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.

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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Craft Beer at Triggerfish Brewing in Paardevlei, Somerset West (2019-04-09) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 21 OCT 2019

The guys at Triggerfish Brewing started brewing commercially in 2010, making them the second oldest craft brewery still brewing in the greater Cape Town area. That said, they are also so tucked away that unless you know about it, you’ll probably never stumble into them either!

Situated in an old factory building deep at the back of Paardevlei (an old forgotten industrial area which is currently undergoing a massive revitalization with a hospital, houses, apartment blocks, and office space all popping up at a rapid pace (the sculptures and vlei are my favourite bits), the brewing operation is also home to a tap room, restaurant, and small live-music/event space. (Plus a small pottery studio of all things).

Popular with locals in search of a removed from the city bustle Friday night beer, Triggerfish also makes for a quirky lunch spot, with the particularly nice bonus of being able to phone in your order beforehand (if your lunch hour is say a bit on the short side), allowing you to stroll in and sit down to food that has just been made – which then is exactly what Chantelle and I took advantage of one afternoon in April.

Surprisingly, the food is actually really good, well presented, and much better than what the scribbled walls, dimly lit, and slightly falling apart building would indicate! So very much like another favourite of ours Im Eimer, where first impressions really do mask a particularly nice food experience!

Also, the craft beer is fantastic.

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Huguenot Fine Chocolates and Pizza in Franschhoek (2019-05-18) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 20 OCT 2019

Chantelle and I woke up one Saturday and decided that we felt like a drive out to Franschhoek in order to check up on how the Theewaterskloof Dam was doing now that we were finally getting some much needed rain this winter season. (The answer, much, much better since we’d last been to see it!)

The journey out over Sir Lowry’s Pass, through the gorgeous Grabouw/Elgin Valley and then Viljoen’s Pass, past the vast Theewaterskloof Dam, and then up and over the Franschhoek Pass into Franschhoek itself is magnificently scenic, and one well worth doing if you ever get the chance.

This particular day was a beaut of a winter’s day, with clear skies and a warm sun guiding us to the food and wine capital of South Africa, where we strolled down main street, taking in the beautiful buildings, the stunning art, and the bustle of the many foreign tourists that bring Franschhoek to life.

We treated the girls with some fun (and delicious) chocolates from the excellent Huguenot Fine Chocolates boutique chocolaterie and then, because it was lunch, had pizza at the Col’cacchio next door.

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Gordon’s Bay Primary School Family Fun Walk (2019-09-14) Family Attractions | Photo Gallery 19 OCT 2019

This year we were at last able to join in the annual BP/Gordon’s Bay Primary School Family Fun Walk fundraiser, something Jessica has been keen to take part in for quite some time now. (Last year she missed out at the last minute, thanks to a cold that swooped in literally the day before!)

Our local BP petrol station does a lot of great work in support of our primary school, and this annual fun walk sees parents and kids (and anyone else that wants to join in the fun) walk a 5 km route out into the suburbs and then back to the school again.

Last year the route was apparently a bit of a nasty one in that it was all up in the steep roads behind the school (which sits at the foot of our mountain), so this year it was relief to see that the organizers had taken the commentary to heart and switched to a much more friendly flat and fast route – i.e. accessible to everyone regardless of fitness level!

Jessica and I arrived super early (expecting a massive crowd), but unfortunately the newly opened Strand Park Run (on the beach) together with the long running Somerset West Park Run (which is strangely run in rural Gordon’s Bay) ensured that this wasn’t going to be a particularly big Saturday morning event – a pity considering that this is a bit of a fundraiser for the school.

(Also, this was meant to be a colour run, but disappointingly the organizers didn’t organize very many paint packets – so most of us just had to do without. That said, a lot of people did take the yellow and green dress-up brief seriously, so that was pretty nice to see.)

Still, the crowd was big enough to make it sociable, and as for the walk itself, Jessica got a mini heart-attack when she was briefly separated from me when the crowd set off, we saw plenty of our neighbourhood friends along the route, and Jess got to walk the whole way with one of her best friends, Shaelyn.

And the amount of moaning? Surprisingly little.

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