Picking Cherries at the Klondyke Cherry Farm near Ceres (2016-12-10) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 08 APR 2017

Last December Chantelle and I slipped away for a weekend without the kids in the lovely little historic town of Tulbagh. However, as you might have noticed by now, I don’t normally enjoy hanging about in one place for very long, and so naturally we found ourselves spending more time out and about than staying at the actual guest house! Case in point – we first drove all the way to Ceres because we wanted to see if the Dennebos Resort from our childhood still exists, and with that done, then promptly decided to drive another 34km out to the middle of nowhere in order to pick some cherries.

Or rather more accurately, we paid a visit to the famous Klondyke Cherry Farm.

A popular tourist attraction in the area, Klondyke is a a working fruit farm in the Koue Bokkeveld on the outskirts of the Ceres valley.

In terms of crops, the farm has cherries, pears and apples counted among its numerous orchards, and also hosts a campsite and a couple of self-catering cottages.

The big drawcard is of course cherry picking season, during which Klondyke opens its gates to the public, charging them a small entrance fee so that they may grab some containers and head out into the cherry orchards to pick as many cherries as what their hearts desire.

This you then bring back for weighing and paying, after which you can then setup your picnic/portable braai and enjoy some quality time under the shade provided by the large grove of massive pine trees!

It would appear that this is a massively popular attraction, and despite the farm being literally out in the middle of nowhere, there is an almost constant stream of people entering the grounds! (Chantelle and I were amazed!)

I’m not a massive fan of cherries (Chantelle however is), but I have to say, it was rather fun hunting through all the trees trying to find the best looking fruit, and more importantly, trying to find the trees which haven’t yet been ravished by any other eager cherry pickers!

Mind you, it is pretty hot and sweaty work, so best remember to bring a hat and some sunscreen!

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Definitely worth the trek if you have some bored kids on your hands and can maybe pull together a good group of friends for a day out under the trees!

Related Link: Klondyke Cherry Farm | Facebook

Enjoying the Market at Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West (2016-10-09) Markets | Photo Gallery 08 APR 2017

Based out here in the Cape, one certainly has their pick of excellent markets to visit and make merry at. I would however argue that one of the finest markets to be found is most definitely the Lourensford Market, situated out here in Somerset West on the picturesque and art rich Lourensford Wine Estate.

After starting out from a large tent stretched out on a lawn, the market slowly grew and eventually moved into a more permanent space. However, thanks to massive storm damage in 2015, a further rebuild was required, resulting in this beautiful space that Lourensford Market now calls home.

The market is home to a good mix of both food and craft stalls, with both Chantelle and I agreeing that the food choices at this particular market are top notch. The vibe, particularly around the main square (which is surround by all the stalls), is incredible, bolstered by the almost always excellent live music being performed up front.

If you don’t like the crowded hustle of the square, then there are plenty of tables and benches scattered under and among the trees outside the main area, as well as a big lawn out to the back where all the kids rides and entertainment is concentrated.

The Lourensford Wine Estate grounds are however the biggest drawcard here. The estate is beyond picturesque, with beautiful Cape Dutch inspired architecture everywhere you look, a tranquil restaurant and a brilliant wine tasting center, not to mention a coffee shop and various art studios scattered about.

The grounds are immaculately manicured, with flowers, trees, pathways and loads of eye catching sculptures in every direction that you look.

In other words, it really is impossible to come here on a Sunday and not leave feeling impressed by everything on show!

And because pictures are worth far more than just mere words, here are some photos that I snapped on my camera from our visit to the market last October:

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So definitely one of those markets well worth a visit, both for the stalls and the location itself!

Related Links: Lourensford Market | Facebook | Lourensford Wine Estate

Walking in the Garden Route Botanical Gardens in George (2017-03-20) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 08 APR 2017

As it turns out, George, the administrative and commercial hub of the Garden Route, is home to its very own botanical garden, namely the relatively new (in terms of garden age) Garden Route Botanical Gardens.

