Music, Fish, and Chips at the Vis Vlekhuis in Laaiplek (2018-03-31) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 25 JUN 2018

Chantelle, the girls and I joined her folks for a weekend up the West Coast back in March of this year, spending much of our time relaxing in the tranquil atmosphere of Jacobsbaai. Monty however very much wanted to show off a local fish and chips stop that they had only recently discovered, which explains then why we found ourselves winding through the small town of Velddrif and ending up in the even smaller town of Laaiplek on a rather warm and sunny Saturday afternoon.

Now we weren’t visiting the historically significant port of Laaiplek (so named because it was the loading area for ships from Europe from where goods were then transported into the hinterland) or its adjacent sister Velddrif for their famed bokkoms or view over the Berg River, instead we were on a mission and heading straight to Die Vis Vlekhuis, a popular bar and fish and chips takeaways situated just off the main harbour of the area.

And I’m not joking about its popularity mind you. The venue was packed both inside and out (shame, their neighbours could truthfully have done with some of Vis Vlekhuis’ patrons), and the queue for food was quite the sight. (In other words, the wait time for fish and chips was a bit on the lengthy side).

Nevertheless, we got lucky in that Monty managed to secure an outdoor table, allowing us to then grab some beers, let the girls entertain themselves by colouring in (they brought their own supplies), and enjoy the live music courtesy of the rather talented and very entertaining Jay Jay who was belting out all the hits from next door in the bar area.

The food did of course eventually arrive, and I have to say, the fish and chips were well worth the wait. Generous portions, good flavour – nothing to complain about at all! Hungers were sated, seagulls were fed, and a lazy walk to look at the boats was taken.

(Oh, and a rather pleasant drive down through Bokkom Avenue along the river completed the trip.)

So, all in all a successful first visit to this small but charming in its West Coast way place then.

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Extra Credit: The team behind the Afrikaans travel magazine Weg put together this short video about fish, pelicans, bakkies and bokkoms in Velddrif. Obviously you’ll need to know some Afrikaans to follow what’s going on, though that said, even if you do have a decent understanding, that distinctive West Coast accent isn’t going to make things any easier for you to follow…

In all honesty, now that I think about it, I don’t believe that I have ever tasted bokkoms. Guess I’ll have to rectify that come our next visit up the West Coast then!

Related Link: Die Vis Vlekhuis | Laaiplek | Velddrif

Seagulls and Beer at the Sea Gypsy Cafe in Mossel Bay (2018-03-18) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 22 JUN 2018

I’ve mentioned them before, but heading down to the harbour to enjoy some fish and chips at the Sea Gypsy Cafe in Mossel Bay has become somewhat of a family tradition whenever we all find ourselves up in the area. Thus, my weekend away with the girls, my folks and my brother Ryan back in March this year ended on that exact note.

Situated just outside the main harbour entrance, right across the small Biblia house, the Sea Gypsy Cafe is a lively spot with both an indoor and outdoor eating setup, a place where the vibe is good, the beer always flows, and fish and chips appear all around you.

Unless of course you ordered something else that is.

Historically I’ve always gone for the classic fish and chips, but recently Dad has converted me into grabbing one of their baskets instead, which contains a nice mix of fish, chips, crumbed mushrooms and calamari.

All ready to be washed down with some fantastic Glenhoff beer (that they have on tap). Spoiler alert: it is all rather good.

They have a good view over the bay (Santos beach is just across the water), the food is quite ‘lekker’ and in general it is a pretty good place to meet up with friends and spend an afternoon catching up.

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And then if you are anything like us – it is back into the car and on the road for the good 4.5 hour long drive home. Which on this occasion was a lot longer thanks to all the stop and go controls in place. (Am rather enjoying the new N2 road surface though!)

Extra Credit: I mentioned the little Biblia house across from the Sea Gypsy Cafe near the start of this post. If you are aren’t familiar with the group, BIBLIA is a Christian non-profit organization that sees to the spiritual and overall well-being of seafarers coming into South Africa. While their home base is the Cape Town harbour, the movement claims to have a presence in every major South African port, meaning that they should be a reasonably familiar sight for you to encounter when visiting any of SA’s larger harbours.

Related Link: Sea Gypsy Cafe | Mossel Bay

Eggs Benedict at Southey’s Family Bistro in Somerset West (2018-03-21) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 19 JUN 2018

Having supplanted Manuka a couple of years ago now, Southey’s Family Bistro is a super popular breakfast and lunch spot for families in the heart of Somerset West, thanks in no small part to their large back garden, outdoor seating and super kid friendly facilities (think jumping castles and slippy slides in Summer).

(The fact that they sport a well stocked boutique wine shop doesn’t hurt either!)

