Category Archives: My Life

The Continent of Sulina: A Faerie Sanctuary in Swellendam (2016-09-22) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 06 JAN 2017

One day, during our September getaway to the lovely Stonehill River Lodge in Buffeljagsrivier near Swellendam last year, we found ourselves looking for something to do with the kids.

Having remembered seeing it a couple of months back on SABC 2’s Mooiloop‘, I suggested that we hop in the car and take the girls through to see Swellendam’s very own fairy and angel healing sanctuary – The Continent of Sulina.

From what I understand, the Continent of Sulina is run by sculptor Ian and his wife Minky Sulin with the genuine aim of it being a home and a place of safety and healing for Minky’s faerie and angel friends. Minky certainly has a strong belief in the Fae folk and those people for who this magic still exists certainly seem to appreciate this rather ‘enchanting’ space.

For the more practical of us out there, the Continent of Sulina is essentially a house with a rambling garden that has been filled to the brim with little figurines of faeries, gnomes, goblins, frogs, toadstools and other miscellaneous shiny (and sometimes creepy) things.

You essentially pay an entrance fee to walk through the garden around the house, and then enter the gallery house in order to exit, which is of course the point where you get presented with probably a thousand or so figurines of different shapes and sizes (many handmade by local artisans), all awaiting a new home in exchange for some of your money.

Recently, a second property adjacent to the original has also been purchased, meaning that now the fairy sanctuary also sports a dedicated kids play for the little ones.

There is a coffee station in the garden as well, but seeing as a light rain started to descend during our visit, we opted not to sit down and give it a go.

Honestly, unless you have kids (or you yourself perhaps) that are really into things like magic and faeries (none of us are), this isn’t really a place that is going to hold your attention for long.

If you are however looking to buy some fairy trinkets, then these guys definitely have you covered!

Yeah… I can’t say that any of the grown ups enjoyed the outing on the day, and unfortunately the girls didn’t seem to quite love it either. (Plus we all got a little wet thanks to the rather grey weather on the day).

Still it was an outing and that was certainly what we were after in the first place. So, if you have kids and have run out of ideas for things to do in Swellendam, you may as well pop in and see for yourself the ‘magical’ realm of the Continent of Sulina.

As always, a map for in case you wish to go seek out some faeries yourself:

Related Link: The Continent of Sulina | Facebook

Chocolate Tasting at Moniki Chocolatier in Tulbagh (2016-12-10) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 03 JAN 2017

Chantelle and I found ourselves enjoying a mini break away from the kids back in December last year, escaping to the tiny, historic and laden with wine and olive producers town of Tulbagh for the weekend.

Tulbagh is of course known having many wine estates and historic buildings, but given that the town essentially consists of only two streets of commerce, touristy things to do that are not wine tasting are relatively hard to come by.

Enter Moniki Chocolatier, brainchild of Niki de Wolf, who moved down to Tulbagh from the Netherlands with partner Rijk von Kooij, purchasing the historic Schoonderzicht Farm (dating back to 1795) in the process.

Seeing as starting a guest house wasn’t really an option given their small children, Niki, a journalist and food writer, decided to try her hand at luxury chocolate making – one of the things that she missed from back home in Europe.

Thus Tulbagh’s very own chocolatier was born.

Having moved shop  few times already, Moniki now finds itself sharing an old restored house on the historic Church Street with the handcrafted curio and clothes shop Het Land van Waveren.

Obviously, Chantelle and I simply had to drop in and taste their fine chocolates, and while slightly disappointed with the size of the operation, we were thrilled with the absolutely decadent array of chocolates on offer – it is not often that you come across someone who incorporates things like wine and amarula in their chocolate making!

They offer a chocolate tasting experience which allows you to select a single type of drink and four different chocolates to go with it – which of course means that between the two of us we tasted 8 very good chocolates!

So although not really a serious travel attraction in itself, if you do however find yourself in Tulbagh and happen to enjoy good chocolate, then it certainly is worth popping in to Moniki Chocolatier while you are there.

