We have been visiting Jacobsbaai for a good couple of years now, and 2018 was no different, with us spending a short but sweet weekend with Chantelle’s folks at the always comfortable Artist’s Retreat guest house.
The weekend itself was punctuated with plenty of strolls around the lovely little village, a trip through to Velddrif and Laaiplek, a visit to the surprise church bazaar that popped up, plenty of socializing, and of course LOTS of rest and relaxation.
Oh, and there was even a little fun run (of all things) that took place on the Saturday morning. I don’t know why I mention it. None of us were there to jog.
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Following a delightful December holiday stay in both Mossel Bay and Gouritsmond, this year kicked off with us having to leave the Hyundai Accent in George for repairs, returning home to Gordon’s Bay with the kids, and then Chantelle and I heading back up to George once the car was finally ready for collection. Now not wanting to just drive up and drive back down again in one day, the two of us decided to instead make a date of it and spend the night over in Mossel Bay – which was just as well really because it introduced us to the very lovely Diaz Beach Guest House.
Hard to miss and genuinely a stone’s throw from the super popular Diaz Beach, the Diaz Beach Guest House is a slickly run operation with secure parking for its guests, and rather nicely equipped rooms. Cool, comfortable and the perfect base from which to explore the beach (or if you are more like Chantelle, to enjoy an afternoon snooze in).
For the kids, other than the beach, you are literally next door to the excellent Da Playhouse indoor playpark (great for the smaller kids), as well as the heated indoor pool and super fun tube rides of Waterworld, while for the adults there are plenty of opportunities for a nice cold drink with a view, given all the hotels stretching along the beachfront in front of you.
As for Chantelle and my little getaway, ostensibly to collect our car, well we made sure to fill it with things like breakfast at Tredici in Swellendam, fish and chips as The Sea Gypsy Cafe in Mossel Bay, strawberries and ice cream at Redberry Farm in George, and milkshake and roosterkoek at Oude Post Bistro in Buffeljagsrivier.
Oh, and a delightful stroll along the lovely Hartenbos waterfront area (a first for Chantelle – she’d last been there as a kid), complete with mini doughnuts and a busking native American Indian in moccasins and a feathery headdress/war bonnet.
Apparently (according to Chantelle) his music is absolutely spellbinding.
So in other words, all lovely stuff.
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(Oh, but it wasn’t entirely all good news. The car fix was expensive, a good couple of thousand, and on checking out of the guest house, I walked up to my car only to say hi to a VERY deflated tyre. Final nail and all that I suppose…)
When I am in the mood to holiday then I holiday, and invariably that then means that I double the length of all long drives because I pretty much want to stop anywhere and everywhere.
Case in point: I felt like a Swellendam cake and coffee stop on the way up to Mossel Bay last December, but I didn’t feel like popping into (the almost always busy) Tredici as per the norm. So instead, Chantelle dug deep into her memory banks and came up with this little gem: the Old Mill Restaurant.
Situated at the foot of the Langeberg Mountain range, in the heart of the Overberg, the Old Mill business is primarily that of a guest house, operating out from a beautiful old, protected national monument building set along the main road, where Belgian owner Nikki and his staff do their utmost to offer accommodation that comes intertwined with warm, friendly Flemish hospitality.
In addition to the guest house (and art gallery/curio store), the Old Mill also operates a lovely restaurant, featuring both an indoor and outdoor dining area.
The menu on offer is a diverse à la carte menu inspired by both traditional Afrikaans and international recipes, all waiting to be washed down with some imported Belgian beer. (The Old Mill appears to be rather proud of this offering).
And yes, as it turned out, they also do good cake and coffee as well.
We were of course super interested in finding a space under the canopy of trees that provides the much needed shade over the outside dining area, and pleasingly we did manage to grab just such a table on what was a particularly warm Summer’s afternoon in the end.
So. Coffee, cheesecake, carrot cake and sorbet was then (more or less equally) shared all around, thus making for a lovely little road trip leg stretch stop.