Seeing as this is such a popular spot for families to gather around then, we invited Chantelle’s mom and dad to drive out and join us for a spot of breakfast one March Saturday morning, which they happily agreed to – meaning that we were then left holding thumbs for a windstill, sunny day.

Which pleasingly is exactly how the day turned out to be.

Now we don’t normally go out for breakfast, meaning that on the few occasions that we do actually find ourselves at a restaurant for brekkie, it is always nice to grab something that I don’t normally get to have around the table in the morning – so this time around it just so happened that Southey’s Eggs Benedict kind of tickled my fancy.

Spoiler alert, it was plain, simple, and rather nice.

Anyway, Emily played on the jungle gym, Jessica ran amok with my phone camera, and in general, a pleasant morning was had by all.

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After breakfast we needed to pop in to CABS to do a bit of ingredient shopping for Chantelle’s baking business, giving me the perfect opportunity to poke my head into the popular new addition to the Helderberg Things to Do with Kids list – the Blades Roller Skating Rink!

I’m pleased to report that it looks rather awesome and that Jessica immediately made me promise that I would take her as soon as another weekend freed up again! ;)

Related Link: Southey’s Family Bistro | Somerset West

PHP: Get the first Key of an Associative Array Tips, Tricks and Tutorials 16 JUN 2018

I am not completely sure about it, but I somehow don’t think that I’ve ever needed to get the first key of an associative array using PHP before. Sure, a simple problem with a simple solution, but seeing as I needed to Google this one, I’m jotting down the answer here for future reference.

So, our example for the day then: Given the following array, print out the first key.

$months = array(
'jan'=>'January',
'feb'=>'February',
'mar'=>'March',
'apr'=>'April',
'may'=>'May',
'jun'=>'June',
'jul'=>'July',
'aug'=>'August',
'sep'=>'September',
'oct'=>'October',
'nov'=>'November',
'dec'=>'December'
);

reset($months);
$result = key($months);
if ($result !== NULL){
echo $result; //this will print 'jan'
}

The important bits are reset(), which moves the internal array pointer back to the first element of the array, and then key(), which retrieves the index element at the current array position (dictated by the internal pointer).

Simple (when you read the documentation).

UPDATE: As pointed out by one of my readers, if you know you have an array with at least one element in it, you could always just use array_keys($months)[0] as an alternative.

Related Link: reset() | key()

Pulled Pork and Brisket from the Hickory Shack outside Grabouw (2018-04-15) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 14 JUN 2018

I might have mentioned in passing that we had roped in Chantelle’s folks to head out to the Hickory Shack for lunch with us one April Sunday afternoon (Monty was super keen on giving this place a go), but up until now I haven’t actually spoken about the lunch itself. The summary is this then: as per usual it was awesome. Exactly what you would want if you love eating meat.

I think that this was the third time that Chantelle and I were visiting the Hickory Shack, and other than the neat little beer tasting deck they seem to be tacking on, not all that much has changed at this excellent Southern styled pit-master smokehouse eatery.

Texas style beef brisket, pulled pork, belly and colossal ribs (and chicken for those non red meat lovers who get dragged with for the outing) are all the stars of the menu, though that said, I did notice that these days the shack also offers a couple of lighter brunch options for those who pop in whilst on a breakfast run.

Oupa and Ouma were on hand to entertain the girls, craft brews and drinks in jam jars served to slake our thirst (it was a pretty warm April afternoon after all), and the carefully prepared meat, corn and chunky chips were just as mouthwateringly delicious as what I had remembered it to be.

(Plus, the complementary array of dipping sauces were excellent as always. Just a note though, the spicy one really is pretty damn spicy!)

Given all of that, it isn’t all that surprising then to hear that this place gets pretty packed on the weekends, so much so that for a change Chantelle actually phoned ahead in order to book a table. We don’t normally do this.

As things turned out it was just as well that she had – as far as I could see there definitely weren’t any open tables for any casual diners come lunch time proper!

Basically, a thoroughly brilliant lunch get together was enjoyed by all (well not really the girls – this place isn’t really intended for the little ones), and the Hickory Shack remains hard not to recommend given the relatively scarcity of this style of cooking on our local restaurant scene.

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(And yes, as always I took a photograph of that skull decorated shed. Literally every visit I make, I walk away with the EXACT same photograph! I can see Chantelle shaking her head from here.)

Related Link: Hickory Shack | Grabouw

Books and Soft Serve Ice Cream at Peregrine Farm Stall in Grabouw (2018-04-15) Farm Stalls | Photo Gallery 11 JUN 2018

In April we invited Chantelle’s folks to come out and lunch with us at the Hickory Shack outside Grabouw. Lunch was as always brilliant, but for dessert I suggested that we take the kids down the road to Peregrine Farm Stall – their soft serve ice cream (from the super convenient Padkos Express outside) and tractor strewn play area is always a guaranteed hit with my girls.

