Category Archives: My Life

Admiring the Tranquility of the Huguenot Monument in Franschhoek (2017-08-13) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 18 APR 2018

We don’t really create large scale monuments any more (makes sense, they’re expensive and usually only relevant to a small slice of the population), but I do find that a pity because I rather enjoy the spectacle of a well designed monument space.

For me, the Huguenot Monument in Franschhoek is a thing of absolute, tranquil beauty. The distinctive arches that frames the strong central character, the flanking pillars of the colonnade, and the reflective pool all combine to create a striking vision, with the large manicured lawns ensuring that the elegant monument stands central to the scene.

Inaugurated in 1948, the monument, designed by J.C. Jongens, honours the Huguenot’s who, fleeing religious persecution back in France, arrived in the country between the years 1683 and 1756 and primarily hunkered down in the valley of Franschhoek (literally “French Corner”).

It was here then that the French Huguenots settled, built farms, produced wines, and impressed their culture onto the area, leaving a huge mark on colonial South African life, and indeed, leaving a legacy which to this day survives in what is undoubtedly the premier wine producing region of South Africa.

The monument itself is dripping with symbolism: the three great arches represent the Holy Trinity, above from which the Sun of Righteousness shines, topped by the Cross of the Christian faith. The central female figure (created by Coert Steynberg) is meant to personify religious freedom, with a bible in her one hand and a broken chain in the other. Her cloak of oppression is being cast off as she stands upon the globe symbolising her religious freedom. The fleur-de-lis on her robe represents a noble spirit and character.

The still, reflecting water pond below expresses tranquility of mind and spiritual peace, important considering the strife and conflict the Huguenots had experienced back in France.

As for the globe itself, the central Southern tip of Africa includes a symbol of their religion (the Bible), a symbol of their art and culture (the harp), a symbol of their viticulture (the sheaf of corn and grape vine), and a symbol of industry (a spinning wheel).

In addition to the monument, on the grounds next door stands the Huguenot Museum, itself with a rather interesting story to tell. It used to be the elegant home of Baron Willem Ferdinand van Reede van Oudtshoorn, which had been erected around 1791 in Cape Town.

Despite all attempts to save it, the historic building was demolished in 1954, but not before an agreement was reached to use it as a French Huguenot museum. So each brick and stone was numbered, and transported from Cape Town to Franschhoek, where it was erected exactly how it had originally stood, complete with its original decorations intact.

As interesting as a stroll through the museum would have been, this particular visit to the monument had the kids along for the ride, which of course then meant that while open spaces with a boring building but interesting lizards was tolerable enough for them, a visit to a dusty old museum was definitely not on their acceptable things to do for the day!

Still, I got plenty of pictures from what was a quiet, peaceful experience:

As with most monuments, the Huguenot Monument is best experienced when there are few or no other people around – a certain level of quiet is needed to truly experience the surreal tranquility of this beautiful space in the Franschhoek valley.

Related Link: Huguenot Monument | Wikipedia | Franschhoek

Mini Golf at FantaSea at the Point in Mossel Bay (2017-12-29) Kid Activities | Photo Gallery 17 APR 2018

Now that she is more or less old enough to play, I suspect that this might now become a thing whenever I find myself down in Mossel Bay with the eldest munchkin in tow – putt putt at Fanta Sea at The Point.

This particular round of mini golf happened as part of our lovely December holiday getaway, though funnily enough, Jessica and I had actually already played at Fanta Sea back in March. Thing is – all of a sudden the joint was sporting a burst of color and a whole lot of upgrades since we last were there, plus this time around we had both Chantelle and Emily to watch us in action!

(Also, it was believe it or not, quieter than what it had been in March – that Buffalo Biker Rally of the Nomads Motorcycle Club sure knows how to pile the people in here at Mossel Bay! I suspect though that we were somewhat lucky, perhaps most of the Christmas holiday crowd had already packed up and headed off before we finally made the time to come down for a game.)

Anyway, as I mentioned last time, the downside to playing at Fanta Sea with smaller kids is that they only have the adult length putters available, making it pretty difficult for Jessica to play 100% properly – and near impossible for Emily who is still way too small. (Not that that stopped her grabbing a putter and trying of course!)

