Feeding the Animals at The Alpaca Loom in Paarl (2017-04-22) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 14 MAY 2017

After a lovely afternoon milling about and admiring the smooth concrete curves of the famous Afrikaans Taalmonument in Paarl, the girls and I popped into Fairview to have a gander at their equally famous Goat Tower, before heading back towards something that I had spotted on the way in – The Alpaca Loom.

Housed in a beautifully built and furnished wooden studio (all apparently crafted from wood taken off the very farm by the estate owner himself) is the Alpaca Loom, a coffee shop & weaving studio, and perhaps more interestingly, an alpaca stud farm.

(Yup, if you are in the market for it, you can purchase pet alpacas, breeding stock and even guard alpacas from them!)

The small coffee shop isn’t particularly well stocked, but there is enough good coffee and baked goods on offer (the cake was fantastic!) to make it an okay enough spot for a rest break on the deck – which comes with a stunning  view I might add.

What is rather interesting is the actual weaving that happens right next to you – you can stand and watch as the looms and other machinery is used to transform the luxurious alpaca wool into all manner of jerseys, blankets and that sort of thing.

(A lot of what they make is also on display and available for purchase).

Whilst the kids are sure to enjoy the large jungle gym next to the studio, the highlight of a visit is undoubtedly the opportunity to feed and get up close and personal to the surprisingly calm and gentle, and fluffy, alpacas!

Jessica couldn’t wait of course to get in and feed the animals, and surprisingly, after a little bit of nervous hesitation, Emily joined in the fun as well. (The assortment of alpacas, lamas, camels and donkeys didn’t seem to mind – more hands mean more feed buckets!)

We lucked out a bit on this particular trip in that a few baby alpacas had just recently been born, meaning that a trip down to the stables with the farm owner was particularly overloaded with adorable baby cuteness.

Also, I took far more photos of alpacas than I though I would:

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If you have small kids and don’t feel like the more upmarket hustle and bustle of the super popular next door neighbours, The Spice Route and Fairview, then the Alpaca Loom is actually quite great alternative!

Related Link: The Alpaca Loom Coffee Shop & Weaving Studio

Cubs at Cheetah Outreach in Paardevlei, Somerset West (2017-04-23) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 13 MAY 2017

Twenty years strong now, Cheetah Outreach (now at Paardevlei as opposed to their original Spier stomping grounds) continues their mission to raise awareness around, and campaign for, the survival of the free ranging Southern African cheetah.

They do this through a broad range of projects, like funding and coordinating a South African Cheetah Anatolian Shepherd Guard dog project, delivering natural science and literacy resources embracing environmental education into less advantaged schools, sponsoring teacher training workshops, supporting range research of free-ranging cheetah, and finally financing curriculum-linked school outreach trips and Bus 2 Us on site education visits.

They have a large number of hand-reared, captive born cheetahs which they use as ambassadors – acting essentially as representatives of the endangered free-ranging cheetah, which then provides the public with the opportunity to see, learn about, and then meet this majestic and fascinating species face to face.

The girls and I ambled into Cheetah Outreach one late afternoon last month, and spent some time walking around all the enclosures to take in the collection of bat eared foxes, black backed jackals, servals, caracals, meerkats, and Anatolian shepherd dogs, before heading up the amusingly named Cat Scan viewing deck to watch a couple of tourists being guided through their animal encounter session with the cheetahs.

The girls were of course totally enamoured by the two furry cheetah cubs pacing around (as well as the feeding of the bat eared foxes), though as per usual, annoyingly they found the stuffed toys of the curio shop by far the most interesting bit of all!

I was surprised to encounter Cheetah Outreach’s very unusual stance of essentially allowing you into their grounds for basically free (I paid R15 for all three of us to walk around!), meaning that if you just want to show your kids what a cheetah looks like (and go on a quick guided tour), it’s not going to cost you any real money.

Animal encounters is of course where the the actual money making happens, and there are a number of different encounters, walks and runs available to choose from.

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Animal sanctuaries/education centers that offer encounters are as always a contentious issue for a lot of people, but if you have kids like I do then undoubtedly you will appreciate the fact that they exist – teaching a child about something standing right in front of them is always going to be better than trying to explain off a printed page or some animated screen.

P.S. The lovely body of water that is the Paardevlei is currently completely dried up. So much so that there are now buck grazing where once there were flocks of flamingos!

