Category Archives: Photo Gallery

Rock Faces and Sea Views from Chapman’s Peak Drive (2020-07-04) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 18 APR 2021

Covid-19 and its associated lockdowns kept us all indoors for most of last year, and so excursions were few and far between. Cabin fever certainly became a thing, and to stave if off, one Saturday morning in July saw us all hop into the car and tackle the long drive to Simon’s Town and beyond, with the aim of taking in the views that come with a trip along the legendary Chapman’s Peak Drive.

Stretching between Noordhoek and Hout Bay, Chapman’s Peak is the name of the mountain on the western side of the Cape Peninsula, taking its name from John Chapman, the pilot of an English ship that was becalmed in Hout Bay in 1607, and who had been sent ashore to find provisions on an expedition recorded as Chapman’s Chaunce. Chapman’s Peak Drive itself was hacked out of the face of the mountain between 1915 and 1922, and at the time was regarded as a major feat of engineering. Of course, the issue of the numerous (but expected) rockfalls along the road came to a head in the 1990s after it caused a motorist’s death (and subsequent lawsuit), and many subsequent bouts of re-engineering has since taken place to try and make the route safer for visitors. As such the road reopened in 2005 as a toll road (to fund these constant fixes), and to this day remains one of Cape Town’s most famous drives.

The scenery is of course spectacular. With a base of granite, covered in layers of sedimentary rock and sandstone fynbos, the near vertical mountain faces rise up to the one side of you while to the other you are rewarded with the deep blue hues of the Atlantic Ocean, and further on the stiller waters of the ever picturesque Hout Bay.

Passing by energetic (and clearly not risk averse) cyclists and through the odd stone and concrete overhangs, you are eventually afforded a stop at the main lookout point that provides an incredible vantage point across from Hout Bay, with plenty of additional stone steps waiting to be clambered up by those with the energy to get yet another view of this gorgeous landscape.

Chapman’s Peak Drive is an incredible example of the old mixed in with the new mountain pass engineering, and with those incredible classic views on offer, an absolute must do for any visitor to the Cape – plus on this particular day, the perfect way to break out of our Covid-19 cabin fever funk!

Fine Dining at Overture at Hidden Valley Wines in Stellenbosch (2020-12-05) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 15 APR 2021

While my 40th birthday unfortunately fell in the middle of South Africa’s strict Covid-19 lockdowns (hello swing-ball in my garden and a rainbow cake from Chantelle), thankfully we were a little more lucky come December when Chantelle’s big 40 also came rolling into town. Kids safely dropped off with the grandparents in Bellville, we turned our attention to the big one – an exquisite five course gourmet dinner at the highly acclaimed, awarded winning Overture restaurant.

On the edge of Stellenbosch, tucked away in the foothills of the Helderberg Mountain above the vineyards of Hidden Valley Wines, Overture holds the distinction of being restaurateur and chef extraordinaire Bertus Basson’s first restaurant. Established in 2007, Overture quickly began winning accolade after accolade, swiftly rising up in the ranks of South Africa fine dining establishments, and with it, elevating the name of Bertus Basson. Known for celebrating South African produce like ethically-sourced fish and organic maize, these days head chef Drikus Brink and his kitchen team continue the mission of serving honest, simple, produce-driven cooking based on classical techniques.

Well that’s what the website says anyway. ‘Simple’ isn’t how I would describe the incredible menu at all! We opted to pair a wine tasting with our five course meal, an excellent idea as the broad spectrum of excellent wines suited each dish to perfection. From start to finish the food was exemplary. The canapés, the raw yellowtail, the roasted aubergine, the pork belly, the beef, the beetroot, the dessert – absolute fine dining heaven.

The plating, the simple stone decor, the view over the vineyards, the mountains, the brass fittings, the wine, the sculptures, having Bertus and his wife enjoying a meal an arm’s length away from us – this was an absolutely incredible experience for a foodie such as Chantelle and definitely one that was much enjoyed!

