Gripped by this unusually long period of drought, I noted that Paardevlei was already bone dry back in April when the girls and I paid a visit to the nearby Cheetah Outreach wildlife sanctuary. (Not that this is all that unusual mind you. The very definition of vlei is that it is a shallow, minor lake, mostly of seasonal or intermittent nature.)
We have of course since then endured a relatively mild and not so wet winter period, and pleasingly the vlei of Paardevlei was back to its wet (and bird inhabited) self by July already.
(And, as you might be able to see if you squint into the background of some of the photos in the gallery below, we even had a couple of days of snow-capped mountains to enjoy!)
Seeing as I needed to stretch my legs for a bit, I bribed the girls to come with me and after stocking up on snacks and a new game for the house, we entered through Paardevlei’s entrance boom, parked by Cheetah Outreach and started our stroll along the nature walk along the vlei.
As always, there was plenty of grumbling from the little one for a lot of the walk, though thankfully the constant sight of the bag of snacks in my hand was more than enough motivation for her to continue walking and for me not to have to carry her on my shoulders!
(That said, pretty much the first bench that we encountered was thus designated snack bench by the two salivating girls at my side…)
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Not that the girls wanted to hang out bird-watching by the vlei for too long mind you – they were way, WAY more excited at the prospect of returning home to try out the new game of Hungry Hippo that we had picked up from Toys R Us a little earlier on our drive!
(Hint: It was a very, very successful buy.)
So, a decent way to spend a Sunday afternoon in July then.
Twenty years strong now, Cheetah Outreach (now at Paardevlei as opposed to their original Spier stomping grounds) continues their mission to raise awareness around, and campaign for, the survival of the free ranging Southern African cheetah.
They do this through a broad range of projects, like funding and coordinating a South African Cheetah Anatolian Shepherd Guard dog project, delivering natural science and literacy resources embracing environmental education into less advantaged schools, sponsoring teacher training workshops, supporting range research of free-ranging cheetah, and finally financing curriculum-linked school outreach trips and Bus 2 Us on site education visits.
They have a large number of hand-reared, captive born cheetahs which they use as ambassadors – acting essentially as representatives of the endangered free-ranging cheetah, which then provides the public with the opportunity to see, learn about, and then meet this majestic and fascinating species face to face.
The girls and I ambled into Cheetah Outreach one late afternoon last month, and spent some time walking around all the enclosures to take in the collection of bat eared foxes, black backed jackals, servals, caracals, meerkats, and Anatolian shepherd dogs, before heading up the amusingly named Cat Scan viewing deck to watch a couple of tourists being guided through their animal encounter session with the cheetahs.
The girls were of course totally enamoured by the two furry cheetah cubs pacing around (as well as the feeding of the bat eared foxes), though as per usual, annoyingly they found the stuffed toys of the curio shop by far the most interesting bit of all!
I was surprised to encounter Cheetah Outreach’s very unusual stance of essentially allowing you into their grounds for basically free (I paid R15 for all three of us to walk around!), meaning that if you just want to show your kids what a cheetah looks like (and go on a quick guided tour), it’s not going to cost you any real money.
Animal encounters is of course where the the actual money making happens, and there are a number of different encounters, walks and runs available to choose from.
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Animal sanctuaries/education centers that offer encounters are as always a contentious issue for a lot of people, but if you have kids like I do then undoubtedly you will appreciate the fact that they exist – teaching a child about something standing right in front of them is always going to be better than trying to explain off a printed page or some animated screen.
P.S. The lovely body of water that is the Paardevlei is currently completely dried up. So much so that there are now buck grazing where once there were flocks of flamingos!
Related Link: Cheetah Outreach
Unfortunately for the traders, thanks to a particularly blustery wind on the day, the number of visitors were a bit on the short side – but when you are being accompanied by two energetic little girls running about on either side of you, then I find that quieter is usually better! ;)
Jessica’s first tooth had officially fallen out, and so the idea was to treat her to something nice at the market – which was why I was particularly ecstatic when we spotted the stall selling softserve ice cream!
