Having spent most of our Sunday enjoying a drive, admiring the Huguenot Monument, and letting the kids run wild and free at the Station Pub & Grill in Franschhoek, we then wrapped up the outing with a stop at Hillcrest Berry Orchard (at the behest of BOTH Chantelle and the girls!) on the drive back.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time then you know that we end up stopping here more often than not whenever we find ourselves driving along the R310, better known as the Helshoogte road, through the beautiful Banhoek Valley (which lies on the outskirts of Stellenbosch on your way through Pniel and on to Franschhoek).
If that is the case, then you undoubtedly already know about the fantastic jams and other berry-rich products that Hillcrest Berries produces, not to mention the good, uplifting work opportunities it provides in the immediate area.
If you know about those, then you probably also know that the Tea Garden and its deck with a view is a great option for some good coffee and scones, and furthermore, as a long time reader you would probably then also know that paying a little more for the Devonshire clotted cream REALLY is the way to go.
Unless of course they don’t have any more left for the day, meaning then that your foodie wife is nearly brought to tears with disappointment.
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Still, it was a very nice enough stop as always – even if they had already run out of clotted cream for the day.
So I mentioned earlier that Chantelle and I needed to drive up to George in order to pick up our Accent that was sitting there for repairs a couple of weeks ago. This of course thus meant a road trip along the N2, which, given how early we ended up leaving Gordon’s Bay, also then meant the need for a decent breakfast stop too.
Driving along the N2, Tredici is nearly impossible to miss when you enter the Swellendam area, thanks to the building’s very European styling, its bold black accents, and its imposing four meter high doorways.
Inside you are greeting by the sights and smells of all the delicious pastries and baked goods being brought to life and put on display, before heading through to select a table either downstairs, upstairs, or these days, outside.
Obviously, a good cup of coffee was the order of the day, but as I mentioned at the start, we were there for breakfast as well – and pretty soon we were tucking into some good tasting ‘brekkie’ combinations from their reasonably comprehensive menu.
Chatting to the waiters, business over the course of the December holiday season had been particularly brisk, so much so that Tredici had to even go ahead and set up a little outside ‘On the Go’ container pop up shop to service all the people knocking at its doors!
Tredici is a genuinely nice place to stop, and seeing as the kids weren’t with us for this particular trip, we could actually sit down, relax and enjoy the tranquil pace of life that stems from living in a place like Swellendam for a change.
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Bonus: In case you are not familiar with the term Baker’s Dozen, it stems from an old European custom whereby bakers would illustrate their honesty by offering their customers more than what the law required – so instead of 12 loaves or 12 measures of something, the customers would always receive 1 extra – hence the baker’s dozen.
Bonus 2: The evening before we left for George, Chantelle and I decided to have Chinese food for supper. Pro tip: The giggle worthily named ‘Wok This Way‘ in Somerset West delivers big time in terms of food, flavour and atmosphere!
Definitely highly recommended!
You could of course travel to Eikendal in Raithby, lying along the R44 snug between Somerset West and Stellenbosch, in order to taste and buy their award winning wines. You could even be heading out that way to stay in one of the private terraced rooms of the Eikendal Lodge, or perhaps to try your hand at fly fishing in their trout stocked dams.
Most likely though, you are probably heading towards their distinctively styled entrance to grab a seat (either inside or out) at Cucina di Giovanni, more commonly referred to as Giovanni’s among the locals.
We didn’t actually know this, but it turns out that this restaurant is rather on the popular side, and even more pleasingly, produces some particularly delicious pizza – as we found out for ourselves with an impromptu visit there one Sunday afternoon back in August this year.
(Turns out, the place we were actually on our way out to, the nearby Vredenhof, is closed on Sundays).
Eikendal itself is really worth a visit though.