Art and Architecture in Stellenbosch (2020-08-16) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 10 APR 2021

Last year was of course filled with many quiet moments and even more quiet spaces. It doesn’t happen very often, but every now and then I get the opportunity to leave the girls behind with Chantelle and venture out on my own little photo walkabout – which is exactly what happened on one pleasant Sunday afternoon back in August of last year. So hello to the naked oak trees, classic architecture, and the oh so many pieces of art on public display of Stellenbosch and its university campus grounds!

Established along the banks of the Eerste River in 1679 by Simon van der Stel, the then Governor of the Cape Colony, the achingly beautiful Stellenbosch is recognized as the second oldest town in South Africa. Surrounded by mountains, filled with ancient oak trees, and home to much of South Africa’s historic wine industry, the relatively wealthy Stellenbosch is a town well worth visiting.

It is also worth mentioning that although technically Stellenbosch isn’t a university town as such, the reality is that it very much is, with the Stellenbosch University campus, faculty buildings, and student residences occupying much of the heart of this old town. What this then translates to is that when the students aren’t on campus then the town becomes a LOT quieter – and because the university is integrated into the town, you are able to casually stroll around these magnificent examples of old architecture whenever you like. In other words, there are a lot of pretty buildings waiting to be seen!

My casual stroll with camera phone in hand took me past the grandiose Dutch Reformed (NG Moederkerk) church, the eye catching red of the Stellenbosch University Museum, through the Jan Marais Square (Red Square) and over the underground Stellenbosch University Library, and past the majestic faculty buildings and large residences that so many students call home during the academic year. I walked alongside the surging Eerste River, down the historic Dorp street, and past so, so many art galleries just stuffed with the treasure of artistic endeavour. Seventh heaven for someone like me then!

Lunch from Vadas Smokehouse and Bakery at Spier in Stellenbosch (2021-03-20) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 05 APR 2021

Having now spent a good long time exploring the grounds of the excellent Spier wine estate, taken in all the art installations of the Spier Light Art festival, and watched the birds of prey soar at Eagle Encounters, the girls decided that it was time for something to eat. So we sauntered back along the main path towards the beautifully restored Werf area, strolling across its rolling green lawns, clambering over the big granite boulders, and passing underneath the ancient oak trees, before coming to a stop in front of a patchwork of red and black table umbrellas standing out in front of a classic Cape Dutch style building with Vadas emblazoned on its side in unmissable bright red.

Both smokehouse and bakery, Vadas sources most of its ingredients from local producers (with the chicken, eggs and meats supplied by Spier’s Farmer Angus), making it a proper farm-to-plate business. Armed with the spectacular backdrop that is the manicured lawns, trees, architecture, and landscape that is Spier, Vadas pumps out all manner of elevated dishes that you would expect from a smokehouse, such as smoked beef brisket, juicy smoked pork with a bourbon BBQ sauce, and even smoked pork belly with apple ketchup. (And yes, there are plenty of other options available for all the kids and vegetarians out there).

Of course, the bakery component isn’t to be left out either, producing some incredible slow-fermented, fresh sourdough breads plus a treasure trove of sweet pies such as blueberry & nectarine pie, chocolate cream pie, pecan pie and lemon meringue pie. If none of that tickles your fancy though, Vadas is also pretty famous for their most excellent Pasteis de Nata – the increasingly popular Portuguese custard tart that seems to be popping up all around Cape Town at the moment!

Pizza, Dogs, and a Goat at JANKAN in Paarl (2021-03-13) Farm Stalls | Photo Gallery 01 APR 2021

After a day of clambering about the mountain and stroking the alpacas in Paarl, the girls were now rightfully a little more than just peckish, and so off I set in search of something nice and family friendly in order to satisfy their combined mewling. As it just so happens, the Picardie Guest Farm, situated right near the start of the old town, has the most wonderful of farm stall coffee shops inhabiting their grounds – the über family friendly JANKAN experience.