Opened in 1998 and situated on the grounds of the old van Kervel Gardens (itself proclaimed a Nature Reserve by Nico Malan in 1986), the Garden Route Botanical Gardens is now managed by the Garden Route Botanical Gardens Trust, who together with local NGOs, residents, volunteers and George Municipality, have slowly but surely transformed the overrun and alien infested nature reserve into a green space worth visiting for anyone interested in the natural flora of the region.

Seeings as this particular botanical garden isn’t nearly as well funded as its official and much older SANBI national botanical garden sisters, it has a much more wild and unpolished feel to it, making it very different to any other botanical garden that you may have already experienced here in South Africa.

The gardens are home to a large forested area, through which you can amble along the so-called mushroom meander or head out on a much longer day hike.

There are wide open pet friendly stretches of lawn for those of you who are dog owners, a newly completed eco center building (which I’m not sure is operational yet), a onsite herbarium and nursery, the very eye catching medicinal mound (complete with two beautiful mosaic memorial benches at its summit), a large lily covered dam featuring a well positioned bird hide, a large shaded picnic lawn area with a bandstand/gazeebo for good measure, and of course, loads of walkways to explore.

The gardens also host the local parkrun, has access to the state forest mountain bike tracks, and even has a hidden geocache for those treasure hunters out there!

After dropping Jessica and my mom off at the Getafix Garden Cafe tea garden out in front of the main entrance gate for some play and rest time (for reference, Jess and I joined my folks for a long weekend away in Mossel Bay back in March), my Dad and I set off on a bit of an exploratory mission, cameras in hand and completely unprepared for walking about under the blazing hot sun.

Plenty of photos were taken, flowers admired, pathways walked, and vistas appreciated, making for quite a successful little mission in my opinion then.

(Truth be told, if it wasn’t for the fact that mom and Jessica were waiting for us back at the cafe, dad and I would probably have missioned about for at least another hour or two!)

As always, my little Huawei P9 phone did its best to capture a few of the sights on the day, though of course completely failed to capture anything remotely useful in the dappled light of the mushroom meander forest walk!

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Well worth a visit if you are looking for somewhere green to stretch your legs in George then.

Related Link: Garden Route Botanical Gardens | Facebook

Visiting Wine Estates via the Franschhoek Wine Tram Tour (2016-10-01) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 26 MAR 2017

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you are looking for a great outing for a group of adult friends and you are based in the Cape Town surrounds, then you really should consider the famous Franschhoek Wine Tram experience.

Chantelle and I first did it in 2015, and naturally were quite keen to do it again, so come October last year, Chantelle more than happily helped her mom organise a surprise birthday outing for her dad.

Peter and Gail joined in for the fun, and so come a beautiful Saturday morning, the six of us found ourselves meeting up for quick cup of coffee at Franschhoek’s Sacred Ground eatery (coincidentally where the Wine Tram’s unmistakable ticket office is situated), the perfect start to what would be a long wine tasting filled day!

In essence, the wine tram is a bit of a glorified shuttle service, moving you between one wine estate and the next. There are a few discounts and freebies thrown in, but essentially you are paying them for the transport and opportunity to ride along their distinctive green buses and of course titular tram (modeled after the open-sided Brill Trams of circa 1890).

Nevertheless, this is by far the safest (and most fun) way of exploring so many different wine estates in a day, so well worth the money in my opinion.

(They do also offer a handy service whereby they’ll store your wine purchases aboard their vehicles, allowing you to then later pick it up from the ticket office once your day out and about is done.)

The schedule is rather confusing, so best check in at the ticket office to fully understand how the system works, but essentially there is always bus/tram arriving at each estate every sixty minutes, meaning the minimum amount of time you can spend at a venue is an hour.

Naturally, if you like the venue or perhaps have decided to eat lunch there, then you simply miss your next bus and catch the one following that.

When Chantelle and I first did the run, you could pick from only two lines (blue and red), but that has since changed and there are now five lines to choose between, namely the Blue, Green, Red, Yellow and Purple lines!

The list of estates to visit is large, though realistically you can probably only fit in between four and five on a day (and these of course are dictated by the line that you choose). The list of estates available on the various routes include: Mont Rochelle, Le Lude, La Bri, La Bourgogne, Holden Manz, La Couronne, Rickety Bridge, Grande Provence, Maison, Eikehof, Leopard’s Leap, Charmonix, Dieu Donne, Boschendal, Vrede en Lust, Noble Hill, Babylonstoren, Plaisir de Merle, Allee Bleue and Solms-Delta.

