The Silverhurst Trail in the Constantia Valley Greenbelt, Cape Town (2018-09-09) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 14 JUN 2019

The leafy, affluent suburb of Constantia in Cape Town is blessed with incredibly fertile soil and a lot of precipitation, meaning that greenery and natural beauty abound in every single direction. Towards the east is Constantia Valley, home to a wondrous Greenbelt area that features a large number of publicly accessible walking trails, all of which lazily wind between residences and natural features alike.

One of the easier, more accessible walking trails is the Silverhust Trail which starts just off Constantia Main Road and ambles along the Keysers River, past the Silverhurst Estate. It’s not much longer than 2 km in length (return trip), but of course you can easily make your stroll last longer by either hopping onto another trail or switching to some residential streets for a bit.

It’s tranquil, its green and you are alongside a stream, so super popular with dog walkers and lazy weekend strollers alike. (Or a family walking off a big Sunday afternoon lunch like we were on the day!)

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Burgers and Play at Skilpadvlei in Stellenbosch (2018-09-15) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 13 JUN 2019

After a morning of strawberry picking at Polkadraai Farm you could of course just grab a simple bite to eat there, but if you want something a little bit nicer (with a 100% more beer), you would do well to quickly nip down the road to nearby Skilpadvlei, a wine farm, accommodation hub, wedding venue and most important of all, family-friendly restaurant.

This is exactly what the girls and I found ourselves doing one afternoon out and about in the Stellenbosch surrounds, and again, thanks to Skilpadvlei’s lovely kids play area (featuring an amazing jungle gym setup), friendly atmosphere and a good food and beer selection, I find myself once more highly recommending this as a lunch time option if you are out and about with small kids.

And yes, the 78 hectare, fully operational farm is charmingly named after the colony of tortoises that were found in its vlei back in the 1800’s.

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The Whale Museum in Hermanus (2018-08-25) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 12 JUN 2019

The Whale Museum, or more accurately, the Whale House Museum can be located within the historic Fisherman’s Village section (right next to De Wet’s Huis Photographic Museum) of the Old Harbour Museum complex in Hermanus.

By the early 1990’s, whales had become the primary tourist attraction for this popular coastal town, and as such it was suggested that Hermanus establish a whale museum with the mission of informing and educating both local and international visitors alike. Built up over 3 distinct phases, the main hall (which was completed in 1998) is the museum’s centerpiece, now dominated by the suspended skeleton of a young female Southern Right whale that had washed ashore at nearby Onrus River in 2003.

With a strong focus on digital displays with audio/visual interactions, the Whale House Museum is a treasure trove of cetacean information and although not a large space by any means, it provides a good learning experience for any youngsters stepping through its doors.

There is a also a very interesting mini-sub lounging on its floor (a favourite with the girls) and naturally, there were plenty of photos taken on the day:

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Breakfast Snacking at the Schoon Manufactory in Stellenbosch (2018-09-15) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 09 JUN 2019

Fritz and Chanelle Schoon’s beloved bakery has certainly moved around a bit. Having started out as Oude Bank Bakkerij in Stellenbosch, then reformed as Schoon de Companje, then moved to Somerset West with the opening of Schoon Bright Street Café, and now back in Stellenbosch with the Schoon Manufactory Café, the team must be doing something right because their devoted fans seem to follow them everywhere!

The new Schoon Manufactory in Stellenbosch is actually quite interesting to visit. The manufactory (derived from ‘manual factory’) acts as the centralized hub for Schoon, giving them one large space to produce all their bread, pastries and café food in, while also allowing them to run an experimental kitchen and small onsite café from. The end result is a very much factory like space that is open to the public and allows interested fans the opportunity to observe the ongoing artisan baking taking place, whilst all the while tasting and spreading the word of Schoon’s decadent bakes.

The girls and I started one of our big day out adventures with a breakfast run at the manufactory, and I have to say that their pastries are just a thing of absolute delight. Unfortunately for you though, this stop involved a full on effort of marshaling of two very excited (at the prospect of all that custard, chocolate and other sweet treats) little girls, so I didn’t exactly take any pictures of what was put down in front of us!

Never mind though, all the more reason to pay them another visit then.

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Art Deco and Apple Juice at the Elgin Railway Market in Grabouw (2018-07-22) Markets | Photo Gallery 09 JUN 2019

The Elgin Railway Market is an incredible addition to the Elgin Valley tourism scene. Launched in 2018, the market resides in an old apple packing warehouse (built in the 1940’s by Italian prisoners of war and right on the Grabouw train station itself) which has been refurbished and styled with the most elegant of wood, steel and wrought iron in a decidedly artisan Art Deco/Art Noveau theme. (Hint: It’s gorgeous.)

The end result is a visually captivating space which, thanks to its two level stacking with an open center, always feels open. The mouthwatering food stalls and clever craft vendors all operate from within dedicated booth spaces and the abundance of long tables and benches means that there is almost always seating available for you to sit down with your family and enjoy some of the decadent treats on offer.

(In fact, one of the things that this market does that sets it apart from other market experiences is that the food vendors all supply you with your food on an actual ceramic plate, complete with knife and fork or whatever other eating utensil may be required. A small touch that very much heightens the experience in my opinion.)

There is a small play area with a climbing wall outside, and of course lots of live music on offer, but it is the excitement that comes with the Ceres Rail Company’s vintage steam train that pulls into the station every now and then that most often steals the show for the kids and adults alike.

Honestly, it’s a treat.

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Fun and Games at the Winter Wonderland Festival in Gordon’s Bay (2018-07-08) Family Attractions | Photo Gallery 08 JUN 2019

Next week Friday (the 14th of June 2019) the ninth edition of Gordon’s Bay’s very own Winter Wonderland Festival kicks off with its annual evening parade – and this time we even have one of our daughters dancing in it!

