Tag Archives: cape town

Ice Cream at Lagoon Beach in Milnerton (2017-11-18) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 28 JAN 2018

The girls and I had been out and about on a weekend adventure as always, first with a trip to the venerable Blue Train Park at Mouille Point for some play time, then a stroll over to the Oranjezicht City Farm Market (quickly abandoned because it was far, far too busy for one dad and his two little girls), followed by some Spur time for the munchkins in the V&A Waterfront, and then finally wrapping it all up with some ice cream on the beach.

For this final part of our day, I decided to pay a visit to Lagoon Beach in Milnerton, a place that I don’t think I’ve necessarily visited before.

The GPS and Google Maps took us up through Paarden Eiland, past the Milnerton Flea Market (which I’m sure used to be in Milnerton back when I was a kid), and into the parking lot in front of Wang Thai and the Lagoon Beach Hotel (where I was promptly accosted by a gang of wandering homeless kids and a couple of guys wanting to sell me shark teeth).

At this point the girls were already bothering me for ice cream to no end, so I relented, flagged down a passing Ola ice cream vendor on his bicycle, and bought the girls each a chilled chocolate coated treat on a stick.

This of course didn’t go that well, because it was almost instantly just dropped chocolate and melting ice cream everywhere!

(I was not impressed, and embarrassingly, a little shouty about this. I have no idea why this act of messing sticky ice cream everywhere bugs me so.)

Anyways. It is a bit disconcerting to see all the polluted water warnings for where the Dieprivier river flows towards the sea, but outside of that, the wide concrete walkway makes for a lovely walk along the beach, with the end reward being of course those utterly magnificent views of Table Mountain as you come around the hotel grounds.

Hard not to appreciate the view really.

(In truth, I am a tiny bit jealous that none of my local beaches have such a classic view of Table Mountain as what those on the Milnerton/Bloubergstrand side of Cape Town do!)

Related Link: Milnerton

High Tea at the Belmond Mount Nelson in Cape Town (2017-11-07) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 09 JAN 2018

On the 7th of November last year, Chantelle and I celebrated eight years of marriage to one another. To commemorate this special occasion, we decided to head out to Cape Town for High Tea at city’s famous Pink Lady: the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel.

With its name taking inspiration from Cape Town’s Table Mountain and the fame of Lord Horatio Nelson, the historic Mount Nelson Hotel (now owned by the Belmond group) first opened its doors on the 6th of March 1899. It was the first hotel in South Africa to offer hot and cold running water, and it was described back then as being ‘even better than its London counterparts’.

Today this five star luxury hotel, complete with gardens, restaurants, a spa and a host of other amenities, holds on to its status of being a place of accommodation that achieves that perfect mix of tranquility and class in the middle of a bustling urban environment.

(To be honest, I kind of have to believe what they say – this place definitely does amaze when it comes to first impressions!)

For Chantelle of course, afternoon tea (or high tea as it is otherwise known) at the Mount Nelson is old hat – she’s done it more than a few times in the past, but for me it was definitely a first.

And admittedly, I have to say that I rather enjoyed the experience.

For a start, the newly renovated tea room is now light and airy, apparently very different to the darker, more reserved space Chantelle has previously experienced.

The setup is simple enough: you get shown to your table, you get assigned a tea sommelier (or a waiter if you’re unlucky), get a stand of savour finger eats placed down in front of you at your table, and then proceed to select two teas from a very exotic (and extensive) list of teas (while continuously heading over to the exquisite dessert buffet table to fill up on treats whenever you run short).

For reference, my first pot of tea was the Pu-Erh Royal 2009 red tea, followed by a pot of Lapsang Souzhong smoked black tea. Chantelle on the other hand gave the rather dramatic Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls oolong tea a go.

We had a particularly interesting tea sommelier (which is apparently now a thing) who spent a fair time talking tea with us, plus, given the fact that we were there for our wedding anniversary, we were even treated to a special little Happy Anniversary plating – much appreciated of course.

Sadly though, our romantic outing for two took a strange turn towards the end of the tea service – turning on our phones revealed that Emily’s school had been trying to get hold of us. Thanks to a MAJOR fire that was moving in onto Gordon’s Bay from Sir Lowry’s Pass, schools were being evacuated and basically we needed to abandon everything and get home fast!

