Some 55 km from the capital city of Ljubljana, you’ll stumble across the tourist popular little town of Bled, tucked in the Julian Alps of the Upper Carniolan region of northwestern Slovenia.
In the middle of the lake is a tiny island, Bled Island, and what makes this small island so special is the fact that it is home to several buildings, chief among which is a pilgrimage church (complete with Gothic frescos and Baroque equipment) dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.
The church has a 52 m high tower and there is a stairway of 99 stone steps leading up to the building – which tradition holds brings extremely good luck should the groom be able to carry his bride all the way up the stairs and ring the bell at the top, on the day of their wedding.
Recently, a team from Great Big Story put together this great little feature on Lake Bled, more than enough to stir up the wanderlust in pretty much anyone who sees this!
Sadly, Swellendam’s Old Gaol Restaurant is no longer situated in the historic Old Gaol building (Jail for those of you who prefer the more commonly used spelling these days), but luckily it lives on, now branded as Old Gaol on Church Square, and happily housed on an equally old historic property, right across from Swellendam’s magnificent, unusually lavish NG Moederkerk (church).
The story behind this restaurant which started life, and in fact continues to live on, as an empowerment venture has always been a good one, meaning that a trip here for some traditional breads or Cape Malay dishes is well worth it because it makes you feel good for having done so in the first place.
Unfortunately for us this time around though, our experience was that the food is a bit average and the service a little slow, but thankfully the setting is good and the old house in which the eatery is situated does provide a lot of substance for some good conversation to be had around it.
That said, the traditionally prepared milk tart is fantastic!!
Sadly the weather gods weren’t quite behind us for this particular day of Swellendam exploration (we were spending a couple of nights in nearby Buffeljagsrivier), with the rain putting paid to our excursion plans for the most part.
Mind you, the girls did get to see the slightly disappointing (to me) Faerie Sanctuary, so they were reasonably satisfied at least.
We did buy a lot of good tasting chocolate from the local Chocolat Etc. chocolatier (situated in the Bontebok Tourist Centre near the museum in Swellengrebel Street), so that alone is often usually enough to save pretty much any day!
Plus, a few pictures of the outing.
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Also, a map.
A couple of weeks ago we found ourselves overnighting at the Merry Widow in Hopefield as part of our whirlwind flowers in the West Coast National Park adventure.
Needless to say, these days Hopefield is but a fraction of its former size (and glory), and in terms of things to see – well there isn’t all that much.
However, two sights do stand out. The one being the very informative Simply Bee bee farming/product business and the old Dutch Reformed church that dominates the town (it is after all, the very reason that the town originally exists in the first place!).
Simply Bee is in the beeswax products business, specializing in all manner of natural skin and fragrance products, actively managing thousands of bee hives.
Their base of operations happens to be in Hopefield and their public premises are split into two parts, namely the shopfront which caters to all manner of bee-related products (Chantelle was in heaven), and the bee observation centre which hosts a gigantic amount of bee information, features a glass observation bee hive that allows you to view the bees going about their normal everyday business, and also a small museum room that features all manner of historic items from the surrounding farms on a display.
Informative, interesting and well worth a visit!
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The Hopefield Dutch Reformed Church (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk) was built in 1879, and is home to one of only 10 Forster and Andrews Organs imported into South Africa. The organ, which was installed in 1911, is still used every Sunday, and can be viewed by appointment.
Because I was wandering about Hopefield on a Saturday, I couldn’t exactly stroll inside, but as expected from these farmland towns, the church is a beautiful and imposing structure, surrounded by a beautiful garden and featuring some gorgeous stained glass artwork.
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The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg, Russia. It is also variously called the Church on Spilt Blood and the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, its official name.
The Church is built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. It should not be confused with the Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land, located in the city of Yekaterinburg where the former Emperor Nicholas II (1868–1918) and several members of his family and household were executed following the Bolshevik Revolution.
Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
The Church is prominently situated along the Griboedov Canal; paved roads run along both sides of the canal. On March 13, 1881 (Julian date: March 1), as Tsar Alexander’s carriage passed along the embankment, a grenade thrown by an anarchist conspirator exploded. The tsar, shaken but unhurt, got out of the carriage and started to remonstrate with the presumed culprit. A second conspirator took the chance to throw another bomb, killing himself and mortally wounding the tsar. The tsar, bleeding heavily, was taken back to the Winter Palace where he died a few hours later.