Also, a handy map:

Related Link: TripAdvisor | Twitter

Snacking at Asara Wine Estate & Hotel in Stellenbosch (2016-10-15) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 02 JAN 2017

One Saturday in October last year, Chantelle and I decided to take the girls out for a spot of strawberry picking at Polkadraai in Stellenbosch. However on arrival at the strawberry farm it was immediately clear that pretty much the entire Cape Town must have had the same idea as us, and so we did a u-turn and headed back towards Stellenbosch, looking for something else to do instead.

Then a brainwave hit me – I’d previously visited the five star Asara Wine Estate & Hotel in Stellenbosch for a business meeting with Distell, and have wanted to show the place off to Chantelle ever since. So I took a chance and turned in by Asara’s manned gates and stated that I was off to visit the deli (which I think I remember having spotted that last time I was there).

As it turns out, they do have a deli on-site – and surprisingly it is a pretty cool little find.

If you aren’t familiar with Asara, then know that it is an award-winning wine estate and 5-star hotel billed as being situated in the heart of the Cape Winelands. Breathtaking views, tranquil atmosphere, upmarket service – well you get the picture.

Previously known as Raphael’s (where I previously had enjoyed a lunch), mise en place is the new destination fine dining restaurant at Asara, while the Sansibar is their casual, bistro-style dining option.

However, the spot that we were interested in seeing as we had our two little ones tagging along with us was Asara’s main courtyard and more specifically, the deli that then opens up onto it.

I was super surprised to find the deli stocked with all manner of exciting baked treats, and was even more taken aback at how well priced the finger snacks were – pretty soon we had placed an order for all manner of niceties, before selecting a table outside and then sitting back as our array of treats was brought out to us in a manner which I’m more than happy to dub as being a ‘simple high tea’ experience! ;)

The view from the courtyard is spectacular, the service is top notch, and amazingly, this was such a cool, well priced treat that all three of my girls thoroughly enjoyed!

(In other words, I guess we’ll have to head back that way sometime soon then – though maybe without the girls this time around so that Chantelle and I can give some of their other offerings a proper go…)

As always, a useful map:

Related Link: Asara Wine Estate & Hotel | Facebook

Pulled Pork from the Hickory Shack in Grabouw (2016-12-22) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 01 JAN 2017

The Hickory Shack has been operating for about a year now, situated just past Grabouw on the Thandi Estate off the N2 in the Elgin Valley. The concept behind this interesting eatery is a simple one – bring an authentic Texan smokehouse experience to South Africa.

To this purpose the team have a dedicated smokehouse shack set up (complete with menacing skull hanging off the side), in which dwells a simple but effective brick and mortar fire pit where the pit master then works his magic from.

As you would then expect, the menu contains a lot of slow roasted meat, including the ever popular brisket, mouthwatering good pulled pork, and ribs. The food options are further complemented by a great selection of local craft beers, and of course, this being Elgin, all the locally produced ciders are front and center as well.

Music from the South is the soundtrack for the restaurant, so go in knowing that you are about to hear a lot of banjo being played (honestly, it gets a bit much after a while), but nevertheless, you can just imagine that the vibe gets pretty fun on a full house evening at this slightly remote destination!

The girls loved the freshly pressed apple juices, Chantelle and I loved the handcut chips, excellent meat and brilliant array of interesting sauces – not to mention the fun presentation of the food, all of which means that I guess then that we’ll be making a return run to the Hickory Shack sooner than later.

It is after all, just over the mountain behind us…

As always, a handy map: (Not that you can miss it though – not with that beautifully cared for, bright red, classic Chevrolet Apache truck standing out in front of the shack!)

Related Link: Hickory Shack | Facebook

Playing in the Sand at Gordon’s Bay Beach (2016-12-08) Photo Gallery 31 DEC 2016

December saw me take the girls down to the beach a lot. Like just about every evening. However, thanks to the magic that is scheduled posts, I’m not at Gordon’s Bay main beach this evening.

