Tag Archives: south africa

Lunch at the Old Gaol on Church Square in Swellendam (2016-09-22) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 13 MAR 2017

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.

Anyway.

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.

Also, a map.

Related Link: Old Gaol on Church Square | Facebook

Touching Owls from Eagle Encounters at Spier in Stellenbosch (2016-09-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 12 MAR 2017

I’m not massively fond of animals in captivity. However, there is most of the time a sound argument for this to be a thing (and necessary at that), so okay, I’ll go with it. Plus, when you have kids, nothing beats a trip to see some really interesting feathered/furry/scaly creatures – which is a lot easier when they are conveniently all in one place.

Now, if birds of prey is your thing and you find yourself in the Stellenbosch winelands, then you are definitely in luck, because Eagle Encounters, situated on land donated by the renowned Spier wine estate, is definitely worth a stop.

Founded in 2001, Eagle Encounters is a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation, conservation, education and eco-tourism centre.

Birds of prey, raptors are their speciality, and scattered all about their premises you will encounter a wide variety of eagles, hawks, falcons, kites, buzzards, vultures, owls and all other manner of feathered hunters.

With funding coming primarily from their eco-tourism slant, Eagle Encounters makes sure that there is enough on the go to keep visitors interested, with various interactive shows throughout the day, including falconry demonstrations, secretary bird stomp displays, and mock hunts for their varied selection of raptors.

The birds are for the most part out in the open, tethered to their perches, which is apparently the currently most accepted way of keeping these big birds safe and sound, as it helps in preventing them from injuring themselves whilst in captivity.

(Like I said, I’m not overly fond of animals in captivity, though birds have always been the worst for me. Nothing sadder than seeing a bird in a tiny cage. I honestly don’t know why anyone keeps birds as pets. Very maddening for me. Strangely enough though, fish are alright. I have no idea why I have such a lower opinion of the little swimming fellas out there..)

Anyway, the kids always seem to enjoy the outing – though I suspect that is almost entirely based on the fact that they are allowed to touch owls, and better still, coax them to come and sit on their arms.

Which so far has worked out pretty well for us.

In other words, I’m still waiting for the day one of the owls decides to make a sudden poo!

(Mind you, this particular visit of ours was pretty cool. I got to hold a Cape Vulture aloft – man, those birds are much lighter than what their size suggests! Sadly though, Chantelle didn’t get a photo of this. A lot better than the last time I was called up during an interactive show – the guys at Giraffe House put a tarantula on my face!)

Right. So in short, an interesting visit if you are into your birds of prey. Photo opportunities as with any bird sanctuary is a bit of a hit and miss – I know that I certainly never get anything good on my little old phone camera whenever we pop in for a visit to a place with creatures behind fencing/netting…

Naturally, here’s a map if you want to go and touch some soft fluffy owls for yourself one day:

Related Link: Eagle Encounters | Facebook | Spier

Flower Gazing at the Durbanville Rose Garden (2017-02-12) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 10 MAR 2017

First opened in 1979, the award-winning Durbanville Rose Garden stands as one of only three trial rose gardens in the Southern Hemisphere. Jointly cared for by the Friends of the Rose Garden society and the Durbanville Municipality, this lovely garden stands at 3.5 hectares big, with around 4,500 bushes representing about 500 rose varietals!

Situated along one of the main arteries into Durbanville, the R302, it is impossible to miss this colourful, open patch of green land with its distinctive white entrance building standing proudly out front and center.

The rose garden itself is partly planted on land from the original Old Eversdal Estate, donated to the town by the Schabort family. Notably the Schabort family burial ground and memorial are in fact situated in the rose garden as well, a slightly somber addition to this otherwise brightly coloured affair.

Entry to the garden is free, with the occasional Sunday afternoon tea being served in the clubhouse from October through to May (often hosted by different groups and societies).

Naturally, picking of the roses is strictly prohibited!