Obviously there is the traditional wine tasting and food pairing that happens at the Eikendal Tasting Centre, but then there are also tours of their distinctive barrel vaulted cellar, fishing with the onsite Winelands Fly Fishing outfit, upmarket food from Giovanni’s, mapped out vineyards walks, lush green lawns, and finally a small kids play area, to enjoy.
Also, the abundant views of the vineyards and mountains isn’t too shabby either.
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Chantelle, the kids and I rather enjoyed this impromptu visit, and given the fact that Eikendal lists Kiddies Tastings and Tractor Rides on their website, there is a more than reasonable chance of us returning for a more full experience sooner than later!
Having decided that she wasn’t particularly keen on eating lunch off a bench table at Wilgewandel following our exciting morning of exploring the world famous Cango Caves, Chantelle was instead much happier with the idea of taking a short hop up to the Cango Caves Estate (which itself is just below the Cango Caves), home to both an interesting looking deli and a rather scary looking zipline!
This turned out to be a really, really good idea, because a) the deli afforded fantastic views of the swartberg mountains, b) the tranquility of the Grobbelaars River was right there if needed, c) the zipline made for some exciting people watching, and d) the coffee at the Cango Caves Estate turns out to be rather good.
Aside from its main business as a wedding or private event facility (the restored Manor House elegantly caters for this), the Cango Caves Estate also operates a very popular deli, which has its own coffee roastery and curio selection, not to mention its impressive stock of all the local fine wines, cheeses and biltong.
Then of course there is their zipline.
The Cango Caves Zipline is a double zipline setup, meaning that two people can slide side by side at the same time.
The ride starts at the parking area of the Cango Caves, with an initial teaser zip of some 155 meters over a Karoo ravine, followed by the big 465 meters trip over a game enclosure and all the way down to the Cango Caves Estate!
My girls are of course too small for this, (while Chantelle and I too heavy), so we opted to rather make do with some delicious pizza and ice cold drinks, admire the view, and perhaps try and beat the heat instead.
Can’t say that it wasn’t an enjoyable attempt.
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Their food is good and the deli air-conditioned (and rather comfortable), making this a worthwhile stop if you ever do find yourself out and about in the middle of a sweltering hot Karoo afternoon.
Three minutes down the road from the world famous Oudtshoorn Cango Caves is the popular (and relatively well known) Wilgewandel Holiday Farm, a family friendly accommodation option situated at the foot of the Swartberg mountain range.
Famous for their camel rides (which is precisely the reason we simply HAD to take Jessica there following our exploration of the caves), Wilgewandel is built around its kid friendly activities, offering things like water slides, donkey cart rides, the humorously named Ghwarra-Ghwarra Golf Course (putt putt), a foefie slide (zip-line), pedal cars, farmyard animals and rowing boats – basically it should technically be near impossible for your kids not to find some form of entertainment that they enjoy on the grounds!
Centered around a lovely dam, there is plenty of space to run around, the farm atmosphere keeps everything relaxed, and the onsite restaurant works hard to ensure that everyone has a plate of food and full glass in front of them.
Oh, and Wilgewandel sports a pretty well stocked curio shop as well – useful for all those touristy people among us.
The place is then as you imagine a magnet for day visitors and as such can get quite busy at times – so worth keeping in mind if you were originally looking to get away for some complete peace and quiet!
Although we weren’t staying at Wilgewandel (we were bunked down at the lovely De Oude Meul Country Lodge further down the road), and we didn’t grab a bite to eat here either (Chantelle preferred to grab something a little better looking from the nearby Cango Caves Estate instead), we did however hang around long enough give the girls a good chance to run around and play and talk to all the animals – and of course let Jessica tackle her second camel ride of the year.
(Which she absolutely LOVED of course!)
So, if you have kids with you and are looking to escape the the hot Oudtshoorn/Klein Karoo sun (and maybe recharge your batteries for a bit by letting the kids run off to play), then marking Wilgewandel on your travel map is definitely quite the good idea.
