Donkeys, Canola and a Giant Table with Chairs at Dassiesfontein (2020-08-30) Farm Stalls | Photo Gallery 31 JAN 2021

Once a year the vast farmed canola fields that cover the farmlands of the Overberg region between Bot River and Caledon reach full bloom, turning the area into an incredible carpet of bright visceral yellow. Of course the usual worries about farm monoculture fields still applies, but ignoring that, this incredibly unusual landscape sight is one to be experienced and well worth the drive out to see.

Last year we nipped out to try and get a better view of the fantastical snowy peaks currently on display (and also get out of the pandemic-induced cabin fever headspace), and decided to sneak in a visit to these gorgeous yellow lands with a drive down the N2 to perennial favourite Dassiesfontein, an unmissable farm stall and restaurant that sits neatly between Bot River and Caledon and which has been trading there since at least the 90’s.

As you might imagine, the drive over was breathtaking, with field upon field stretched out in front of you as you start the descent down the Houw Hoek mountain pass. Pulling in at the solar panel laden Dassiesfontein farm stall building, we were excited to learn that they had since built a giant oversized table and chairs next to their donkey corral to serve both as a fun roadside attraction and also to provide some shade and shelter for their popular furry drawcard.

Avoiding the people, the girls had a blast feeding the donkeys with all the juicy grass growing outside of the enclosure, before giving in to our requests to pose for a million photos in front of the adjacent bright yellow canola field. And while there were too many people sitting in the restaurant for us to feel comfortable enough to join in, we did however make sure to peruse through this mad farm stall, browsing the bevy of antiques, curios, leather, clothing, dairy and pretty much anything and everything else that finds itself stocked in this incredible space of… stuff.

Belgian Chocolate and Curios at Chocolat etc. in Swellendam (2021-01-12) Photo Gallery | Shopping 15 JAN 2021

Our early January school holidays escape to Swellendam was lazing along quite nicely. Comfortably tucked in at the Aan de Heuvel self-catering cottage where the girls were pretty much living in our private splash pool, we didn’t need to mosey out much other than when needing to restock braai supplies or maybe pick up a treat or two while driving (aka sightseeing) around this quaint, historic, and lush green town at the foot of the Langeberg mountains.

One such treat snuffling saw us set foot in Chocolate etc., a small Belgian chocolatier/curios/gift shop that has definitely moved since we last visited Swellendam, but which is still very helpfully right by the Drostdy Museum Complex. Housed in a vintage style building squashed in between two estate agents, Chocolate etc. is primarily a place to grab a quick cup of coffee while perusing a relatively wide selection of fashionable clothing articles, gifts, curios, and of course a selection of nicely made artisan chocolates.

Of course I don’t think that Chantelle or the girls even looked at anything other than the chocolate display, as they eagerly had the lady on duty work her way through describing each and every one as the girls all made their difficult choices as to which flavours to grab. (Well not that difficult because of course all three strolled away with a nicely bulging packets at the end of our visit.)

Following the Snow to Huguenot Fine Chocolates in Franschhoek (2020-08-30) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 01 JAN 2021

Given the previous couple of hot, dry years that Cape Town has plodded and panicked its way through, snow on its relatively low lying mountains has been somewhat… scarce. That all changed with last year’s winter season as we were treated to some spectacular snow hitting the mountain tops of all the Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Helderberg ranges, reaching as far down as even Cape Town’s famed Table Mountain itself!

Recalling the days of Chantelle’s winter baked goods deliveries to Sacred Ground in Franschhoek, we decided to head out for an afternoon drive to that side of the world, ostensibly to chase the snow capped peaks, but given the reality of the now long-running Covid pandemic, it was just as much a reason to get out of the house to stave off cabin fever for a little while longer.

We headed up over Sir Lowry’s Pass, swung a left past Grabouw, and then slid along the gorgeously green Viljoen’s Pass until we reached what now at last is a very full Theewaterskloof Dam, which it has to be said is looking a damn sight better than what it did just a year or two ago at the height of Cape Town’s drought crisis.