Although the surrounding Durbanville vineyards have slowly given way to housing and other commercial developments over the years, this particular patch of green has become quite popular with the locals, and you will often find full-on wedding shoots happening in among the roses come just about every other weekend!

Funnily enough, I lived most of my life in the Northern Suburbs without once ever stopping to stroll about these fragrant pathways, a mistake that I at long last rectified by making the drive through and dropping in with the girls one quiet Sunday morning in the middle of February.

Beautiful flowers, a well cared for garden, fantastic views of the mountains in the distance, and of course a tranquil atmosphere makes this a particularly charming and slightly unexpected little stop in the middle of Durbanville suburbia.

Especially if you are into your roses!

Also, a map to the rose garden, just in case you don’t know where Durbanville actually is:

Related Link: Durbanville Rose Garden | Facebook (Unofficial)

Lunch at Stormsvlei Restaurant and Farm Stall in Stormsvlei (2016-12-30) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 09 MAR 2017

Situated on the banks of the Sonderend River and originally part of a farm that was established in the 1700’s, Stormsvlei (translated as Storm Marsh in English) is a now tiny Overberg hamlet that forms part of the greater Swellendam area.

Originally settled as an outspan for ox-wagons that were travelling the inland route along the coast, it was once an important stopover on the old wagon route, growing around the need for wagon repair facilities and refreshments for passing travellers – especially during the festive season when families from the surrounding areas would make their way to the sea for the holidays.

These days however the hamlet has shrunk to a point of being pretty much non-existent, meaning that you could literally drive past without even knowing that you had missed it!

(Well technically that’s not quite true. The restaurant does its best to make sure that the turn-off to Stormsvlei is relatively well marked along the N2!)

Apart from the Stormsvlei Riverside Cottages, the only other notable spot in Stormsvlei is where the old hotel stands, now rebranded as the Stormsvlei Restaurant and Farm Stall – which is perfect seeing as that was exactly what I was looking for on my journey up to Gouritz with my girls for last year’s December getaway.

Basically, a place that I’ve never stopped at before.

As it turns out, the Stormsvlei Restaurant is a bit of a Swiss Army Knife, in that it acts as a storefront for a lot of local products and produce (including leather couches and dried hydrangeas by Mary Spies, a local legend apparently), a bar, a dining hall, a function venue, as well as a lovely garden retreat – perfect for light meals out in the sun then.

The girls and I took full advantage of the good weather by first knocking back some cool refreshments and then tucking into a small lunch – double for me because as it almost always works out, one of the girls never quite feels like eating on the day!

We took our time wandering about the garden and inspecting all the flowers (including the nearby Hydrangea growing operation), browsing the art and antiques hanging up throughout the venue, and of course enjoying the rather tranquil ambiance – not to mention marvel at the surprisingly large amount of people that kept filtering in for a bite to eat!

I guess that then means that Stormsvlei is a lot more popular with travellers than what I would have thought!

Anyway, a rather rewarding little discovery for us then.

As expected, with it being just myself and the girls, entertainment for me translated into taking a fair bit of photos over the course of our lunch stop (much to the eventual annoyance of both Jessica and Emily I might add).

These are some of the better ones that came limping out of that particular crop:

Bonus: Just in case you also want to make a stop here on your next journey down the N2…

Related Link: Stormsvlei Restaurant and Farm Stall

Train Rides at the Century City Natural Goods Market (2017-01-29) Markets | Photo Gallery 08 MAR 2017

I like the Century City Natural Goods Market. Not because we’ve traded there in the past, but rather because of the always enjoyable vibe that emanates from this particular market.

The atmosphere is laid back, there is always chill music on the go, you have the openness that comes from being situated in Central Park, you are surrounded by the gorgeous modern architecture that makes up Century City, and most important of all, this always feels like a market that is catering directly for families as opposed to just trying to look cool.

That said, it is a little sad to see the market in its current shrinking form. The number of stall holders is definitely and very noticeably diminishing, which is a pity because as the stall holders become less in number and thus less diverse in offerings, so too does the number of visitors also eventually drop.