It’s not a lot to look at, sure, but the metal sheet building houses an incredible array of fresh produce and other knickknacks ready for purchase, as well as the all important bits of a small kitchen and of course pizza oven! Stepping through the tin shack, you enter a paved courtyard area that has a number of tables shaded by a large stretch tent, and sprawling beyond that, a grassy play area that is filled with jumping castles, jungle gyms, and just a ton of other things for small children to clamber about on. Even further to the back is a small paddock where kids can enjoy a horse ride or two (in fact, this is something that Jessica did many moons ago when we first visited this space), and of course, littered throughout is a huge assortment of small farm animals, from bunny rabbits to pigs, and even a free roaming goat.

And then of course there are the farm dogs walking around, Great Danes included! In other words, it is no wonder then that JANKAN is a firm favourite for local kids birthday party celebrations. As for our little visit, we found a small table, I ordered a beer and some pizza plus roosterkoek to share, and off the girls scuttled for some play time, appearing only now and then whenever food or drink arrived at our table!

USA 2019 – 16 National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in Washington DC (2019-10-27) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 24 MAR 2021

There is such an incredible amount of things to see in Washington D.C. (even more so given my proclivity to all things historic, natural, and scientific) that it is near impossible to see everything unless you live there for at least a month. Thus, lists have to be made, and sights ordered in preference and importance, and this then is exactly what I had to sit down and do when first planning my three day stopover in the United States capital. As it stands, it is pretty easy to single out my biggest regret in terms of places NOT visited – the National Gallery of Art, one of the United States’ greatest art museums. That said, at least there is the small consolation prize of having walked through this institution’s playful Sculpture Garden – though I’m not sure if this makes me happy or just more sad at having missed out on visiting the real thing!

Sandwiched between the beautiful neoclassical West Building and the modern East Building of the National Gallery of Art complex, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is the most recent addition to the art museum, having opened its gates to the public in May 1999. It acts as an outdoor setting for exhibiting several pieces from the museum’s contemporary sculpture collection, and is anchored by a large central fountain which from December through to March is converted to an ice-skating rink.

Housing classic contemporary works like Roy Lichtenstein’s House I, Robert Indiana’s AMOR, and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, the sculpture garden provides a small escape from the noise and the crowds plodding about the National Mall, where you can either amble through and discover work from names like Joan Miro, Tony Smith, Mark di Suvero, Barry Flanagan, and Roxy Paine (whose tall shiny Graft steals attention as you walk in), or simply sit down with a coffee and admire the view from a table at the artfully decorated outdoor Pavilion Cafe.

USA 2019 – 15 United States Botanic Garden in Washington DC (2019-10-27) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 23 MAR 2021

Situated on the grounds of the United States Capitol, near Garfield Circle, lies the oldest continually-operated botanic garden in the United States – the United States Botanic Garden. Established by the U.S. Congress in 1820, the botanic garden houses an incredible variety of both local and exotic plants, including specimens and seeds that can be dated back all the way to the South Seas exploration of the Wilkes Expedition.

The striking glass and aluminum curves of the gigantic Lord & Burnham greenhouse demands attention, and while you can enter the United States Botanic Garden through the imposing stone facade of the the main conservatory, a lot of people end up in the botanic garden by following the green (and associated tranquility) of the National Garden, which lies on the Botanic Garden’s west border. In addition to the odd sculpture or two that finds itself exhibited in this space, this outside garden includes a regional garden of plants native to the Atlantic Coastal Plain and Piedmont, a rose garden, a butterfly garden, and the First Ladies Water Garden, a water garden in memory of the First Ladies of the United States.

Then there is the Conservatory itself. Housed in the stunning, aforementioned greenhouse, the Conservatory is divided into separate rooms, each simulating a different habitat. Rooms included in this list are The Garden Court, Rare and Endangered Plants, Plant Exploration, Orchid House, Medicinal Plants, Desert, Hawaii, Garden Primeval, Plant Adaptation, Jungle (which is by far the largest room, featuring an elevated catwalk to walk above the jungle canopy), Children’s Garden, and Southern Exposure. The end result is a wide array of many small collections of interesting plants, and I have to be honest, I did break out in a broad smile when I stumbled across the small collection of our local fynbos on display.

