All posts by Craig Lotter

About Craig Lotter

Software developer, husband and dad to two little girls. Writer behind An Exploring South African. I don't have time for myself any more.

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

A Shipwreck Museum in Bredasdorp (2019-03-23) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 23 OCT 2019

Bredasdorp is the main economic and service hub of the Overberg region. After a particularly nice coffee stop at Bredasdorp Square (i.e. a bribe), I next dragged Chantelle and the girls off to the most surprising of attractions in this small town – a shipwreck museum that happens to lie more than 23 km away from the sea!

The Bredasdorp Shipwreck Museum commemorates the 1815 wrecking of the Arniston (372 lives lost) as well as the other nearly 150 historic wrecks that occurred along the nearby Agulhas Reef. The museum is fairly unusual in that it is the only museum of its kind in the southern hemisphere!

The dimly lit main building is filled with artifacts from the Arniston and other wrecks, and you will be treated to all manner of mastheads, cannons, and interesting stories collected over the years. (Interesting fact, the seaside village of Waenhuiskrans has become so associated with the wreck that it is now primarily known as Arniston, and the wreck itself had a direct influence on the eventual decision to build the famous lighthouse at Cape Agulhas in 1847).

In addition to the shipwreck hall, the museum also opens up at the back onto a big lawn with a few more building converted into museum pieces. The house museum has a lot of interesting vintage decor and antiques on display, while the barn is home to a vintage firetruck, hearse and a couple of well looked after carriages.

And then there are all the anchors, neatly arranged around an old (equally as interesting) tree, giving a picture of how anchor technology has changed over the years. There is also a collection of glass bottles and old sewing machines of all things!

In short, an unexpectedly pleasant little tourist attraction that would appeal greatly to any history buff.

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Staying at the Darling Lodge Guest House in Darling (2019-05-11) Accommodation | Photo Gallery 22 OCT 2019

I celebrated my 39th birthday with a stay in the delightful little West Coast town of Darling, known for its craft beer, toffees, wild flowers, and of course Evita Bezuidenhout. As for our accommodation for the night, we ended up booking with the charming Darling Lodge Guest House.

Situated in the heart of Darling, right across from the quaint Darling Museum, the beautifully restored Victorian country home features a wonderfully tranquil, leafy garden (an absolute bird’s paradise), a swimming pool for guests to enjoy, and a bright and cheery breakfast room, ready to delight come morning.

Although there are rooms in the old Victorian house itself, we instead stayed in the slightly more modern garden annex (next to the pool), with our bedroom so nice and big and comfortable that Chantelle opted to rather stay for a nice long nap than join me for an evening stroll about the dusty streets of Darling! (It was a great walk, she missed out.)

As for the town itself, well we tasted wine at Ormonde, sampled toffees at Darling Sweet, ate nachos and imbibed beer at Darling Brew, drove around, strolled around, took photos of churches, and dined on Eisbein at Bistro Seven. (The latter was particularly good).

In fact, the only thing that we didn’t get around to was a visit to Evita se Perron. Guess that will just have to move to the top of the list for next time then! ;)

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