Tag Archives: cape town

Fun and Facades of GrandWest Casino in Cape Town (2019-06-17) Family Attractions | Photo Gallery 26 MAR 2020

We were rather enjoying our little break from the girls, having already spent the morning traipsing around Bloubergstrand, taking photos of Table Mountain, visiting Big Bay, and indulging in much coffee and cake at Cafe Blouberg. I then put on the table to Chantelle that we should extend our outing a little longer by paying a visit to the GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World on the way home – primarily because I wanted to take some photos of its interesting facades. Amazingly (and inexplicably) she said yes.

Opened in December 2000, Sun International’s GrandWest Casino entertainment complex is built on the old Goodwood Showgrounds and is Cape Town’s only registered casino. It is a sprawling operation that features two hotels, a kids entertainment world (with arcade), a concert venue (The Grand Arena), loads of restaurants and bars (plus a fast food court), an Olympic-size ice skating rink, a bowling alley, movie cinemas, lots of conference facilities, dedicated exhibition space (SunExhibits), and of course the actual casino floor itself.

Now neither Chantelle or I am into gambling at all, and the kids are still a bit young to easily manage in the big crowds that the place tends to generate, so GrandWest isn’t actually a location that we visit very often (other than for the odd show or music concert) at all. That said, it was interesting that both Chantelle and I commented on just how eerie it is at how little the place has changed in the now 20 years of its existence!

The place is loud and colorful and full of people, and there is more entertainment on offer than what you can shake a stick at. I of course love the historic preservation effort the architects put into the design of this fun entertainment complex, with much of its external facades modelled after historic and landmark Cape Town city buildings, and the interior decor heavily trading on Cape Town’s rich maritime tradition.

So much to see, so much to photograph, no wonder then that Chantelle almost instantly got annoyed with me and immediately regretted having ever agreed to this unscheduled photo walk in the first place! (Not even Keith Calder’s playful seals out front were enough to appease her.)

Still, I had fun:

USA 2019 – 01 Journey from Cape Town to the Hampton Inn in Washington DC (2019-10-24) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 01 MAR 2020

When I left for Washington DC the handy direct flight from Cape Town hadn’t yet launched, so as per usual, it was first the time wasting hop of having to head up to Johannesburg before I could finally leave South Africa’s sunny borders behind.

My Touchwork-organized SA336 South African Airways flight departed from Cape Town International just after two on a Thursday afternoon, meaning that logistically it was pretty easy given that the kids were at school, there was no traffic to battle, and thus no reason then why Chantelle couldn’t dutifully ferry her extremely overexcited and bubbly husband to the airport.

With our farewells said over a cup of Wimpy coffee, Chantelle gave a few forlorn waves as I disappeared through the security checkpoint. (After all, you must remember that I was now resigning her to two weeks of looking after the kids all by herself!)

The flight to OR Tambo International in Johannesburg aboard the Airbus A330-200 flitted by without incident (if I remember correctly, they were playing the inspiring Red White Black & Blue Odyssey documentary about the ICEF Rugby Program that helps struggling kids from disadvantaged neighbourhoods through rugby for entertainment purposes), but once there I still had to find a way to kill 2.5 hours before my journey to the United States would finally begin.

Luckily I travel light, so with my commandeered big sports bag (thanks Ryan!) already checked through back in Cape Town and only my small laptop backpack on my back, I set about following the small signs in the massive OR Tambo airport to try and find the tucked away aircraft viewing deck. As it turns out, this was an excellent idea because a) it is rather hidden away and thus not busy at all, b) it is spacious and gives an excellent view of the airport operations below, and c) it killed a whole lot of time for me.

Having watched all the planes, read all the info boards on SAA’s history and the legacy of OR Tambo the activist, and completed a phone call with the girls back home, I finally made it back down to ground level, headed through security and hunkered down next to a chatty young Ghanaian actress who was heading back home following an ad shoot that she had just completed here in Johannesburg.

At this point our SA209 flight had however been announced as delayed, primarily because there weren’t enough people flying to warrant using the big Airbus A340-300 that we were meant to be making the long haul aboard, so she and I dutifully watched a love triangle play out between the pigeons outside while I was taught all about Ghana and Geisha soap.

So not a bad but not an entirely smooth beginning to the epic 18 hour journey from Johannesburg to Washington D.C. then.