Of course, being stuck more than an hour away from home meant that we had to phone up anyone and everyone in order to make a plan that ensured the kids were safe, and after a quick but slightly panicked stroll around the gardens to admire the exquisite Dylan Lewis sculptures out on display, we strapped in for a rather nail biting drive back home  through traffic.

(For reference, we were all safe, but the blaze on the mountain was massive, gutting a few houses and causing much panic and evacuations, before eventually turning back in gale force winds and heading up over the mountain again. Quite a spectacle to see the mountain at the back of our house burning so bright orange for the next couple of evenings! Also, turns out the saying is true – if you live in a fynbos rich area then you are pretty much guaranteed a major fire every ten years or so!)

Anyway, back to the high tea experience – it was actually really enjoyable to have done:

In Summary: Afternoon Tea at the Mount Nelson is an expensive outing to be sure, but definitely one worth doing if you’re looking to treat your partner to something that is special and perhaps just a little bit out of the norm.

Related Link: Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel | Wikipedia

Ambling about the Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve in Lakeside, Cape Town (2017-08-07) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 03 JAN 2018

The Zandvlei Estuary is the largest of the eight estuaries on the False Bay coastline, and more importantly, is the only remaining functional estuary/wetland on the False Bay Coast.

Bordered by the Cape Town suburbs of Lakeside, Marina da Gama, Muizenberg and Steenberg, the estuary is fed by the rivers coming down the slopes of the southern extension of the Table Mountain chain.

Given the fact that the estuary occurs amidst an area dense in residential suburbs, the Zandvlei estuary has historically suffered from pollution, encroaching urbanisation and poaching, with the area left neglected for long periods of time.

Although a 22ha area in the north was proclaimed as the Zandvlei Bird Sanctuary back in 1978, it was really only in 2006 when a 204ha area was formally proclaimed as the Greater Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve that the conservation efforts really kicked in. Headed up by the Zandvlei Trust, this got a further boost in 2015 when an additional bit of land was added and the 200ha Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve was proclaimed in terms of the Protected Areas Act.

The reserve functions as a fish hatchery, with it being one of the most important estuaries for recruitment of fish such as garrick, steenbras and two species of stumpnose. The surrounding wetland is an important habitat for birds (with around 166 species on its official list). It is also a vital habitat for amphibians and about 20 species of reptile such as the angulate tortoise, marsh terrapin, mole snake and brown water snake.

Interestingly enough Porcupines, grysbok, otters and mongoose can also occasionally be spotted in the reserve.

There is an environmental education center up in the northern section of the reserve, as well as a 1.5 km circular walk, complete with bird hides and picnic tables. Past the wetland area are large grass lawns along the banks of the estuary, open to the public (free of charge) and as such, creates a much needed green belt/recreational space for the local residents.

Given that I work in the area (yes, yes, I know that I’m technically only in office there one day a week), I often get the urge to stretch my legs and get some fresh air come lunch time – meaning more often than not I grab something to eat from the shop, pop down to Zandvlei via Boyes Drive, and tuck in while hopefully watching some sailboats on the water courtesy of the nearby Imperial Yacht Club.

Failing that, the birds are pretty entertaining too.

So, as you might have noted by now, this then is exactly what I did on this particular day back in August last year. A tough life, I know… ;)

Related Link: Greater Zandvlei Estuary Nature ReserveZandvlei Trust

Sand and Boulders on Llandudno Beach in Cape Town (2017-06-24) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 25 NOV 2017

Just outside of Hout Bay and on the way to Camps Bay lies Llandudno (named after the Welsh town with a very similar look), an extremely upmarket, small and particularly picturesque residential suburb of Cape Town.

Despite their well to do status, Llandudno residents strive to maintain a private, coastal village feel to their suburb, achieving this by banning the operation of any shops or restaurants, disallowing the installation of street lights, and maintaining only the most minuscule amount of public parking spaces in the area.

Despite all of this, their tiny Llandudno beach is a popular beach with many Capetonians, thanks in no small part to its boulder strewn rugged beauty, the magnificent fynbos to each side, the view of the Twelve Apostles, Little Lion’s Head,and the Karbonkelberg Mountain all around, and its surfer exciting waves!

Popular with families for picnics, beach sports and sun worshipping in general, it really is difficult to walk away not appreciating this small beach’s well earned charm.

(Oh, and for nudists, it also marks the start of the 20 minute long, apparently not so gentle, walk to Cape Town’s famous nudist beach, Sandy Bay.)

