Waffles and Ice Cream at Ikigai in Swellendam (2021-01-13) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 01 MAR 2021

Emily was not exactly thrilled to learn that we would be away on holiday in Swellendam when her 7th birthday rolled in on the 13 January this year. There would of course not have been any birthday party given the current Covid-19 pandemic situation, but still, she was counting on least some form of celebration that involved a Helderberg Cake Company cake, her cousins, and a swim in at least my parent’s or sister’s big swimming pool. (Thankfully our little cottage at Aan de Heuvel had a splash pool, so we kind of covered at least one of those bases!)

So we did wake her with Spar-bought cupcakes, birthday candles, a happy birthday song, and a small present or two (yay LEGO!), followed by a Bontebok seeking drive in the nearby Bontebok National Park, but of course none of those were quite what she was looking for. That said, she did rather perk up when we announced that we were off in search of waffles and ice cream at Ikigai, Swellendam’s premier artisan coffee bar and deli.

Surrounded by planter boxes and featuring a fresh wood facade, Ikigai (which has a little more space than its express sister over in Riversdale) has this wonderful metropolitan feel to it thanks to its modern aesthetic and interior decor. The carefully chosen art and design elements look like something you would find in a funky Cape Town neighbourhood, and the menu selection certainly matches that with an array of artisan coffees, milkshakes, smoothies and even booster shots. A fun breakfast menu, delicious sandwiches and bowls, and of course a selection of treats such as cookies, cakes, and brownies, complement the drinks selection. That said, we were of course there for pretty much one thing and one thing only – Waffles with ice cream!

Klein Karoo Fynbos at Badensfontein in Montagu (2020-10-25) Accommodation | Photo Gallery 28 FEB 2021

Clearly last year with the deadly Covid-19 pandemic raging across the globe was not the year to do much going away in. In fact, with the various rules, regulations and lockdowns in place, nipping out for a holiday was not exactly possible for the longest of times anyway, which is then probably why when the gap did finally open to do so, we seized the opportunity to zip out for a quick week long holiday at the very nice and quiet, pretty secluded and thus social distanced, Badensfontein farm, situated on the outskirts of Montagu on the edge of the Klein Karoo.

A beautiful family owned farm nestled in the Baden Valley, Badensfontein is situated a mere 5 km outside Montagu (just passed the famous Montagu Springs) and apart from its array of vineyards offers both camping and self-catering accommodation on its ample grounds. Managing to have cultivated a large lush lawn of green grass in the very semi arid surrounding environment, Badensfontein has crafted a perfect spot for people with tents, though it does also offer luxury tent accommodation plus of course the self-catering cottages which we were by far the most interested in.

Our cute little cottage was called Duiker, and nestled in among the fynbos on the slopes of a hill, it had exactly everything that we were looking for. Tranquility, views, an outdoor braai, a stoep, excellent WiFi, trails to walk, a host of giant geckos living behind all the paintings, and down at the bottom of the camp site a small but very refreshing splash pool which my girls basically lived in for the duration of our stay. (That said, when we first lifted the cover off the pool we had a good giggle – the girls had to share the tiny pool with a rather large frog!)

As it turned out, we were the only people staying at Badensfontein for the majority of our stay, and while Chantelle wasn’t there from start to finish (as always the Helderberg Cake Company had cakes to bake!), as a family this getaway from the confines of our little home back in Gordon’s Bay was exactly what we had needed. Lots of braais, games of Jenga and Go Fish!, colouring-in, walking, and splashing in the pool was very much the order of the day.

Springbok Venison at Tangram at Durbanville Hills Wine Estate (2021-02-24) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 27 FEB 2021

Generally when the core Touchwork team gets together for lunch it is always someplace in the Steenberg/Westlake region of Cape Town, which makes completes sense given that it is both the area where our office resides as well as where everyone but me is actually based. I’ve been working as a software developer for the company since 2007, and although we were a decent sized team for a fair while, it’s actually now been a number of years that I’ve been working completely alone, developing, maintaining, and managing our Kinetica SaaS platform.

This is perfectly fine of course, primarily because Kinetica is something that I created more than 10 years ago and thus have a personal vested interest in seeing it stay alive and thriving, but in the time of a deadly global pandemic it goes without saying that it is a lot smarter to have some backup just in case things do go… wrong. Pleasingly we found a young, enthusiastic, Durbanville-based developer to join our team and so, while we patiently wait out his notice period, headed out to lunch for our first ever face to face meeting.