The weather was good, the putt putt rather nice, and pretty much everyone put in one or two quite excellent shots. I can’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure that my mom managed to sink the most hole-in-ones on the day.

I can’t remember having a particularly good day at the office…

Fanta Sea at The Point is actually a great spot for families with young kids. Putt Putt, skateboarding, a jungle gym play area, light meals, splash pool, car rides, ice cream – there is more than enough here to keep the young ones happy for a fair bit!

Related Link: Fanta Sea @ The Point | Mossel Bay

Seals and Penguins at the Bayworld Oceanarium in Port Elizabeth (2017-07-09) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 16 APR 2018

While the days of the crowd being splashed wet while being entertained and enthralled by Bayworld’s team of well trained bottlenose dolphins are now long since passed, the now visibly less vibrant (despite its R10 million 2013 revamp) Port Elizabeth tourist attracting complex is still worth the visit – even if the oceanarium is no longer the star of the show.

While our day out to Bayworld revolved mostly around the excellent Port Elizabeth Museum (which I’ll dedicate a separate post to), we did of course kick things off at the oceanarium (animal activists perhaps look away now), where the kids were delighted to watch the seals and penguins splash about and play in the two open view pools (next to the sadly, but thankfully hidden, dilapidated dolphinarium zone).

Next came the short seal (and turtle) show, with Jessica particularly pleased at being called out to the front to receive a kiss from a superbly trained seal and his flexible whiskers. (Turns out, the kiss was a lot more ticklish than what she was expecting!) 

Following that, the last remaing thing to be seen in the Oceanarium section of Bayworld was of course the actual oceanarium itself, though to be fair, with the large tanks now all out of action, the dimly lit space is perhaps better referred to as an aquarium, containing only a few tanks, but thankfully filled with enough interesting fish species to make it worth the while.

(When you have a small fish tank dedicated to a LEGO shipwreck build then you might just realise that perhaps something is not running 100% according to plan…)

Anyway, I grabbed a few photos here and there, but honestly, given the oceanarium section’s now diminished state, there isn’t a whole lot to actually take photos of! Still, the kids all seemed to enjoy the space enough to have made the visit worthwhile…

Still, I have to admit, seeing the now abandoned dolphinarium (which holds such wonderful childhood memories for me) is admittedly more than just a little heartbreaking.

Next up: Bayworld’s much more amazing Port Elizabeth Museum!

Related Link: Bayworld Oceanarium | Port Elizabeth

A Train and the Colourful Changing Rooms of St James Beach (2017-10-30) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 13 APR 2018

Ah, the brightly coloured Victorian bathing boxes of St. James Beach. What Cape Town travel blog could truly call themselves local without including at least one post detailing this internationally recognised view, right?

St. James itself is a suburb of Cape Town, situated alongside the Atlantic Ocean on the shores of False Bay, tucked away between Muizenberg and Kalk Bay. As with a lot of old Cape Town suburbs, St James is constrained to a piece of land that is sandwiched between a rocky shore and the steep slopes of a mountain.

Deriving its name from the early St James Catholic Church (built around 1880), the majority of the current suburb was built between 1910 and 1950, following the completion of the railway line that connected Cape Town to False Bay.

(Incidentally, this line remains the most scenic train ride that you can catch in Cape Town today).

The main attraction for the area is of course St James beach, a lovely sheltered spot that provides a welcome break from the westerly winds, centered around a large man-made tidal pool that provides a splash free seawater experience that is perfect for families with kids.

The small stretch of sand quickly makes way for some fantastic naturally formed rock pools, perfect for observing small pockets of ocean life, and for added excitement, every now and then sees a train pass by right above your head!

And then there is of course the iconic row of little Victorian bathing boxes to provide a brilliant burst of colour to the scene.

In order to reach the beach you need to either cross underneath the railroad line using one of the the railway tunnels near the old train station, or you could perhaps take the enjoyable stroll along the lovely St James walkway which stretches all the way from St James beach to Surfers’ Corner, Muizenberg.

So, pretty much all the ingredients needed for a nice, free to enter, family friendly weekend visit then.