Chantelle agreed, but only because I agreed to look after the girls at the outdoor play area while she and her folks grabbed some coffee and actual proper from the actual Peregrine restaurant inside.

Now I’m quite fond of the outdoor area that Peregrine Farm Stall has crafted over the last year or two. The thing is, as a farm stall/bakery/restaurant they are incredibly popular and thus incredibly busy – literally all the time – meaning that the ability to skip the crushing bustle of inside and rather relax with your kids outside is something I almost always immediately gravitate to. (So much so that I can truthfully say that I’m not sure when last I’ve actually popped my head into the farm stall proper!)

Pleasingly, given the warm weather, the soft serve ice cream that we picked up from Padkos Express was amazing, though that said, neither girl was able to make much of a dent in the huge dollop of ice cream that they each received – meaning that moi had to do some serious mop up work.

Ice cream done, the girls headed off to play, I grabbed a delicious cider from the Everson’s Cider pop-up tasting room, and went browsing, with by far the most interesting find of the day being awarded to Burning Books and its beautiful shiny red truck.

An offshoot of Liberty Books (which I don’t actually know anything about either), Burning Books (perhaps not the best of names for someone selling books) is a clever mobile bookstore – hopping about from event to event in their converted, stunningly pretty, bright red 1955 Bedford Green Goddess fire truck.

(To be fair, given that bit of information, you might now understand just where the bookstore’s name comes from. That said, I’m still not a fan of the name.)

Anyway, it is a clever thing to see, the books are all beautifully presented, and given their closeness to the play area, plenty of moms and dads seemed to be finding themselves dragged by the arm to check things out.

Clever. So, book browsing, ice cream, swings, tractors, shopping and a cider for me. Can’t say that I didn’t rather enjoy this unplanned little visit to what must surely be the most popular farm stall along the N2 highway.

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(For completeness sake, Chantelle and her folks seemed to rather enjoy their little visit as well.)

Related Link: Peregrine Farm Stall | Burning Books | Grabouw

Kids at Play at BASH in Paarl (2017-10-08) Kid Activities | Photo Gallery 08 JUN 2018

Kids’ birthday party venues are always an exciting find when you are a parent who a) doesn’t have access to a big house, b) don’t want to spend an entire day cleaning up the mess created by hosting such a party in their own space, or c) don’t feel like the effort of setting one up in the first place!

Based in Rosendal (a suburb of Bellville), and operating since November 2016, BASH had been an exciting addition to the Northern Suburbs’ childrens party scene for a while now, so much so that business boomed and the need for a second venue quickly became a reality – and so in October of last year their new baby BASH Paarl was born.

Situated on the Dvine Events’ grounds and primarily a birthday party venue, BASH hosts all manner of kids birthday parties, with the focus being mainly on activity based parties. Thanks to their signature Master Mini Chef Cooking Kitchen there are the super popular Baking and Cooking party options available, and thanks to the Private Craft Room, Wooden Craft parties, Canvas Painting parties, Flower Arrangement parties, and even Beading Parties are also all on the cards. Oh, and then there are the actual Pamper party sessions – seriously, which little girl is not going to love any one of these ideas!

Plus, BASH has filled their 200m2 hall, with a host of wooden play structures and toys, from a giant jungle gym right through to a pretend party bus. This, combined with the massive lawn and outside play area means that they are just perfectly suited for more action packed activity play parties as well. (Thank goodness, something for the boys!)

In addition to all the birthday party stuff, BASH is also open to the general public (you pay to play), and thanks to their small deli and restaurant option, the adults stay fed and able to enjoy the gorgeous views of the Paarl mountains while the little ones run themselves ragged.

Basically, what’s not to love about that?

Now Chantelle had been following BASH via Facebook for quite some time, eagerly following their setup progress – meaning that by the time they finally launched in October last year, I simply had no other choice but to bundle everyone in the car and make the long drive through to Paarl. Not that I minded though – the girls had an absolute blast and I thought the location was stunning.

In other words, hard not to admit defeat and pat my wife on the back for discovering such a fun venue.

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NOTE: Of course, visiting a venue on their day of opening is almost also never a great idea because the chance to first get processes, procedures and numbers in place (and running smoothly) is obviously not yet there, so naturally our visit did come with a few of those very challenges attached (for example, the restaurant was to busy in order to serve us). That said, it has been a good few months since our visit and quite frankly, both Chantelle and the girls are rather itching for a return trip.

I guess we’re heading back to Paarl sooner than later then! ;)

Related Link: BASH | Paarl

Girls at Play on the Mouille Point Adventure Playground in Cape Town (2017-11-18) Kid Activities | Photo Gallery 05 JUN 2018

The whole Sea Point, Mouille Point, Green Point stretch of Cape Town is always fantastic for family outings, with walks along the promenade, wave dodging through the railings, play on the various jungle gyms along the way, putt putt, a mini maze, the Blue Train Park, the Mouille Point Adventure Playground, and the Green Point Urban Park all on the cards for the little ones.