This then is how we found ourselves travelling to the outskirts of Durbanville to Tangram on the Durbanville Hills wine estate, a lovely, award winning restaurant at the top of the winery, which itself is perched on the top of a hill with a view in pretty much all directions – including that iconic one of Table Mountain as it stands looming over Cape Town on the edge of Table Bay. Durbanville Hills is of course known for its very popular range of wines, much of which owes it character to its closeness to the sea air, balanced with the warm airflow around the hills, as well as the soil of the area, but interestingly enough, it doesn’t really have any history behind it, having only really been established in the 1990’s when seven or so grape farmers from the area decided to band together with the help of Distell to found the cellar as a joint venture and thus start producing wines on a commercial scale.

In terms of the restaurant experience, it is actually quite a lovely one. Passing through the wine tasting section and the Dylan Lewis leopard sculpture guarded cellar at the bottom, you ascend the stairs to reach the Tangram’s dining hall, all modernly outfitted with a warm touch and neat aesthetic, and of course featuring a lot of big glass panel to make the most of the view on offer. (There is also a bastille which you can walk out on to get a view over the vineyards, Table Bay, Cape Town, and Table Mountain in the distance, though my suggestion would be to wait a little until the cooler months when the dusty brown grass of summer gives way to something far more luscious green.)

Some excellent wine, good company, a delectable pork belly starter, and a sumptuous springbok venison main then all nicely came together to make for an exceptionally enjoyable experience, even if quite removed from our usual stomping grounds.

A Seal at Harbour Island in Gordon’s Bay (2020-10-24) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 26 FEB 2021

Back in October Jessica took the rare opportunity to join one of her besties for a little birthday celebration lunch, to be held at the lovely Gordon’s Bay branch of Ocean Basket, which is perched in a corner on the edge of the water next to the sea wall of the new harbour. Dragging Emily with for the drop-off on what was quite a misty, overcast day, we dutifully dropped Jessica off with Lisa and her dads and then promptly strolled out along the harbour wall.

Mind you, Emily was very keen not for us too dawdle to much on this particular stretch of our mini walk thanks to all the water routinely splashing over the tops of the dolosse guarding the boats moored in the harbour. There were one or two souls trying their hand at catching a fish in the water, but whether or not they had any luck given that seal happily cruising around the still harbour water is anyone’s guess.

The new harbour (Gordon’s Bay has two functional harbours), if you aren’t familiar with it, is encompassed by the upmarket Harbour Island development, a residential marina that offers homes, apartments and both land, sea and beach recreational facilities, rounding it all out with a commercial section that features a couple of restaurants and small businesses like Bertie’s Moorings and Antonio’s Pizza Place, as well as a hotel with convention facilities in the form of the surprisingly nice Krystal Beach hotel (which for the record is also home to two restaurants, a cocktail lounge and a wine emporium).

Apart from all the pretty sailboats and beautiful catamarans (like the DreamCatcher) to look at, Krystal Beach hotel is itself actually rather nice to meander through. Some pleasant architecture and the always very interesting to browse Ndiza art gallery (not to mention the always possible prospect of maybe some cake and tea from the downstairs bar/eatery) means that this probably isn’t the worst of places to be dropping your kid off for a birthday party at.

Burgers at The Orchard in Grabouw (2021-01-03) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 25 FEB 2021

Having spent the whole morning at Adene’s Farm Flowers out in Wolseley, we took a leisurely long scenic drive back home, heading through Villiersdorp with an eye on eventually grabbing lunch from The Hickory Shack, a particularly excellent smokehouse on the outskirts of Grabouw. However, on arrival at the skull mounted shed in the Elgin Valley, we were disappointed to find Hickory Shack rather super busy – in other words, super not okay to visit during this current Covid-19 pandemic. Saddened, we pointed our nose back in the direction of Sir Lowry’s Pass and tried our luck next with a visit to Rojaal. Damn, it turns out that they have since been forced out of business thanks to all the crippling lockdowns.

Okay, no worries, we then hopped over to the ever popular Peregrine Farm Stall in the hopes of scoring lunch. Ah, should have known that with an adjective like ‘popular’ in that previous sentence, Peregrine would also be outrageously packed with people in this time of the Coronavirus! Right, so properly disillusioned now (with moans of hunger surrounding me), I threw my last dice and pulled up at The Orchard, another one of Grabouw’s famous on the N2 farm stalls.

Success at last! Almost completely devoid of people (bad for the business of course, but excellent for us), The Orchard ticked all the right boxes. Little to no people to have to work our way through, a lunch menu, and that all important option of sitting outside in the fresh air to eat. (The availability of grass to run on and things to clamber over for the kids was discounted given how hot it was on the day. You would have ended up with 3rd degree burns if you went down a jungle gym slide!)