(Seeing as I’m more of a Helderberg basin, Overstrand and Stellenbosch Winelands travel blog these days, this just so happens to be my very first post featuring the famous St. James beach – though to be fair I have had the brightly coloured bathing boxes synonymous with Muizenberg’s Surfers’ Corner appear on these pages before!)

Related Link: St James | Cape Town

Elephant Dung Paper at the Scarab Art and Craft Village in Sedgefield (2017-07-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 10 APR 2018

Just across the road from Sedgefield’s super popular Wild Oats Community Farmers’ Market grounds stands another, even more colourful entry into the weekend market scene – The Scarab’s Craft Market at Scarab Village.

Leaving the fresh produce and eco-friendly themes for the Wild Oats Market to pick up, the Scarab’s Craft Market instead doubles down on being the source of the best authentic, handmade craft to be found along the Garden Route.

The musical, colourful, welcoming market is held beside the titular Scarab Art and Craft Village, which itself is also home to more than just a few super interesting stores.

Beads, exotic plants, stone art, ornate light fittings, wooden crosses, owl boxes, woodcraft furniture, and my personal favourite, craft paper made from Elephant Dung can all be found as you flutter between one artsy shop and the next.

There is an outdoor red roof venue which you can hire, there is a small diner ready to see to any hunger pangs that you might be experiencing, and there is a small, octopus under the sea themed kids play area for the little ones. (Which the girls of course enjoyed).

Oh, and Sedgefield’s very own little craft brewery also just happens to be situated in the village…

Sadly for us though, our short Sedgefield stop didn’t quite fall over a weekend, so we missed out on experiencing the vibrant atmosphere that surely must be on display here come each and every Saturday – which I guess just means we need to make our way back there sooner than later then! ;)

Related Link: Scarab Village | Scarab Paper | Sedgefield

Sightseeing from Shark Rock Pier in Port Elizabeth (2017-07-08) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 09 APR 2018

When in Port Elizabeth, head out for a stroll along Shark Rock Pier. Or rather, that is what it feels like every tourist to Port Elizabeth does at least once while visiting the Friendly City. (Well certainly that is what my Instagram feed seems to suggest anyway).

To be fair though, that is of course exactly what we did when we visited Port Elizabeth as part of last year’s June Roadtrip Holiday.

Built in 1998 and measuring 137 metres in length, Shark Rock Pier can be found between Hobie Beach and the Red Windmill, and interestingly enough, is the only public accessible pier in Port Elizabeth.

Situated at the very center of the Port Elizabeth beachfront, free to access, and giving amazing views across Algoa Bay, it is no wonder then that the pier is both a major landmark of and drawcard for P.E.

Or at least that is what all the travel operators say about it.

I have to say, it is pretty cool though, and we all enjoyed the gentle amble out to its end and back again. The views are great, non locals like us are easily bamboozled by the hordes of open water swimmers who look just like dolphins in their wetsuits, and there are plenty of friendly ice cream vendors waiting for you to look hot on hand.

Oh, and interesting fact. The famous Hobie Beach only exists thanks to Shark Rock Pier’s presence. Its positioning is such that the pier blocks the tidal drift of sand northwards, causing it to instead build up and thus pile on the layers of fun for this super popular sun soaked beach.

Basically, well worth the walk if you find yourself in the area then.

Related Link: Port Elizabeth

From Whale Watching to Fick’s Pool in Hermanus (2017-08-09) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 08 APR 2018

There is a reason why Hermanus is so popular come whale season time in Walker Bay – its elevated seaside cliffs give the absolute best vantage point to watch the whales cavort in the waters down below.

Now while I’m not a massive whale watching fan, Chantelle is, and thus she absolutely loves our infrequent trips to the whale watching capital of the Western Cape – but only if there are whales to be spotted of course! ;)

Last year August saw us take an impromptu drive through to Hermanus for a spot of Southern Right Whale watching, which turned out to be a fortuitous day to pick thanks to the fact that there was in the end plenty of activity down in the water to be seen.

We started our exhibition up on top of the cliffs (across from the Cliff Tops Piazza), which gave us a particularly good view over the bay for a minimal amount of effort.

Amazingly, neither of the girls were scared or overly cautious about being up so high, leading to a rather nice and relaxed bit of time spent staring out over the ocean.