Our particular outing on the day included wine tastings at Rickety Bridge, La Bourgogne, and Grande Provence, with lunch at La Petite Dauphine. (I’ve got plenty of pictures from all of these, which I’ll get around to posting up here sometime as well).

As you might then suspect, the day was a complete success. Everyone finished up considerably ‘happier’ than what they started, the wine all excellent, the scenery was of course beautiful (this is the picturesque Franschhoek valley after all), and a couple of bottles of wine even made their way home with us.

So anyway, with the photos taken from the actual stops themselves still sitting in my burgeoning “Still to Post” folder on my laptop, these are the pictures taken on the day that don’t quite have a natural home:

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Definitely an experience well worth doing, particularly if you are seriously into your wine. That said, even if you are not, this is a brilliantly fun day out!

Related Link: Franschhoek Wine Tram | Facebook | Twitter

Christmas Market at Blaauwklippen Family Market in Stellenbosch (2016-12-19) Markets | Photo Gallery 25 MAR 2017

I visited the Blaauwklippen Family Market a couple of weekends ago in order to catch a glimpse of the official Japan Day 2017 celebration, an annual event organised in Cape Town by the embassy of Japan. However, that reminds me that Chantelle, the girls and I actually also turned up at the beautiful Stellenbosch-based Blaauwklippen wine estate last December, in order to partake in the rather successful Blaauwklippen Family Market’s yearly Christmas Night Market event.

Held in the evening, we lucked out with absolutely perfect weather – warm, no clouds in the sky and not a breath of wind, making for a perfect family outing.

As always is the case at any Blaauwklippen Family Market event, there were loads of things for the kids to do, with my girls naturally making a beeline for the pony rides first, followed up with a trip on the opportunistically named (I love it!) Blaauwtrein kids ride.

(For those of you not living in South Africa, the “Blue Train” or “Blou Trein” is one of our most luxurious train trips, and “Blaauw” is Dutch for blue. Incidentally, “klippen” is stone, hence Blaauwklippen is probably named for the stunning blue mountain ranges that surround it).

Anyway, Jessica is chomping at the bit to go on the mega trampoline, so we’ve promised to let her do that soon enough (we’re not 100% sure she’s ready for that mind you), though she wasn’t too keen on trying her hand at the exceedingly cute kids bull ride attraction on the night!

As always there was a great, positive buzz around the market, with the stalls (especially the food stalls) doing plenty of brisk trade. The live music reinforced the good vibe, and everywhere you looked you saw people having a great time!

We grabbed our usual delicious pancakes from Catje’s Pancakes, before Chantelle swooped in on some sushi, and I on some craft beer, before finishing it all up with some delicious handmade ice cream for the girls.

All in all, it was a particularly good outing, which I guess then means that come this year Christmas, we’ll have to do it all over again – and maybe drag some of our family and friends along with us for a change!

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You’ll note that the last four images in the gallery appear to be completely unrelated to this post. That is because they are, but I don’t really have anywhere else to put them. Essentially, the day after the market we let the girls try out Baskin Robbins that had finally arrived in South Africa, followed up with some coffee and delicious sandwiches from the new Baconville eatery at Willowbridge Mall, and then finally a Spur playdate for Emily with her best friend Marli – which naturally included facepaint.

Also, back to Blaauwklippen Family Market, a map:

Related Link: Blaauwklippen Family Market | Facebook

Sighting of Slangkop Point Lighthouse in Kommetjie (2017-02-18) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 24 MAR 2017

Gah, another lighthouse tour opportunity missed – I really should look up the operating hours for these things! We were in the Kommetjie area (near Noordhoek) courtesy of a very successful visit to the nearby Imhoff Farm, following which, despite the VERY threatening clouds that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, I manage to convince Chantelle that we NEEDED to drive into Kommetjie in order to visit the Instagram famous Slangkop Point Lighthouse – the tallest cast-iron lighthouse along South African shores.