A temporary shrine was erected on the site of the attack while plans and fundraising for a more permanent memorial were undertaken. In order to build a permanent shrine on the exact spot where the assassination took place, it was decided to narrow the canal so that the section of road on which the tsar had been driving could be included within the walls of the church. An elaborate shrine was constructed at the end of the church opposite the altar, on the exact place of Alexander’s death. It is embellished with topaz, lazurite and other semi-precious stones, making a striking contrast with the simple cobblestones of the old road, which are exposed in the floor of the shrine.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg’s other structures. The city’s architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square meters of mosaics – according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. (This record may be surpassed by the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, which houses 7700 square meters of mosaics). The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day – including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel – but the church’s chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known at the time.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church’s construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million rubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics – the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures – but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac’s Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services).
The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.
Naturally, that won him the top prize for the best toast of the night.
Later that night, John got home and mentioned to his wife, “Guess what, I won the prize for the best toast of the night!”
“Oh? So what was your toast then?” she asked.
“Well,” I told the boys, “Here’s to spending the rest of me life sitting in church beside me wife.”
“Oh, very nice, very nice. A worthy win indeed then my dear John,” exclaimed Mary.
The next day, Mary ran into one of John’s toasting buddies on the street corner. The man chuckled leeringly and said, “John won the prize the other night you know, with a toast about you, Mary.”
She replied, “Aye and I was a wee bit surprised myself! You know, he’s only been there twice. Once he fell asleep, and the other time I had to pull him by the ears to make him come!”.
Yay, Chantelle was off for a change, it was Valentine’s Day weekend, We were going away to Hermanus and most important of all little Zandea was being christened – how could one not start the weekend on such a high note? :)
Like I said, it was Zandea’s christening on Sunday and to make it all that more special, Dean and Zania decided to hold the christening at the same church where they got married two years ago, all the way out in Hermanus, Zania’s old hood. Of course, not ones to pass up a great opportunity for turning the event into a weekend away just for the fun of it, we unleashed Chantelle on the Internet and soon she had turned up a great looking place to stay – which then got converted into an even sweeter deal when she organised a guesthouse networking swap which meant that she and I got to stay the weekend in Hermanus for free while in return, the owner of that guesthouse gets to spend a weekend in the future at Gordon’s Beach Lodge at no charge. Great networking and strengthening of referral ties for the two managers and for me, the added bonus of some much needed pressure release off my poor little wallet, still feeling the stinging of the bashing it took with last week’s car saga!
Anyway, we only managed to get away from Gordon’s Bay pretty late on Friday evening after work, and eventually come 21:00 or so we landed in Hermanus, finding the Pebble Beach guesthouse, situated right next to the Hermanus golf club, easily enough thanks to Mr. TomTom’s unerring sense of direction.
Greeted on arrival by the friendly Francis, we stowed our bags in what can only be described as one of the most luxurious rooms I’ve been in and then darted out to grab a quick bite to eat at the local Spur – which surprisingly enough actually had other people still dining away by the time we got there! (Food wasn’t great though in case you are wondering)
After a fantastic night’s sleep (well for me in any event), the morning got underway with a fantastic breakfast served up by the great Pebble Beach team and with our tummies full and hunger sated, we headed out to Hermanus proper to do some stall browsing and hook up with Dean and Zania (and Zandea!) who were meeting up with us at Mugg & Bean for a drink. One successful visit later, and Chantelle and I were on our next mission, walking Hermanus flat in search of the elusive soft serve which simply put… couldn’t be found. (And no, we’re not talking about KFC or Steer imposter soft serves here – I’m talking about proper two tone, sugar cone stuff man!) Any how, with our walk not turning up anything we jumped into the car and headed down towards Onrus side but as you might have guessed, our search was just as fruitless, so with our heads hung low we turned around and returned to town – which made it all the more funnier when on entering the town and right across the road from where we were previously parked, Chantelle spotted the magical soft serve sign just sitting there minding its own business!
Overjoyed we parked and rushed down to the Princess Cafe, placed our order and then watched in horror as the poor soft serve machine sputtered into life, squirted out a couple of chocolate poo’s worth of ice cream and then promptly died, leaving us with little more than a brown twirly mess in a styrofoam cup. Shame, the girl serving us was very apologetic and as a result we didn’t pay anything for the ice cream we did manage to get out, but still I guess the little that we got was better than nothing in the end! :)
Back at the guesthouse, Chantelle was soon down and out for the count enjoying a rather lengthy afternoon nap while I set about enjoying the marvelous, black interior pool before stretching out and catching some rays on the soft grass. Next it was time for some R&R with a couple of the Ultimate Fantastic Four graphic novel, followed by the Stormers versus Lions game on Supersport, though I must admit to missing out rather large chunks of the latter thanks to my darn eyes that kept on falling closed!