No, instead I am currently sitting with my feet up on the beach at Gouritz (outside Albertinia, just before Mossel Bay) – enjoying a well deserved getaway with my girls, Chantelle and her folks.

Not a bad way to see out 2016 I reckon.

Nevertheless, you will have to wait until I’m back home before I start posting pictures of the lovely Gouritz, so for now the last pictures of 2016 up on my site will be of my girls and I having fun on our home beach over the course of December.

Oh, bonus fact. Did you know that Gordon’s Bay has a dedicated helipad area for rescue helicopters?

Well, now you do.

Happy New Year! :)

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017 My Life 30 DEC 2016

Believe it or not, it is somehow that time where I once again round up the year that was and then turn the spotlight onto the year to come. Mind you, I’ve done a fair bit of these over the last couple of years (2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 20102009 to be exact), but looking back, I seldom get the looking forward part quite spot on.

Nevertheless, as always I’m game to give it a go.

I’ll start off by saying that for the Lötter family as a whole, 2016 wasn’t a particularly exciting year per say.

Chantelle continued her work pulling in a paycheck as one of the managers at Gordon’s Beach Lodge here in Gordon’s Bay, while still baking cakes on the side and as always, dreaming about her own full-time venture still to come.

2016 saw Emily continue her march into ‘toddlerhood’, thriving in the loving care of the Baby Steps team, an environment in which she also managed to forge her first great friendship in the form of another little girl named Marli. Emily is extremely bright, extremely stubborn, and extremely adorable to boot!

It would seem that she’s certainly inherited Jessica’s terrors (i.e. terrified of big animals and the sea), but outside of those, she is an independent, forward thinking little toddler who I am positive is going to do super well at her new playschool Vergeet-My-Nie come 2017.

Jessica had a lovely first year as a Grade R learner in teacher Matthews’ class at Gordon’s Bay Primary, remaining as always the lovely social butterfly that we all know she is. She managed to make a ton of friends across a variety of different age groups at the school and continues to be one of the most open and outgoing little girls that you’ll ever stumble across.

Unfortunately though, a few of the development issues that we were warned about due to her premature birth have now surfaced, and so she spent much of the year undergoing occupational therapy with the wonderful therapist Nicola van Zyl. However, following a professional school readiness assessment with educational psychologist Mia Schoeman, it has been decided to hold her back in Grade R for another year, to give her more chance to gain a better level of ’emotional maturity’ needed for the years still lying in wait.

So plenty of work ahead for my beautiful little blonde princess come 2017, but luckily work that at this point she still sees as being little more than extra fun playtime!

So, as I now sit down and reflect on it, on the whole there really was then very little disruption to the normal Lötter life – no job changes, no house changes, no car changes, no real major… situational changes.

Good, that suits me as a Taurus quite nicely then.

Of course 2016 didn’t start all that well for me personally mind you – I did after all only really start walking about properly again come May of this year!

However, this depressing setback did come with the plus that it made me strongly want to make it up to myself this year, and so I promised myself that I would get out as much as possible and see as many new places as what I possibly could before the end of 2016. Well, glancing over the 160 odd photo gallery folders on my hard drive, it is more than safe enough to say that I certainly achieved my goal!

(Note about the 160 odd folders of photos: to date, only about 106 have so far made it onto this blog – meaning a lot of stuff is going to incorrectly appear in 2017! So yes, I’m more than just a little behind on the photo posting front, and sadly, the excuse is slightly poor: I fell victim to the terrible addiction that stems from playing the awesome Dragon Age: Inquisition on the Xbox One that I too treated myself with at the beginning of this year. Who knew – just a year or two ago I was convinced that I’d kind of outgrown playing video games!)

Anyway, so my weekends were quite jam packed pretty much the entire year – so much so that Chantelle is rather understandably annoyed at the almost complete lack of maintenance on the house done in 2016!

I saw loads of local (Helderberg, Overberg, Stellenbosch, Cape Town) sights – far too many to list here, but pleasingly a list which includes numerous adult experiences like wineries and restaurants for a change – and out of the 12 months of the year, I was sleeping in another bed for at least one weekend in 9 of those!

