Wine Tasting at Ormonde in Darling (2019-05-11) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 05 NOV 2019

After a morning session of cake in Durbanville and then dropping the girls off with their grandparents, Chantelle and I enjoyed the scenic drive out towards Darling, pulling into the charming little town well before we could actually check into the guest house we were staying at for the evening. Only one solution for that really – a spontaneous spot of wine tasting!

Situated on the edge of the residential part of Darling, Ormonde fell into the hands of the Basson family in 1970 when they bought the farm to start a dairy stud but in the process decided to plant some vineyards as well – in a time long before the area became the wine producing region that it is today.

The closeness to the cold Atlantic Ocean, the altitudes afforded by the Darling hills, and the eroded granite type homogenous soils of the plantation all mix to produce a terroir that has helped Ormonde produce numerous top award winning wines. (Though the 2006 investment into an ultra modern, international standard cellar didn’t hurt either!)

With a welcoming lawn area overlooking a duck-filled pond, a small outside eatery and lots of shaded nooks and crannies to enjoy, the Ormonde wine estate makes for a pleasant family outing space, though as Chantelle and I can now attest to, their excellent quality wines are more than reason enough to pay Ormonde a visit of your own!

Toffee Tasting at Darling Sweet in Darling (2019-05-11) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 01 NOV 2019

The toffees of Darling Sweet have been an absolute success story. The hard to miss, colourful patterned boxes of joy seem to pop up all around the Western Cape, and the massive selection of flavours combined with the fact that toffee itself is somewhat underrepresented in Cape Town makes this one of those much sought after local confectionaries.

Having launched in 2014 with three toffee flavours (Tannie Evita’s Classic, Honey & Salt, and Sour Fig) whilst operating out of a small converted antique shop space and selling only at the local craft and food markets, Darling Sweet has since grown in leaps and bounds and now employs 21 full-time and 11 part-time local community members, operates out of a 500 square meter stately Edwardian building/production facility, has products available throughout South Africa, and boasts a massive selection of the most delectable flavours in the form of both toffees and toffee spreads.

Oh, and they’re also a big tourist attraction for the town.

So naturally, our trip to Darling couldn’t exactly be complete without a visit (and exhaustive tasting) of Darling’s sweetest attraction, and yes, we walked out clutching more than just one box!

Craft Beer, Pizza and Art at The Makers Brew in Barrydale (2019-07-03) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 30 OCT 2019

So craft breweries really are popping up everywhere. Of course the village of Barrydale hasn’t been spared, but pleasingly the one that they got is a pretty good one. Say hello to the The Maker’s Brew.

Started by a Capetonian looking for a change of pace, the Maker’s Brew stands out on restaurant-lined main thoroughfare of Barrydale thanks to its strikingly modern look. Its compact, sparse, contemporary space is eye-catching and the perfect complement to the pretty good beers that owner Ryno Reyneke has managed to concoct.

The Amber, Porter, Blonde and Saison styles are all represented, and you would do well to do a tasting while nibbling on a pizza, playing with wooden blocks, and watching the tourist traffic go on by.

(Oh, and if the beer itself isn’t beautiful enough, there is always next door’s Helen Vaughan Handmade ceramics gallery to admire!)

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Mad as a Hatter at Inspired in Heidelberg (2019-09-30) Photo Gallery | Shopping 29 OCT 2019

Travelling down the N2, it is impossible not to smile when passing the colourful Inspired in Heidelberg, an Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter themed home decor shop that just screams “stop and see what we stock”!

So I finally did. The people at Inspired Creations specialize in manufacturing beautiful solid wood furniture and handmade decor items that are not “on the high street”. The brightly hued shop (which is housed in an old refurbished milk shed dating back to 1873) is packed with the most inventive and wonderful pieces of home decor, eager to turn a house into a home.

There is a lot of whimsy, artistry and craftmanship on display, and if you can’t quite make you mind up all at once, then you are welcome to have a cup of coffee, a delicious milkshake, or a yummy panini on their stoep.

Oh, and they have a selfie wall.

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Milktart Munchies at Houw Hoek Farm Stall in Grabouw (2019-09-30) Farm Stalls | Photo Gallery 28 OCT 2019

After a nice long weekend at Pinnacle Point with my two girls, we were on the road back home when we decided to stop and pick up something nice for Chantelle who had stayed home to bake her cakes. So we swung a left at Houw Hoek Farm Stall and walked out with the most delicious of freshly baked milktarts.

Sitting along the well travelled Houw Hoek Pass section of the N2, the Houw Hoek Farm Stall is somewhat of an institution for Western Cape travellers, known in particular for its very fresh, very tasty pies.

It has expanded in recent years, and now in addition to all the bakes, fresh produce, preserves and wine, there is also a whole gifts/curios/clothes section, useful if you need to do some browsing because your partner is taking too long to pick out the perfect pie.

The little restaurant still remains as popular as ever, and as a stop it is seemingly never quiet. Also, the milktarts are fantastic – as we can now attest to! But we knew that already ;)

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Pancake Pitstop at Oppi Plaas Farm Stall in Albertinia (2019-09-30) Farm Stalls | Photo Gallery 27 OCT 2019

Half way between Albertinia and Riversdale, directly on the N2 route, is a hard to miss – thanks to all the rigid flags and energy-drink sponsored advertising boards pointing to it – farm stall which touts its Jakkelsvlei link and almost always looks slightly deserted. I’ve had my eye on it for quite a while now, but this last school holiday finally saw me pull over and pay a visit to the surprisingly charming Oppi Plaas Padstal.

