You can’t really say opulent indulgence without almost immediately thinking of Monaco, that tiny sovereign city-state situated on the French Riviera, surrounded by France and which is only 2.02 km2 large – home to 37,800 people, 30% of which are millionaires!
Thanks to its rather dubiously lax tax laws, Monaco is known as a playground for the rich and famous, and in recent times has also become a major banking center, activily seeking to diversify its economy into services and small, high-value-added, non-polluting industries.
And then of course there is the matter of Monte Carlo, a ward situated on a prominent escarpment at the base of the Maritime Alps along the French Riviera, and which is home to the world-famous Place du Casino, the gambling center which has made Monte Carlo “an international byword for the extravagant display and reckless dispersal of wealth”.
The Monte Carlo Casino is of course an icon. If you have money, or have won a lot of money, then this is without a doubt THE place to see and be seen in Monaco.
Opened in 1863, the Monte Carlo Casino gambling and entertainment complex has been operating for 153 years. It includes a casino, the Grand Théâtre de Monte Carlo, and the office of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo.
The world famous casino (whose worldwide recognition owes a lot to Ian Fleming’s 007 spy, James Bond of course) is as you would expect a thing of exquisite opulence and beauty. Art, architecture, sculptures, class – it really can’t put a single foot wrong.
So, as you might suspect then, the Monte Carlo Casino is home to all the major high end gambling games, including the likes of Roulette, Stud poker, Blackjack, Trente et Quarante, Craps, and Baccarat.
(And yes, for the less sophisticated there is of course Video poker and Slot machines available).
To sum up, if you have the money and the inclination to chance losing some of it, you almost certainly should try and visit this European gambling mecca at least one time in your life!
Sun International’s GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World, apart from being the only casino in Cape Town, is one of the largest entertainment destination of its kind in South Africa. It offers a wonderland of around-the-clock entertainment, making it comparable to something that you may find find all the way over in Las Vegas!
Officially opened in December 2000, GrandWest is technically located in the suburb of Goodwood (on the old Goodwood Showgrounds), thus making it central to both the Southern and Northern Suburbs of Cape Town. It is a massive complex, featuring two hotels, a kids entertainment world (with arcade), a concert venue (The Grand Arena), loads of restaurants (12 in total, not counting the additional fast food court!), an Olympic-size ice skating rink, a bowling alley, a movie cinema, lots of conference facilities, exhibition space (SunExhibits), and of course – its massive casino!
A pretty cool design element of the GrandWest complex is its attempt at recreating historic Cape Town facades – in fact it recreates more than a kilometre of the old Mother City, which means a lot of grand, Victorian and Cape Dutch styled architecture, complete with a recreation of the 1652 Fort of Good Hope and a moored, fully restored tall-ship, the Victoria II!.
Given all the entertainment options, GrandWest is quite a popular attraction in Cape Town, which in turn means a LOT of daily visitors. (So if you’re not so fond of crowds, you could always just play online casino games instead!)
However, if people are your thing, then the casino is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and offers both smoking and non-smoking gaming facilities. The floor hosts 2,563 smart card slot machines, and more than 79 premium table games that cater for pretty much every casino game imaginable. There is also an exclusive gaming area (Salon Prive) for Platinum MVG members, and a Gambling Information Centre – a great resource for first time gamblers who would like to learn the ropes!
Related Link: GrandWest
So finally, Chantelle and I took advantage of Caledon Hotel, Casino & Spa’s long running promotion, The Real Deal (previously known as The Reel Deal, changed I suspect because most people – including us – failed to spot the pun first time around).
We headed out early Thursday morning (having left the kids to sleep over with Chantelle’s parents the previous evening), stopping for breakfast first at Fred & Max in Elgin (a failure, as it turns out that they do in fact NOT actually serve breakfast), followed by a fantastic breakfast at The Pool Room at Oak Valley (a success, because it turns out that they do in fact serve breakfast).
For R125 each, we received R100’s worth of casino credits for some slot machine play, a choice of selected meals from the daVinci restaurant, and free access to the Spa’s natural warm mineral pools – in other words quite a decent deal if you ask me!