Related Link: Cheetah Outreach

Walking along the Beach to Cape Sands in Strand (2017-03-10) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 06 MAY 2017

On a windless Friday evening in the Helderberg Basin, there is no better way to see out a long week of work than with a stroll along the water’s edge of Strand beach, patiently waiting for the shimmering sun to finally dip below the horizon.

The sea wall construction work continues unabated all along Strand’s beachfront (it is all part of the City of Cape Town’s R180 million promenade upgrade), meaning that a fair bit of the beach is technically still out of action, the impact on evening strolls isn’t all that high given the length of Strand’s famous main beach.

Of course, the girls are never keen just to walk for the sake of walking, so to make it a mission I have to create an objective – and for this particular Friday night evening stroll I decided that we should take the long walk over to the always art friendly upmarket Cape Sands apartments (on the very edge of Strand’s beachfront as you come into Strand) in order to see what they currently have on display in front of the building.

For reference (just in case you are curious and because the girls wouldn’t let me get close enough to take a photo with my phone), currently on display is a large green (bronze) face from the internationally acclaimed South African painter/sculptor Lionel Smit, who well known for his larger-than-life portraiture works.

And the reward for such a long trek? Some sit down and play in the sand time of course!

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Also, a map (for just in case you’re not entirely sure where I am):

Related Link: Cape Sands Apartments | Strand

Putt Putt at FantaSea at The Point in Mossel Bay (2017-03-18) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 01 MAY 2017

In March Jessica and I joined my Mom and Dad for a long weekend away at their place in Pinnacle Point, Mossel Bay. As it turned out, Mossel Bay was quite the hub of noise and chrome for this particular weekend, seeing as it was time for the annual Buffalo Rally to descend upon this popular seaside resort town.

In other words, the roads were more than a little bit busy – I don’t think that I’ve ever seen quite as many bikes and bikers assembled in one place!

The Saturday of our little breakaway saw us head down to Mossel Bay, first for a stop at the rather impressive Toucan material shop in the industrial part of town (Mom was to knit Jessica a jersey), before heading back towards The Point in the hopes of finding somewhere not completely overrun with bikers so that we could enjoy some lunch.

This was of course completely hopeless, and thus we found ourselves pulling off for a round of putt putt at  Fanta Sea @ The Point instead. (This was of particular excitement to Jessica seeing as this would officially be her first ever go at the game of putt putt!)

True, Fanta Sea looks more than a little tired in a slightly rundown kind of way, but that doesn’t seem to bother the kids one bit – no wonder what with putt putt, ice cream, splash pools, jungle gyms, takeaways, and even a skate park all on offer!

Despite not having  a kid sized putter for Jessica to tackle the course with, she had loads of fun trying, and to be fair, so did Mom, Dad and myself – I genuinely can’t remember the last time that I played a round of putt putt!

With our tight game of mini golf over and done with, we finished up by rewarding Jessica with some colourful ice cream as a treat.

Sadly, the ice cream wasn’t quite as good as the putt putt.

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So in summary: It’s maybe a little tired looking, but in all honesty the kids don’t really care – putt putt is always fun!

Related Link: Fanta Sea @ The Point

Lunch at Getafix Garden Cafe in George (2017-03-20) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 01 MAY 2017

For some strange reason the owners of the Getafix Garden Cafe at the entrance of the Garden Route Botanical Garden in George have absolutely no qualms (or fear of copyright lawyers) around using Asterix and Obelix material for both their name and marketing material. I mean sure, ‘Getafix’ works for me in the ‘Get a fix of coffee’ like the lovely new owner duly explained to me on the day, but the Asterix and Obelix link?

Anyway, moving swiftly along, the little garden cafe is actually pretty great. It sits on the grounds of the Garden Route Botanical Garden in George, right next to the main entrance/info house and right in front of the nursery.

This then of course means that it is perfectly positioned to feed and hydrate all those who enter and exit the gardens, from hikers to dog walkers and of course all those Park Run enthusiasts that descend upon the botanical garden each and every Saturday morning.

Despite the very small kitchen space, the restaurant churns out some pretty exciting food, with the artisan touches of the owners on full display with pretty much every dish. The coffee is particularly good, and the space, as you might expect from being part of a botanical garden, pretty tranquil.

There is a lovely stretch of lawn out in front of the outdoor dining tables, complete with kids playpark equipment scattered about and a little hidden fairy grove as well.

(And yes, they do apparently cater for kids parties as well).