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Bonus: It is worth noting that I’m not overly excited by their pricing model mind you – basically you need to pay for every single activity as opposed to bunching every thing up under a single access fee, meaning that a day out at Wilgewandel as a day visitor has the potential to get really expensive really quickly if you have two or more kids running around who demand to try absolutely each and everything on offer.
That said, Wilgewandel Holiday Farm is out in the middle of nowhere and is definitely an oasis of entertainment if you ever find yourself lounging around Oudtshoorn with bored kids that are maybe a little tired of seeing ostriches every time that they look out of a window! :D
Seeing as we had happily been spending the day driving around, spotting mosaics and exploring the lovely little Sedgefield on the final leg of our June Holidays road trip, I decided that a suitable reward (in terms of cake and refreshments) was now very much in order for the girls and one super patient Chantelle.
Having just completed a short drive on The Island, we emerged (after dodging some bulldozers and diggers working on one of the roads) at the door of Nibbles Bistro, standing in the middle of the small Mosaic Market which itself is neatly tucked in between the Scarab Arts Village and the super popular Wild Oats Market location.
In addition to its welcoming outside seating area (hard not to love all that colour), the interior is actually well worth meandering through, primarily because all the walls are literally covered from floor to ceiling with all manner of for sale sports, music and movie memorabilia.
(Note, these memorabilia products are in fact sold by some other online company, the name of which has unfortunately now completely escaped me. It has something to do with golf, I’m sure. Anyway, if someone could drop me a line with the name it would be much appreciated!)
All this of course then means that there is no shortage of conversation fodder around the table – which could either be a blessing or a curse depending on how annoying your significant other is in terms of popular culture knowledge!
If I remember correctly, we ordered a couple of cakes to all share, the girls had hot chocolate and I had a nice coffee, with the star of the show for me being a piece of very delicious Mozart Cake – the first time that I’ve ever encountered this particular cake, much to the eye-rolling surprise of Chantelle.
The cafe was rather busy on the day that we were there, so service wasn’t that great (in fact I can remember to having become slightly annoyed with matters), but with that said, the cake was delicious, the food menu looked good, and the atmosphere was pretty laid back – so exactly what one would expect from this self declared “slow town” then! :)
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Worth popping into then in other words.
It is nowadays quite impossible for me to travel the road from Stellenbosch, past Pniel and on towards Franschhoek without it being requested that I stop for scones and cream at Hillcrest Berry Orchards by young Jessica.
(Not that I mind though – a visit to Hillcrest Berries, on the outskirts of Stellenbosch, is always quite pleasant!)
While you can sit and dine in the remarkably popular restaurant/tea room if the weather doesn’t play along, it is by far the best to grab a spot on their terrace, with its beautiful views over the Banhoek Valley.
You’ll be rewarded with some crisp fresh air and some particularly pretty scenery to look at.
Primarily a producer of a wide selection of fine jams from the assortment of berries grown on the working berry farm, a visit to Hillcrest Berry Orchards is definitely defined by tucking into their scones, first choosing the jams to accompany and then deciding on what to round it off with.
Pro Tip: the Devonshire Clotted Cream is the MUST go to option, no question about it!
The atmosphere is relaxed (though on this particular visit there was a gaggle of girls celebrating someone’s 16th birthday, which on its own made for a very entertaining watch – so much posing and so, so many selfies!), the scones, jam and coffee great, and the view is fantastic.
Hard to argue against visiting this great little business that coincidentally also does so much good in its local community then.
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Oh, and they even have a couple of weekend away guest cottages for rent available these days – just in case you’re looking for a bit of a Banhoek Valley/Stellenbosch getaway.
(Bonus: You’ll note the sad face photo of Jessica towards the bottom of the photo gallery. It was just me and the girls on one of our days out and about and unfortunately for Jess, it was a bit of a knee meet cement slab moment.)
After a long morning spent game watching (after having enjoyed our night spent in the Addo Elephant Park as part of our June Holidays 2007 road trip), we were now about to embark on the drive down the road to Port Elizabeth, where we would be staying with Evan and Natasha for a couple of evenings.
