Category Archives: My Life

A Year of life in the Helderberg (2018-12-31) Photo Gallery 29 MAR 2020

With 2016 and 2017’s photo dumps already up, I now continue making a dent into the large “Unposted Photos” folder on my desktop with 2018’s batch. These are all (well mostly) photos snapped as we go about life in the Helderberg basin (Somerset West, Strand and our home town Gordon’s Bay) which simply didn’t have enough of a set to collect into (or warrant) a blog post of their own.

That said, these random life event photos are all important to me and a keepsake of a life well lived (and enjoyed), and as such posting them here is a way to safeguard their existence – after all, my laptop and its hard drive is now very old, and my ADSL isn’t nearly good enough to upload the full sized files to the cloud.

Anyway, as you can see for yourself, the Helderberg (and for that part the Western Cape itself) really isn’t a bad place to be able to call home:

A Year of Beach Walks in Gordon’s Bay (2018-12-31) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 28 MAR 2020

So here I am, slowly but surely whittling down my very large Unposted Photos folder with another ‘A Year of’ picture dump. I rather enjoy living in a small harbour town and very much doubt that I will ever willingly elect to live far from the sea again – primarily because it makes for such picturesque living space!

Although reasonably diminutive, Gordon’s Bay is surprisingly home to two harbours and two beaches (Main and Bikini), and with a mountain overlooking it all, there is no excuse to not wander about and enjoy the scenery. Of course, working remotely like I do, there really isn’t any excuse at all!

So here are a bunch photos that I snapped while ambling about the beaches of Gordon’s Bay in 2018:

Coffee and Curios at The Old Jail in Riversdale (2019-07-04) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 27 MAR 2020

Continuing our June school holidays adventure, the girls and I moved on from Barrydale, shooting past Algerynskraal, over the Garcia Pass and on to Riversdale, with the final goal being to make it back onto the N2 in order to end up in Mossel Bay. That said, there was a particular stop that I first wanted to make as we crossed into the small town of Riversdale…

One of the oldest historical buildings still standing in Riversdale, the original structure of the Ou Tronk (Old Jail) was first used as a trading store, before being purchased by the state in 1860 for conversion into a jail. Eventually closed down in 1979 (following the construction of the large prison in Oudtshoorn), the jail moved back into private hands (making it one of the only South African jail properties to actually reside in private ownership).

After inheriting it from her father who had bought it to store farming equipment, Louise Malherbe eventually found a second life for the unusual space by turning one of the courtyards into a coffee shop and renting out the remaining cells (there are 33 of them) as display spaces for various home decor and art creatives. (There are also a fair bit of historic artifacts dotted around, including an imitation of the travelling gallows that were used to hang the jail’s only receiver of the death penalty, one Gilbert Hay of Heidelberg who was found guilty of having murdered his mother.)

(There is apparently also a weekly farmer’s market that happens on a Saturday at the jail, but I’m not 100% sure if this is still the case.)

Despite its initial ghoulish overtures, the Ou Tronk (which actually in some ways looks a lot more like a Spanish hacienda than an actual prison) is quite a welcoming space for a cup of tea and a slice of their famous carrot cake. The courtyard is peppered with shade from planted avocado and banana trees and of course the location itself makes for some interesting conversation points.

All in all the Old Jail certainly makes for an interesting place to make a stop, that’s for sure.

Fun and Facades of GrandWest Casino in Cape Town (2019-06-17) Family Attractions | Photo Gallery 26 MAR 2020

We were rather enjoying our little break from the girls, having already spent the morning traipsing around Bloubergstrand, taking photos of Table Mountain, visiting Big Bay, and indulging in much coffee and cake at Cafe Blouberg. I then put on the table to Chantelle that we should extend our outing a little longer by paying a visit to the GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World on the way home – primarily because I wanted to take some photos of its interesting facades. Amazingly (and inexplicably) she said yes.

Opened in December 2000, Sun International’s GrandWest Casino entertainment complex is built on the old Goodwood Showgrounds and is Cape Town’s only registered casino. It is a sprawling operation that features two hotels, a kids entertainment world (with arcade), a concert venue (The Grand Arena), loads of restaurants and bars (plus a fast food court), an Olympic-size ice skating rink, a bowling alley, movie cinemas, lots of conference facilities, dedicated exhibition space (SunExhibits), and of course the actual casino floor itself.

Now neither Chantelle or I am into gambling at all, and the kids are still a bit young to easily manage in the big crowds that the place tends to generate, so GrandWest isn’t actually a location that we visit very often (other than for the odd show or music concert) at all. That said, it was interesting that both Chantelle and I commented on just how eerie it is at how little the place has changed in the now 20 years of its existence!