The United States Botanic Garden is a wondrous space. Compact enough that it doesn’t take too long to wander through, but filled with so much colour and with such varied plant species (with the odd sculpture and mural thrown in) that you can’t but help meander through with a peaceful mind and even broader smile on your face. Easy to recommend if you are looking for a little break from exploring all that history that is housed along the National Mall!

Banana and Ice Cream at The Waffle Cafe in Gordon’s Bay (2021-03-09) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 22 MAR 2021

You could of course have waffles and ice cream as a dessert when eating out at Spur – but generally speaking, that is taking away from what the humble waffle truly could be. For the last couple of years now, the Belgian Waffle House in Strand has been delighting us with their light and fluffy Belgian waffle combinations, but pleasingly, Gordon’s Bay too now has its very own local purveyor of all things waffle – and it is situated right here on Beach Road!

Sitting right on the beachfront, The Waffle Cafe has taken over Dock on the Bay’s spot in the Old Cape Mall, transforming the former pub into an explosion of geometric pastel colours and ice cream. Shaded outside tables, a spacious dining room, lounge area by the fireplace, and a quirky gift shop, The Waffle Cafe presents itself as a lighthearted family friendly sweet tooth stop, and pleasingly, that is precisely what it is.

With a menu that takes both waffle and pancake combinations across the spectrum from sweet to savoury, not to mention more conventional breakfast options for those dull people who can’t quite bring themselves to start the day off with waffles and pancakes, The Waffle Cafe understandably has quickly become quite the hit with all our local families with kids – my girls obviously included!

USA 2019 – 14 Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC (2019-10-27) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 21 MAR 2021

There’s nothing more disappointing than finding your most eagerly anticipated tourist sight or experience covered in scaffolding and men at work signs. This then is exactly what awaited me as I, who suffers from a life long love and admiration for all things aeronautical, shuffled across the National Mall to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, having just spent the last couple of hours wandering through the halls of the incredible National Museum of American History. Clearly then the grey skies, dripping trees, and puddles of fresh rain water on the concrete perfectly suited that very moment when I turned the corner and discovered my eagerly awaited unicorn under all the cranes, scaffolding, and hard hat signs.

Of course, just because massive swathes of its space is closed for renovation, it doesn’t mean that the museum has entirely shut up shop, and so I joined the throng of excited visitors, cleared through security, and stepped into the impressive Milestones of Flight entrance hall, decked out with an incredible array of historical aircraft, including gems like the Spirit of St Louis, the Bell X-1, SpaceShipOne, and even the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia!

From there I wandered through the interactive, kid-focused How Things Fly exhibit, followed by a jaw-dropping walk about the Space Race floor that is devoted to all things rockets, including the infamous German V-2 rocket. Next to that was a hall dedicated to exploring the universe, examining solar systems and the instruments that we have developed to better study it, and across the passage, the Moving Beyond Earth immersive exhibition that places you “in orbit” as part of the shuttle and space-station era – allowing you to explore recent human spaceflight and future possibilities.

At the time of my visit, the only halls open on the second floor included one looking at the origin of powered flight through the lens of the Wright Brothers and their 1903 Wright Flyer, and another that focuses on Time and Navigation, detailing how revolutions in timekeeping over the years have influenced how we find our way. Hello GPS!

And unfortunately that was that. With about half of its floor space lost to the ongoing renovations, and almost the entirety of its collection of planes now stored at the museum’s secondary Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in nearby Virginia, this particular museum experience, while as incredibly interesting and engaging as what it was, just didn’t have what I was really looking forward to seeing the most: airplanes! (Spoiler alert though – the very last thing that I did manage to do on this particular USA 2019 business trip as I waited for my plane to depart from Dulles International Airport, was catch a bus to a certain spot in Virginia…)