Pointing our nose up through the Franschhoek Pass, we moved in between the snow capped tops and were then flabbergasted as we hit the heavy mountain pass traffic caused by the long queue of cars all patiently waiting to take their turn at a walk in the snow at the now uber popular Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve.

Eventually though, we dropped down the other side of the Franschhoek Pass into Franschhoek itself, and given the various pandemic induced bans on alcohol, travel, etc, this normally bustling tourist attracting town was quiet and far more leisurely to stroll through than what we were normally used to. We found a parking, ambled down main street, browsed the various shop windows and reasonably empty restaurant fronts, until eventually coming to a stop in front of our almost always when in Franschhoek with the girls haunt, Huguenot Fine Chocolates.

Known as the makers of fine Belgian chocolates, Chantelle, the girls and I eagerly selected a bevy of different flavours and forms, and then proceeded to find a quiet bench in the little park across the road that usually hosts the Franschhoek Market in non Coronavirus lockdown times. Beautiful old buildings, snowy peaks all around us, and delicious chocolates begging to be savoured, this was thus a pretty enjoyable way of escaping the now very familiar four walls of our little home back in Gordon’s Bay – even if for just a couple of hours!

Exploring all the way to Chapter 4 Eatery outside Stellenbosch (2020-08-29) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 13 DEC 2020

The Western Cape experienced some truly cold weather this winter, enough to spark snowfall on most of our higher peaks, which of course then meant lots of chasing about to view this wonderful and relatively rare occurrence for a territory not exactly used to receiving snow. As it stood, even our lowly peaks of the surrounding Helderberg mountains managed to get a bit of icing sugar on the top of their heads and so into the car Chantelle, the girls and I clambered to see if we could get a slightly better Helderberg view.

This particular sightseeing trip saw us first head out to Sir Lowry’s Pass Village and up to Knorhoek Estate, taking the steep road right up to Da Capo Vineyards and the beautiful Idiom Winery and Restaurant on the slopes of the Helderberg range. (The view of course was stunning, and if we didn’t have the girls with us in the car, we probably would have indulged in some wine tasting at their majestic tasting centre.)

Oh well. Down the mountain we came and back in Somerset West, we pulled over on Reservoir Road to take in the stunning view of the white frosted peaks. And also the mom who was diligently taking photos of her daughter doing ballet photos with the mountains as a backdrop. Clearly we are not ‘influencer’ enough!

From there I sought out a new place that I had caught wind of via Google Maps, a small green cluster in the heart of Somerset West referred to as Silver Tree Gorge (or Silwerboomkloof). As it turns out, Silver Tree Gorge is a small protected valley that is home to a forest of rare Silvertree, the silver-coloured tree member of the Protea family that is actually indigenous to the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. This clump, far removed from its normal habitat is somewhat of an anomaly, so it was kind of cool to stumble upon.

By this stage the girls were moaning about being hungry, so after a nice drive around the idyllic Spanish Farm suburb of Somerset West, I set course to the Cape Garden centre outside Stellenbosch, more specifically to a small little eatery called Chapter 4 Eatery – opened by the former owner of our once beloved Mondeor Garden Kitchen.

This little jaunt to the nursery for pizza and milkshakes was actually our very first restaurant visit following the big Covid-19 lockdown, but it was exactly what we needed. Super quiet, lots of space, and a little bit of outdoor fun equipment for Jessica and Emily to stretch their limbs out on. Nice.

A Year of Beach Walks in Strand (2019-12-31) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 11 DEC 2020

Catching up with another trove of files for safekeeping from the “Unposted Photos” folder on my laptop – this is a whole lot of images of Strand beach taken during walks/visits in 2019. Five kilometres of white sandy beach overlooking False Bay, one of the safest swimming beaches in Cape Town, surfing, kiteboarding, water slides and a tidal pool, and some pretty impressive buildings dotted along a beautifully renewed promenade.