Nevertheless, there is still more than enough life in the market, as the girls and I found out for ourselves with an impromptu trip through to Century City at the end of January.

As expected, the music was good, the mini train ride lots of fun, the dog show via Dogz Cool entertained the kids, and all those little treats like hand-folded ice cream, fudge and millionaire’s shortbread delicious!

Not a bad way for the girls and I to start off a day that would eventually see us slumming with the Ostriches down at the Cape Town Ostrich Ranch!

(Naturally, I greatly annoyed the girls by taking pictures at every opportunity that it occurred to me to do so! These are some of the better ones that I decided to hold on to…)

As always, a handy map:

Related Link: Century City Natural Goods Market

Celebrating at the Lekke Neh Kids Carnival on Weltevreden Estate in Stellenbosh (2017-01-08) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 27 FEB 2017

We only discovered the beautifully restored, historic Weltevreden Estate last year. Packed with all manner of interesting art and sculptures, the classic Cape Dutch manor house and homestead is home to a brilliant little eatery that trades by the fun name of Lekke Neh, a wine tasting room, conference and wedding venue facilities, exquisite grounds, and most important of all – if you have little kids like we do – a separate, super kid friendly area known as the Kids Carnival – complete with a fantastic selection of playground equipment and of course kid friendly food choices!

As it turns out, we’re not the only ones fond of this place – my sister Claire also rather enjoys it, and so despite them living all the way out in Constantia, we were surprised to get an invite to join them for a family get together for their little boy’s recent birthday celebration.

Needless to say, our girls were rather excited by the prospect of heading out to The Carnival once more!

On such a beautiful summer’s day, the kids had an absolute blast playing on and with all the kids stuff, while we got to sit back as a family and tuck into some rather satisfying food.

(That said, if there is one constant disappointment when visiting The Carnival area at Weltevreden is that the service there is really, really poor. I think we’ve been there now four or five times in total, and each and every time we have come away complaining about how bad the service actually is! Pity.)

Nevertheless, the kids had an absolute ball, and that is what it really is all about, isn’t it?

Anyway, Chantelle and I are still overdue for a proper dining session at Lekke Neh (which really looks good), so yeah, I reckon we’ll be popping in there a couple of times more before they close up shop for the winter season…

Oh, and of course when I could grab a moment, I did wander around a bit in order to snap a few pictures of this beautiful estate (which incidentally has an official heritage status – it was declared a National Monument in 1975!).

Bonus: In case you are keen on discovering this great little gem for yourself, here is a nice and nifty map:

Related Link: Weltevreden Estate | Facebook

Lunch at Skilpadvlei Wine Estate in Stellenbosch (2016-10-20) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 25 FEB 2017

Way back in October last year, on a beautiful and windless Thursday afternoon, Chantelle and I picked the girls up from their respective playschools and headed out towards the Stellenbosch winelands, making our way to the super popular Polkadraai Strawberry Farm for an enjoyable strawberry picking session. (Midweek, because that place is far too busy on a weekend come strawberry picking season!)

Anyway, following our romp in the strawberries (which the girls absolutely loved), we decided to round off the outing with some lunch, and so we did a u-turn and headed back down the road to the nearby Skilpadvlei Wine Estate, known for its local wine, accommodation options, its use as a beautiful wedding venue, and if you have small kids, it’s impressively large wooden jungle gym!

Whilst the inside of the restaurant is always a nice and quirky affair, we almost always sit outside to take in the tranquil vineyard views, and this day was certainly no different. With the place almost entirely to ourselves, we enjoyed a great lunch, with the girls wolfing down their food as fast as possible in order to maximize their play time in Skilpadvlei’s great kids play area.

Not that I was complaining mind you… ;)

Oh, and in case you are wondering about the rather unusual/charming name of this wine estate, i.e. Tortoise Marsh in English (admittedly, perhaps not the best translation), it stems from the large colony of tortoises who purportedly called the vlei home in the 1800’s.

