My Travelling Life

Marc Lottering’s hilarious alter ego Aunty Merle is partial to a palace

Aunty Merle, the jetsetter from Athlone, likes the finer things in life. And big holes. But caves? Not so much

17 February 2019 - 00:05 By staff reporter
Marc Lottering as Aunty Merle.
Marc Lottering as Aunty Merle.
Image: Lebz Skywalker

I travel up to four times a week. Mostly to church and back.

My first holiday as a child was when the church organised a bus trip to Kimberley for kids and parents. I remember it being very hot, but lovely. We visited the Big Hole and a mortuary, because my late father's friend owned a mortuary. I enjoyed the Big Hole.

My first trip abroad was in 1982,  when my husband Dennis and I booked a European Contiki tour. We visited Greece, Rome, Paris and London. I remember taking along my Handy Andy but there was no need as the bathrooms were quite clean. I had to watch Dennis closely in Greece. Some of those girls were over-friendly. I don't eat Greek salad to this day. I enjoyed Rome. But London took the cake. When I touched those gates at Buckingham Palace I felt as if I was home.

My scariest destination was the Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn. My nerves! My nerves! Not sure I want to crawl through those dark caves ever again. Although, Dennis bought me the most exquisite ostrich eggs there, which I still keep in the lounge cabinet, alongside my daughter's 21st key, behind the spoon that we bought on one of our subsequent trips to the Big Hole in Kimberley.

When you’re travelling, it’s important to put your pride deep in your pocket. Don't be afraid to put some muffins in a serviette at the breakfast buffet. You will need to nibble during the day. It's in the price. They expect you to help yourself.

Nothing beats a curry when it is cooked and served in Durban. One of my best friends, Ursula, married a Durban chap and moved there many moons ago. Man, before she got married, she could not even boil an egg but the minute she got to Durban, Ursula was cooking up a mean curry. I guess there's something about the Durban air that just turns you into a wonderful cook. That delicious, authentic aroma of the curry, coupled with the beaches, makes me fall in love with Durban every time I visit Ursula.

I’m not very fussy but I have to say that I have never shied but I have to say that I have never shied away from luxury. I believe that God has been very good to Dennis and I, and we should live like people who have been blessed. We stay at The Palace at Sun City at least one weekend every year. They know me by my first name: Aunty.

My worst travel experience was the time I was chatting to Dennis in Afrikaans on the Tube in London. This woman was sitting across from us and I said to Dennis, "Hoekom is die vrou so dikbek?!" (Why is this woman so sulky?) The woman glared at me and said, "Want dis te koud om te lag." (Because it's too cold to laugh). I will never speak Afrikaans overseas ever again.

My best advice for South Africans is to stop thinking about the rand. You will buy nothing.

My best advice for South Africans is to stop thinking about the rand. You will buy nothing
Aunty Merle

I enjoy cities where people smile a lot. It changes everything. Even if you don't understand a word that's being said. Just smile.

I don't enjoy travelling with couples who have problems in their marriage. They look terrible on the photos.

I would love to visit Israel and Palestine some day. I want to see what all this constant arguing is about. Who knows, maybe I can help them sort something out. After all, I'm a Cape Town girl, and I know that it's possible for all of us to live alongside each other and get along.

• 'Aunty Merle The Musical' is on at the Mandela Theatre until March 3.


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