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Lovely find and definitely a place I’ll stop for a bit longer at the next time that I find myself back in the Swellendam area again!
Last year’s December holiday was pretty nice, kicking off first with some beach time at Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay, followed by some more R&R in Gouritz for New Year’s. Sadly for us though, our ten year old Hyundai Accent developed a problem (lost power thanks to a blown coil), which then meant an unscheduled extension to our holiday with a trip through to George – the nearest town with a proper Hyundai Service Center available in it.
That of course then meant that we needed to source accommodation in the middle of the December holidays – not exactly the easiest thing in the world to do!
As things turned out though, we managed in the end to find space at the French Lodge International, a charming African-themed guest house situated right along George’s York main street (which coincidentally is also a delight thanks to the fact that it has a decent run of Christmas street lights strung up down the length of it!).
Owned for ten or so years by a charmingly helpful Frenchman with a penchant for motorbike safaris, these days the French Lodge International (complete with small replica Eiffel Tower out front) consists of the main building (which houses a number of the larger rooms) and a whole lot of smaller, more private thatch roof rondavels – all of which are centered around a large pool that quite truthfully, saw a LOT splash time from myself and the girls over the course of our short stay!
In short – our family sized room, the breakfast, the free WiFi, the convenient location, and the French Lodge International’s super friendly staff were all great, making for a good, comfortable stay.
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As for George itself, we hired a nice Volkswagen Tiguan from a local care hire company AutoHireSA, did a lot of driving around, visited a lot of nice places (as is our norm), and did our best to put our minds off the fact that the rather expensive R6,000+ repairs were going to take much longer than what we could afford to stay.
Luckily for us though, my Dad was on hand to help us out by driving all the way from Bellville to come and ferry us and our luggage home! Talk about Uber service! ;)
If you are interested in the Cape’s architectural heritage, then a visit to Tulbagh should very much be on your agenda.
You see, the damage that the disastrous 1969 Boland Earthquake wreaked upon the town sparked a renewed interest in its heritage, with the result being extensive projects of restoration lead by the National Committee for the Restoration of Historic Buildings in Tulbagh and its Environment and later Tulbagh Valley Heritage Foundation groups.
Because of this work, Tulbagh’s historic Church Street is now home to the largest single grouping of Cape-Dutch, Edwardian and Victorian provincial heritage homes in South Africa.
That said, we were mainly there for the wine.
Towards the end of last year, Chantelle and I left the kids with the grandparents and struck out to enjoy a weekend away on our own, forgoing the allure of staying in an old heritage house and instead opting for the more comfortable amenities that the African Tulip Guest House promised on their website.
Just as well that we did, because our lavender-themed room was spacious, featured a giant en-suite bath, had direct access to a patio with the most gorgeous of views, and not to mention a particularly inviting breakfast nook that came paired with some particularly good breakfast, courtesy of our lovely Dutch hosts.
(Plus, given the heat, the pool was DEFINITELY a very welcome bonus!)
For Friday night’s supper we tucked into the most decadent of burgers at Tulbagh Hotel’s The Olive Terrace, all the while enjoying the live music courtesy of a Valiant Swart concert being held next door at Saronsberg Theatre.
Saturday saw us make an impromptu decision to first head out to nearby Ceres (via Michell’s Pass), followed by a longer drive through to Klondyke Farm for a stab at one of their super popular cherry picking sessions.
Back in Tulbagh, we first explored a bit, tasted chocolate at Moniki Chocolatier, and then while Chantelle enjoyed a late afternoon nap, I set about taking in all the historical architecture with a leisurely stroll down Church Street (photos of which I must still get around to posting!).
Saturday’s supper was taken at Readers Restaurant, a dining establishment that operates out of one of the heritage houses on Church Street and by someone who appears to have very much a thing for cats going on. I don’t know why.
Finally, Sunday saw us take our leave of the wonderful African Tulip as we embarked upon a day of wine tasting, stopping in first at Saronsberg (Tulbagh), then Waverley Hills (Wolseley), and following a jaunt over Bain’s Kloof Pass, ending it all off at Val du Charron (Wellington).