The place is loud and colorful and full of people, and there is more entertainment on offer than what you can shake a stick at. I of course love the historic preservation effort the architects put into the design of this fun entertainment complex, with much of its external facades modelled after historic and landmark Cape Town city buildings, and the interior decor heavily trading on Cape Town’s rich maritime tradition.

So much to see, so much to photograph, no wonder then that Chantelle almost instantly got annoyed with me and immediately regretted having ever agreed to this unscheduled photo walk in the first place! (Not even Keith Calder’s playful seals out front were enough to appease her.)

Still, I had fun:

Nature Walk along the Kleinmond Coastal Walkway (2019-04-07) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 25 MAR 2020

Kleinmond is another one of those easy to love little coastal towns in the Overberg district, family friendly and perfect for tourist beach getaways. It also happens to be home to a very gentle, short but very scenic coastal walkway, which takes you all the way from the small Kleinmond harbour to the main Kleinmond beach.

The sandy route is about 2.5 km in length, and winds through the granite and fynbos that are emblematic for much of the Overberg’s gorgeous coastline scene, offering up spectacular views of the ocean and the surrounding peninsulas while you are at it.

For this particular stroll I somehow managed to convince Jessica to join me and so the two of us donned our hats, hopped into the car and enjoyed the scenic Clarence Drive trip, before finding a spot at the bustling Kleinmond harbour area and heading off up the rocky stairs that signal the start of the walkway.

The path is simple to follow and didn’t given us much difficulty, other than Jessica stepping into a bit of mud and then being utterly distraught over her now dirty school shoes. (They wear white takkies – i.e. trainers – at Gordon’s Bay Primary School).

Having successfully reached the beach (at the mouth of the Kleinmond lagoon), we decided to first grab a cooldrink from the popular Sandown Blues restaurant, before finally opting to head back via the streets (which takes you past the one time beach house of historic Afrikaans scholar and novelist DF Malherbe) – primarily because Jessica didn’t want to risk any more mud on her now not so white takkies!

Oh, and as if that wasn’t quite enough, she then wanted soft serve ice cream as a reward when we got back to the harbour. (Hmm, I am beginning to suspect that maybe she’s not joining my walks for the actual walking!)

In any event, a great little morning distraction that let us stretch our legs, take in some fresh sea air, and bathe in glorious warm sunlight. Not bad, not bad.

Warm Water Swims and Donuts at ATKV Hartenbos (2019-09-28) Family Attractions | Photo Gallery 20 MAR 2020

I have already mentioned that last September I took Jessica and Emily up with me to Mossel Bay for a couple of days at Pinnacle Point with Ryan. Unfortunately the weather didn’t exactly play along for our trip away from home, but nevertheless we made the most of what we had and even managed to nip in a couple of warm water swims at the excellent ATKV Hartenbos Seefront while we were at it.

If you aren’t aware of it, the small town of Hartenbos was (as a lot of our old towns were) originally a farm, but in 1933 the South African Railways and Harbours (Transnet) turned it into a holiday resort for their lower-rung employees. In 1936 the ATKV (“Afrikaans Language and Cultural Society” in English) bought the farm, divided it into lots (but didn’t allow the construction of permanent structures until 1994!) and expanded on the resort facilities.

Over the years Hartenbos has grown into a proper little town (though for the most part its iconic caravan parks remain), complete with schools, a private hospital, sports clubs and several churches, and more importantly, has embedded itself as and remains an integral part of Afrikaner culture – so much so that to this day Hartenbos remains a bastion for Afrikaans holidaymakers.

The ATKV Hartenbos Seefront (i.e. seafront) development stands watch over the beach and forms the central hub for holidaymakers and tourists alike. With its fun-packed waterpark, shops and restaurants, amphitheater, colourful facades and vibey atmosphere (especially during the school holidays period), it is pretty much the place to be in Hartenbos.

Mini doughnuts from the Pizza & Donut Den aside, we’ve also quite taken to their indoor warm water pool, so much so that nowadays a visit to the Mossel Bay area is pretty much guaranteed to include at least one swim in their relaxing lukewarm waters!

So for this trip, bad weather be damned – the girls had a blast, Ryan and I were tired out, and a feast of chocolate and caramel drenched donuts were ingested – Dit is altyd lekker by die see!

Koi and Coffee at The Blue Cow in Barrydale (2019-07-02) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 15 MAR 2020

For the June school holidays last year we found ourselves spending a bit of time in Barrydale at the relaxing Warmwaterberg Spa setup, and seeing as this is somewhat of a tradition by now, we obviously made time for a coffee and cake stop at The Blue Cow.