The evening was spent for the most part in Panarottis, where we dined on some delicious pizza offerings (though it didn’t quite make up for the missed Cattle Baron, which would have been Chantelle’s supper treat had they not gone and closed down a couple of weeks prior to our visit!). Back home, I enjoyed a late night dip in the pool (Chantelle refused to join me for some reason – something about not having a bather with or something like that! :P) and while she enjoyed a lazy bath I got some solid reading time in again.
Oh, and we swapped Valentine’s gifts just before midnight – it seems like she just couldn’t wait to unleash the monstrous love bug stuffed animal she found upon me!
Sunday kicked off with a special Valentine’s Breakfast which basically was the same as the previous day’s breakfast but just with all the colour replaced with tones of red, white and pink – which was actually quite a cool little touch. Then a quick pack and settling of our little extras bill, we dashed off to the St. Peter’s stone church and grabbed our seats (actually, we accidentally stole the Church Warden’s reserved seats) and enjoyed the spectacle that saw little Zandea, who was VERY well behaved by the way, join the Christian family.
What was great was that Evan and Natasha, and Michelle and Damen had also made the drive through from Bellville on Sunday morning to attend the church service and following on from that, all of us met up at Zania’s mom’s house where we sat for the next couple of hours indulging in some awesome finger snacks and talking the day away. Chantelle and I eventually bid our farewell though (sorry for starting the mass exodus Dean!) and headed back to GB, where Chantelle naturally gave her new Coricraft friends a good testing out and I busied myself with setting up a whole lot of blog posts for the coming week.
The evening however saw us once again out of the door and out to the mall, where we enjoyed a great little Subway snack and then plonked ourselves down in our seats for the rather unentertaining (though it does have its moments) and long Valentine’s Day movie starring a host of A-list faces.
And that was pretty much that. A great weekend filled with friends, some driving and tons of R&R, meaning that I start this week in our newly renovated little shoebox feeling rather refreshed…
Related Link: http://www.pebblebeachguesthouse.com/
While last Saturday saw both Chantelle and I do ABSOLUTELY nothing the whole day long apart from playing games and lazing about, Sunday was a whole new bag of kittens entirely!
Sunday morning we actually made the conscious effort to raise ourselves out of bed early enough and go try out a Church in area for the first time since either of us has moved here to Gordon’s Bay! Our first outing was to Christ Church, Somerset West, a church that our old pastor Gary had recommended based purely on the fact that it belongs to the same branch as what our old Church belonged to.
Now apart from the fact that the incorrect information on their website caused us to arrive half an hour before the service started, the service itself was actually pretty nice, but I’m afraid that we were pretty quick in deciding that this won’t be the church for us after all – and this decision is based entirely on demographics, which is certainly not the most PC of things to be saying in this day and age I know! But before you jump to conclusions, let me explain: Chantelle and I stuck out like sore thumbs thanks to the fact that 96% of all people in the church were silver-haired! Goodness gracious, and this was still at the 09:30 family service! Anyway, with the abundance of churches in the Somerset West/Strand/Gordon’s Bay area, I’m sure we’ll find something along the way :)
From church it was back on the road to the Montgomery clan stronghold in Bellville, where we had been invited over for some lunch which was to be some delicious curry chicken potjiekos, a competition-winning recipe that tastes as good as it looks. Seeing as Monty had been out at work for the morning, it was up to Cheryl and Rob to craft our gourmet cuisine and I am happy to report that it was definitely as good as what I had been told it would be! With Monty returned from work the five of us sat down for lunch where we enjoyed the delicious meal over some good wine and lots of chatter, followed up with a delicious serving of some creamy choc fudge ice-cream that I had picked up on the way earlier in the day.