Back in March this year (during a Pinnacle Point long weekend break away), we found ourselves having a late lunch at Getafix, following the botanical garden walkabout that my dad and I had just completed.

Pleasingly, it was pretty good.

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The new owners have definitely turned this old place around, making Getafix now well worth the refreshments stop if you find yourself in the area – definitely a plus for George!

Related Link: Getafix Garden Cafe | Facebook | Garden Route Botanical Garden

Lunch at the Lake House Restaurant in Somerset Lakes, Somerset West (2017-04-08) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 30 APR 2017

The other day Chantelle came up with a rather strange suggestion – “Why don’t we go out for lunch at Somerset Lakes?”. Now I know that Somerset Lakes is one of the new fancy Somerset West residential estates that they are building here rather close to us (in fact, it is right next to the brand new, rather posh Reddam School that recently opened its doors), but residential estates aren’t normally open to the public now are they?

Well as it turns out, Somerset Lakes has in fact allowed its clubhouse facility to be converted into a restaurant (aptly called The Lake House), operated by the same team that own the excellent Southey’s Family Bistro (also in Somerset West).

The restaurant itself is situated in this beautiful contemporary designed building that overlooks Somerset Lakes’ titular lake (which is of course nearly empty now thanks to the drought that continues to plague the Western Cape), with its open plan spaces spilling outside in the form of lovely open deck, complete with small swimming pools for both big and small.

Pizzas are currently the hot item on The Lake House’s menu, and it is pretty easy to see why after having tried a few of them for ourselves!

(Unfortunately the restaurant is still waiting to receive their liquor licence, meaning that for now you need to remember to bring your own drink if the non-alcholic stuff doesn’t quite do it for you any more).

The girls were of course completely lost to the pool (which is literally right next to the tables on the deck), meaning that Chantelle and I had even more time to just sit, relax, and enjoy the view.

(Or, if your kids don’t enjoy the pool, they can always go play on the artificial beach in front of the clubhouse as well!)

After lunch, we decided to take a delightful stroll along the lengthy boardwalk that takes you around the central lake. Naturally, the area is usually a lot more pretty (and will be once the rains start coming in again), but nevertheless, it was great way to stretch the legs whilst watching the abundance of bird life that still call this area home.

Along the way we came across a jungle gym for the kids to spend some of their energy at, and a little later, an outdoor gym (complete with concrete weights).

Obviously, without not a single other soul in sight, we had a ball giving everything a quick go ourselves! ;)

Back at the clubhouse, Jessica and I decided to take a quick stroll over to the nearby grove of Pine trees, where we were rather excited to find a full on obstacle course lurking in the small forest. (A pretty handy find considering the fact that Chantelle would be tackling the Muddy Princess obstacle race rather soon!)

Note: I found out later via some Googling once back at home that these are all a leftover from the recent The Grind obstacle race which was held back in February this year.

Also, as you might have suspected, I took loads of pictures with my phone on the day, some of which didn’t come out half bad if I say so myself:

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It is kind of strange that a private residential estate has allowed for the establishment of a public restaurant on their grounds, but I for one am rather glad that they did, because the location is rather stunning and thus well worth the visit if you ever find yourself anywhere near the area!

Related Link: The Lake House Restaurant | Somerset Lakes

Vegetarian Burgers at Lourensford Market in Somerset West (2017-04-09) Markets | Photo Gallery 30 APR 2017

Last year we were away from home for at least one weekend every month. This year we’re doing it a little different, and rather going away for one big July holiday instead. However, all that this then means is that we now get to go on a LOT more local adventures every weekend instead!

(Plus, now with Chantelle no longer working at the guest house in favour of doing her own cake-related thing full-time again, there are plenty of great spots that the girls and I need to first show her around anyway!)

Not that the excellent Lourensford Market is one of those mind you. No, as we’ve already previously established, this particular Somerset West market held on the grounds of the venerable Lourensford Wine Estate is definitely one of her firm favourites when it comes to the farmer’s market scene.

On this particular day, the market as always was buzzing and busy, so the Lotter girls and I found a nice space on the soft grass banks around the water fountain, where we then took turns fetch and devouring all sorts of food whilst watching Emily and Jessica have a ball in rolling down the surrounding grass mounds.

For some or other reason, Chantelle chose to tuck in (and enjoy) this monstrosity that is apparently a bunless vegetable burger, while I far more sensibly stuck to some Mediterranean ostrich dish.