Sadly for me and my excited expectations though, the barb wire topped gates were firmly shut on our arrival, with the nearby noticeboard taunting me with the normal operating hours for the lighthouse tours. Damn it.

Still, not completely deterred, I ushered the ladies out of the car for a quick stroll up the nearby boardwalk to get a better look at this magnificent 34 meter tall cast-iron beast!

Mind you, this didn’t really work for the girls, as they were pretty much back in the car almost as soon as they left it (too cold for their little shaved legs I would imagine), meaning it was up to me to amble along, snapping some quickfire pictures as the slight rain started to descend in the area.

Designed by the Chance Brothers, the Slangkop Lighthouse (or Slangkoppunt Lighthouse as it is officially known) was originally scheduled to be opened in 1914, but thanks to the commencement of World War I, it only officially launched in 1919.

The lighthouse derives its name from the Slangkop (Snake Head) hill directly behind it, and despite being fully automated in 1979, it remains one of the few lighthouses in the world to be manned by a light-keeper, better known as a lighthouse officer these days.

The particular piece of coastline that Slangkop Lighthouse protects has many reefs and headlands that stretch far out into the ocean, resulting in massive waves that have caused more than a few ships to be wrecked there over time.

Included among these shipwrecks of the area is the 1900 beaching of SS Kakapo, the 1905 wrecking of SS Clan Munroe, the 1906 sinking of the Oakburn, the 1909 destruction of SS Maori, and the more recent 2001 running aground of the Ikan Tanda.

Right. So as I mentioned, the weather wasn’t exactly the greatest and my timing in terms of visiting hours off, which then I guess simply means I’ll need to make another turn out that way sometime in the near future…

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Note. Back home, we enjoyed a rather good braai. Also, a map:

Related Link: Slangkop Point Lighthouse | Transnet Ports Authority | Wikipedia

A Boardwalk down to the River Mouth at Gouritz (2016-12-31) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 18 MAR 2017

The girls and I had the pleasure of spending some time down at the fishing/holiday coastal town of Gouritz (or Gouritsmond depending on who you ask) last December, with the trip being sweetened even further after learning that Chantelle could also come down to spend a few days with us on our holiday.  (December holidays are of course peak season in the Guest House industry, meaning that while the rest of us play, she has to stay!)

Gouritz’s main beach carries an official Blue Flag status (meaning that it is a very well looked after beach in terms of water quality and facilities), and while that itself is great fun in terms of waves, a lot of the families with smaller kids prefer the sheltered tranquility of the Gouritz river mouth – which is honestly just as great, thanks to its soft white sand and calm, warm waters!

Very recently the Gouritsmond committee decided to have a beautiful wooden boardwalk installed in order to make access to the river mouth easier for elderly and young alike.

The project was pretty expensive (around R160,000 apparently), but the result is spectacular – a snaking, raised wooden walkway that lifts you above the sand and gives you a great view of the underlying dune ecology, while at the same time making access to the river itself a breeze.

For anyone that knows us, you’ll know that my girls aren’t at all fond of getting near water that might have living things in it, meaning that for the most part swimming in rivers and the sea is a complete no no.

However, with mommy on hand we did half manage to get these two little drama queens wet!

It didn’t last very long though.

So while the girls played on the sand with their Ouma, Chantelle and I got to spend some alone time in the water – which really wasn’t that bad a way to spend the last day of the year really.

(Especially if you knew that the night was going to be rounded off with a spit roasted lamb!)

Also, handy tip. Keep your slip-slops at hand when visiting the river. That walkway and surrounding white sand gets seriously hot in the middle of summer! :)

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Plus, a map – just in case you feel in need of a fishing holiday too:

Related Link: Gouritz | Wikipedia

Wine Tasting at Waverley Hills in Wolseley (2016-12-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 17 MAR 2017

Situated between Tulbagh and Ceres, close to Wolseley and at the foothills of the Witzenberg Mountain Range, is Waverley Hills, an organic estate known for three things – it’s role in nature conservation, organic farming, and perhaps the most export worthy of them all – organic wines.

An official WWF Conservation Champion, Waverley Hills champions biodiversity and as such sets aside about 20% of the estate for conservation, land containing critically endangered veld types such as Breede Shale Renosterveld, Breede Alluvium Fynbos and Breede Shale Fynbos.