Talking about the Mouille Point Adventure Playground, I only just discovered how beautifully this kids playground has been upgraded during an outing with my girls to the Blue Train Park back in November last year. Open to all, it is the perfect mixing spot for all the kids of Cape Town to run around and play with one another.

So, while the Blue Train Park and its little blue train was definitely a hit, the fun ship themed jungle gym, inviting green sea monster and giant wooden jungle gym of the next door Mouille Point playground turned out to easily be the biggest highlight for my two munchkins on the day!

Seeing as we were in the area on a Saturday morning, we next dropped in by the bustling Oranjezicht City Farm Market, but given how busy they were (locals tell me the trick is to arrive super early), the girls and I instead shuffled off to a place of their choosing for lunch – and given that they are 7 and 4, naturally we ended up at Santa Ana Spur in the V&A Waterfront.

Sigh, at least the beer is nice and cold.

Not that I minded all that much I suppose – people watching at the Waterfront almost never gets old…  (Also, we did end up visiting Lagoon Beach in Milnerton for ice cream afterwards. So I can’t really complain.)

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In summary, a lovely little playground that is perfect for rewarding the kids with some play time after first forcing them to walk along the promenade with you.

Related Link: Mouille Point | Cape Town

Camels and Browsing at Imhoff Farm in Kommetjie (2017-02-18) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 02 JUN 2018

Situated on the very popular Cape Point tourist route, Kommetjie’s thoroughly enjoyable Imhoff Farm is a must to visit if you ever find yourself in the area – especially if you are one of those people who take immense pleasure in discovering and supporting local artisans and their businesses.

The original Imhoff’s Gift (literally land gifted by Cape Commisioner Baron Gustav Wilhelm van Imhoff to farmer Christina Rousseau in the mid 1700’s as a thank you for her efforts to supply ships with fresh produce) covers an area that now includes Kommetjie, Ocean View and a section of the Table Mountain National park, with the remaining bit of unclaimed land making up what is now the historic Imhoff Farm complex.

With the dairy and livestock farming of yesteryear no longer viable on this remaining stretch of land, the farmstead has instead involved into commercial hub with and old-world charm and a focus very much on maintaining a “country farm” atmosphere.

The property’s historic homestead now houses the stunning restaurant with a view, Blue Water Cafe, while the stables, silo, smithy, slave quarters and milking sheds are all occupied by a diverse mixture of local artists, craftsmen, shopkeepers and foodies.

Talking about things to eat, in addition to the already mentioned, super popular Blue Water Cafe, Imhoff’s Farm is also home to other food related gems, like Coco & Lace (chocolates, truffles and pralines), Free Range Coffee Shop (coffee, bakes, and light meals), Chez Pepe and his artisan goat’s milk cheeses, Off the Hook Seafood Deli (fish), and another local favourite – Umami Sushi (which is headed up by Bo Zhang, the acclaimed sushi chef from the Food Lover’s Market group).

In terms of art, there are some many interesting studios and work spaces to wander through – including the likes of Bianca L Art Studio, Francoise V Gallery and Interiors, Heartwing Studio, La Belle Armoire, Lindsay Quirk Art Studio, Purely Porcelain, Rodney Band, The Studio Art Gallery, and Zoe Mafham Art.

Then of course there is the straight up shopping experiences to be had, encompassing all types of small quirky ventures, including hairstylists, a florist, a wine stockist, booksellers and of course quirky clothing providers!

Oh, and a well stocked farm stall to boot.

It is not just shopping and eating at Imhoff Farm mind you – given that this is a very family friendly attraction, there are quite a few options for play as well: like the snake park, the Higgeldy Piggeldy animal farmyard, horse riding, a 4×4 offroading track, the milkwood maze, and even a paintball & laser-tag arena!

So, as you might assume then, this really is a good spot for a family outing.

As you can imagine then, despite the few drops of rain that arrived out of nowhere during our visit back in February last year, we had a right ball – basically making this a pretty hard place not to recommend if you ever find yourself with your kids in the fascinating/quirky little village of Kommetjie.

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Worth noting: One of the current trends in responsible tourism is of course a reduction in animal interactions – which has very much affected the Imhoff Farm experience since we last visited. These days the Higgeldy Piggeldy farmyard doesn’t allow for any petting of the smaller animals like their rabbits and guinea pigs, and sadly the popular camel rides are also no more (the camels were relocated to the Overberg). Not massive deal breakers of course (there is still enough to entertain the kids with after all), but a pity for those of us with little kids nonetheless.

Related Link: Imhoff Farm | Kommetjie