I’m not sure, it did look like perhaps the number of traders is slightly less than the last few times that I visited the Paardevlei Farmers Market, but on the whole I thought it a pretty good showing – quite a few varied and interesting stalls (mostly food, with a few arts/crafts and garden related vendors mixed in), and as always, the old warehouse was alive with the bustle and music one usually associates with one of these markets.
(In other words, always a better experience than a visit to the mall!)
Amazingly, after the girls had finished devouring their ice cream (which melted super quickly thanks to that wind!), I convinced them to head back inside, where I endeavoured to introduce them to the world of the bobotie jaffle.
Even more amazing was that Tannie Anna se bobotie jaffle turned out to be a surprising hit with both girls.
Who would have guessed…
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As always, a handy map to the market:
Related Link: Facebook
National Womens Day rolled around, which of course meant no work (it is an official South African public holiday after all) and thus, given the good weather, a chance to get out of the house and do a little bit of exploring.
Seeing as Chantelle had yet to stroll around the Paardevlei Nature Walk area in Paardevlei, Somerset West, I suggested that the four of us head out that way to do a spot of flamingo watching while getting some fresh air – an idea which both she and the girls were instantly onboard for!
With Spring just around the corner, a lot of wild flowers are now starting to bloom, with the end result being of course a more colourful than usual spectacle on show.
Sadly though, the flamingos were content to stay on the far side of the dam where we couldn’t get a decent look at them, but luckily there was still more than enough active bird life in among the reeds to entertain us – turning both Chantelle and I into somewhat amateur bird watchers for a wee bit!
Hairy worms were also in abundance, and the girls took great pleasure in pointing them out!
Amazingly, the little ones did a lot better this time around than the first time I did the walk with just the two of them, meaning that we made it further down the path – though of course it did eventually get too much for them resulting in piggyback rides for most of the trail back to the car.
As you can tell from the pictures, it really was a beautiful day to be out and about in nature, and pleasingly, Chantelle quite liked this little gem of a walk that the girls and I discovered – meaning that I’m pretty sure we’ll be heading out this way more than just a few times in the Spring and Summer months to come!
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(I have written about the Paardevlei area before, but just in case you haven’t caught those, the usual suspects in terms of related links can be found at the bottom of this post again)
With the breakfast pancakes made, a little bit of gardening done and dusted, a small bit of DIY under the belt, and the shopping mission now complete, I decided to continue our Youth Day 2016 public holiday by taking Jessica and Emily out for a walk about Paardevlei in Somerset West/Strand – something I myself was quite eager to do seeing as I haven’t yet strolled around the vlei either!
The historic Paardevlei site is in an interesting transition phase at the moment, slowly transforming itself from its industrial roots (a long time AECI dynamite factory complex) into a modern mix of small business and residential units (and an ultra modern hospital for good measure!), using its beautiful Herbert Baker and Francis Massey buildings (which date back to the late 1890s) and consequential design guides, as well as the natural beauty that comes from the relatively recently rehabilitated vlei (Paardevlei, from where the precinct takes it name), to potentially become a much sought after destination in the area.
With beautiful walkways lined with all manner of sculpture art, Paardevlei has a little Nature Walk section, the entrance to which can be found right next to the Cheetah Outreach Center. There are a lot of future plans for this nature walk of course, but for now, you have a small trail that runs around the vlei, dotted with seating areas and great views of the diverse bird life that populates the area.
A nice surprise is the large flock of flamingos that call the vlei home, and the girls and I rather enjoyed spending some time just sitting and watching these big birds go about their business in the water. Naturally, Jessica and Emily were very firm in the fact that there was no way we were going to walk the whole way around the vlei, so I had to make do with just part of the trail done!
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Oh, and the art sculptures are for the most part pretty interesting too!
If you are looking for a nice quiet spot to enjoy some good coffee and simple food close to the hustle and bustle of the Somerset Mall area, then Lorenzo Marx coffee bar in Paardevlei (right next to the Cheetah Outreach project) certainly hits the spot.
Paardevlei at the moment is a bit of a hidden gem, which means that you get beautiful surroundings and not much hustle and bustle to go alongside it – thus allowing you to truly take your time and soak in the dappled sunlight whilst enjoying an excellent cup of coffee at one of Lorenzo Marx’s comfortable outdoor tables.