The spot where we had climbed up turned out to be right alongside Fick’s Pool, one of the older tidal pools in Hermanus and one that back in the day used to very much be the place to be seen if you were looking for some local fun as a teenager.

These days this quite well protected, small tidal pool is particularly popular for families with kids who want to splash about but who don’t feel like getting sea sand shoved up every nook and cranny.

Only one problem though – this wasn’t summer and we weren’t here to get wet!

From Fick’s Pool we then made our way over the nearby Cliff Tops biodiversity path before ending up, ice cream in hand, watching whales from the piazza.

Perfect way to spend a whale watching day in Hermanus then.

Related Link: Fick’s Pool | Hermanus

Coffee and Cake at Old Mill Guest House and Restaurant in Swellendam (2017-12-26) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 07 APR 2018

When I am in the mood to holiday then I holiday, and invariably that then means that I double the length of all long drives because I pretty much want to stop anywhere and everywhere.

Case in point: I felt like a Swellendam cake and coffee stop on the way up to Mossel Bay last December, but I didn’t feel like popping into (the almost always busy) Tredici as per the norm. So instead, Chantelle dug deep into her memory banks and came up with this little gem: the Old Mill Restaurant.

Situated at the foot of the Langeberg Mountain range, in the heart of the Overberg, the Old Mill business is primarily that of a guest house, operating out from a beautiful old, protected national monument building set along the main road, where Belgian owner Nikki and his staff do their utmost to offer accommodation that comes intertwined with warm, friendly Flemish hospitality.

In addition to the guest house (and art gallery/curio store), the Old Mill also operates a lovely restaurant, featuring both an indoor and outdoor dining area.

The menu on offer is a diverse à la carte menu inspired by both traditional Afrikaans and international recipes, all waiting to be washed down with some imported Belgian beer. (The Old Mill appears to be rather proud of this offering).

And yes, as it turned out, they also do good cake and coffee as well.

We were of course super interested in finding a space under the canopy of trees that provides the much needed shade over the outside dining area, and pleasingly we did manage to grab just such a table on what was a particularly warm Summer’s afternoon in the end.

So. Coffee, cheesecake, carrot cake and sorbet was then (more or less equally) shared all around, thus making for a lovely little road trip leg stretch stop.

Lovely find and definitely a place I’ll stop for a bit longer at the next time that I find myself back in the Swellendam area again!

Related Link: Old Mill Guest House and Restaurant | Swellendam

A December Holiday in Gouritsmond (2017-12-29) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 04 APR 2018

Last year December saw us enjoy a holiday break in three parts – first Christmas at home, then a splash at Pinnacle Point Estate in Mossel Bay with my folks and my sister’s family, followed by a (because we were already in the area) final stretch in Gouritsmond with both my folks and Chantelle’s folks. (So yes, basically a full on family time holiday then!)

This was my second time holidaying in Gouritz (or Gouritsmond depending on who you ask), and to be honest, despite not being into fishing (which technically you should be if you are going there) I was really looking very much forward to the quiet, chilled nature of a stay in this little coastal holiday town.

The house that we had rented wasn’t 100% perfect thanks to its strange living arrangement (it had only just hit the holiday rental market), but beggars can’t be choosers (we only made the decision to go right at the end of the year), and in the end the actual accommodation was more than comfortable enough for the eight of us, so all was good on that front.

With my parents in the mix, there was of course a LOT of card games over the next couple of days to be had (Monopoly Deal for the win!), plus of course the LOADs of leftover Christmas snacks to be devoured, not to mention all that relaxing walking about town to be done – which I most certainly did my fair share of! ;)

We braaied, we rung in the new year with a potjiekos get together in the caravan park, we hunted for small little fish in the rock pools, we went on exploratory drives around the area, and of course, we tucked into delicious milktart and peppermint crisp tart pancakes whenever the opportunity arose.

In other words, it is basically impossible to come away from a stay like this NOT feeling 100% chill, refreshed, and ready to tackle the new year head on!

(Or rather, that is how one would normally come away feeling after such a good seaside getaway, unless of course they experience a blown coil in their aging Hyundai Accent, which then triggers a chain of events that eventually leads to a quite unscheduled holiday extension in George…)

Related Link: Gouritz | Gouritsmond