The estate has notably been in the hands of the Joubert family since 1917, with the fully operational 78ha farm being primarily made up of 55ha of vineyards, 3ha of olive groves, and of course the rest seemingly being taken up by that jungle gym of theirs…

Also, I did my best to annoy Chantelle with my camera phone as much as I could on the day:

So, in summary, a good family stop (as always) for us.

Bonus: a handy map so that your kids can bug you to head out that way as well:

Related Link: Skilpadvlei Wine Estate | Facebook

Visiting the Steenbras Water Treatment Plant Lookout Point (2016-10-29) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 08 FEB 2017

I’ve previously mentioned how I took the girls up to the Steenbras Water Treatment Plant lookout point above Gordon’s Bay last year, a trip that involves a rather perilous walk along a ridge which I allowed the girls to do by themselves. This of course mortified Chantelle, meaning that we needed to take her there so that she could experience this pretty cool viewpoint for herself.

So one early evening in October we did exactly that.

The viewpoint is situated on the doorstep of the Steenbras Dam Water Treatment Plant, which is itself obviously closed to the public. From this point high up in the Hottentots-Holland mountains you get a great view of False Bay, and if you venture along the aforementioned narrow little ridge along the plant’s fence, you get rewarded with spectacular views of Gordon’s Bay and its sister town, Strand.

This time around it was a lot clearer in terms of sky, meaning that we got treated to some great views of the area, not to mention the chance to snap some photos of the girls in the warm golden light as the sun started going down.

I’m pretty pleased that we managed to convince Chantelle to join us on this little sightseeing adventure, though I’m not so sure that she is any more convinced that letting the girls do the ridge walk by themselves is a good idea!

Also, I’m not much of a photographer, and nor could my phone couldn’t really cope with all that extra light, but I did manage to squeeze out at least one or two half decent pictures from the outing…

Here’s a map in case you also want to take in the view:

Related Link: Steenbras Dam

Driving over the Bain’s Kloof Pass to Wellington (2016-12-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 07 FEB 2017

Chantelle and I enjoyed a weekend away in Tulbagh towards the end of last year. We decided to head home via Wellington for a change, and that led to a decision to tackle the rocky Bain’s Kloof Pass, a road that I literally haven’t been on since I was a teenager!

Created in the 1850s, the Bain’s Kloof Pass was built to connect Wellington to Ceres, and like all the well made mountain passes in South Africa, was designed and built by a Bain – though this time around it was father Andrew Geddes Bain as opposed to his more famous road engineer son, Thomas Bain!

The now tarred mountain pass is a national heritage site, and runs for about 20 km as it moves from the Breede River, across the Limiet mountains and along the Witte river.

Popular with hikers due to its isolation, striking scenery and of course many rock pools (perfect for swimming), the mountain pass sees a fair bit of tourist activity, with the popular bush pub at the start of the pass (on the Wolseley side) doing brisk business, particularly with all the bikers that take on the pass’s many dangerous twists and turns!

It is relatively nerve-wracking/exciting pass to drive, thanks to its narrowness, unforgiving stone barricades, and sharp drop-offs, not to mention the numerous twists and turns that seem intent on making any person sitting in the passenger seat rather… uncomfortable.

Chantelle found the drive harrowing, I loved it, and the views afforded from the summit overlooking Wellington are simply put, spectacular.

Well worth tackling if you are in the area then.

The team behind Mountain Passes South Africa do a fantastic job in detailing the various mountain passes of South Africa, and for Bain’s Kloof Pass they’ve actually filmed a four part series, all of which are well worth the watch if you are interesting in the details and story behind this national heritage site of ours:

Part 1: Orientation and Overview:

Part 2: From Breede River to Tweede Tol:

Part 3: From Tweede Tol to Bain’s Kloof Village

Part 4: From Eerste Tol to Wellington:

Finally, a map in case you want to tackle this hairy pass yourself:

Related Link: Bain’s Kloof Pass | Mountain Passes South Africa