Category Archives: Travel Attractions

There is so many things of beauty on this planet, both natural and man-made. Even though I know it would be impossible to see everything in my lifetime, seeing even a handful of these travel attractions and wonders would be enough!

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

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

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

Exploring the Lawns of Spier in Stellenbosch (2016-09-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 27 DEC 2016

Back in September Chantelle and I took the girls out for a visit to Eagle Encounters at the world famous Spier Wine Farm. Of course, any visit to the beautiful grounds of Spier is not complete with an amble down its many scenic walkways, admiring the art installations, the gables of the beautiful Cape Dutch architecture, the lush gardens and picnic areas, and of course breathing in that fresh Stellenbosch air. (Wine Tasting is a must as well, but that is often easier when you don’t have little ones darting all about you, excited at the prospect of touching owls and seeing eagles!)

Spier has for years now been one of the leaders (if not THE leader) in the wine estate as a destination tourism industry, and these days are certainly no different.

There is a literal smorgasbord of things to see/do on the wine farm, like tasting wine at their purpose built tasting room, enjoying a picnic on their endless lawns with a picnic basket stocked by the Eight To Go Deli, heading out on one of the many walking tours around the estate, feasting at either Eight or the Hoghouse BBQ & Bakery, shopping at the Craft Market and Gift Shop, relaxing at the Spa, learning about birds of prey at Eagle Encounters, exploring the vineyards on Segways, taking in the Spier Art Collection, or resting your head in one of the lovely rooms of the Spier Hotel.

It is impossible not to spend a lot of time then when at Spier, and so if you have never been there before, then you should know that a visit to the Stellenbosch winelands isn’t quite complete without a visit to the iconic Spier wine farm.

As you would expect from any place established way back in 1692, Spier (one of South Africa’s oldest wine farms by the way) has a fascinating history and a legacy for those interested in that sort of thing to discover.

In terms of architecture, naturally Spier has a lot of fine examples of the iconic Cape Dutch styled houses on display, with a staggering 21 historic gables that can be found on the estate.

As I said, our particular outing on the day was very much centered around our visit to the Owls and Eagles at Eagle Encounter, but we did stroll around the grounds as much as the little ones would allow for, with a stop for a quick lunch at the brilliant Hoghouse BBQ & Bakery.

I would love to explore a lot more, so I reckon a return visit for just Chantelle and myself might soon be in order! ;)

In case you want to go and check it out for yourself, here’s a handy map:

Bonus: Spier published this polished video about the current state of their operation to Youtube in May 2015. Great at summing up the vibe of such a great Stellenbosch space:

Related Link: Spier Wine Farm

Things to See in USA: Muscle Beach Venice in Los Angeles Travel Attractions 16 DEC 2016

The city of Los Angeles’ Venice Beach is certainly a ‘colourful’ area to put it mildly (at least that’s what I thought when I strolled around there earlier this year), but despite its many eccentricities, there is no denying that this cultural hub is a global destination, registering millions of visitors each and every year.

Outside of its popular promenade, multitude of street performers, buskers and hustlers, handball courts, paddle tennis courts, skate dancing plaza, volleyball courts, bike trail and of course interesting businesses on Ocean Front Walk, Venice Beach is also home to probably the most famous beachfront gym in the world – Muscle Beach Venice.

The original Muscle Beach that started it all, was established just south of the Santa Monica Pier in 1934 – just 3 km up the beach from where Muscle Beach Venice currently stands, itself having started out when the first Venice Beach “Weight Pen” was installed in 1951 – eight years before the Santa Monica Muscle Beach closed due to administration problems.

While the original Muscle Beach (considered the birthplace of the physical fitness boom in the US during the 20th century) was really an area that became popular with gymnasts, wrestlers and local strength athletes (in fact, it was simply known as Santa Monica Beach Playground for the first couple of years, with the ‘muscle’ term only gaining traction come 1940), Muscle Beach Venice established itself almost from the start as the popular home of bodybuilding, thanks in no small part to the opening the first of an eventual nationwide chain of weightlifting gyms by famed pioneer gym chain operator, Vic Tanny.

Muscle Beach did a lot to popularize and legitimize fitness and bodybuilding competitions, and today functions as both a hub for weightlifting and fitness businesses in the area, as well as a popular tourist attraction.

(A lot of famous people/personalities have been regulars there, so you kind of understand the tourist appeal: e.g. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny Trejo, Chet Yorton, Dave Draper, Larry Scott,  and Crips co-founder Stanley Tookie Williams to name but a few!)

The current facility consists of an open playground with a gated area that encloses weight lifting equipment, with a second area which is a sand box with gymnastic, rope climbing, and acrobatic bars.

And yes – if you are brave or ripped enough, you can in fact buy a day pass and work out with the pros if that’s the kind of thing that you are into…

(Naturally, bodybuilding is a lot of work. There are probably easier ways to get a little in shape – the guys behind dietsinreview.com certainly seem to think so.)

I visited this place in July this year, and honestly, it felt a bit weird seeing these people strutting about, pushing weights, and doing their thing – all for the attention of everyone around them! Seriously, posing for photos with random strangers is as much a part of the workout routine as are the actual weights!

Anyway, here’s the map if you want to place it in the world:

Related Link: Muscle Beach Venice | Wikipedia | Venice Beach

Everson’s Cider Tasting at Peregrine Farm Stall in Grabouw (2016-11-05) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 14 DEC 2016

The last time that I found myself at the cleverly expanded Peregrine Farm Stall (which in truth is a lot bigger than just a simple farm stall these days), I didn’t get around to doing a tasting at the Everson’s Cider pop-up tasting room.

This time around though, despite the allure of the wonderful Elgin Open Gardens weekend that was now in full swing (which led to a lot of new exploring for us mind you), I made the effort and was rewarded with some really good cider in return!

First things first though – I needed to bribe the girls with some softserve ice cream from Padkos Express first! (Yes, shamefully, that is a pie and coffee in the picture as well. It is unavoidable really – Peregrine’s pies are excellent!)

Thanks to the Elgin Open Gardens attracting away most of the crowd that one would usually find milling about the always popular Peregrine Farm Stall, the girls and I got to enjoy a slightly quieter than normal play area, and the girls lost no time in enjoying the tractors, swings and jungle gym to the fullest!

Happy that the girls were now quite content with life (and having fun at the same time), I sauntered over to the Everson’s Cider tasting room (which is a cleverly remodelled shipping container, courtesy of Rocketfuel), grabbed a stool and got to tasting their five cider varietals.

In general I rather enjoy ciders, and other than the mulled cider which I wasn’t particularly fond of, the original, cloudy and pear ciders (all made from local Elgin fruit) were all pretty good, whilst the pomegranate cider was certainly an interesting taste.

Of course, the girls were super interested in what I was doing and soon arrived to steal some of my complimentary crisps – essentially the only way that I could convince them to both run off and play again!

So all in all, a good experience and certainly an outing that both the girls and I got quite a bit of enjoyment out of!

Worth noting, but on the way home I decided to turn up one of the dirt roads and do some exploring around the ever shrinking rural bits of Gordon’s Bay – areas that most locals don’t even know still exist. The dirt roads lead to some interesting sights, including a beautiful example of classic Cape Dutch architecture, ornate gable and all! This though is not a picture of that house:

(By this stage, both girls were quite tired, not enjoying the bumpy dirt roads, and definitely not pleased with their dad that kept stopping the car to get out and take some photos!)

Anyway, back to the original subject of this post. Here is a handy map to Peregrine Farm Stall and therefore Everson’s Cider tasting room (open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm):

Related Link: Everson’s Cider | Peregrine Farm Stall