Of course we did eventually board a plane, and because it was half empty the flight was particularly comfortable (just very very long). The in-flight entertainment was great, the food perfectly fine, the halfway stop in Accra (in the middle of the night) uneventful, and I comfortably passed the time flitting between sleeping, eating, listening to music and discovering new movies.

We touched down at Dulles International Airport outside Washington D.C. (it is technically in Virginia) around 06:30 in the morning, just in time to watch a beautiful sunrise break over the airport. After catching one of their strange little 80’s sci-fi inspired shuttles to get from plane to terminal, I successfully navigated my way through customs (no issues whatsoever), collected my bags and strolled through the doors into the land of the free – only to immediately turn around and head back inside because I urgently needed their Wi-Fi in order to sort out my SuperShuttle shared ride to the hotel. (The delay had meant that I had missed my pre-booked pickup).

Anyway, the friendly onsite SuperShuttle staff sorted me out, I jumped into the shared van when it eventually rocked up, and then drove in awe all the way to Washington D.C. making sure to take in the sights, sounds, and gorgeous flame coloured trees around us.

Of course, this is Washington D.C. so I was a little kid with excitement when the first views of all the famous monuments started shifting into sight and by the time we pulled up at the front door of the hotel, I was probably a bit of a bubbling idiot. What can I say, cityscapes excite me!

Talking about the hotel, Rory had picked up a pretty good one location-wise for my first ever trip to Washington D.C., placing me right in the middle of Downtown/Chinatown area, with easy access to all the main tourist hotspots.

Despite its clunky moniker, the Hampton Inn Washington-Downtown-Convention Center, a member of the Hilton hotel group, was comfortable enough, had good amenities, and served a nice breakfast. If anything, it does suffer a bit from a lot of siren noise (especially at night), but seeing as I sleep like a log, this wasn’t something that bothered me in the slightest. All in all a good stay and also a perfect base from which to explore the city of Washington D.C. on foot!

Coffee and Cake at Cafe Blouberg in Bloubergstrand, Cape Town (2019-06-17) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 20 FEB 2020

If you have small kids then you know that you seldom have no kids around you and if you do find yourself without kids around you then you should definitely make the most of the opportunity because they are sure to be around you in no time at all again. So we drove all the way down to Bloubergstrand just to be safe.

To be fair, this was totally a planned excursion for Chantelle and myself because she had been keeping a keen Facebook eye on a little eatery called Cafe Blouberg for quite some time now, and eager to taste their cake wares she was now super excited to make the most of our missing kids scenario (that she herself had very carefully orchestrated mind you).

Cafe Blouberg offers as they put it in their own words on their website: “an aesthetic experience tantalizing the senses with mouth-watering cuisine and delicacies baked for everyone’s delight.” That is of course a lot of marketing guff, but it isn’t too far off from the truth and to be honest, their location does come with a magnificent view that stretches over the Atlantic Ocean towards Robben Island of course Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain.

It is a small cafe that buzzes with eager patrons and we were lucky to snag a seat for coffee and a tasty light lunch, before taking a stroll down the lane to snap some pictures of the sea and mountain, followed by a drive over to Big Bay to marvel at how different the place is to what it was when we grew up. (A lot).

And then we headed right back to Cafe Blouberg to tuck into their delicious cake. Worth it!

A Touchwork Year-end HintHunt in Woodstock (2019-11-29) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 15 JAN 2020

To celebrate the end of a successful 2019 work year, the sister teams of Touchwork (Yay!), Hypenica, RegNow, African Agri Council, and Cape Business News all gathered together at The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, ready to forgo last year’s wine tasting in exchange for some mental gymnastics instead. Hello HintHunt.

I won’t lie, when I heard that we were doing HintHunt this year I was pretty excited. The escape room concept is brilliant – basically they lock a small group of you in a staged room, start a timer on the wall to mark your 60 minutes, and then every so gently nudge you to use all of your mental abilities and powers of observation to try and unearth an incredibly intricate chain of clues, hints, locks and keys that will eventually unlock the door and stop the timer.

It is an absolutely brilliant experience. The incredible stress that comes from the relentless timer countdown, the thrill of finding hidden drawers, pockets and containers in just about every inconceivable location, the frustration at bashing your head against a combination lock one to many times – it is an absolute intense bit of intellectual fun.

Our group was split up into four teams and each given their own room, two of the teams heading off for the hardboiled detective themed JM’s Office game, and other two to the Japanese-themed Zen Room game.

