Japan Day 2017 at Blaauwklippen Family Market in Stellenbosch (2017-03-12) Markets | Photo Gallery 10 SEP 2017

Back in March of this year, the local Japanese Embassy hosted their fifth annual Japan Day celebrations in the form of a Japanese-themed, entertainment-filled market day in conjunction with the weekly Blaauwklippen Family Market in Stellenbosch (who themselves LOVE hosting themed market days anyway!).

Now we as a family love the Blaauwklippen Market thanks to it being such a great, family friendly affair (besides, Catje’s Pancakes makes hands down, the best pancakes found at any of our local markets!), and so the addition of even more free (and Japanese-themed!) entertainment made it a proper no-brainer to visit on the day.

So that’s exactly what the girls and I then did.

We first kicked things off with a bit of a stroll around the lovely, historic Blaauwklippen Estate, admiring the white Cape Dutch-styled walls (well in truth, only I was admiring, the girls were busy picking up leaves and acorns),  and reveling in the breathtaking mountain views on offer from the estate.

Next we picked our way past the horde of international tourists (there for the wine and not the market), before picking a spot and settling down in front of the main stage.

The event kicked off with some words from the Japanese Ambassador and the KFM DJ hosts, followed by some energetic drumming from the always entertaining Tamashi Daiko taiko drumming troupe.

Following that, we browsed through the entire market, lingering past all the unusual Japanese food and craft exhibition stalls, before stopping for a fair bit in front of the Judo exhibition mat, something Jessica ended up taking quite an interest in!

As expected, we feasted on pancakes, bought some kids story books, and then ended off our market visit with some time spent hanging around the kids play area, with the girls enjoying pony rides and of course a trip on the ever present Blaauwtrein quadbike train ride!

In other words, yet another perfect market day outing.

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(Honestly, Blaauwklippen is always nice to visit, regardless of whether you are there for the market or for some wine tasting and fine dining.)

Related Link: Blaauwklippen Family Market | Blaauwklippen Wine Estate | Office of Consul of Japan in Cape Town

Burger and Chips at the Blue Crane Farm Shop in Heidelberg (2017-03-17) Farm Stalls | Photo Gallery 09 SEP 2017

Alongside the N2, lying just on the outskirts of Heidelberg (and conspicuous thanks to the bright blue roof), is the Blue Crane Farm Shop, a long time favourite with travellers tackling the long road between the Garden Route and Cape Town.

Home to a proper farm stall selling all kinds of home made goodies and baked treats, Blue Crane is also a small restaurant, serving a selection of simple but delicious foods – making it a great stop if your stomach is bugging you to take a break from your roadtrip.

Jessica and I stopped there for the very first time back in March this year, and we both loved the little treats on offer, colourful walls, and the superb mural decorating the wall of one of the main dining rooms.

Also, their blue cheese burger was rather nice! ;)

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Great little spot to stop and stretch your legs if you don’t feel like the hustle and bustle that inevitably comes with pulling over in a town whilst on the N2.

Bonus: Seeing as we were on that road anyway, I decided to do an impromptu turn off at the now defunct (and ghost town feeling) bungee jump station at Gouritz River Bridge.

This was the first (and super popular) Bungee Jump station in South Africa, and operated for about 18 years, before shutting up shop for good in 2008 over safety concerns stemming from the rusted, crumbling infrastructure on which both the bungee and rope swinging operations depended on.

Related Link: The Blue Crane | Heidelberg

The Drought-affected water level of Theewaterskloof Dam near Villiersdorp (2017-03-05) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 04 SEP 2017

Six months ago, on an impromptu Sunday afternoon drive, Chantelle and I passed by Theewaterskloof Dam and of course stopped to take photos of the very noticeably almost empty dam.

(In case you aren’t familiar with it, the Theewaterskloof Dam, established in 1978, is the largest dam in the Western Cape and forms a major component of the Western Cape Water Supply System.)

As the months passed and the drought worsened, things like saving the lawn were quickly forgotten, and instead Chantelle and I focused on using less water than normal, the end result being an average monthly use for our household of around 4-6 kilolitres.

What that translates into is less bathing for the girls, less showering for us, and using bathwater to refill the toilet cistern. Also, we don’t wash cars, or bother with anything in the garden either.

So not particularly pleasant or convenient, but certainly effective.

Our rainy season has now technically come and gone, and although there was at least some rain, it still wasn’t particularly much, meaning that this coming summer is going to be pretty scary for the City of Cape Town if its population can’t get it into their heads to do even more to save water.

One can only imagine what Theewaterskloof Dam will look like next March.

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Bonus: A lot of local drone enthusiasts and vloggers have of course been documenting this phenomenon. This particular video was put together by Adam Spires, and gives you a much better view (and bird’s eye view) of the dam as it more or less currently stands:

Here’s a map in case you feel like driving out to see for yourself.

