We went on a summer holiday and never came back

Eufemia Didonato

When we told our family and friends three years ago that we were selling up in London and moving to Cape Town, we were met with two reactions: either “you’re completely mad” or “how brave to move to another continent in your fifties!”

Well, here we are in beautiful Cape Town. My husband, Harry, and I had lived and worked in many countries before – Hong Kong, New Zealand, Egypt and France, to name a few. So we had no qualms about doing it again, despite the challenges Cape Town faces, like all major cities.

Harry owned bars and restaurants; I was the food director of a large publishing company. For me, it got to the stage of more stress, insufficient staff, longer hours and smaller budgets, which killed the job I’d once loved. We had paid off our mortgage in London, and we don’t have kids, so we had the financial flexibility to make the move. We sold up, put our belongings in storage, and got on the plane.

Over the last 15 years, we’d both visited Cape Town many times, for holidays and business. We fell in love with the mountains, the beaches, the people, the food, the wineries. And we had made friends in Cape Town, so that helped with choosing where we wanted to live. 

You get a lot more for your money in Cape Town, so we actually up-sized rather than down. As keen gardeners, we had to remember that north-facing here is a good thing – it takes a moment when you change hemisphere!

We bought a house in Constantia, in the leafy winelands. The house had great bones, stunning gardens and a large pool, but the interior was dated so the renovation began. It took four months, but it’s ours. The South Africans are welcoming and very friendly, so there’s no lack of “braai” invitations. 

We bought a house with a cottage attached, to rent out through Airbnb. From opening, we were fully booked, then the pandemic hit. South Africa went into a hard lockdown, with all local and international borders closed.

Luckily, with private pensions and my freelance work, we could manage without the rental income. But we, like everyone, can’t wait for the world to open up again. Thank goodness for free video calls with our family and friends.

Harry misses a good pint of bitter in the pub with his mates; I miss Jersey Royals and English asparagus. But we live a wonderful life and, yes, we’d do it all over again. We’re here to stay.

‘We were keen to break out of the London cycle’

Mike Curtis, 54, and his wife Kelda, 52, left their jobs in London to run a B&B, Casale Volpe, in Le Marche, Italy.

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