Category Archives: My Life

Exploring the Spice Route in Paarl (2016-08-06) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 16 AUG 2016

Chantelle and I enjoyed a rather good weekend at the start of August, with the two of us enjoying a rare date night that saw us catch a South African production of the musical comedy “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” at Theatre on the Bay in Camps Bay. Unfortunately, despite being technically good and a well performed routine, neither Chantelle nor I walked out of the theatre having enjoyed the show, and so instead, took a scenic drive around the coast, before ending up back in Bellville where we let nostalgia dictate that we enjoy a midnight milkshake (and pizza) at the almost always dodgy (at night) Bellville institution that is Starlite Diner.

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Having spent the night at Monty and Cheryl’s place (that’s where the girls were sleeping), the next morning saw us pop through to the Willowbridge shopping centre in Durbanville, where we met up with the visiting Terrance over some coffee and tart at Pulp, giving Chantelle at last a chance to catch up with him and his travels.

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The girls enjoyed their time too (the outdoor jungle gym is always a hit!).

From there, leaving Terrance behind, we then next embarked on a drive along the N1 to Paarl, where despite some phone GPS hiccups, we successfully navigated our way to Paarl’s popular tourist attraction, the Spice Route.

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Located on what was previously known as the Seidelberg Wine Estate, the Spice Route is the brainchild of successful and well known South African wine producer Charles Back, who first started work on the project around 1997.

Home to the Spice Route Winery, the unique Spice Route is intended as a tourist and locals friendly hub that curates some of the finest artisans, allowing them to showcase their produce and share their knowledge with both the public and each other.

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Currently the Spice Route is home to thirteen fantastic ventures. In terms of restaurants, you have the Barley & Biltong, La Grapperia, DV Cottage Cafe, and the popular Bertus Basson offerings. There’s also cured meats from Richard Bosman, and treats from Brenda’s Deli. In terms of alcohol, you obviously have Spice Route Winery, Wilderer Distillery as well as one of the granddaddies in the current craft brewery game, Cape Brewery Co., better known as CBC.

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The Trading Company has all manner of interesting items for sale, while artists display their varied work at The Barn Artist’s studio gallery. Beautifully ornate glass creations are created and displayed at the exciting Red Hot Glass studio, while those in search of chocolate decadence definitely need to pop in to DV Artisan Chocolate for a tasting session!

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After strolling around and taking in all the sights and sounds, we settled on enjoying some handmade ice cream, with Jess immediately diving straight into her chocolate cone and Emily devouring whatever ice cream dared come close to her face!

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Although technically kid friendly (there is a kids area, though it caters better to the slightly older children), I think the Spice Route is better explored as an adult, meaning that this is now firmly on our list of places to visit the next time Chantelle and I manage to slip away for some weekend time without the kids!

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The views from the elevated estate are magnificent, the vibe is fantastic, and if you haven’t visited the Spice Route before, then you definitely should make a plan to do so, because it is simply put, fantastic.

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And yes, of course I took pictures!

(I wanted to also pay a visit to the iconic Taalmonument while in the area, making it as far as the gates at the top of the hill, but unfortunately by that stage both girls were tired, grumpy and half asleep – meaning that I will have to tackle that trip another day!)

Related Link: Spice Route | Wikipedia | Spice Route Winery

Exploring the Paardevlei Nature Walk in Somerset West (2016-08-09) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 14 AUG 2016

National Womens Day rolled around, which of course meant no work (it is an official South African public holiday after all) and thus, given the good weather, a chance to get out of the house and do a little bit of exploring.

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Seeing as Chantelle had yet to stroll around the Paardevlei Nature Walk area in Paardevlei, Somerset West, I suggested that the four of us head out that way to do a spot of flamingo watching while getting some fresh air – an idea which both she and the girls were instantly onboard for!

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With Spring just around the corner, a lot of wild flowers are now starting to bloom, with the end result being of course a more colourful than usual spectacle on show.