The coffee shop/restaurant is relatively small and intimate, but comes with excellent service and great food. Certainly a stop that both Chantelle and I enjoyed!
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Related Link: Lorenzo Marx
After being closed for a bit thanks to problems with leases, liquor licences and who knows what else, I’m very pleased to see that our local Paardevlei Farmers Market has recently (and super successfully) relaunched – and I am happy to report that it is great to have them back in action!
I had paid a visit to the Paardevlei Farmers Market at its old location once or twice before, and ultimately despite the great buzz and atmosphere that it brought to the table, I came away disappointed with the cramped and dark nature of the Triggerfish building it was housing itself in.
But all that has now changed with the new location, a massive, easy to find shed that retains that vintage, industrial feel of the first incarnation, but this time with more than enough space and light to actually make this Saturday morning market feel more welcoming and definitely prime it for some excellent future growth!
There’s not a massive amount of traders on the floor just yet, but I’m sure that will change pretty quickly, and besides, they pretty much have all your needs covered – fresh produce, warm and cold drinks, decadent delights, and of course pancakes.
(Sadly though, the pancakes on offer are from Pure Pancakes – who still haven’t got their recipe right, meaning pancakes with too much bicarb and thus a horrible aftertaste/texture on the tongue!)
Nevertheless, we loved the vibe, the music, the atmosphere, and am definitely excited to watch this farmers market grow!
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Related Link: Paardevlei Farmers Market
At the beginning of the month, whilst Chantelle was working her weekend shift, Jessica, Emily and I nipped out to surprise her by buying some flowers from the Paardevlei Farmers Market.
The market was a lot, lot quieter than last time, so it was a more relaxed visit for the girls and me, with us picking up a fun toddler story book for Emily and some pancakes for Jessica.
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Speaking of the Paardevlei Farmers Market, I actually received a mail from the organiser Elsje Schoeman regarding my post about our visit to her market on opening day, and whilst annoyed at some of my commentary, she was quite upbeat about the fact that they had secured an official Parkrun association for next year and that they were in the process of looking for a better premises to run the market out of (one of my gripes had been the unsuitable building that the market currently operates out of).
However, things appear to have gone downhill since then – on October 23 Paardevlei Farmers Market released the following to their Facebook page:
“PAARDEVLEI FARMERS MARKET STATUS: Due to the non-compliance of Trigger Fish for illegally selling beer without an on consumption licence, we have decided to retract from operating our market on their premises. We have been victimised, our marketing signs for directions have been removed with intent, we as the market owners were dictated to what and how we can sell. We were promised a building size of 300 square metres and ended up trading mostly outside the Trigger Fish Building. Due to the ongoing bullying by the owner and the enforcement of signing a very one sided contract [which will be also published], we will endeavour to continue with our market in another building. For now, the market will be closed until further notice. Extensive alterations to this heritage building has been done prior to the opening of the market without any approval from the City of Cape Town.”
And given the “strong” character of Elsje (who we had worked under a few times during her involvement in managing the Slow Food Markets – Stellenbosch and Willowbridge), it was no surprise to see this even more angry post come in two days later:
“Luckily social media is a platform to open discussion, and yes, the market is very prepared to face the music for any negative feedback, the sequence of events: 1. we applied for an event at The Foundry Building and was granted a permit; 2. we were bulldozed to trade at Trigger Fish with a contract that was limiting us to grow organically and dictated by someone who wanted to open a market on his premises 2 years ago; 3. on the launch date of the market, Saturday 29 August, someone reported the non compliance of Trigger Fish to the police, a huge reputational risk for us 4. the market was not allowed to sell any coffee, wine or mcc to pair with food dictated again by the current tenant, 5. we sourced our own vegetables and we take the risk at the end of the day, 6. the original 300 square building was promised to us, we could only use less than a 1/3, 7. the times of the market was dictated to by the owner of Trigger Fish, it changed 3 times, 8. we were bullied many times, threatened that they can close the market anytime, 9. they tried to find a reason to work us out when they realised we are sourcing a new building 10. our signs were damaged and removed, the security went into our store room without our consent, 11. R5000 fines were introduced if we exceed our market times, but we were the only ones bringing feet to Trigger Fish 12. this is our story and we do not have anything to hide and carry a very transparent authentic business ethic. Bullied, victimised and discredited is an understatement in the manner in which we were allowed to trade.”