For those of you keeping track (again, not that I’m sure anyone actually reads the stuff that I write), those 9 stays away from home included Jacobsbaai, Pinnacle Point (Mossel Bay), Warmwaterberg Spa (Barrydale), Stanford, George, USA (Anaheim and San Diego)*, Buffeljagsrivier, Tulbagh, and now Gouritz.

(*Yes, this means I visited the United States of America for the very first time in my life!)

Thanks to all this out and about then, 2016 therefore also saw me change the focus of this blog, adopting a new moniker in the form of “An Exploring South African” (note: I really am not overly fond of the names I choose) and consequently a shift in content to more local sights and sounds and travel type stuff.

(Oh, and for a change I even made a little money off the site. Now there is something that doesn’t often happen!)

As always, with Chantelle working every second weekend, my full time commitment to my girls meant that no hobbies or extracurricular stuff could be picked up in 2016 – which is still okay with me. (Now all it means is that the girls are forced to drive out with their dad to new places pretty much every other weekend!)

Work is still boringly stable for me – the good paycheck, complete oversight, and the perk of working from home is still more than strong enough incentives for me to keep chipping away at my Kinetica feedback platform, which has continued to surge ahead this year in terms of new functionality and expanded use cases.

Right, so with all that now said and done, I can safely reckon then that 2016 certainly wasn’t a bad year – even in the slightest – for the Gordon’s Bay Lötter clan. Good.

As for 2017? Well, my predictions are never really all that spot on, but I suspect that it will be very much more of the same. I want to travel loads and see a lot of new places/things (and we do now have the disposable income to do this), and I think following the physical difficulties that plagued me throughout 2016, maybe 2017 will finally be the year where I start to once again properly take care of my body – you know, finally get around to losing all that weight that continues to make Summer such an unpleasantly sweaty affair!

Which is probably not such a bad idea mind you. These gray strands threaded in my hair are seemingly growing bolder with each passing day! ;)

Food and Sculptures at Tokara Delicatessen in Stellenbosch (2016-09-17) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 29 DEC 2016

I used my weekends to visit a LOT of different places this year. One of the more visually interesting outings came about in September, when I took my three girls out for a light lunch at the Tokara Delicatessen, situated on the stunning Tokara Wine and Olive estate at the top of Helshoogte Pass outside Stellenbosch.

Tokara is itself a very upmarket estate, so it is pleasing that the team saw it fit to create a secondary, child friendly venue in the form of the excellent Tokara Delicatessen.

Given the farm’s elevated location, you are afforded stunning views of the surrounding mountains, down into the valley below, and all the way across False Bay for that matter. Both the vineyards and olive groves stretch as far as the eye can see, and picturesque is really the only word that fits the scene as you arrive in Tokara’s parking area.

Tokara is know for four things – its wines (made of grapes from three separate districts – Stellenbosch, Elgin and Hemel-en-Aarde), its range of exquisite olive oils, it’s leading fine dining restaurant, and its extensive collection of art and sculptures.

It is this love of art and sculpture that first greets you as you exit the car, with a wide variety of modern sculpture dotted all around the grounds of the Delicatessen and neighbouring Olive Barn.

Peacocks roam freely and visitors enter the ground with an immediate sense of wonder and awe thanks to the beautiful and visually interesting surroundings.

There is a beautiful deck outside the simple but elegantly designed deli, great for warm sunny days, while the cosy interior with its walls of glass simultaneously makes for the perfect winter venue.

There is a large lawn for kids to run around and play on, with the garden itself also dotted with a host of very interesting sculptures to take in (and in some cases, play on!).

The deli’s food is of course much easier on the wallet than Tokara’s restaurant proper, but pleasingly the deli’s food is just as good, with us thoroughly enjoying what was set down before us on the day.

Naturally, Chantelle was in love with every single aspect of the place, whilst the girls were far more interested in running about outside than sitting inside with boring old mom and dad!

(Obviously I did a lot of strolling about as well, snapping loads of photos and ambling about the openly accessible vineyards and olive groves out back whenever the opportunity arose.)