Sadly though, the flamingos were content to stay on the far side of the dam where we couldn’t get a decent look at them, but luckily there was still more than enough active bird life in among the reeds to entertain us – turning both Chantelle and I into somewhat amateur bird watchers for a wee bit!

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Hairy worms were also in abundance, and the girls took great pleasure in pointing them out!

Amazingly, the little ones did a lot better this time around than the first time I did the walk with just the two of them, meaning that we made it further down the path – though of course it did eventually get too much for them resulting in piggyback rides for most of the trail back to the car.

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As you can tell from the pictures, it really was a beautiful day to be out and about in nature, and pleasingly, Chantelle quite liked this little gem of a walk that the girls and I discovered – meaning that I’m pretty sure we’ll be heading out this way more than just a few times in the Spring and Summer months to come!

(I have written about the Paardevlei area before, but just in case you haven’t caught those, the usual suspects in terms of related links can be found at the bottom of this post again)

Related Link: Paardevlei | Paardevlei History

Catching up with Terrance at Wild Clover and Weltevreden (2016-07-30) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 09 AUG 2016

It has been five years now since good friend Terrance (I’ve known him since school days) left our sunny shores for a life of teaching English in Japan. He has of course subsequently made a life for himself over there (Ryan and I were lucky enough to attend his wedding in Komagane back in 2014), so I doubt that he will ever call this part of the world home again.

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He has however been pretty good in coming back to South Africa in order to spend time with his folks from time to time, and as circumstance would have it, this year we got to catch up twice – back in February where I introduced him to the Vergelegen Estate (and caught a screening of Deadpool in the process), and now again at the end of July.

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This time around though, as both he and I were flying solo (more or less – I still had the girls with me), I opted for a kid friendly venue which lead to us meeting up at Wild Clover, a frequent favourite spot for the Gordon Bay Lötters!

The girls and I arrived a little early, so we did a spot of exploring around first, but pretty soon we grabbed a table (they have a new chef, so the place is pretty popular again!) and were joined by an eager Mr. Brown for some craft beer, pizza and a great catch up session!

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Still eager for some more time swapping stories, I next suggested that we move up the road to Weltevreden, as the play area at The Carnival (which we only recently discovered) is nicely shaded and makes for a better afternoon play spot than Wild Clover.

Pleasingly he was keen, and so a quick drive later (Jess enjoyed being his passenger in the Citi Golf), we were once again seated and chatting, with the girls happily running around searching for ladybirds and whatnot.

All in all, not a bad way of catching up on all the news from the Land of the Rising Sun! :)

Related Link: Terrance Brown | Weltevreden | Wild Clover

Kids and Mud at Pollock Park in Gordon’s Bay (2016-08-02) Photo Gallery 05 AUG 2016

The days are staying a little lighter for longer now, meaning that once again the girls and I have the opportunity to nip out after school before the whole supper, bath and bed routine starts. Tuesday evening saw us we take the opportunity to spend a little time running around our favourite public park in Gordon’s Bay, Pollock Park.

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It was a LOT more muddy than what I would have liked, but seeing as I only saw the mud AFTER we had already all exited the car, it was pretty much a lost cause and I could only hope that the girls remain PARTICULARLY well balanced for this session of play!

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(Thankfully, they did!)

Usually the stone canals that run the length of the park sit dry (the pump mechanism was vandalised and stolen years ago), so it was pretty cool to see water flowing through all the channels for a change – giving the girls and myself more than enough reason to track the water all the way back up to the duck pond, which I am happy to report is sitting at a quite nice and healthy level at last.

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Mr Teddy also came along for the play session, and even more amazing was the fact that he too somehow remained completely mud free!

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Oh, and it was pretty cool to see some kids arrive with a quadcopter/drone, flying it in order to record the long-boarding that happens there on the road next to the park. (Pollock Park is essentially on the lower slopes of the mountain.)

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As fun this impromptu outing was, unfortunately the weather didn’t stay great for long, and about 40 minutes in, we were forced to return back to the car, with the light rapidly fading, the cloud cover now heavy, and the temperature more than a little chilly.

Still, the girls had fun and that’s definitely what counts!