Pity. So for now Paardevlei Farmers Market remains closed, which is sad because I rather enjoyed the closeness of the location. Nevertheless, I look forward to seeing what they have up their sleeve when they make their big return!
Seeing as Chantelle was feeling a little left out on the day though, I organised for the girls and I to meet her for a milkshake at Mondeor Garden Restaurant during her split, which of course was a hit with the girls.
Milkshake, jungle gyms and sand art – what more could a girl possibly ask for? ;)
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Two weekends ago, Jessica, Emily and I headed out bright and early to catch the opening weekend for two Somerset West markets, namely the brand new Paardevlei Farmers Market and the reopening (following the disastrous storm damage earlier in the year) of the enjoyable Lourensford Harvest Market.
Paardevlei is a massive 700 ha area of land that used to belong to explosives manufacturer AECI, and which has since been bought and rezoned by the City of Cape Town. The property is home to three heritage buildings designed by Sir Herbert Baker, and is currently a mixture of things, including high-end residential units, business units, a Cheetah Outreach programme, a brand new hospital, a brewery (Triggerfish), and a host of very rundown industrial-looking sites – and then there is of course the revitalized vlei itself.
Anyway, Paardevlei Farmers Market, run by Elsje Schoeman, is certainly brand new – and unfortunately it shows.
First problem – it’s quite tricky to find it, given Paardevlei’s size, and rundown, work-site nature (further in). Whilst I love the outdoor art installations that line the newer, developed roads, this didn’t help one bit in finding the actual market, meaning that in the end I gave up and followed everyone else, eventually arriving at the place we needed to be.
In other words, signage. They’re going to need a lot of it. (On that note, they should actually take a leaf out of the excellent Century City Natural Goods Market’s signage approach, who share a similar problem of being tricky to find! I remember this well, seeing as we used to trade there quite often back in the day…)
The market itself is housed inside what appears to be a disused factory building, meaning tights spaces, dark spots, and when there are lots of people milling about inside, a hint of claustrophobia. That said, the live music created a lively atmosphere and you certainly could’t fault the vibe one bit.
All the usual food-based and fresh produce type stalls were present and accounted for, and I’m sure over the next couple of weeks some more craft stalls will throw their lot in as well.
There isn’t much public seating available yet, and things do feel a little primitive at the moment (though perhaps that is part of the charm), but there is plenty of parking in what at the end of the day is quite an interesting area and not one that locals find themselves ever visiting.
However, the tight, noisy, busy spaces wasn’t ideal for me, my toddler or my four year old little girl, and so we didn’t hang around for very long at all!
Already a favourite of ours, Lourensford Harvest Market is a much more kid friendly market, and I’m happy to report, the structural changes made following the storm damage is definitely all on the positive side (though I am a little sad to lose the grass area).
The first big change is how you access the market – essentially they’ve now rerouted the parking to a field behind the market, where you can take either a convenient tractor ride or short stroll along the ground road, past the vineyards (in bloom!) to the new main entrance for the market (although it doesn’t look like the main entrance at all – signage, signage, signage!).
Lots of new seating options have been added, the grass area swapped out for a gravel covered one (allows for more tables to be put down), and of course, sturdier roof structures covering the main stall layout (which hasn’t changed at all in case you were wondering).
No fresh produce, but loads of food and craft stalls, and of course, the live music was an absolute treat. There is space, a giant jumping castle field for the kids, and a good vibe – meaning that this was a much better market for the girls and me!
We bought a new bedtime story book, ate pancakes (damn it Pure Pancakes, fix your recipe already so that my mouth doesn’t dry out and taste of baking powder at the end of each pancake devouring session), and indulged in some delicious chocolate fudge (which the girls couldn’t get enough of!)
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Oh, and Jessica’s favourite part without a doubt was the tractor ride back up to the car at the end of a ‘lekker’ morning out with my girls! :)