Related Link: Theewaterskloof Dam | City of Cape Town: Water Restrictions

Eisbein and German Cuisine at Im Eimer in Somerset West (2017-06-13) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 23 AUG 2017

There is a very unusual pub/restaurant lurking on the outskirts of Somerset West, close to the border of Sir Lowry’s Pass Village. It’s a German pub (which in itself is not unusual given the high levels of German ancestry throughout Somerset West) called Im Eimer, and what I find strange about the whole setup is despite its rather unwelcoming, rundown exterior (and rust filled interior), the restaurant is MASSIVELY popular  with the locals.

The name “Im Eimer” translates directly into “in the bucket” a saying which refers to items that are ‘kaput’, i.e. have reached the end of their useful life and have been tossed aside.

With that in mind, the restaurant is itself home to many old, broken odds and ends, or as some people put it, antiques. Also, there is the literal bucket hanging on the wall, a 100 year old rusted relic that was used to dig a well on Auas Sued in South West Africa near Bethanien in 1894.

You get the idea then. Im Eimer is a name that suits the look and feel of this place rather well then.

The thing is, the restaurant is known for its excellent German menu, with many people praising its authentic German cuisine (and of course, beer), with the Eisbein in particular always getting a rousing mention.

Of course, with all that praise for their tasty pork knuckle,  it was therefore essential for Chantelle and myself to give it a go – which is then exactly what we did come one lunch time back in June of this year.

Pro tip: It is definitely a good idea to phone ahead if you are going to be ordering the Eisbein – preparing one as you might imagine does take a fair while!

We of course didn’t, giving us a good hour or so to first sit, drink and take in the unique… setting/decorations.

The good news is that, served with sauerkraut, mustard, and mash, the Eisbein is indeed well, WELL worth the wait.

So yeah, that was a surprise. Definitely one of those classic ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ cases!

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Bonus: Im Eimer makes a quick little feature towards the end of Cape Town Tourism’s “Love Cape Town Neighbourhoods Series: Somerset West” YouTube video (around the 04:00 mark):

So, worth a visit, even if it is just for the Eisbein!

Related Link: Im Eimer | Somerset West

Lunch at The Orchard Farm Stall in Grabouw (2017-03-11) Farm Stalls | Photo Gallery 13 AUG 2017

The plan had originally been for me to have lunch with the girls over at the Elgin Grabouw Country Club in Grabouw. However, that plan was abruptly put paid to on discovery of one lone “beware of snakes” signboard at the country club, meaning that a new plan was now hastily required – which is exactly then how we ended up for lunch at the nearby The Orchard Farm Stall instead.

I’ve actually stopped here numerous times in the past, thanks to The Orchard usually being a lot less busy than the popular Peregrine Farm Stall down the road.

(Honestly, it is just as worthwhile a stop as its more famous competitor farm stall!)

What’s particularly nice about The Orchard is its huge patch of lawn stretched out in front of the restaurant area, meaning plenty of run around space for the kids, thereby ensuring a reasonably good chance of being able to sit quietly and enjoy an ice cold beer.

(Incidentally, the Hermanus produced Old Harbour Beer is a pretty good craft beer, just in case you aren’t sure on what to have when there).

The farm stall itself, billed as the The Orchard Elgin Country Market, is superbly well stocked, with plenty of interesting produce and home industry items to cast your eye on, with the ambiance on whole being pretty friendly and pretty laid back.

Also, because The Orchard usually makes an effort in terms of providing some things for the kids to do (in this case a jumping castle and quadbike train rides), the girls were pretty satisfied with my hastily revised plan on the day.

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All in all, a great space to stretch the legs if you are on the road with little kids.

Related Link: The Orchard Farm Stall

Lunch at Antonio’s Pizza Place in Gordon’s Bay (2017-03-16) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 12 AUG 2017

Back in March this year, Jessica and I embarked upon a nice long weekend away to Pinnacle Point, Mossel Bay. In fear of the rain spiders that lurk there over this time of year, Chantelle opted not to join us, and so, the day before we were to leave, we decided to have a special lunch for some Chantelle and Jessie time, i.e. sans the mommy attention hoarding Emily!

Having heard people talk favourably about the place in the past, we decided to give Antonio’s Pizza Place a shot for the first time.

Tucked in between the Krystal Beach Hotel and the more famous Bertie’s Moorings restaurant on the boardwalk section of the Harbour Island development (also home to a particularly good Ocean Basket offering), Antonio’s Pizza Place is known for serving up particularly cheesy pizza – which turns out is absolutely true about them.

In all honesty, I’m not a major fan of such a lot of cheese on my pizza, but given the view that comes along with it, it is hard to say that a visit to the vibey Antonio’s doesn’t make for a nice outing.

As it turned out, that particular Thursday ended up being quite a busy day for myself and the girls – After picking up Emily from school it was time for some play at the always pleasant Pollock Park in Gordon’s Bay, followed by a nice sunset stroll along Strand beach.

(Complete with hilarious no walking construction sign in the middle of the sea).

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Anyway, back to Antonio’s. In summary, expect loads of melted cheese with a pretty pleasant view.

Related Link: Antonio’s Pizza Place | Gordon’s Bay

Sand and Waves at Oyster Bay Reserve Beach in Mossel Bay (2017-03-18) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 09 AUG 2017

On the outskirts of Mossel Bay, tucked between the residential townships of Dana Bay, Kwa Nonquaba, Pinnacle Point and Heiderand, is the Oyster Bay Reserve, a 330 hectare botanical nature reserve.