There’s a river estuary, a protected marine area, good fishing, a lifesaving club, gorgeous sunsets, and soft serve ice cream. Lots of soft serve ice cream. What can I say, it’s a great beach to live close to!

USA 2019 – 07 Fuel Pizza and Wings at 600 F St NW in Washington DC (2019-10-25) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 10 DEC 2020

So after a very successful day of on foot architecture, memorials and sculptures sightseeing for my first day in Washington DC, my now very tired feet were urging me to pick my way back to the hotel, but more importantly before that, find something to eat considering the fact that I hadn’t eaten the entire day – and for my first night in Washington DC I knew very much exactly what I wanted: America-style pizza!

So I slowly worked my way up along 6th St NW and just before I reached the Capitol One Arena (which was a hive of bustling, hay-fuelled horsey activity thanks to the grand Washington International Horse Show about to kick off – which unfortunately I wasn’t able to secure tickets for), I bumped into something looking particularly promising tucked away on the bottom floor of a very interesting looking building marked as the former Oriental Building Association headquarters – Fuel.

Fuel Pizza & Wings as it turns out is a small franchise that started up in 1998 by a couple of New Yorkers who found themselves living in Charlotte but in need of some really good New York-style pizza. They eventually found the perfect location to start in an old funky 1930’s gas station and fast forward 20 years, the team now have four locations scattered around Charlotte and two in Washington DC – one of which I had now perchance stumbled upon.

This particular Fuel eatery is themed around the 1930’s racing circuit and goes for a relatively industrial, minimalistic feel to it. Aesthetics, bar, and wings offerings aside, pizza is what I was there for and thankfully Fuel delivered exactly what I wanted. By the slice, cheese dripping, crispy thin based pizza heaven. It sounds stupid of course because we have plenty of good pizza options back home in South Africa, but admittedly there is something a little different about how the American ingredients influence the final product.

Pizza and Baboons at Something Els in Rooi Els (2020-11-08) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 08 DEC 2020

Last month Chantelle and her The Helderberg Cake Company venture had as her last bake for the weekend a Sunday delivery out in Betty’s Bay, and so to combine wanting to get out of the house and grabbing a spot of brunch at the same time, we all piled into the car and drove off over the beautiful Clarence Drive coastal road, picking our way along the mountain slopes and the sea in what can only be described as some rather overcast weather.

Betty’s Bay and her dirt roads were of course thus a mud and puddle heaven, and not wanting to take a chance of sinking our car into a particularly deep hole, Emily was employed as official puddle depth tester (she being the only one wearing gumboots on the day), meaning any overly large puddle we weren’t sure of, she would have to jump out and go walk through the water. Genius use of child labour I tell you!

Delivery done and now on the way back, I wildly gesticulated at Chantelle that she pull over just outside of Pringle Bay, for I had spotted a magnificently gushing waterfall a little ways off the road. As luck would have it, there was in fact a small road that got us relatively close enough to admire the waterworks and well as the beautiful fynbos flowers that were so prettily framing this majestic Kogelberg Biosphere scene.

From there we rolled into Rooi Els, a perennial favourite of mine, pulling up at Something Els, an eatery and more interestingly, a botanical bar. Now I’m not entirely sure what they mean by “Botanical Bar”, but seeing as this is the Western Cape it is probably something to do with fynbos infused gin. (Seriously, you can’t move more than a few metres around Cape Town without tripping over some or other brand/style of gin these days!)

Not that it mattered though. We were there for food and to chill, and so a combination of pizzas and breakfast options were devoured, games of noughts and crosses were played, rain and grey sky atmosphere soaked up, and as if that wasn’t entertainment enough, one of the local baboons entered the restaurant much to the giddy excitement of the girls and of course, consternation of the staff. (No damage done, he didn’t get away with anything, and now Chantelle’s car has a furry baboon butt imprint on it).