Started back in 2010 by the newly launched Gordon’s Bay Business Forum as a way of attracting visitors during the quiet winter months, the festival has gone from strength to strength, morphing from an intimate collection of food trucks on the site of the old Van Riebeek Hotel and lots of fairy lights running through the milkwood trees, to the slickly run, well marketed, sprawling array of tents and fun rides that you find on the carnival weekends today.

Every year the “Carnival Park”, now situated in Hendon Park right on Gordon’s Bay’s beautiful main beach is a blast, with loads of food trucks and food stalls, virtually non-stop live music, beer, arts and crafts, family activities and just plenty of fun. That said, the highlight of the festivities as far as the kids are concerned is always the fun park set up and operated by Funland Amusements SA – their collection of fun rides is always a massive hit for the event!

This year (as it has been for the last couple of years – basically a safeguard against the whole thing being rained out entirely), the festival is spread over two carnival weekends, 14-16 and 21-23 June. And yes, obviously we are going to have just as much fun as what we did last year!

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The Birds and the Trees of Harry Giddy Park in Mossel Bay (2018-06-29) Family Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 JUN 2019

Right as you start your entry into Mossel Bay’s old CBD, at the very top of Marsh Street on the right is a lush green haven called Harry Giddey Park (or Harry Giddy, the Internet can’t quite make up its mind), a public park with trees, running water, a bandstand, a playground, an aviary and even a couple of farmyard animals scattered about.

First laid out as Victoria Park in 1887 (complete with ornate metal gates erected in 1903 in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee), the park was later renamed as Harry Giddey Park in honour of the man who spent much of his time and money revitalizing the grounds during the early 1940’s.

The end result of all this work is a wonderfully laid out park that has a little bit of something for everyone. It has a good collection of interesting trees and plants, interesting pathways, a few bits and pieces with historical significance dotted around, the triple play of birds, animals and a small playground area as entertainment options for the kids, and then of course a lot of lawn to be enjoyed by families in search for some family down time in what is a lush green tranquil space.

(It also just happens to be the home for the Mossel Bay bowls club too).

Honestly, I’m a little surprised that it took the girls and me so long to get out and explore this little block of green on the Mossel Bay map.

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Caravel and Post Office Tree at Bartolomeu Dias Museum in Mossel Bay (2018-06-26) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 01 JUN 2019

As one of the larger Western Cape museums in existence today, Mossel Bay’s Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex is a treasure trove of local cultural, Portuguese maritime, and natural history. In addition to the outside displays of the famous Post Office Tree, the Ethno-Botanical Garden, the Fountain, the Munrohoek Cottages, and the Malay Graves, the complex is also home to three distinct museums, The Granary, The Shell Museum (the largest shell museum in Africa), and the primary focal point of the complex as a whole, the Maritime Museum.

Although its history stretches back to that of about 1963, the museum complex in its current form was only really established in 1989, a direct outcome of the incredibly successful and well attended 1988 Dias Festival which celebrated the 500 year anniversary of the 1488 arrival of the first European explorer to set foot on South African soil, the highlight of the festival being the big spectacle landing of a seaworthy, life-size replica of Bartolomeu Dias’ famous caravel.

Now after dawdling through the grounds, touching everything in the garden, reading up on the historic mountain passes in The Granary, marveling at the beautiful mollusk homes in The Shell Museum, hiding under the Post Office Tree, and rolling down the sloped lawns (the kids, not me), we next traipsed over to the secret big reveal of our museum visit – the nondescript stone building marked as The Maritime Museum.

And yes, just like the surprise we ourselves as kids experienced when walking into the museum for the very first time, my girls got just as big a thrill when they entered down the stairs and walked into this:

And yes, of course we explored it.

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Travel Start with Travelstart
[Partner Content] 31 MAY 2019

You know, I’ve never actually ever dealt with a real life travel agent before. In fact, come to think of it, I’ve never even stepped into a travel agency’s offices before. With software development being my daily bread and butter, I’ve always been quite content dealing with online systems as opposed to people, and as such when it comes to travel arrangements I’ve always been more than happy to use an OTA (a.k.a online travel agency, an abbreviation I have literally just learned a handful of minutes ago) for my needs.

Anyway, when it comes to South Africa, one of the biggest and most prominent players in this space is undoubtedly Travelstart (who now seem be on a massive marketing push to get their name out even further than what it already is – as evidenced by this here partner post of mine too I guess).

Interesting fact, Travelstart is headquartered right here in Cape Town, and so is technically a South African company, despite having first been breathed into life by Swedish founder Stephan Ekbergh back in 1999 – who then sold it off to investors, before finally buying it back again following his emigration to South Africa in 2006. And quite frankly, the company hasn’t looked back since. A leading OTA in Africa and the Middle East, Travelstart now finds itself operating in some 15 markets across the region, including the likes of Botswana, Kenya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Primarily making money through Pay per Click advertising and an extensive affiliate network of travel partners, TravelStart brings tons of value to the everyday traveller (i.e. you and me) by offering some of the best travel deals across all its comparison functions – those being the full trifecta of flights, hotels, and car rentals.

So literally a one-stop compare and book shop (and that’s not even noting the toes now dipped into the Business Travel and Package Holiday markets either).

Plus, it is hard for me not to like how they do what they do. Extremely technologically focused (i.e. they seem to be rather fond of us programmers in general), the Travelstart website is clean, responsive, well written, and frankly a pleasure to use. (And with local customer support for when needed, it feels like a bit of a no-brainer if you are looking for the easiest way to book your next holiday.)

Right, so basically Travelstart IS a good way to start your travels then.

Related Link: Travelstart