As it so happened, I was drawn into a team with Jason, Wendy and Beryl, with the four of us getting whisked off to the delightfully themed, but devilishly difficult Zen Room, where we were confronted by not just intricate puzzles (include a splash of Sudoku), but also the need to do on the fly Japanese translations!

(For reference, the Zen Room’s scenario is as follows: “A recently orphaned Japanese girl has requested your help in retrieving her priceless family heirlooms. Latest intel suggests that the heirlooms are hidden within one of the culprit’s safe houses, you don’t have much time till they are sold in the black market and completely lost forever. This mission will require your teams cooperation and fine eye for detail if you intend to succeed in the recovery of the heirlooms. Act now, you don’t have much time!”)

It was incredibly tricky, incredibly frustrating, incredibly fun – but I literally won’t say anything more so as not to spoil it for anyone still to play. In the end the escape room proved to be too challenging for our quartet, with the timer running out with a few locks still lying in wait for us. Nevertheless, I think we did a damn fine job anyway. (In fact, as far as what I can remember, none of our four groups actually managed to escape – so there is some solace in that! :P)

Having all taken the bus from our Westlake office to Woodstock, the next leg of our year-end function required us to bundle into some Ubers and head down to the always vibrant V&A Waterfront, where lunch at the Mozambique-themed Mozambik restaurant awaited us.

It was good, very good. And the plenitude of wine certainly didn’t hurt either.

Smelling the Roses at Chart Farm in Wynberg (2019-03-17) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 08 OCT 2019

Understandably, Chantelle was a little miffed that she still hadn’t been to visit the charming Chart Farm in Wynberg, despite my blog having already loudly exclaimed what a lovely place to visit it is. Obviously this then needed to be rectified, and seeing as we were off to traipse through the gardens of Kirstenbosch for the day anyway, I carved out a little piece of time for us to also stop and smell the roses. After all, happy wife, happy life.

As I mentioned last time around, Chart Farm (situated right across from the bustling Wynberg Park) is known for cultivating all manner of fresh produce across its 18 hectares of land, but is especially known for its robust rose growing operation.

Home also to the famous Ludwig’s Roses, Chart Farm grows an amazing array of rose varietals in their rose garden, all of which can be ready picked for special orders, or if you feel like using your own hands (and the secateurs and buckets supplied down at the farm stall out in front), snipped straight off any bush that is looking at you funny.

The farm stall itself stocks a dainty selection of preserves and other produce produced on the farm, and then there is The View @ Chart Farm, a charming coffee shop that serves a mix of delicious home-made cakes and light lunches while offering up a spectacular view over what is a very lush Cape Town greenbelt area.

Although this particular visit wasn’t ever going to show off Chart Farm in its best light (at the end of rose season, loadshedding affecting the kitchen), it nevertheless did more than enough to charm Chantelle, meaning a return trip is now definitely on the cards! And so, a fan is born…

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Sharks and Skates at The Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town (2018-11-17) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 SEP 2019

I was fifteen years old when the Two Oceans Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town first opened its doors to the public in November 1995. A world class aquarium showcasing the incredible diversity of marine life found in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans through awe-inspiring exhibits and interactive touch-points, with a vision and mission to encourage love and respect for our ocean, and in so doing, train up a generation of young people to understand the need for using marine and other natural resources in a much more sustainable manner.

It also just so happens to be a wonderfully entertaining activity for parents with young kids.

After all, there is quite a lot to see and take in! From the big I&J Ocean Exhibit, the eerily quiet Predator Exhibit, the serene Kelp Forest Exhibit (unfortunately closed for reforestation during this particular visit), the always cute (if a little smelly) Penguin Exhibit, the interesting Touch Pool & Microscope section, the educational Smart Living Challenge Zone (lots of interactive/digital games to play around with!), and the Diversity Gallery, there is more than enough to keep you busy for a decent amount of time!

Then there are the various feeding times (the penguins are always a treat, not to mention the diver entering the big tank with all the sharks and rays), and if you are feeling particularly brave and have a few extra bucks burning a hole in your pocket, you can head over for a diving experience that lets you scuba down into either the Predator, I&J Ocean or Kelp Forest exhibit!

Jellyfish, sharks, rays, crayfish, eels and sea horses, the girls were kept absolutely enthralled with everything they saw – even if they weren’t really all that sure about actually touching anything in the touch pools!