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So. Not a bad first ever stay in Tulbagh then.
South Africa is a country that has just about everything a tourist could want. From bush to mountain to oceans, all of which are packed with the best that mother nature has to offer, so there are many places to add to your bucket list. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay on your trip, here are five awesome suggestions.
Toro Yaka Bush Lodge
Meaning “My Dream”, ToroYaka is an elegant safari lodge that is to be found right in the heart of the Balule Nature Reserve, a 38,000-hectare portion of the Kruger National Park. The lodge boasts a modern elegant yet relaxed style, encouraging guests to sit back, relax and enjoy the amazing nature on offer. And we are talking serious nature, all of the African bush favourites can be enjoyed from here, including the hippo and crocodile filled Olifants River which flows nearby. Activities to be enjoyed here include morning bush walks, bird-watching, bush picnics and dinners and game drives. For the thrill seekers among you, there is white water rafting available close by in the Blyde Canyon, as well as abseiling or hiking up to the Mariepskop Rain forest, hot air balloon rides and horseback safaris, all of which come highly recommended in order to truly take in everything this magnificent region has to offer.
Villa Afrikana Guest Suites
With free Wi-Fi and panoramic views of the nearby Knysna lagoon and the Knysna Heads, the Villa Afrikana Guest Suites offers 6 spacious rooms, allowing its clients to experience world-class service in a unique location. Also on site is a truly gorgeous swimming pool that comes complete with a sun deck and a well-stocked library. The rooms, or suites, all feature a neat blend of both African and modern contemporary décor and deluxe bedding. Most rooms have private balconies, where you can enjoy views of the aforementioned lagoon. For those keen on the links, the Pezula and Simola Golf Courses are a mere 15-minutes’ drive away. Make your stay at Villa Afrikana an unforgettable experience and truly fall in love in everything that Knysna and the Garden Route have to offer.
The Andros Deluxe Boutique Hotel
Suitably located in Cape Town’s beautiful southern suburb of Claremont, against the backdrop of Table Mountain, the five star Andros Deluxe Boutique Hotel, is actually a superb Cape colonial homestead that was originally built in 1908. Set in lush, green gardens and its secluded garden pool area, the hotel provides a gymnasium, a beauty salon and an award winning restaurant, all on top of fifteen super-sized suites, complete with complimentary Wi-Fi. In terms of location, things really could get much better. The hotel is just a short stroll to both the iconic Newlands Rugby and Cricket stadiums as well as being within walking distance of the magnificent Cavendish square shopping centre and its stunning line up of upmarket Boutiques, Restaurants and shops.
Sun City Casino Resort
Up in the Rainbow Nation’s Northwest Provence, Sun International’s flagship destination, the Sun City Casino Resort, is an everything you can want resort. Built in 1979, this all in one venue sits just a 2-hour drive from Johannesburg, on the border of the Pilanesberg National Game Park meaning that, although there is no need to leave the site, there are lots of great facilities nearby. Enjoy a round of golf at either of two Gary Player designed 18-hole golf courses, splash in the Valley of Waves, visit the bird aviaries and animal sanctuaries and explore the beautiful surrounding gardens. Within the resort, there are numerous hotels, such as the family-friendly 3-star Cabanas hotel, the luxury 5-star Cascades hotel or the 4-star Sun City Hotel and Casino. The casino offers 24/7 gaming that includes hundreds of the latest progressive slot machines and 43 popular table games, including Blackjack, Punto Banco, American Roulette and various disciplines of poker. For anyone looking to visit the casino during their stay, the best pre-game strategy you can employ, is to get some practise in first. A great way to do this is to invest some time in perfecting your game at an online casino. Most of these offer games to play with either real money or play money so you can sharpen up your skills and develop your strategies with very little risk.