With lunch done and Chantelle’s interior/product browsing curiosity now sated, the girls and I then trundled down Tokara’s sculpture path, an easy walk through the olive trees and then down the road to Tokara proper, with the route again being dotted all along with some interesting sculptures and pretty flowers to boot.

So in summary: Even if it is just a visit to the kid friendly, more accessible Tokara Delicatessen at Tokara, you can’t help coming away from that place feeling just that little more… sophisticated.

Highly recommended.

Here is a useful map if you wish to explore the exquisite world of Tokara yourself:

Related Link: Tokara Delicatessen | Tokara

Gordon’s Bay Beach with the Girls (2016-11-15) Photo Gallery 28 DEC 2016

Both of my girls are comically afraid of the sea. I’m not sure if Emily shares the fear because  of Jessica, but regardless, both my girls are terrified of the incoming water.

They are more than happy to run around and play on the sand, or perhaps venture into the sea when it is only at most low ankle height, but the minute any wave higher than their ankles comes rolling in, they are out of the water screaming blue murder.

So, with a beach bound December holiday coming our way (we’re off to Gouritz), I’ve been hard at work trying to convince them that the sea is not so bad. (If you can call going to the beach as often as possible ‘hard work’!)

Pleasingly, it appears to have been working in that I can now at least get them into knee-high water with me (though they cling to my hands like limpets), and I have managed to convince them to wash their hands in the water by themselves, every time we pack up for the night.

I’ve kind of run out of time now, so I’m hoping that I’ve done enough that I can at least kind of enjoy the sea/beach at Gouritz without hearing the screams of two little girls every minute and a half!

We’ll see, we’ll see…

A handy map as always, just in case you want to check out my home beach while you still have a couple of vacation days left:

Staying at Stonehill River Lodge in Buffeljagsrivier (2016-09-21) Accommodation | Photo Gallery 28 DEC 2016

We were extremely fortunate in September to get the chance join Chantelle’s folks Monty and Cheryl on a mid-week holiday to the fantastic Stonehill River Lodge, set along the strong flowing Breede river in Buffeljagsrivier (near Swellendam).

Stonehill River Lodge (part of the Dream Resorts group) consists of a small number of luxury self-catering units dotted along the Breede river, fronted by a stretch of lush green lawn and completed with breathtaking views of the Langeberg Mountains.

We arrived at the lodge early evening on the Wednesday, having been treated to some spectacular sunset skies along the dirt back roads you need to take in order to reach the destination.

The fire was already going strong, and that pretty much set the tone for our short two night stay in this truly stunning venue. (I.e. this setting calls for a braai every evening!)

The kids had a ball running and playing on the vast stretch of rolling lawn that fronts the river, while Chantelle and I got a kick out of enjoying some time in the jacuzzi that comes with quite the view.

Frisbee, trampoline, chess, and if you don’t have little ones to entertain, hiking and some good river fishing is all on offer at this particularly tranquil space.

I had to of course do some support work while I was there (it was mid-week after all), but for the most part it was all explore and play.

Thursday saw us encounter slightly wet weather (and a river whose level rose frighteningly overnight – a valid concern mind you, seeing as this place floods ever three or so years thanks to the way the river bends in the area!),  which then meant a slightly damp sightseeing trip into nearby Swellendam – where we visited a chocolatier, spotted a spectacular church, had lunch in an old house, and explored a faerie sanctuary!

As you may have guessed by now, this little getaway was a huge success. Loads of fun was had in these stunning surroundings and I have to admit – I’m kind of eager to head out that way again once the opportunity arises!

(Primarily because I’m rather eager to cross the river on the famous pontoon at Malgas! Incidentally, it is the last hand-drawn pont of its kind in the country…)

Naturally, a place like this demands a fair bit of photos be taken whenever you take break from all the fun!

A handy map. You’ll have to travel along a couple of dirt roads, but the final destination is well worth it!

Related Link: Stonehill River Lodge | Facebook | Buffeljagsrivier