Having stayed at the Caledon Hotel once or twice before (many years ago at the infancy of our relationship), we were looking quite forward to spending some time in the warm water pools again, but in the end we decided to first get the gambling out of the way – neither of us being particularly fond of casinos just by the way.
As per usual, the slot machines didn’t work out very well for me, but Chantelle had a great time, making a tidy little profit on The Queen of the Nile game – meaning that she walked out there with jangling pockets and a huge smile on her face. (But no photos, as those are strictly forbidden in the casino. They are literally on you as quick as a flash, as Chantelle discovered much to her surprise!)
I on the other hand had by then long since wandered out of the casino area and had ended up in the incredibly poorly stocked kids game arcade, happily playing some ancient Lethal Weapon pinball for entertainment!
The natural warm water pools were an absolute treat as expected, with us making sure to take a dip in pretty much all the pools on offer, including the Victorian Bath, the floatation pool, and the small, elevated, but unbearably hot Khoi San pools!
In the end, we spent the majority of our day in the pools, our muscles soaking in the warm, mineral enriched goodness and leaving us relaxed, light-headed, and content with the world!
(Also, it’s well worth after you are all dried off and dressed, just to sit for a few minutes in the tranquil Zen Garden space. Perfect spot for some reflection and quiet time!)
We finished up the day by taking advantage of our free food offer, and as for the meal at daVinci, well, it’s not fantastic of course, but that said, it’s not bad either – and when you think how much you have paid for it, you simply can’t help finishing up the day feeling rather chuffed with what really is a decent deal.
So yeah, I enjoyed my day and Chantelle certainly seemed to as well – after all, she posed for these silly photos at the end of our adventure, meaning that she must have been in a good/silly mood!
So a day well spent, and with our definitely worth it little break from life now over and done with, it was the long trip back to Bellville to pick up the kids (thanks Oupa and Ouma) and then head straight back home.
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“A Busman’s Holiday: Checking out Online Gambling – A coder’s first impression of the quality of online gambling available in South Africa” by jonmott
Every now and again it is really nice to forget about the day job. It is nice to take off the professional filters and enjoy a bit of time online. No worries about coding, integrating the UX into a job or anything even remotely concerned with functionality. Sometimes it is really nice to just kick back, log on and do a bit of leisure browsing just for the heck of it. All work and no play does nobody any good, does it?
Taking a peek at online gambling in South Africa
OK, just because I am a responsible grown up I am going to add a bit of a rider in here. It goes like this.
The legal status of online gambling in South Africa is a bit hazy. But the bottom line is that individuals inside South Africa who choose to spend their hard earned Rand at sites that are domiciled elsewhere are doing nothing wrong. In effect the law relates to the suppliers and not us consumers. When I have not got my work hat on – like now – I am one of the little guys. Now that is out of the way, let me tell you that I enjoyed a spot of leisure surfing the other day. As I was home alone, I thought, ‘why not see how things look from the other side of the fence?’
It was a busman’s holiday, if you like. So, I spent a little time hopping around a few sites, seeing what they had to offer and how they felt purely from a user’s point of view. For those of you who like to know the facts, I spent time principally at Gambling Africa, a leading gaming portal, and Fhats Online Casino. This is not a review, so I am not going to get all technical.
I have to say that, having cut myself some slack, I was pretty impressed. Not just at the way everything stacked up technically, but in the way the user experience was really well done. Smooth, intuitive, clear, punchy and, above all, geared towards making things enjoyable. Heck, there are even Marvel superheroes to be found lurking amidst the different games and promotions. You know I am a sucker for an old-fashioned superhero.
Now I reckon that I am a pretty tough sell when it comes to anything that involves even a whiff of coding. So, I do not say this lightly but what is available to South African punters is pretty impressive. And I am not just saying that out of patriotism or because I won (I was up by only a few pennies by the time I quit). There are one or two things I would have done differently (OK, so I did have a peek at some of the coding – I could not help it). But there is some good stuff out there. Which reminds me, I had better get back to work! Happy days!