Back in June, as part of my day out and about with the girls, I took a slight detour on our way to Hout Bay Harbour in order to see what this beach looks like for ourselves – and I’m pleased to report that neither the girls nor I left disappointed! :)

A pretty little beach indeed.

Related Link: Llandudno

The Lions of Rhodes Memorial in Cape Town (2017-06-24) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 17 NOV 2017

I’ve written about the Rhodes Memorial on these pages before,  and earlier in June I took my two girls up the slopes of Devil’s Peak to go and see this unique, classically inspired memorial to the English-born South African politician Cecil John Rhodes.

Firstly, if you have never seen this national monument in person before, then the Sir Herbert Baker and Francis Macey designed structure sitting on the flank of Table Mountain (above my old alma mater UCT for that matter) is guaranteed to impress.

(Well, that said, the girls didn’t really think it was all that. The liked the stairs and the horse, but as far as what they were concerned, the most exciting bit was  the prospect of being allowed to take a photo or two with my phone camera, a promise that I had to make before we had even exited the car!)

Flanked by eight lions (cast by J.W. Swan and modeled upon those protecting Nelson column in Trafalgar Square), the memorial is fronted by the dynamic ‘Statue of Energy’, an imposing horse with rider sculpture – said to be a tribute to Rhodes’ restless drive and determination.

49 granite steps (one for each year of his life) then lead you to the main viewing platform which is adorned with a classic arrangement of Doric columns, the center at which stands the bronze bust of Cecil John Rhodes himself.

At this point of the photos, you might of course notice something slightly out of place.

Sadly, during the populist anti-colonialism outcry (complete with symbol defacement) that took place throughout South Africa in 2016, a few activists tried to behead the bust, ultimately failing in their attempt but doing enough damage so as to leave Rhodes without his nose.

As you might imagine, this does rather spoil the whole effect.

The site is also home to a popular tea garden and restaurant (makes sense when you consider the gorgeous view over Cape Town to be had from this location), and is also the starting base for a couple of popular Table Mountain hikes.

(The hour long walk to the King’s Blockhouse being one of those).

For the record, we didn’t pop in to the tea garden because we still had quite a few other interesting things to get to on the day (Llandudno Beach, Hout Bay Harbour, and World of Birds to be exact), but the girls were okay with that – after all, I did let them fool around with my phone camera for a bit…

A visit to Rhodes Memorial doesn’t take particularly long, and no matter your view on colonialism or the likes of people like Cecil John Rhodes, it is worth a visit just for the architecture and view alone!

Related Link: Rhodes Memorial | Rhodes Memorial Tea Garden

Celebrating a Birthday at Food Jams in Woodstock (2017-09-23) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 01 NOV 2017

We had such a blast celebrating the birthday of Michelle (one of Chantelle’s oldest friends) a couple of weeks ago, with the big birthday bash taking place at the very aptly named, nondescript Food Jams base in Woodstock, Cape Town.

Operating in some form or the other since 2010, Food Jams is the brain child of the fun, energetic and foodtastic Jade De Waal. The concept is simple:  Gather a group of people together for a team build, supper club, party, or social jam, pick a theme and arrive on the day in order to be randomly paired off in groups and receive your specified dish’s recipe, all of which forms part of the special menu that has been cooked up by Jade herself.

With music blaring from the background, and plenty of drinks available from the cash bar, the groups then simultaneously get to work at their already prepped workstations in order to whip up a gargantuan meal that consists of all your just made dishes – all set to be devoured by the group once the small house gets rearranged to accommodate one long dinner table.

As you can imagine, the entire evening is an exercise in controlled, fun chaos! (For the record, I joined Andri and together we made empanadas – which actually turned out quite nice despite the fact we somehow missed a lot of steps from the recipe, not to mention completely changed the suggested cooking style!)

Pro Tip: A good idea, as demonstrated by the main party group, is definitely to rock up to your food jam on a hired party bus. After all, the evening is pretty much guaranteed to be one heck of a good party!

Bonus: To get an even better idea about what Food Jams is all about, One Dog Chicken produced this great little feature hosted on Vimeo:

Also, because I’m not strictly a Capetonian in that I get lost in Cape Town, a map.