Admittedly, we did run out on doing the dishes (again! Sorry about that Cheryl!), but only because Chantelle had organised to meet up with Andri over a coffee at Tygervalley seeing as the two of them haven’t seen each other in such a long time, especially now that poor little Corban is so sick all of the time! So I dropped C off at Tygervalley around 15:00 and then went over to keep my family a little company which turned out to be not the best of timed decisions as Mom and Pops were out on their way to visit the grans and Ryan is currently sitting once again without an Xbox as he waits for his second faulty console to be exchanged! So Ryan and I ended up lazing about the house and watching TV for a bit, before heading out for a nice stroll out in the neighbourhood, checking out houses and looking out for ‘punch buggies’ :)
Chantelle later joined up with us after a successful coffee meeting and we pretty much ended up watching TV for the rest of the afternoon/early evening as Chantelle still needed to hang around in Bellville because she was joining her mom in visiting her gran in hospital later the evening. Of course, leaving the comfy couch was easier said that done when the time to leave fell upon her, particularly as everyone was quite enjoying Molly Shannon and Will Ferrell’s stupid 1999 Superstar movie which was running through its final scenes. However, she did eventually get up and go, taking my car with her and leaving me, Mom and Ryan to fill out crossword puzzles as we awaited her return and thus the opportunity to make some snackwiches for supper!
I think we only got back home to Gordon’s Bay around 22:00 that evening, after having been in Bellville since before 13:00, making it officially the longest visiting hours with the parents ever! So much for my just relaxing at home weekend that I was so looking forward to :(
But at least I got to eat good food, which always makes up for it! :)
Sunday morning and I needed to get up and be ready in time for the early morning arrival of Ryan, who was coming to test out some or other compatibility issue with his Xbox 360 on my TV set. As it is, the test proved only that there definitely seems to be a problem with his newly bought console, probably something with either his display card or display drivers because the console can seemingly not render shadowing correctly, leaving only a very frustrated and fuming Ryan in its wake.
With Ryan come and gone, it was time for Chantelle and I to hit the road to church, attending what would be our very last visit to the Parklands CBC church that Chantelle has called her home for the last couple of years. With us now both based in Gordon’s Bay, it has become impossible to attend this particular church and so we needed to say our goodbyes to the group. Unfortunately Gary, the pastor and main reason for staying affiliated with the church for as long as C has, was not there as he was attending some other Easter church conference elsewhere, meaning that we got a nice and different from the usual Easter sermon from Steve instead.
Shame, Chantelle was already heartbroken after saying her goodbyes to Carol who organizes the singing duties of which Chantelle has been a part of for so long, that I decided to make a detour after church and go to our favourite soft serve place of choice in Blauwberg, namely the legendary Total garage Boutique ice cream shop. However, as if to drive the nail further into Chantelle, we arrived only to find this historical monument to the world of soft serve ice creams complete and utterly demolished! So it was with a VERY heavy heart and a tear in our eye that we turned our backs on Blauwberg and made the trek back to Bellville one last time.
Instead of returning to my flat however, we went straight through to Monty’s place to employ the help of Rob, as we needed his bakkie to transport the TV cabinet unit that we were about to purchase from Home Depot in Tygervalley, the same place from which we had just previously purchased our dining room table set. Luckily he agreed to help us and pretty soon we had the boxes loaded up and a bank account that unfortunately was feeling considerably lighter! :(
After a brief visit with the Montgomery’s in which Chantelle stole back the final load of her stuff still accumulated at her parents’ house (I am sure Mom wishes Claire would learn from her!), it was off to my flat to raid the final cupboards and pack the final boxes for my great trek. TV, microwave and all, we packed my Jetta to capacity and hit the road, eager to get back to Gordon’s Bay to get the last bit of unpacking done and get to bed as soon as possible. My flat contains now only the bare minimums – a bed, four chairs, a desk, a table, a work chair, a fridge and a single lamp. I have one knife, a fork and a teaspoon and one or two glasses at my disposal and that is that. Talk about squatting for this last week – I can only hope Ryan has enough food at his place for two…
Our arrival in GB was marred just a little by the fact that we arrived home to find that Andrea hadn’t fulfilled her promise of emptying the place of the last of her stuff yet, meaning that we were still going to be unpacking in what remained a little bit of a pig sty with all her stuff still lying around. Nevertheless, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work, pretty much working the entire evening away and only stopping for a single pizza break which Chantelle had gone to pilfer from the Debonairs down the street.
I tell you. I am getting so sick and tired of the this packing and unpacking story that I can’t wait for next month when everything will be done, I’ll be settled in and will finally be able to enjoy the last vestiges of good weather that we are enjoying before the wet winter sets in and floods the house, a depressing story for another day!
Anyway, we worked ourselves until standstill, and when my feet finally had enough of the tiles it was time to hit the shower and get into bed for a very well and very relaxed night’s sleep… without the terrible arm pains of the night before! :)