Lunch at Bertie’s Moorings in Gordon’s Bay (2016-07-29) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 01 AUG 2016

With Jessica now going to occupational therapy twice a week, the opportunities for Chantelle and I to slip out for a coffee or lunch during the week are now few and far between. However, we did catch a break last Friday and managed to slip out for a bite to eat at the famous Bertie’s Moorings restaurant at Harbour Island Marina here in Gordon’s Bay.

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International sailing legend Bertie Reed (1943-2006) is considered one of the best sailors that South Africa ever produced. During his life-time he sailed about 170 000 nautical miles competitively, of which over 100 000 was single-handed – including three solo circumnavigations of the globe, the first South African to ever do so!

He is also remembered for his brave rescue of fellow South African John Martin, whose yacht sank after hitting a submerged iceberg in the Southern Ocean during the 1990/91 BOC Challenge. This heroic deed (and example of outstanding seamanship in extreme conditions) was rewarded with the Wolraad Woltemade Decoration, the then highest South African civilian award for bravery.

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Anyway, he and his family established Bertie’s Moorings back in 1994. The family-run restaurant/pub is centered around a hand-crafted oak barrel bar (made by Bertie himself), and can seat around 120 people. The drawcard has to be though the large deck overlooking the water!

The restaurant plays host to lots of live music gigs, and caters for big sporting event screenings as well.

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We made the most of the good winter weather, and tucked into a portion of classic fish and chips, while Chantelle gave their ‘white pizza’ a shot. (Update: both were good!)

And then, because all good things come to an end, we paid our bill and went back to work!

Related Link: Bertie’s Moorings

Lunch at Mondeor Garden Restaurant in Somerset West (2016-07-24) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 30 JUL 2016

In an effort to get out of the house on a Sunday afternoon, but facing the challenge of not actually feeling like driving anywhere, Chantelle and I opted to take the kids for lunch and some play time at Mondeor Garden Restaurant, a perennial favourite of ours out in Somerset West.

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Although it is too cold for the girls to make use of the fun splash pool on the premises, there is more than enough space for them to run around and make a noise, while enjoying the multitude of jungle gyms, swings and trampolines scattered around the outside lawn.

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The weather on the day was great, meaning that instead of sitting under the porch area like we usually do, we opted to enjoy some of the winter sunshine by grabbing one of the outside benches.

The girls made and tucked into their own pizza creation, while I went for the delicious Fat Bastard Burger – always a winner!

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Naturally, as she does every time we go there, Jessica begged us to be allowed to do some sand art, which we eventually gave in to and then essentially lost her for the rest of the afternoon to that particular craft station.

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Not that it was a bad thing mind you! ;)

Related Link: Mondeor Garden Restaurant

Pancakes at Blaauwklippen Family Market (2016-07-10) Markets | Photo Gallery 24 JUL 2016

After a year or two of going to quite a few weekend markets, this year has seen us attend pretty much none! However, it was the Sunday just before I was to leave on my business trip to the USA, and with Chantelle at home with us for a change, we decided to treat the girls to some pancakes and ponies at the Blaauwklippen Family Market… though unfortunately for Jess’ sake, there was nary a pony in sight when we got there!

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However, the disappointment was short lived, as we pretty much went directly to the (long!) queue at the ever popular Catje’s Pancakes stall in order to grab a big bunch of pancakes for the Lotters.

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The market was super busy with people, so getting the pancakes took a while, but the plus side of this though was that it gave Chantelle plenty of time to browse through the other stalls and put together a nice selection of different snacks in the process!

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If you have never been to this market before, then you’re missing out, because it is definitely one with the nicest vibe. There is always a good buzz, the live music never disappoints, the kids are generally entertained, and there is a brilliant selection of arts, crafts, fashion and food stalls for the browsing.

Plus, the venue itself is quite the stunner!

(Oh, and because it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t really come up with any excuse not to cap off the day with a braai once we eventually got back home!)