Related Link: Food Jams

Tycho to the Moon at the Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome in Cape Town (2017-08-20) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 24 OCT 2017

The Iziko Museums of Cape Town (Iziko is isiXhosa for “hearth”) is an amalgamation of 12 national museums located near the Cape Town city centre. The Natural History sphere consists of the venerable Iziko South African Museum (founded in 1825) and, most pertinent to this particular blog post, the Iziko Planetarium, a project technically launched in the late 1950s, but which only became relevant to the public after the 1987 installation of the Planetarium’s star machine.

Built as an extension to the aforementioned Iziko South African Museum, the Planetarium is a familiar fixture for any of Cape Town’s former schoolkids – I’m not aware of any scholar that didn’t experience an school outing to the planetarium at least once during their school career!

Of course, as it inevitable does, technical equipment becomes outdated, and as such, after investments totaling R28,5 million were poured into the upgrade project, May 2017 saw the reopening of the new Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome (the planetarium’s new, official moniker), now extensively updated and most important of all, featuring cutting edge fulldome digital technology.

The result is beyond spectacular. The new Planetarium is now what is known as a “world-class digital fulldome theatre”, allowing for multimedia image projection and data visualisation on a scale not previously seen in Africa.

Apart from now being able to present interactive teaching and visual learning across multiple disciplines (essentially, there is now no reason that the Planetarium is solely focused on the field of astronomy), the biggest takeaway for this state of art digital dome is the fact that the Planetarium is now also very much an scientific instrument – capable of crunching and displaying complex and important data visualizations, exactly like those produced by the exciting SKA (Square Kilometre Array) project for example!

That said, I have a 3 year old and 6 year old daughter – meaning that our first experience of this glorious new piece of technology was a viewing of Tycho to the Moon – a supposedly educational, Australian produced 21 minute long feature about a dog and his kids that travel to the moon.

Spoiler, while the girls did enjoy the experience as a whole, Tycho to the Moon itself isn’t very good and kids seem to get bored of it VERY quickly.

The adverts for the other science show offerings, not to mention the star/universe gazing segment tacked on by our operator at the end of the show, were on the other hand ENTHRALLING – so definitely a return trip to the Planetarium for both Chantelle and myself is now VERY much in order!

Given the fact that the planetarium stands as part of the museum, with the Company’s Garden right on its doorstep, there is no way that this shouldn’t be on your list of things to do with kids in Cape Town.

Related Link: Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome | Iziko Museums of Cape Town

Things to See in South Africa: Sandboarding on the Atlantis Sand Dunes Travel Attractions 05 AUG 2017

It takes about 30 minutes to reach the Atlantis sand dunes, driving north west out of Cape Town’s city center. The ever-shifting, up to 35 meters high, sand dunes are an important conservation area, protecting the Atlantis Aquifer which supplies water for the Atlantis area.

Sandboarding has become quite a popular adventure sport in Cape Town and given Atlantis’ vast field of dunes and proximity to the city, quite a few Cape Town based adventure operators now operate out on these dunes (with strict regulations to ensure that all who use the dunes keep conservation well in mind of course!).

The soft sands found in the Western Cape allow sandboarders to reach considerable speed and to perform a variety of tricks, making this an adrenaline sport suitable for both beginners and thrill-seeking enthusiasts alike.

(The dunes are also home to other adventure sports like quadbiking and 4×4 handling).

To get a better feel of what to expect, the guys over at Travelvids (a Cape Town based travel video training and production outfit) put together this video of the experience:

Home to interesting plant species and birds like the Black Harrier, these Cape Town dunes are certainly a great example of how adventure tourism and conservation can coincide.

Related Link: Sandboarding | Atlantis | Travelvids.tv

Things to See in South Africa: Glowing Rooms 3D Mini-Golf in Cape Town Kid Activities 29 JUL 2017

So how do you make putt putt even more of a crowd puller if you find yourself trading out of a small boring little shopping center (The Gallery) in Milnerton, Cape Town?

Why you slather everything in neon, glow-in-the-dark paint, airbrush some fantastic wall murals to strengthen the effect, light it all up under UV bulbs, and then make the experience that much more trippy by throwing in some special 3D glasses to give a rather unique view of the world of course.

Welcome to the Glowing Rooms 18-hole glow-in-the-dark 3D mini golf experience.

As part of their Things to Do in Cape Town series, the guys behind Travelvids (a very cool Cape Town based travel video training and production outfit) put together this awesome video of the experience:

Well worth putting on your “what to do on a rainy day in Cape Town” list!

Related Link: Glowing Rooms SA | Facebook | Travelvids.tv