(Note, this post is now officially more than a week late. I started it off last week with the best of intentions, but you know, things just always seem to get in the way…)
So as I may have alluded to earlier, this long weekend past proved to be the perfect refreshing getaway, as Chantelle and I both took off Friday and headed up to Pinnacle Point with Retha and Miguel to enjoy a weekend of leisure and relaxation.
Of course, as expected with Chantelle and myself, we did only get away from home on Friday morning after midday, but the morning wasn’t spent entirely in vain as the flat had gotten cleaned and more importantly, we finally purchased that suede headboard we had ordered from Boardman’s all those weeks ago!
But on the road we did finally end and with Chantelle at the wheel, we rocketed along the N2, making our first stop in Buffelsjag at the delightful Rolandale restaurant and rest stop where we tucked in and replenished the fuel in our tummies. From there I grabbed the wheel and we were back on the N2, enjoying the beautiful green scenery dashed with the brilliant yellow of all the canola fields in full bloom.
Admittedly, my eyes did get a little heavy under the beautiful sunlight we were enjoying, and after a quick refresher break in Albertina, we continued our journey into Mossel Bay, where after a police roadblock we found ourselves making a detour to the local Checkers in order to pick up our meat for the evening’s braai before turning around and hitting the road up to Pinnacle Point.
Thanks to Dad’s organising, getting into the resort was a snap and surprisingly enough, we found the house first time round, in other words a welcome return to dad’s share of that Top Billing lifestyle that we’d all so love! ;)
By this stage the light was rapidly fading and the wind was starting to whip up, and seeing as Miguel and Retha were only expected to arrive after midnight, Chantelle and I got stuck in trying to light our fire which was proving remarkable annoying thanks to the gusting wind that kept killing off all of our matches!
Frustrated but not willing to give up, we eventually got the thing burning and as it turned out (with the help of a innocent desk lamp which I grabbed to provide some outside light), produced a fantastic supper! As for the evening’s entertainment, we attempted to watch Angela Jolie in Tomb Raider, but for some or other reason the fatigue hit us hard, and so we found ourselves fast asleep by the time Retha gave us a ring around midnight to let them in!
Saturday morning was another late start as the four of us opted to sleep in, but after we all finally got up and ready to go, it was time to pile into the fully charged golf cart and give Retha and Miguel a proper tour of the massive estate, before ending up at the clubhouse where we tackled the stairs down to St. Blaize’s trail and made the trek to check out the caves down below.
The next stop for the day was of course, wait for it, Checkers, again to stock up on supplies, but from there it was on to new adventures as we drove through to Jukani, the big cat sanctuary which had impressed Chantelle and I so the last time we were in Mossel Bay.
As expected, Retha and Miguel were as impressed as we were, and we spent the next couple of hours taking in all the sights and sounds, as well as enjoying the awesome feeding presentation conducted by Jukani’s always likable staff.
The final bit of entertainment was of course still to come, and after everyone had gotten prepped, we hit the short road down to the casino, where we targeted the Admiral’s Buffet for a very long and filling supper, followed by a brief (and loss inducing) stint in the casino.
(As per usual though, I enjoyed the period we spent in the arcade far more than what I did in the money grabbing casino main! :P)
Some television and chat rounded off the rest of the evening back home, and leaving Miguel to do his usual late night documentary watching stint, the rest of us piled into bed for some well deserved pillow time.
Sunday and the weather started taking a real turn for the worse, meaning we pretty much lazed around after enjoying a delicious bacon and eggs breakfast courtesy of C, before we braved the elements and drove off to Mossel Bay to do a bit of whale watching, eat a soft serve (in Chantelle’s case enjoy some mini doughnuts) and then scour Mossel Bay for a film to enjoy at a cinema.
And whilst we had no luck in terms of finding a movie cinema showing anything worth watching in Mossel Bay, we were treated to a spectacular whale sighting in which we got to see a whale happily splashing his tail around, just off the rocks by the St. Blaize cave!
By this stage the weather was now properly miserable and so we spent the rest of the day lazing around and reading, before the girls got stuck in and prepared us an awesome cooked chicken supper!