The farm stall does everything a N2 farm stall is supposed to do. Inside is a nice collection of home bakes, bric-a-brac, and other small handmade home decor items, as well as a nice selection of snacks ready for the drive home. Plus, it also stocks a good selection of Jakkalsvlei wines, which is great news if you weren’t quite able to make a drive out towards Herbertsdale over the course of your weekend away!

Oppi Plaas has the required quirky, colourful exterior (full of sculptures and other eye-catching whatnots), and pleasingly also offers a small menu of light meal and drink options should your party have a few holes in the stomach in need of filling.

Case in point, the girls weren’t letting me out of there until they had their fill of pancakes!

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Vintage Home Decor at Wunderkammer in Philadelphia (2019-05-12) Photo Gallery | Shopping 26 OCT 2019

Chantelle and I decided to drive home via Philadelphia following our mini birthday getaway to Darling. It is the first time that I visited this tiny hamlet of only a handful of homes and businesses, and one of the more interesting finds was the delightfully eclectic Wunderkammer antique and vintage store.

Created by Katja Emanuel, Wunderkammer actually makes a lot of sense in Philadelphia – after all, it is already a bit of a creative hub, with quite a few artists and creatives calling this little town home. The large house/warehouse that is the shop is brimming with all manner of collectibles, furniture and art, some of it vintage, some of it antique, but pretty much all of it interesting.

It actually was great fun to stroll through the (slightly) organized chaos, because a lot of the items for sale come from the period around our youth, and so a fair number of elements are things that we can identify and reminisce about. There is a truckload of pieces to work through and one could certainly find more than just a few things to help turn your house into a home.

But perhaps this is best explained by some visual aids:

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A Stroll through Jan Marais Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch (2019-03-31) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 25 OCT 2019

I’m quite fond of the extremely accessible Jan Marais Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch. Situated within the town itself, the park is compact, has well marked out paths, gives gorgeous distant views of the Stellenbosch mountains, and really is a breath of fresh air and tranquility for any nature lovers out there.

This particular trip to Jan Marais saw me riding solo, with Chantelle busy with cakes/and or relaxing on the couch, and neither of my girls wishing to abandon playing with their friends in order to join me for a healthy walk. Not that this bothered me in the slightest though – the perfect opportunity then to take my time, first stopping to do some plane spotting at the Stellenbosch Flying Club, then tracking down the sports club and Danie ‘Doc’ Craven bronze statue that I remembered from my twenties, before finally setting out to explore the little nature reserve at my own gentle pace.

There is public art to behold, renosterveld fynbos to experience, a kids play area (which for a change I didn’t have to stop at), an outdoor gym for the eager beavers, enough space for both cyclists and walkers to enjoy at the same time, and it always makes for a great photo walk.

Perfect really.

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USA 2019: Capitol, Coast, and Desert My Life 24 OCT 2019

I’ve only ever left our continent twice before. In 2014 I was fortunate in joining my brother for an indescribably enjoyable trip to Japan, and in 2016 Touchwork sent me over to the USA on the most wonderful business/sightseeing trip that saw me spend time in both Anaheim and San Diego. Excitingly, in a few hours time, I’ll be embarking on my third ever overseas trip – it’s USA round 2!

I have mentioned before that a large portion of Touchwork’s business is in the United States, in particular in the higher education institution auxiliary services realm. To that extent, our US team tends to exhibit at related expos all year round, and as such, for this particular upcoming expo, I was asked if I wanted to join the team and then also deliver some Kinetica system training while I’m at it. Naturally, I JUMPED at the opportunity!

The event in question is the NACAS C3X 2019 Conference and Expo, which is being held in Phoenix Arizona. Before that though, I get to spend some time to do training and sightseeing with the guys in San Diego, and right at the start of it all, I’ve been gifted with a handful of days to play tourist in Washington D.C. – Lincoln Memorial, here I come!

I am of course beyond excited. 3 days in Washington D.C., 5 days in San Diego, and 3 days in Phoenix! I am away from home for about 14 days in total (sorry Chantelle), leaving on the 24th of October and only returning at midnight on the 7th of November, i.e. the date of my 10 year wedding anniversary (again, sorry my love!). Also, if you do the maths, then you’ll realize that I’m in transit for about 3 days. Can’t say I’m looking forward to ALL 52 hours or so that I’m going to be up in the air!

On the travel front I am flying out from Cape Town to Johannesburg and then from Johannesburg to Washington D.C. on SAA. From Washington D.C. I jump to San Diego on Southwest (with a plane change in Atlanta), and from San Diego to Phoenix also via Southwest. Then from Phoenix it is a hop back to Washington D.C. (with a change at Chicago) on United, before I finally depart from Washington back to Johannesburg and then on to Cape Town via SAA.

At this rate I’m starting to feel like a seasoned traveller! My camera phone is charged, I’m chomping at the bit, and as per usual, the best place to follow my travels will be via Instagram (at @craiglotter). Looking forward to what should be an amazing experience! :D