USA 2019 – 06 The World War II Memorial in Washington DC (2019-10-25) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 DEC 2020

At the opposite end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, on the site where once stood the Rainbow Pool, now sits the World War II Memorial, a memorial of national significance that serves to honor Americans who served in the armed forces and who survived World War II. Opened by George W. Bush in 2004, this compact and open memorial sits in a relatively central space on the National Mall and offers yet another space for self-reflection and remembrance among all the surrounding tourist bustle.

The memorial consists of 56 granite pillars arranged in a semicircle around a plaza, with each pillar inscribed with the name of one of the 48 U.S. states of 1945, as well as the District of Columbia, the Alaska Territory and Territory of Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are two large arches at either end of the plaza, the northern arch inscribed with “Atlantic” and the southern one with “Pacific”, with the plaza itself giving way to a fountain lined pool. The walls include many reliefs of war-related scenes, as well as numerous historical quotes taken from the period. (Interestingly, the memorial also includes two inconspicuously located “Kilroy was here” engravings, acknowledging their symbolic role played among American troops).

On the west side of the plaza is the Freedom Wall, a block of granite set with 4084 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war, and with an inscription that reads “Here we mark the price of freedom”. Given its sunken level and central position, the memorial allows for views of both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, whilst the ever moving water creates a space to sit down and quietly reflect on these terrible events that forever stained human history.

The World War II Memorial is by no means a grandiose memorial nor one that screams its ideals at you, but as with the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial it does the job of making you think about and to remember this period in the hopes that it never need be repeated.

A Featherbed Co Three Legs Rivercat Cruise on the Knysna Lagoon (2020-01-08) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 03 DEC 2020

With neither Chantelle nor myself being ‘boat’ people (despite living in a small harbour-rich coastal town like Gordon’s Bay), we don’t exactly ever get around to taking the girls out for an ‘on the water’ adventure – something we thought that maybe we should address come the last December school holiday break. After all, with us soaking up the Summer sun in Mossel Bay, the still blue waters of the Knysna Lagoon were certainly within driving reach!

The famous Knysna Lagoon is of course more accurately a big estuary, taking in water from five fresh water rivers flowing out from the surrounding Outeniqua Mountains, which it then lets out into the Indian Ocean through its iconic twin sandstone headland cliffs, the Knysna Heads. This large, calm body of water makes for a truly sheltered space (the massive number of leisure craft, yachts and even houseboats easily attests to this), though journeying through to the rough sea on the other end is of course a whole different story.

One of the heads is taken up by the privately owned Featherbed Nature Reserve (a registered nature reserve and coincidently a South African Heritage Site), which in turn is managed by the for profit Featherbed Co., which over the years have expanded their operations and turned the Featherbed Nature Reserve as one of the must do Knysna tourist attractions.

To reach the nature reserve (where they conduct tours and have built an incredibly inviting restaurant area), you can take any one of their boat options (which generally also offer cruise to nowhere and onboard dining options), the likes of which include the very special Paddle Cruiser (not a type of boat commonly seen in South Africa anymore), the famous John Benn yellowwood ferry, the Heads Explorer luxury catamaran yacht, and the cheeky Three Legs Rivercat open ferry.

We opted to take the girls for a cruise aboard the Three Legs Rivercat over to the heads, and after killing some time at the very inviting Knysna Quays Waterfront area, we shuffled over to Featherbed Co’s base of operations and boarded the cheeky little blue, yellow and all metal ferry. Its open sides and shaded seating area made of the perfect ‘wind in our hair’ ride out on the still waters of the lagoon, with the us all enjoying the sights and sounds of this very special piece of water play paradise. (Well okay, I can’t really talk for the others but I certainly enjoyed it!)

The little narrated jaunt took us past all manner of yachts, houseboats and sailboats, before the heads loomed up before us and we got a glimpse of the little coves and caves around the edges of the famed Knysna Heads. For the most part the girls thoroughly enjoyed this experience on the water though as with any relatively non interactive experience, they did get a little bored towards the end. Next time maybe I’ll put a little more money together and make them walk the nature reserve instead – by all accounts the regrowth in the nature reserve following the devastating 2017 Knysna fires is looking amazing!