Indigenous plants and animals are protected, alien vegetation kept at bay, and of course as you might expect from a setup such as this, natural predators are used to keep the vineyards clear of pests. (For example, snails are almost exclusively the domain of their lovable family of white ducks!)

So sustainable, organic farming is quite a big thing for them in other words, which translates into actions like fertilizing with composts and manures, the use of cover crops for soil improvement, irrigation with pure spring water, and obviously a complete shy away from toxic chemicals.

Interestingly enough, the very fact that the naturally diverse fynbos flora is so welcome here means that Waverley Hill’s wines often take on quite a unique herbaceous characteristic!

Anyway, last year December saw Chantelle and I leave the kids with the grandparents and slip away for a weekend in the stunning wine region that is Tulbagh, and it was on our Sunday roundabout route home that we decided to pop in at the wonderful, purpose-built Waverley Hills Estate Tasting Room for impromptu wine tasting session!

The tasting area itself is actually really nice, as is the selection of wines to taste – which makes perfect sense then when you look at all the award stickers littered about.

So definitely a worthy stop on any wine tour of the area then.

(Also, it is well worth sticking around for their restaurant if you can. Apparently the food is really good, but for me that view from the balcony just looks amazing! )

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Bonus: A handy map, just in case you have need of organic wine and find yourself in the area one day:

Related Link: Waverley Hills

The Beach, Ice Cream and a Festival at Surfers Corner in Muizenberg (2016-10-16) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 16 MAR 2017

It is difficult to deny that the South Peninsula is a particularly beautiful stretch of Cape Town’s surrounds, and in fact, South Africa in general. If you are a surfer or are looking to become one, then Muizenberg Beach’s Surfer’s Corner is probably the spot that you should be – that is if you don’t mind all the sharks in the water!

Funnily enough, despite my main work office being out in nearby Westlake, I hardly ever make the effort of visiting out in that area, so it was thus particularly pleasurable to find myself putting aside some time to visit the Muizenberg beach stretch with my girls for the first time come October last year.

So I guess I had better blog about it then.

As luck would have it, for their very first visit to the famous Muizenberg Beach, Jessica and Emily got to watch some good surfing action, courtesy of a surf competition that was currently on the go.

Also, they got to see a blue bottle (Portuguese man o’ war) for the very first time, which on learning that these things sting and that it hurts when that happens, immediately added it to their ever growing list of reasons not to EVER swim in the sea!

The little coloured changing huts/storage units were of course a big hit, as was the very messy (but delicious) softserve ice cream grabbed from the venerable (and super interesting in terms of vintage decor) Majestic Cafe.

Which just by the way, happens to be the oldest shop in Muizenberg – having opened its doors way back in 1937!

Ice cream. Cones. Sun. Small kids.

Right. As you might imagine then, I was very, VERY grateful for the (architecturally quite beautiful mind you) public amenities that allowed me to get rid of some of that sticky residue that the girls seem to literally manage to get everywhere!

And then the bonus: What we didn’t know was that the day that we had decided to visit this part of Cape Town also happened to be the start of the 2016 Muizenberg Festival – which kicked off right in front of us with a loud parade lead by a giant silver fish puppet being accompanied by a large costumed crowd, and some VERY enthusiastic drummers.

In other words, quite the loud affair.

So, a great vibe and colourful sight indeed, but unfortunately also a completely overwhelming in terms of noise experience for the girls (Emily in particular) – all of which meant that we had to quickly cut our visit short, hightail it out of ground zero, jump into the car, and try and navigate our way to nearby Kalk Bay before the route closed because of the ever approaching parade!

A pity, but I guess then the perfect excuse for another visit in the nearby future – especially since I would love to take Chantelle to the brilliant seafood restaurant Live Bait (which I’ve had the pleasure of eating at for a business lunch before).

She would appreciate that I think.

Also, if you do decide to visit, take your camera along (if you are not going to surf). There is plenty of nice photogenic things to snap away at…

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Also, just in case you can’t quite pinpoint where I am talking about on the map – a map:

Related Link: Muizenberg | Wikipedia | Muizenberg Festival