As always, a wonderful educational experience that I’m thrilled to have been able to share with my kids. Makes me wish all that much more that Cape Town still had a proper zoo to enjoy with them as well. Anyway, as expected, a lot of photos were taken on the day:

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The Western Province Live Steamers and their Miniature Trains in Parow (2018-09-01) Kid Activities | Photo Gallery 25 AUG 2019

The first Saturday of every month, from 13:00 to 16:00, shrill whistles, puffs of steam and the occasional whiff of diesel fill the air from a small field in Parow, right next to the soccer fields of Vasco and Ajax Football Clubs. If you turn sharply and follow the unassuming little road, you will end up in front of a small little club house emblazoned with the words “Western Province Live Steamers”. Welcome to their running day.

Founded in 1980 by the late Jack Love, a school teacher with a love of building and running miniature steam locomotives, the first 13 years of the Western Province Live Steam Society’s existence were lived out on a piece of the famous Cape Show Grounds in Goodwood (better known as the Goodwood Showgrounds, now of course the site of the GrandWest casino complex).

However, with the subsequent sale of that particular property in 1993, the club found itself undertaking a long hunt for a new home, eventually finding their current space with the help of the Parow Municipality at the end of 1997.

A small, but passionate group, the Live Steamers built their own club house, laid the track of their main loop, and then slowly began the process of (successfully) building out their little rail empire.

As with most hobbies, constructing and running these little trains are the most rewarding when you can share you passion with other people, and as such, every first Saturday of the month the club’s gates are thrown open and the general public are invited (free of charge) to come along to watch and ride the trains with the model builders, to take advantage of the fresh air and green open space, and perhaps even throw a few pieces of meat on some coals.

Naturally this is something that I just HAD to show the girls, and given that it’s reasonably close to where my brother and folks are based (Bellville), I got Ryan and Dad to tag along on what turned out to be a particularly pleasant way to spend Spring Day.

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A Gallery of Art and Concrete at the Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town (2019-01-09) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 10 AUG 2019

Simply put, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, more commonly known as the Zeitz MOCAA, is a magnificent addition to the V&A Waterfront and Cape Town offering. Chantelle and I had for a long time been eager to visit the art museum since their grand opening back in September 2017, and come early January this year, we finally got around to walking through their impressive doors.

The Zeitz MOCAA lives in the wonderfully re-imagined historic Grain Silo (built in 1921 and decommissioned in 2001), with its space artfully carved out of the 42 densely-packed concrete cylinders that made up the original silo structure. The end result is a magnificent endless array of concrete curves and walls rising and falling around you, with a look guaranteed to leave a striking impression on any visitor that enters through its doors.

With the Silo Hotel and its stunning glass windows sitting high above you, the museum is scattered across a number of levels, requiring the use of either the spacious lifts or ornate metal staircase to access everything on show. (It’s well worth it though, because the higher you go, the better the views get!)

Interestingly enough, the Zeitz MOCAA is actually a not-for-profit public museum, commissioned through a public/private partnership between the V&A Waterfront and German businessman (and ex-CEO of Puma) Jochen Zeitz, with Zeitz’s extensive African art collection being available to the museum for the duration of his lifetime. In addition to these pieces, the chief curator also sources work from across Africa, resulting in an ever-changing collection of vibrant colours and cultural ideas.

Truthfully though, modern art isn’t really our thing (both Chantelle and I prefer the technical skill of classical art to the focus on idea that comes with contemporary art), but nevertheless there is more than enough to see, discuss, and make you think, that one can easily keep wandering through the museum’s many rooms for countless hours if you so wish.

It’s an incredible addition to the city, and injects a huge amount of life, feet and business into what used to be a pretty underutilized district. For art lovers it is a must see, and even for those of us that aren’t, it is well, well worth the visit – even if just to experience the amazing building itself!

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Birding on Intaka Island in Century City, Cape Town (2018-11-04) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 23 JUL 2019

You will discover Intaka Island about 7 km out from the Cape Town CBD, tucked away behind the tall buildings of Century City and its Canal Walk shopping mall. Built by Century City developer Rabie following an initial project environmental impact assessment, Intaka Island is a 16 hectare large wetland conservation area.

As such, it serves as a crucial bird sanctuary for the area and the nature reserve itself is setup around this idea, filled with a well maintained walkway that features plenty of hides and viewing platforms that are perfect for local birders. It’s a great way to step into a little nature without having to go out on a full blown hike!

This particular visit saw me leave Chantelle and the girls behind and instead ring up my brother to join me for a stroll among the reeds. Pleasingly, he agreed – and didn’t even moan at all the pictures I kept stopping to take! ;)

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