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Related Link: Blaauwklippen Family Market | Blaauwklippen | Catje’s Pancakes

Lunch at Wild Clover (2016-07-09) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 23 JUL 2016

If you have kids and find yourself in the Stellenbosch area, then Wild Clover situated on the R304 makes for a great stop. The kids have plenty of space to run around and things to play with, while the laid back, shaded outside eating area (which is often accompanied by live music) really makes for a relaxing afternoon out.

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Apparently the old chef that used to work there has now been replaced, meaning that the kitchen is making quite good food again, and these days I usually find myself tucking into one of their delicious pizzas every time we head out that way.

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There’s a small brewery on the premises as well (Wild Clover Brewery), which produces a nice selection of craft beer for you to taste and indulge in if you are into that sort of thing.

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There is a small farm animal enclosure which the kids can explore, as well as an equine center right next door, perfect for those of us who enjoy the prospect of trotting about on a horse!

The local archery club also calls Wild Clover its home, and just behind the archery butt, you’ll find a model aircraft flying strip of all things! (Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, Wild Clover also had accommodation available, and if you like destroying things, there’s clay pigeon shooting on offer as well!)

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On this particular day out, we’d already spent some of our energy playing over at the gorgeous kids play area called The Carnival on Weltevreden Estate, but because we had found the service their slightly poor on the day, we ended up at Wild Clover for lunch instead.

(I have no idea why Chantelle opted to eat a salad on the day though!)

Related Link: Wild Clover

Play at The Carnival on Weltevreden Estate (2016-07-09) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 22 JUL 2016

Weltevreden Estate is one of the original Stellenbosch homesteads, having been awarded by Simon van der Stel, governor of the Cape to a German, Hans Henske, back in 1692. These days the beautifully restored Cape Dutch homestead and grounds stand as a National Monument (1975) and are well worth a visit if you are ever in the area. The estate features a beautiful outdoor restaurant in the form of Lekka Neh, but for our purposes we were more interested at stopping in at The Carnival, a kids-centric play and eating area that is designed to be an absolute must for visitors if you have your small kids in tow!

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Walking about Weltevreden is a treat for the senses, thanks to the pristine buildings, abundance of art and whimsical sculptures that are tucked away in all corners of the estate.

(Though of course, once the girls spotted the jungle gyms peeking out above the carnival themed buildings, it was over for us, as we were dragged into The Carnival and play time commenced!)

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The Carnival is well suited to kids’ needs, with an abundance of big jungle gyms, a trampoline house, push bike tracks, a sand pit, rocking horses, etc.

Lots of kids options like pizza, slushies, ice cream is on offer, and so it is no wonder that you can end up spending a fair bit of time here if you aren’t watching the clock!

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For some or other reason on the day though, the service was pretty bad (almost non-existent), so neither Chantelle nor I left particularly happy (also, I don’t expect coffee in a takeaway cup!), but this didn’t faze the girls one bit, as they happily chased up and down pretty much anything and everything that could be clambered about on!

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Oh, and Jessica rather enjoyed catching a ladybird – to which she became rather attached!

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Bad service aside (which according to my sister, who rather enjoys this venue, isn’t the norm), I loved the setup and can definitely see us making more than a few more turns here in the near future!

Related Link: Weltevreden Estate

Coffee and the Giant Aloe at Alcare Aloe in Albertinia (2016-06-27) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 21 JUL 2016

The last day of our long weekend away in the Garden Route had finally arrived, and as luck would have it, the good weather that we had been enjoying up until now finally gave way to some rain, making the last morning of hotel breakfast and packing up a bit of a grey, overcast and wet affair!

While Evan and Natasha opted to stick around and spend some more time in George, the rest of us decided to call it a day and head back home via the N2 – but not before making a scheduled stop at the Alcare Aloe shop in Albertinia,to pick up some supplies that Monty and Cheryl had ordered before they had left for the weekend.

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Pleasingly, the shop has attached to it a great little coffee stop in the form of the Giant Aloe Cafe, which was exactly what the doctor ordered on such a cold and wet day.

Featuring a centrally placed fireplace and loads of home made nibbles to choose from, we quickly settled in for a nice warming cup of coffee and a small treat for the girls.