However, a quick poll around the car quickly established that first a stop for something to eat was very much in order, and so instead of turning right towards Port Elizabeth, we turned left and ambled down towards nearby Colchester.
Having been established in 2015, the conveniently situated A Taste of Africa restaurant can be found at the BP petrol station complex at the start of Colchester, hard to miss thanks to its current brilliant blue paint job.
Passing the pizza oven out front and heading inside, you’ll find a cozy space with a lot of home industry products lining the wall. The restaurant/coffee shop has both indoor and outdoor seating arrangements, and from the look of things, capable of running a small bar setup just as easily.
The menu is decent, nice and casual, the food okay enough, and the staff more than welcoming and friendly. (The girls loved all the special attention that they were getting).
Seeing as we were pretty much the only people there for our stop, it isn’t really possible to comment on the vibe, but guessing from the setup, I suspect that more than a FEW party groups get together here every now and then!
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Oh, and they do have a nice little garden setting too.
Bonus: Colchester (affectionately known as the Jewel of the Sundays River by locals), is itself a pretty interesting little place mind you. Twenty minutes outside of Port Elizabeth, lying on the banks of the Sundays River and bordered by the South Gate of the Addo Elephant National Park, the settlement of Colchester rose (nearly a century ago) as a challenge to Port Elizabeth (apparently), with the original vision of the engineer behind the whole thing for it to become the railway center for the whole of the Eastern Cape.
That battle was obviously lost, but Colchester, named after the oldest town in the United Kingdom, is however surrounded by ancient sand dunes (dating back about 100 000 years), and is situated in a part of the country that remains largely unspoiled – thereby meaning that the opportunities for fishing, hiking, river cruises, sand boarding, sand sledding, canoeing and swimming are plentiful.
So worth looking into if you want to escape the built up confines of Port Elizabeth then.
It seems weird to say, but finding a place to stop for a bite to eat in Barrydale (as you move between the Overberg and Klein Karoo) is actually harder than what it should be – primarily because there are nowadays so many interesting places to choose between!
So after entering Barrydale and driving a bit of this way and then that, and faced with names like A Place in Time, The Country Pumpkin, Mez Karoo Kitchen, Bistro Blues, The Jam Tarts, and the Blue Cow at the Barrydale Waterfront (which we’ve actually been to before), Chantelle and I eventually settled on pulling in at the Karoo Moon Motel and more specifically, its vintage diner (and super popular) sister, Diesel & Creme, for our “halfway to Oudtshoorn” lunch time stop.
Situated on the Route 62 tourist route, Diesel & Creme was established in 2013 and is made up of a vast array of bits and pieces collected from all over the area and more importantly, across the ages.
The result is a weird mishmash of antiques and vintage props that some people find super interesting and charming (note, I am not one of those people), but nevertheless results in some good talking material for around the table.
That said, the corrugated shed is populated by a very charming and friendly group of people that produce some very enjoyable food and by all accounts, some super interesting gourmet milkshakes (one of the reasons Chantelle picked this stop in the first place!).
The girls wanted waffles and ice cream for lunch (and we didn’t feel like a fight), while I instead tackled one of their delicious gourmet burgers and gave some of their decent craft beer selection a good go.
Seeing as this is a popular stop on the main road through Barrydale, you can almost always expect a lot of people to be sitting down for a visit, and with that comes a very fun vibe which definitely enhances the whole Klein Karoo experience.
Again, I didn’t LOVE the decor, but then as Chantelle always succinctly puts it, I’m very much in the minority when it comes to ‘interesting’ places like this!
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In summary: The food is pretty decent, the spot is always bustling, and so if you are looking for a food stop in Barrydale, Diesel & Creme is certainly worth a visit.
Next up for us on our June Holidays 2017 road trip? The ostriches and caves of Oudtshoorn!