Established with the intention to conserve, preserve and educate through a variety of community projects, the Oyster Bay Reserve is also home to a number of hiking trails, the most famous of those running through it being of course the St Blaize Hiking Trail, the 13.5  kilometer long trail that stretches from the St Blaize Lighthouse (Mossel Bay) all the way through to Dana Bay.

The Pinnacle Point Estate (my dad has a fractional ownership in one of the gorgeous houses there) has direct access to the tiny, tucked away Oyster Bay Beach (complete with a 24 hour guard station), a sliver of friendly sand in between the otherwise rugged (and often misty) coastline.

Accessible via golf cart (as is pretty much everything else in Pinnacle Point), this quiet, unspoiled little bit of sand is the perfect escape if you have little kids, and want to avoid the often more busy beaches that come along with a drive through to Mossel Bay.

Jessica and I joined my mom and dad for a long weekend away at their place in Pinnacle Point back in March this year, and of course, play time in the sand with Grandpa and Daddy was very much in demand from my little girl.

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(And yes, as always, Jessica remains terrified of the actual sea – meaning that when it came to building a moat around our sandcastle, fetching buckets of water was very much left in dad’s and my domain!)

A tiny, hidden little gem then.

Related Link: Oyster Bay Reserve | Pinnacle Point | Mossel Bay

A Visit to Hartenbos via the Diaz Express from Santos Beach, Mossel Bay (2017-01-02) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 06 AUG 2017

At the start of this year, while away for a bit of a break in Gouritz, I took a drive out to Mossel Bay in order to treat the girls with a ride aboard the cute, tourist friendly Diaz Express.

In a nutshell, the Diaz Express is a fun rail experience that takes a resurrected Type 40 Mark II Wickham Inspection Trolley and then sends it along for a run on the existing Garden Route Transnet rail network, between the seaside resorts of Great Brak River and Mossel Bay.

During peak holiday season, the Diaz Express runs the shorter hop from Mossel Bay to Hartenbos, and this then was the one that the girls and I caught a ride on.

The day that we headed out was unfortunately a bit of an overcast, drizzly affair, though that said, the slightly gloomy weather was nowhere near strong enough to dampen the excitement of the girls when they first laid eyes on the cute little blue ‘train’ sitting next to its station deck outside the venerable Santos Express train lodge above Santos Beach.

The short ride was a blast (the girls LOVED it), and once deposited at the Hartenbos train station, the girls and I then strolled down to the main entertainment hub of this iconic Afrikaaner seaside holiday escape, where we mingled with the crowd, taking in the sights and sounds of a LOT of people who, despite the weather, were clearly enjoying their December break!

Unfortunately for us, the weather was just a little too gloomy to allow for some play time down on the beach, so instead we found ourselves wandering around a bit more, snacking on treats here and there, and of course, watching everyone else, seeming impervious to the weather, having a holiday ball.

(Seriously, there was parasailing of all things on the go!)

Finally, we stumbled across a funfair ride that the girls simply wouldn’t let me pass (I tried), and most importantly, one that I would let both of them ride. In other words, the highlight of the day’s outing then.

Watching the clock, we made our way back to the Hartenbos platform, just in time to catch our ride back aboard the Diaz Express. (This time around, the journey was slightly wetter but a little more noisy – thanks to our friendly conductor having a great time entertaining all the kids by pressing the hooter every time someone’s nose got touched!)

All in all, a fun outing that I’ll definitely be doing again with the girls (and probably grandparents) I imagine.

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Bonus: While grabbing some links for this post, I came across this nice little video detailing the longer and much nicer Mossel Bay to Great Brak excursion, courtesy of local South African travel writer “Travelbug” Rose Bilbrough.

Looks fantastic!

Related Link: Diaz Express | Hartenbos | Mossel Bay

Things to See in South Africa: Sandboarding on the Atlantis Sand Dunes Travel Attractions 05 AUG 2017

It takes about 30 minutes to reach the Atlantis sand dunes, driving north west out of Cape Town’s city center. The ever-shifting, up to 35 meters high, sand dunes are an important conservation area, protecting the Atlantis Aquifer which supplies water for the Atlantis area.

Sandboarding has become quite a popular adventure sport in Cape Town and given Atlantis’ vast field of dunes and proximity to the city, quite a few Cape Town based adventure operators now operate out on these dunes (with strict regulations to ensure that all who use the dunes keep conservation well in mind of course!).

The soft sands found in the Western Cape allow sandboarders to reach considerable speed and to perform a variety of tricks, making this an adrenaline sport suitable for both beginners and thrill-seeking enthusiasts alike.

(The dunes are also home to other adventure sports like quadbiking and 4×4 handling).

To get a better feel of what to expect, the guys over at Travelvids (a Cape Town based travel video training and production outfit) put together this video of the experience:

Home to interesting plant species and birds like the Black Harrier, these Cape Town dunes are certainly a great example of how adventure tourism and conservation can coincide.

Related Link: Sandboarding | Atlantis | Travelvids.tv