The Orchard’s farm stall section itself is actually worth mentioning. It is particular spacious, well stocked with all the things that you would expect from a farm stall, and has a delightful array of home bakes and other sweet things to take back with you on the road. In terms of the eatery section, the menu is uncomplicated but features a little something for everyone, and on this particular outing pretty much everyone ended up having either a chicken or beef burger with fries on their plates.

So although it wasn’t originally on our lunch time venue list, The Orchard definitely stepped up to the plate for us, and honestly, sitting at a table shaded by a tree with no one one around was absolutely perfect. Definitely not looking for ‘vibe’ at least until the vaccination rollout is well and truly underway!

Snapping Colourful Photos of the Bo-Kaap in Cape Town (2021-01-24) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 24 FEB 2021

Formerly known as the Malay Quarter, the Bo-Kaap is technically a former township situated on the slopes of Signal Hill above the city centre of Cape Town. One of the main historical centres of Cape Malay culture in Cape Town, the multicultural Bo-Kaap has since garnered big tourist attention for its extremely brightly coloured homes and cobble stoned streets, with the added attraction of the area containing the largest concentration of pre-1850 architecture in South Africa – making it one of the oldest surviving residential neighbourhoods in the Cape.

Featuring a mix of Cape Dutch and Georgian architecture, the Bo-Kaap’s origins date back to the 1760s when numerous “huurhuisjes” (rental houses) were built and leased to slaves. These people were known as Cape Malays, and were brought from Malaysia, Indonesia and the rest of Africa to work in the Cape. The distinctive splash of colour that makes this particular neighbourhood stand out as much as it does is said to be attributed to the fact that while on lease, all the houses had to be white. When this rule was eventually lifted, and the slaves were allowed to buy the properties, all the houses were painted bright colours by their owners as an expression of their freedom.

With an incredibly strong percentage of Islamic population (upwards of 56% of its inhabitants identify as Muslim), the Bo-Kaap is home to a surprisingly large (given its relatively compact size) number of mosques – nine in total. Of particular interest is the Auwal Mosque, recognized as the first established and thus oldest mosque in South Africa. Dating back to 1768, the oldest house left standing in the Bo-Kaap also serves as the official Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum, and is a must stop if you are interested in learning more about this very distinctive neighbourhood and the history of its people.

Although primarily a residential neighbourhood (living admittedly in the shadow of ever encroaching gentrification), there are a few businesses, coffee shops and an art gallery or two to pop into, with the most famous of these probably being the Atlas Trading Company, a family owned store that has been operating since 1946 and which is renowned for its selection of sensational spices, rice and other rare products from around the world. That said though, 99% of visitors are there for pretty much one thing only – taking lots of photos of people’s very colourful homes!

USA 2019 – 09 The Metro and Union Station in Washington DC (2019-10-26) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 23 FEB 2021

We obviously don’t really have any true underground rapid transit metro subway here in South Africa (unless you count the 15 km long underground stretch of the Gautrain network as one), meaning then that my first interaction with the Washington Metro and its now six lines, 91 stations, and 188 km of route, really did bring out a good and proper smile from me. What can I say, I enjoy experiencing transport engineering.

Engineering aside, an added bonus is definitely that many of the older Metro stations, designed by Chicago architect Harry Weese, are an absolute visual delight to behold, a perfect example of late 20th century modern architecture with aspects of Brutalist design (thanks to the heavy use of exposed concrete and repetitive design motifs) mixed in with Washington’s de facto neoclassical architectural style through the stations’ imposing overarching coffered ceiling vaults. (Additionally, in an effort to lighten up these rather grey and stoic spaces, the metro stations themselves all tend to feature different art on the mezzanine levels above the fare machines, generally visible as you move to exit any station). It must be said that the stations have a pretty good signage system, seem to run pretty much on schedule, and pleasingly proved super easy to use – even for someone as navigationally challenged as myself!

One of the jewels of the system is the massive Washington Union Station, a major train station, transportation hub, and leisure destination all rolled into one. Opened in 1907, the incredibly busy Union Station is an intermodal facility, home to Amtrak and its rail network as well as servicing the MARC and VRE commuter rail services, the Washington Metro (which is how I ended up there), the DC Streetcar, intercity bus lines, and the local Metrobus busses. It is worth noting that it was only in 1988 that a headhouse wing was added and the original station renovated for use as a shopping mall, thus giving the station its current and very distinctive form. So, given its prime location as an intersection of so many travel options it is no wonder then that Union Station ranks as one of the United States’ busiest rail facilities and shopping destinations – with over 40 million visitors per year!