Tsala Treetop Lodge
Down on the southern coast, you’ll find the unique Garden Route boutique resort that is the gorgeously lush Tsala Treetop Lodge. Sitting among some of South Africa’s finest forest canopies, the lodge provides visitors with breath taking bird’s eye views of some of the continent’s best geography, all from a luxurious stilted hut. Said huts all come with wraparound decking, private infinity pools and flat screen TVs. There are10 suites and 6 two-bedroom villas in all and the suites all come with private decks and infinity plunge pools. As for the two-bedroom Villas, they both come with kitchenettes, dining rooms, fully stocked minibars, satellite TV, private pools and a decked outdoor dining area. All this, just 10km from the beaches, bars and boutiques of Plettenberg Bay.
In keeping with my mission to go away at least once a month this year (Jacobsbaai in February, Mossel Bay in March, and Barrydale in April), May proved to be no exception, with Chantelle spotting a great deal on Daddy’s Deals that gave us access to the exclusive boutique hotel-like Blue Gum Country Estate (just outside Stanford in the beautiful Overberg) for just less than half of the usual going rate!
Named after the 140-year old Blue Gum tree that grows on the front lawn, the estate is both a working farm (olives and grapes) dating back to 1839 and a private, family-run guest house, managed by owners Anton and Tarryn de Kock (Anton, who as it turns out, studied a year behind me at UCT in the Computer Science department!).
With the kids safely dropped off with Oupa and Ouma, Chantelle and I set out over Sir Lowry’s Pass, taking the coastal route to Stanford, i.e. passing through Hawston, Onrus and Hermanus before hitting that beautiful stretch of the R43 that will eventually take you all the way through to Gansbaai.
Given that we only managed to leave at around 16:00, it was already getting dark by the time we reached Stanford (thanks Winter sun!), making the navigation of the rather long dirt road up to the estate rather tricky – thankfully, Google Maps didn’t lead us astray!
On arrival, we checked in and immediately agreed to have supper at the onsite Blue Gum Restaurant, though not before first marveling at the exquisite, massive room that greeted us – complete with king size bed, free-standing bath, indoor fireplace, and even a private garden for our exclusive use!
Supper was just as exquisite mind you (note: with prices to match), with a beautifully presented main course and dessert delighting our taste buds from start to finish!
After a good night’s rest, we woke, enjoyed a quiet coffee on our tranquil, private patio, and then headed to the breakfast room, enjoying our first proper glimpse of the scenic beauty of this lush and well maintained estate in the process.
As expected, the breakfast was an absolute treat, the staff a delight, and more importantly, one of the best eggs benedict that I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating!
After exploring the grounds for a bit, we then headed out for the day, spending a bit of time in both Gansbaai and the delightful little village of Stanford, more of which I’ll still get into when I finally get around to posting those photos as well!
(Sadly, time didn’t allow for us to make a stop at the Birkenhead Brewery, nor the Klein Rivier Cheese Factory, but we did however get to stroll at De Kelders, wander about Stanford, visit the Overberg Honey Co., and indulge in authentic Italian gelato!).
Following our long day of excursions, we returned to Blue Gum Country Estate and joined in for the complementary High Tea – and seeing as no one else had bothered to show, Chantelle and I got to enjoy the relaxing tea room and delicious snacks all to ourselves!
After a bit of relaxation and more exploration of the grounds, we headed back down the horrible gravel road and made our way to Stanford, where we both settled on KC’s Restaurant for supper – with the end result being the enjoyment of some particularly delicious pizza!
After yet another brilliant night’s rest, Sunday started off much the same as Saturday, with a fantastic breakfast, a tranquil walkabout, and then finally the dreaded checkout and goodbye.
What an unbelievably magnificent place to visit, and in the same breath, highly recommendable. There is no way that you won’t come back from a weekend at Blue Gum Country Estate not relaxed and at peace with the world!
What a beautiful birthday treat from Chantelle this was…
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Back in February we found ourselves enjoying quite a good weekend away in Jacobsbaai, having travelled there to attend the fun Oppiwa Festival.
