Tag Archives: dylan lewis

Art and Veld in the Jan Marais Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch (2018-03-25) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 25 JAN 2019

I always love paying a visit to the awesome, beautifully compact, Jan Marais Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch (about which I have written before). It is literally the perfect spot to stretch your legs and take in some fresh air without actually having to leave the bustle of the town behind.

Easy, wide paths to stroll around on, loads of interesting fynbos to take in, a scattering of art installations to admire or invoke conversation about, a small kids play area, an outdoor gym area, and the occasional tortoise or two.

Seriously, what is there not to love about this spot that finds itself smack bang in the middle of Stellenbosch itself?

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(Bonus: The slide at the end was a bit of an epic fail. Emily raced over to it, climbed to the top and then slid down, only to emerge crying her head off. Turns out the slide was home to a huge puddle of water at the bottom – which she had only noticed once she hit it. Absolutely soaked. All I can say is it was super lucky that Chantelle was with us for a change – mommy’s love was DESPERATELY needed! :D)

Related Link: Jan Marais Nature Reserve | Stellenbosch

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:

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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

Exploring the Jan Marais Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch (2016-09-03) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 20 SEP 2016

The impact that the wealthy farmer, politician and later philanthropist, Jan Marais had on Stellenbosch cannot be overstated. Having made his fortune first in the diamond fields at the confluence the Vaal and Orange Rivers, he then turned his hand to farming and moved to Stellenbosch, where he quickly established himself as a leading figure of the town and in fact, became the first representative of Stellenbosch to serve in the House of Assembly when South Africa became a Union in 1910.

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In addition to being instrumental in the founding of Naspers and Die Burger (he provided a lot of the financing), Jan Marais also left a large amount of money in his will towards the establishment of the Stellenbosch University, establishing it out of the existing Victoria College. His testament also provided for the establishment of HJMNF (Het Jan Marais Nationale Fonds), which currently awards some R20 million annually to a number of developmental projects in Stellenbosch and elsewhere in support of the Afrikaans language.

Oh, and just because he could, he also donated a massive 23 ha piece of land for use as a nature reserve – and in so doing, the Jan Marais Nature Reserve public park was born.

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This sprawling, municipal run park serves two main purposes, one of which is providing a safe haven for the region’s naturally occurring vegetation, with the park comprising of two primary vegetation types: Swartland Renosterveld to the north and Swartland Alluvium Fynbos towards the southern edge.

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The other purpose is of course is to be a freely available green space for the residents of Stellenbosch to make use of – thus the many picnic lawns and even small playground area to be enjoyed!

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There are a lot of rambling dirt paths to follow through a big variety of various types of vegetation, and with Spring in the air, the fynbos was certainly putting on a show for the girls and myself on our day of exploration!

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Apart from the local inhabitants that include all manner of birds, rabbits and of course tortoises, Jan Marais Nature Reserve is also dotted with public art all over the place – in fact, you can make a whole morning out of just tracking these often quite whimsical (in fairness, that’s being a kind to a lot of the displays) sculpture pieces down!

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There is also a labyrinth on show (as well as an eco-centre and outdoor gym mind you), but apart from the spectacular landscape views afforded from within the park, for me the surprise star of the show was finding renowned sculptor Dylan Lewis’ Elevated Leopard sculpture standing on display.

(It can be spotted in front of the thatch roofed restrooms, which themselves can be found towards the front, central area of the park.)

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As you might imagine, the girls and I spent a good couple of hours wandering around the park, tracking tortoises, flowers, sculptures and termite mounds, but given the size of the park (not to mention the girls’ short legs), there is still plenty of it left to be seen.

So I guess a return trip is inevitable then?

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I went a bit overboard in terms of taking photos on the day, but I have now trimmed the masses – even so, the gallery on today’s post is a bit on the large side.

Sorry, not sorry, about that.

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Note: By this stage, the girls were hot, tired and hungry (we had already spent the morning exploring Somerset West’s Vredenhof Organic Estate, as well as pop in to view some planes and flowers at the Stellenbosch Flying Club mind you), and after much pleading and wailing, I relented and took them for some Chicken McNugget Happy Meals at the local Stellenbosch McDonald’s – a place I haven’t frequented in literally years!

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This they liked.

(And then it was off to Monty and Cheryl’s place in Bellville, seeing as we had a massive surprise birthday party for Cheryl lined up for the evening.)

Anyway, here is a map if you too want to go and wander about or enjoy a picnic in the very accessible Jan Marais Nature Reserve – bonus, entry is free:

Related Link: Jan Marais Nature Reserve | Stellenbosch