Due to Union Station’s proximity to the United States Capitol (just five blocks away), architects Daniel H. Burnham and Pierce Anderson worked hard to make this station a massive grandiose architectural triumph, incorporating an incredible array of neoclassical and Beaux-Arts style influenced elements to bring their vision to life – from the triumphal arch entrance, the 26 interior centurions looking down upon you, the six colossal exterior statues by Louis St. Gaudens (modeled on the Dacian prisoners of the Arch of Constantine), to the great vaulted spaces such as those of the Baths of Diocletian, as well as of course the inclusion of expensive materials such as marble, gold leaf, and white granite in the finishing.

Fronted by the Columbus Circle plaza and its impressive fountain, the Washington Union Station with all its architecture, commerce, and people truly is a spectacle to behold – even if done while sitting down and munching on something as mundane as a food court Johnny Rockets burger. Sigh, stupid South African Rand to the US Dollar exchange rate!

USA 2019 – 08 Pandas at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC (2019-10-26) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 22 FEB 2021

So having spent the previous afternoon happily exploring the area around the national mall, taking in architecture, statues and so, so many memorials, I changed the pace a little the next morning and headed out northwest via Washington D.C.’s relatively pretty subway stations, exiting at Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan and then taking the short uphill stroll to stop in front of the concrete lion guarded entrance of the National Zoological Park, aka the Smithsonian National Zoo.

Located at the sprawling Rock Creek Park, the National Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the United States, having been founded all the way back in 1889. Covering an area of 66 ha, this zoo is even larger than the immense San Diego Zoo (40 ha) which I visited back in 2016, and is home to around 2700 or so animals, spread over 390 different species – a fifth of which are on either the globally endangered or threatened species list. (And yes, because this is part of the Smithsonian Institution, entrance to the zoo is completely free.)

So as you might imagine then, with that amount of space and animals at its disposal, the National Zoo demands a fair bit of your time to take a stroll through. The zoo experience is made up of a whole heap of interconnected themed spaces that you can move between, including the various trails like the Asia Trail, Elephant Trails, the American Trail, Amazonia, and Lion and Tiger Hill, as well as big standalone exhibits like the Giant Panda Habitat, the Great Ape House, Think Tank, Cheetah Conservation Station, Gibbon Ridge, the Reptile Discovery Center, the Bird House, Lemur Island and the Small Mammal House. There’s also the children specific attraction The Kids’ Farm – useful if just seeing all these wonderfully exotic creatures isn’t quite enough to hold their attention for the full day!

Discounting the African species which we have enough of back home, the National Zoo definitely held a couple of personal animal highlights for me – like the incredibly floofy Giant Panda, the goofy looking Sloth Bear, and the stoic, powerful American Bison. The Orangutans were delightful (the “O Line” crossing is wonderful to behold), Arapaimas incredibly unusual in shape and size, and of course, just as they did for us back in Kyoto, the adorable Red Pandas totally stole the show.

In addition to all the exotic (for me) animals on display, given that Washington D.C. was starting to move into Autumn territory at the time of my visit, the incredible mass of trees that also call the zoo home were all starting to undergo their colour transformation – leading to an even greater visual experience for me seeing as this isn’t a spectacle that I ever get to witness back home in the Mediterranean climate profile that is Cape Town. (In other words, I took a LOT of time wandering about the zoo with a very big goofy grin on my face.)

The weather was nice and cool, the clouds meant that it wasn’t a sweaty affair, and a little cloudburst served to inject a little extra entertainment into the proceedings. And of course I took photos. Lots and lots of photos…

Eggs Benedict and Coffee at Famous Bean in Gordon’s Bay (2021-02-15) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 21 FEB 2021

Monday saw the girls finally return to Gordon’s Bay Primary School after an INCREDIBLY long December school holiday break thanks to the current Covid-19 pandemic. Of course it is safe to say that we DEFINITELY weren’t the only parents to celebrate this return to relative normality by immediately heading out for a breakfast bite following the big 1st day of school drop-off. (Also, to add to the fun, it just so happened to be Emily’s first day of Grade 1, meaning that we are now officially released from the baby school phase of our parenting lives. In other words, even more reason to celebrate!)

Sadly, the popular Gordon’s Bay eatery that was the Old Cape Café (situated across Gordon’s Bay main beach in the Old Cape Café Mall) didn’t survive the devastating Coronavirus Lockdowns of 2019, but fortunately an eager newcomer has stepped in to fill its shoes in the form of a Famous Bean franchise trading under the name of Famous Bean @ Cape Café.

Naturally, as part of the Famous Bean company, the freshly roasted coffee on offer is fantastic, and pleasingly the food offering is pretty good too. On this particular morning both Chantelle and I indulged in some lovely eggs benedict with coffee for breakfast, and I am happy to report that all was good. Sadly the wind was a little too nippy to encourage us to sit out on the deck, but seeing as we live right here in Gordon’s Bay, its not like we don’t already know the view! ;)