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(Also, it gave Chantelle and Cheryl an excuse to do a bit of browsing through the multitude of aloe products on display!)

Of more interest to me however was the giant, super realistic aloe statue erected outside. Naturally, a closer inspection was called for!

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Unveiled in 2010, this 9 metre tall statue of a Cape Aloe plant (Aloe ferox) features individually sculpted leaves, flowers and thorns, weighing in at approximately 2,500 kg!

This beautiful piece of art (designed by George-based sculptors) took approximately 8,800 man hours to complete and now stands as a beautiful and eye-catching landmark for the small town of Albertinia (which is already kind of known as “Aloe Country “anyways!).

In other words, you can’t miss it.

Related Link: Giant Aloe Statue | Alcare Aloe | Albertinia

The Boardwalk of the Pied Kingfisher Trail in Wilderness (2016-06-26) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 20 JUL 2016

The Pied Kingfisher Trail is situated in Wilderness in the Western Cape, South Africa. The 11 km long trail is popular with birdwatchers and makes for an ideal morning hike that should take about 3-4 hours to complete. It is an easy going flat circular trail that begins at the Ebb and Flow South Rest Camp in the Wilderness National Park.

However, with two little girls, one toddler and a baby, we weren’t really interested in all that, now were we?

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Instead, with our hunger and thirst now satisfied, we next struck out for the popular boardwalk section of the greater Pied Kingfisher Trail, a pleasant walk all along the edge of the Touwsrivier.

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Access is easy enough (you can jump on the boardwalk directly from Waterside road), and the result is an easy, pleasant stroll along the water’s edge and through the reeds – affording you some great bird-watching opportunities in the process!

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The views are great and for the kids it is a big adventure, meaning that this little stroll definitely has something for everyone!

(And from there, it was back to Far Hills Country Hotel for a bit of a rest break following the day’s activities, before we once again headed out for some well deserved supper and play time at the classic George Geronimo Spur!)

Related Link: Pied Kingfisher Trail

Beer at Cocomo Restaurant in Wilderness (2016-06-26) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 19 JUL 2016

Having enjoyed all the stunning coastal scenery afforded to us by first Victoria Bay and then Herolds Bay, we next headed into Wilderness, with the intent to go for a stroll along the Touwsrivier boardwalk with Evan and Natasha. However, it quickly became apparent that by this stage the kids were more than a tad hungry, forcing us to redirect and find a place to grab a bite.

Luckily for us, Monty came up with a brilliant suggestion in the form of Cocomo Restaurant, situated literally right in the heart of the Wilderness Village!

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If you love music then you’ve definitely come to the right place, as this laid-back restaurant goes all out with the musical theme, with old vinyl records as placemats and featuring live music sessions 7 days a week!

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They are known for their great pizza (which the girls thoroughly enjoyed), but like any South African restaurant, their food selection covers pretty much everything that you might want.

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Also, I enjoyed one of the best tasting craft beers that I’ve ever drunk in South Africa, the Mossel Bay produced Glenhoff Lager (from South Cape Breweries)!

Related Link: Cocomo Restaurant

Ice Cream at Herolds Bay (2016-06-26) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 18 JUL 2016

The second day of our Garden Route weekend away at the Far Hills Country Hotel was off to a good start. Having enjoyed looking at the beautiful scenery  and surfers of Victoria Bay, we hopped back into our car and followed Monty and Cheryl  out towards Herolds Bay, a small coastal village that is popular with George residents as a holiday camping destination.

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Originally known as Sandstrand, the village of Herolds Bay took its name from the first Dutch Reformed minister (and avid angler) who held office in George in 1823, Tobias Herold. (The first permanent known Herolds Bay resident was a Mr. Thompson, who survived a shipwreck in 1920, and took refuge and permanent residence in a cave for a period of eight years!)

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Situated in a sheltered rocky coastal cove, Herolds Bay is a popular holiday destination for the locals, and has managed to retain a quaint sense of still being a small coastal hamlet. It features a beautiful flat beach with some great waves for swimming, and of course some stunning scenery to go along with it!