Monday I’m afraid the weather really was against us and so after a good long sleep in, most of us simply opted to pack our bags and hit the road back home – though it must be said that the traffic coming back over Sir Lowry’s pass was pretty hectic and getting home took a lot longer than expected (think bumper to bumper coming down the mountain!), but nevertheless, it couldn’t detract from what in the end was a pretty damn awesome weekend after all! :)
And hey, just because I can, I even posted some pictures I took while in a state of snappy happy! ;)
Related Link: http://photos.codeunit.co.za/v/20100806-Pinnacle-Point/
Seeing as I’ve been so lax in terms of my blogging output as of late (sorry about that), I just realized that I still haven’t mentioned just how awesome and how much we enjoyed the recent Bryan Adams music concert we attended at Grandwest Casino, Cape Town a while back. Well, I found this half-finished post lying around my “In Progress” blog post folder and thought I’d better finish it off and post it – after all, I don’t want my fellow bloggers out there to think that I’m becoming a little lazy! ;)
Despite the potential derailing prospect of not making the concert in time thanks to a huge accident involving an overturned taxi and a virtual armada of emergency response vehicles on the N2 just before the Vanguard offramp, I did eventually pitch up in the casino’s parking lot (only after turning around thanks to my missing the correct turn off of course!) with acres of time to spare, and surprisingly enough, just as I was about to enter the casino, Chantelle can sauntering along, having also just arrived.
Although not packed yet, we hit a bit of a snag while trying to locate the Spur for a quick bit to eat (basically we couldn’t find it particularly quickly), and so worried that we might be delayed for the concert should we eventually sit down and order a meal from a proper restaurant, I convinced Chantelle that we should rather just park our backsides at the bustling KFC, taking in some lekker fried chicken to serve as the evening’s main meal.
Of course, impatient as ever, I got us into our seats pretty early on, meaning we sat and admired how late everyone else was streaming in for quite some time. On that note, despite the fact that we thought we had purchased highly over-priced tickets for some crappy seats, it turned out that in fact we had a pretty awesome spot, pretty close to the stage, low down and with an excellent view of the night’s proceedings – so kudos to C for organising those! :)
The opening act for the evening was local boy Justin Bergh, a man whose music I have heard every now and then being played on local radio, and a man with certainly the right voice and style of music to match that of the main act for the evening. However, Mr. Justin really did try to hard to get the crowd involved, even though it was clear that a) they really weren’t paying much attention to him and b) he suffers from a nasty habit of saying thank you for the audience applause even before people have started applauding for him! Still, his music was enjoyable and a decent start to the evening, even if he failed at getting the crowd fired up for the main event.
Though when Bryan did eventually hit the stage it wasn’t like they needed warming up anyway. What a music legend. This likeable man burst onto the stage and went straight for the jugular, churning our energy-infused hit after hit, getting the entire audience on their feet, singing along and just sharing in the noise and energy of the even. The whole performance was just fantastic, with Bryan smoothly switching through all his material, hitting all the big rock hits and sliding in the multitude of big ballads that have made him the success that he is. His guitar skills were sublime and simply put, that persona and voice filled up the whole arena. This was one of the music rock legends alright, with a stage personality required to capture everyone’s attention and more importantly, the voice and skills needed to match!
The rest of his crew were just as fantastic, with his main guitar front-man proving to be as energetic as any of his current younger counterparts could be! The night was electrifying, the music was spellbinding (as it was deafening!) and as a whole, this was an experience that I am so glad to have partaken in. One of my favourite artists proving that he is even bigger and better in real life than what you what he was. Oh, and I must just mention that the crowd participation was absolutely fantastic! Man, I felt like a kid again :)
What a show, what a man, what a legend!
(Oh, and while I’m on the topic of awesome shows, I must just say that the Le Grand Cirque Fantazie circus show that we caught on the Friday night prior to the Bryan Adams concert was just as entertaining. An absolute gem of a visual masterpiece, delighting you with a host of colours, sights and sounds as the cast dazzled you with some out of this world displays of acrobatics, balance, flexibility and strength. Heck, even the clown was funny for a change! :D)