful! Most of the city has recovered from the bombings but there are still a few buildings that carry the scars of a civil war less than two decades ago.

We discovered the cutest little pub, lemon beer (which, let’s face it, is the best thing in that heat) and the most amazing food…seriously…the food! Three of my absolute favourite food related Serbian things are Börek (The cheese one to be specific), kajmak (it’s a cheese) and Cevapi.

It’s hard to only choose a few random shots as there were so many amazing things, but if i had to post ALL my photos this post would be miles long. So instead I’ve picked a few pictures below which I think sums up most of the highlights of this spectacular city:)