Lush indigenous coastal Fynbos create a natural haven for birding enthusiasts and nature lovers, there are plenty of hikes and walks to be attempted, and oh yes, the tidal pool is a pretty popular spot too! (Plus, if you are into golf then it is worth noting that Herolds Bay is also home to the Ernie Els Signature Golf Course at the adjacent  Oubaai golf resort.)

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Despite the slightly overcast sky, we decided that some ice cream would be the perfect beach treat, and judging by the lines surrounding the multitude of ice cream vendors next to the beach, we certainly weren’t the only ones with this thought!

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Naturally, the girls raced through their ice creams in order to head down for some play time in the sand, which was perfectly okay with us as it gave us even more time to just sit and admire the view of this picturesque little Garden Route coastal stop!

Also, a map if you are also looking to get there someday:

Related Link: Herolds Bay

Watching Surfers at Victoria Bay (2016-06-26) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 17 JUL 2016

Having enjoyed a brilliant first day out that saw us do a lot of driving and sightseeing, the second day of our Far Hills Country Hotel long weekend getaway got off to a much more relaxed start, with us enjoying some coffee on our private balcony while watching thousands of white egrets fly through the valley down below.

After an okay breakfast (the hotel was rather understaffed for the amount of people currently visiting), the whole lot of us (Monty, Cheryl, Evan, Natasha, Chantelle and all the kids) headed out towards to the nearby surfers’ paradise, Victoria Bay – perhaps better known by its other more colloquial name, Vic Bay.

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This beautiful small cove is situated on the Garden Route between George and Wilderness, and is a particularly popular beach for surfers, consisting of a right hand reef-like wave which rolls over small boulder-like rocks for about 200m. Both district and national surf competitions are held here, so you are pretty much guaranteed to always find someone in the water – no matter what time of year you get there!

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It is an absolutely stunning piece of Garden Route scenery and well worth the stop, even if it is just to go for an amble past all the quaint houses lining the one side of the cove, wander down the pier, or just hunker down and enjoy watching the surfers and bodyboarders at play.

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We took our time strolling around, and yes, lots of photos were taken.

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After spending a decent amount of time taking in all the sights and scenery, we decided to take our leave of Victoria Bay, splitting off from Evan and Natasha who opted to spend the rest of the day there instead. (There is a small restaurant next to the beach in case you didn’t think of packing in a picnic or braai supplies!)

We did have a good reason though – ice cream at Herolds Bay was beckoning!

Related Link: Victoria Bay

Supper at Texas Kids in George (2016-06-25) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 16 JUL 2016

After a lot of driving and many sights seen for the day (Birds of Eden, Plett Puzzle Park,  and Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary), we finally made it back to George (those Garden Route N2 speed limits and abundance of speed cameras really do make for a drawn out drive!). Having had a poor experience in terms of the food served by Far Hills Country Hotel the previous evening, we were looking for a different, kid-friendly option for supper – which is exactly what presented itself to us in the form of Texas Kids (on recommendation from one of the Far Hills managers just by the way).

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Situated in Eden Meander, right across from the Garden Route Mall, Texas Kids is a family restaurant that does its best to cater for the entire family. Their food is surprisingly good (and comes in decent portions), not to mention the fact that they have a fantastic, massive play area for the kids, complete with themed jungle gym, trampolines, a small movie room/cinema, and mini golf of all things!

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The restaurant is separated from the play area, but for those of you who would like to be closer to your kids while they play, Texas Kids has some cool eating rooms disguised behind Wild West shop fronts, the perfect place for you to hunker down and enjoy your meal while looking out on your kids at play!

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My girls enjoyed the play time, while the rest of us enjoyed the food, drink and rugby on TV. Sounds like a win win situation to me!

By this hour it was already pretty dark, so my phone camera didn’t manage to capture too many usable photos, but I managed to grab a few of the play area at least…

It’s not a fantastic restaurant per se, but it is super kid friendly and the food and service were both very good – so if you have kids in George, then this is definitely an option.

Related Link: Texas Kids