I didn’t particularly feel like taking lots of photos on the day, so I didn’t, snapping only a few quick ones so that you can get a feel for what the market was like on this particularly pleasant, sunny and windless Sunday afternoon:

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I’ve said it before, and it is worth saying again – the Lourensford Market is definitely one of those markets worth going to, even if you’re only going for the incredible setting!

Also, in case you are keen and in the area, Lourensford Market also hosts twilight market events which are pretty cool and well worth coming out for if the weather holds up. The next two of these night markets are on the 5th and 19th of May respectively, so you may as well start planning already…

Related Links: Lourensford Market | Facebook | Lourensford Wine Estate

Walking along the Lourens River in Radloff Park, Somerset West (2017-04-17) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 23 APR 2017

The Gordon’s Bay Lötters had a pretty relaxed Easter this year. Friday afternoon was spent with my half of the family, enjoying Mom’s homemade pickled fish and dad’s roast leg of lamb for lunch, while the evening was spent with Chantelle’s half of the family, enjoying Robert and Monty’s fine work behind the braai and treating the girls to a glow in the dark easter egg hunt.

Saturday was a rare pyjamas day of being at home and doing pretty much nothing, while Sunday we hosted my folks over for a braai back at our place.

Monday, or Family Day if you look at the calendar, kicked off with a morning out at Mondeor Garden Restaurant in Somerset West, where we partook in their super popular, annual easter egg hunt day. (The girls had loads of fun as you might imagine!)

However, with Chantelle then returning to work once all the fun was done and dusted, it was up to the girls and myself to entertain ourselves for the rest of the day, and we did just that by heading out for an early evening walk along the Lourens River at Radloff Park in Somerset West.

It’s only the second time that I’ve visited this super popular park in Somerset West, and as always it is difficult to come away not loving pretty much everything aspect of it!

The river is flowing well, the shady paths well looked after, the rolling fields of grass all trim and tidy, with the entire area perfectly framed by the beautiful mountainscapes that seem to be visible all around you!

The girls and I strolled along the entire length of the river section available to us, i.e. from the car park at the edge of Radloff Park all the way through past the houses and onto the start of the Morgenster Estate, though naturally by the time we reached the end, both girls were starting to moan about having to walk so far!

As expected, plenty of people were out and about on either their bikes or with their dogs, but pleasingly the experience seemed a lot less traumatic for my two ‘timid around animals’ girls.

Naturally, I did have my phone on hand to pick up a couple of snaps as per usual:

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Unless you absolutely hate dogs, it is almost impossible not to like Radloff Park.

Related Link: Facebook

Brisket at The Hickory Shack in Grabouw (2017-03-26) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 23 APR 2017

Last year December, right before our big Christmas family lunch, we ate for the very first time at the Hickory Shack in Grabouw, a Texan style smokehouse famed for both its brisket and use of a proper, Southern-style fire pit to prepare it in.

Now purely because Chantelle had already settled on making brisket for aforementioned Christmas lunch, neither of us ate Hickory Shack’s signature dish on that particular day, meaning that a return visit to give the famous brisket a go was very much in order then.

(For reference, first time around, I tucked into their delicious pulled pork, while Chantelle got dirty with some baby ribs).

So come late March this year, as is our usual style, we rocked up on a Sunday afternoon at lunchtime with no reservation whatsoever (we never actually plan on going out to lunch – it is almost always a last second decision), something that immediately bit us in the bum because the main restaurant area (the covered deck) was already all taken – resulting in the girls and myself taking a small round table right next to the smokehouse itself.

(Pleasingly, they were plenty busy, meaning that we weren’t the only table out in the sun!)

As I mentioned at the start of this post, brisket was very much on the menu for both Chantelle and myself, and while I was more than pleased when the flavourful cut of meat was placed down in front of me after a lengthy wait, sadly for Chantelle, she found herself less than enamored with a meal that had just too much fat in it for her liking.

True, she had a point, but I found myself enjoying it regardless. The flavour was all there, the chunky, handcut chips were great, the mix of sauces on the table sublime – all of which was nicely complemented by some good craft beer.

In other words, nothing for me to really complain about then!

Seeing as I took more than enough photos on our first trip to the Hickory Shack (which are already sitting quite happily at home on this blog), I was much more refrained with the phone camera this time around…

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So in summary then: Coming across this style of food is still reasonably uncommon here in the area, thus making the Hickory Shack well worth a stop if you happen to find yourself driving through Elgin with a hungry belly and a taste for meat!

Related Link: Hickory Shack | Facebook