Situated on the Cooke farm in Barrydale, the Blue Cow sits at the edge of a small farm dam (jokingly referred to as the Barrydale Waterfront) and offers a nice selection of homely cakes, coffee, farm fresh salads and very light lunches. The views of Barrydale’s surrounding hills and farmland are refreshing and the countless koi and weaver birds surrounding the coffee shop makes for a tranquil, nature rich stop.

The Blue Cow has in fact taken it a step further now, having birthed its own accommodation option in the form of four cottages at the so-called Blue Cow Barn. Chantelle and her folks get on particularly well with the owner of the Blue Cow, which translates into VERY lengthy and sociable visits.

Not that I’m complaining though – all the more time to stroll around and take a LOT of photos of what really are beautiful surrounds.

Ducks and Noodles at Sonstraal Dam in Durbanville (2019-07-17) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 10 MAR 2020

We obviously have a few of our own nice places to head out for a walk here in Gordon’s Bay (aka we live by the sea), but I have to say that I do miss having easy access to the very scenic Sonstraal Dam in Durbanville.

There’s actually two dams tucked away in the leafy desirable Sonstraal/Vygeboom/Eversdal residential area of Durbanville, the smaller Vygeboom Dam at the top and then the much larger Sonstraal dam at the bottom.

Although neglected for a number of years, the ban on fishing and subsequent clean up operations have resulted in a wonderful green space with a footpath that lazes around the body of water, offering a tranquil and scenic family friendly nature experience right in the heart of the suburbs.

With the now abundant bird life that call this dam home there is forever a goose to feed, a water fowl to cheer on, or a duckling to swoon over. It is fresh air, a chance to stretch the legs, and it is short, so the girls can’t really justify moaning at me if they didn’t really want to do it in the first place.

And then usually, like we did on this late mid week afternoon outing, we ended off our wanderings in Durbanville with Chinese takeout food at the Kenridge institution that is Ho-Ho Take-Aways. (Chantelle has been ordering from then since she was in school!)

It was, quite frankly, delicious.

Terrance and Joanne get Married at Nooitgedacht Estate in Stellenbosch (2020-01-25) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 05 MAR 2020

Our group is all at that age where one doesn’t really get invited to weddings any more – at this stage pretty much all of the friends circle is married off and all our kids are still very young – so it generated much excitement when we got word that good friends Terrance and Joanne were going to be holding a second wedding out here in South Africa – having just recently tied the knot back home in China.

The venue selected for the big event was the historic and beautiful grounds of Nooitgedacht, a wine estate just outside of Stellenbosch. Although the venue does have a chapel available should the weather not play along, given our sunny Summer skies the decision was made to have the ceremony outside under the shade provided by the lane of magnificent oak trees that run down in front of the classic Cape Dutch style manor house.

With a large contingent of friends and family following Joanne over from China, and a select group of Terrance’s family, friends and old colleagues from South Africa, we gathered along the lane to watch the two make new vows and put on their rings, before grabbing some petals and getting the celebration started!

Naturally, many photos first needed to be taken, and as such the guest contingent were ushered out onto the massive lawns for a most delectable country table spread (so, so much good stuff!) and a selection of fine estate wines. The musician providing the live entertainment was excellent, and I have it on good authority that he made quite a few of the ladies present swoon in the process!

Of course, the reception had to happen eventually, and so Ryan and Trish (best man and master of ceremonies respectfully) managed to successfully herd the South African and Chinese contingents into Nooitgedacht’s original cellar venue which had been transformed into a botanical and fairy light wonderland delight.

Speeches were made, chuckles had, champagne poured, and the most delicious of meals tucked into, before the dance floor was opened and the party got started. Chantelle’s Helderberg Cake Company had been contracted in to making the big wedding cake for the celebration and her elegantly simple penguin topped three tier masterpiece (Joanne and Terrance bonded over their love of books, therefore the Penguin Random House reference) certainly drew a lot of attention!

Because Terrance and Joanne had graciously given us one of the leftover rooms that they had at the venue, I have to admit to having really gone all out in enjoying myself at this celebration of one of my oldest friend’s (whom I’ve known since we were children) newfound joy. A lot of wine was inbibed, shooters downed, and ill-advised dance moves on the dance floor undertaken. Frankly put, I had a hell of a lot of fun.

I drank and danced right up until the music was turned off, the lights switched off, and the bar doors closed, after which Chantelle and I helped Joanne drag Terrance back to their manor house room, where we stayed for some tea and talk, before eventually crawling back into our own beds in the early hours of the next morning.

And then we woke up to light rain and a slightly disorganized breakfast get together in the manor house.