All in all we were quite a big Montgomery-related family group that booked out Priscilla’s Artist’s Retreat guest house, with the end result being a thoroughly enjoyable, sociable and entertaining weekend.
With my leg still being reasonably weak though, I skipped out on joining the others on their musician/wagon/wine trips, tasked instead with looking after the girls for the weekend – which translated to a trip to the Cape Columbine light house (more on that later), multiple play dates at both Panarottis and Spur in the West Coast Mall – but sadly, no strolls around Jacobsbaai itself!
By all accounts, the Oppiwa festival itself was loads of fun – Chantelle and the others had an absolute blast. On the whole, the weather was good, the company great, and the food delicious!
(Still, it would have been a lot nicer had I been a bit more mobile! Not a lot of photos this time around I’m afraid…)
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As I mentioned earlier, a couple of weekends ago we posted the kids off to the grandparents and following a not so great Friday evening date night, hit the R27 to travel along the West Coast for a quick spot of flower viewing in the West Coast National Park.
Itching to stay somewhere other than our usual haunt of Jacobsbaai (purely in the interest of trying something else), Chantelle found us a spot at The Merry Widow Country Retreat, one of Hopefield’s possibly only two advertised guest houses.
Whilst an important and bustling hub of the West Coast in days gone by (the only access to the towns of Vredenburg, Langebaan and Saldanha was through Hopefield), the construction of the big national roads, the re-routing of the R27 and the R45 in particular, meant that the church town of Hopefield has subsequently shrunk – and in truth, has been relegated to little more than a one horse town these days.
It has a couple of tiny shops, a small hotel and… pretty much nothing else.
(The Air Force Base Langebaanweg, as well as the West Coast Fossil park – 22km and 25km west from town respectively – falls within town limits though, so that’s something. Oh, it does however have excellent Internet connectivity – always nice in our modern connected era.)
Anyway, The Merry Widow also actively facilitates Hopefield’s popular Saturday market, The Mill Country Fair, held in the old Hopefield flour mill, adjacent to the Merry Widow property – itself a restored 1880-built homestead.
Sadly though, an encounter with a long gravel road on the outskirts of Darling caused us to do a u-turn and backtrack, meaning that thanks to our Beulah breakfast and this unscheduled extra drive time (saw some beautiful fields of flowers along the way though), we made it to Hopefield and its tiny bustling market a little on the late side – so late in fact that most of the people had already packed up and gone home!
(Thankfully though, not everyone had yet left, meaning we could still grab a couple of delicious baked goodies that went down super well with the superb coffee courtesy of The Merry Widow.)
All the Merry Widow’s rooms are particularly good looking and well decorated, but pleasingly we got the awesome Stone Cottage, a stone built, spacious room, which I instantly fell in love with – despite Chantelle’s shivering given the naturally cool air as a result of the stone walls!
Given the location, the atmosphere is pretty laid back, we took in the evening bird life, slept like kings, and enjoyed a fantastic breakfast the next morning on the outdoor stoep, taking in a refreshing, tranquil West Coast Sunday morning!
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(Of course, that isn’t all we did there – after the Saturday market goodies, we visited the Simply Bee shop and education center, marveled at the beautiful church, Chantelle napped, and I strolled and drove about Hopefield, taking in a good look at what once was obviously a thriving town but is now very evidently not.
I also found a pretty cool spot that gave me a good view of flowers and Hopefield’s wind turbine farm – a view that my cellphone camera naturally completely failed to adequately capture.)
Oh, and seeing as there aren’t any restaurants in Hopefield, Saturday evening saw us drive through to Langebaan and end up having supper at the institution that is Pearly’s. (Sadly, Mykonos was a little too deserted for our liking, and that cool looking German restaurant we spotted the last time that we stayed in Langebaan appears to no longer be in existence.)
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Although Hopefield itself has very little to offer someone looking for things to do, if you are looking for a tranquil getaway with little noise, clean air and lots of bird life, then this space might just be right for you.