Tag Archives: south africa

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:

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

Stony Point Penguins in Betty’s Bay (2017-05-06) Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 14 DEC 2017

There are only a few land-based African Penguin colonies in the world, with South Africa lucky enough to be home to two of these – the first being the famous (and tourist popular) Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town, and the second, the slightly lesser known Stony Point Nature Reserve in Betty’s Bay.

I’m particularly fond of the much quieter but equally as good Stony Point penguin colony, with its beautiful raised boardwalk that snakes through the penguin’s homes and breeding ground.

The compact reserve is home to a colony of African Penguins (who by now are quite acclimatized to the humans peering down at them from above), three species of cormorant (the Crowned cormorant, the Cape cormorant, and the Bank cormorant) that breed on the outer rocks, Harlaub’s Gulls and Kelp Gulls that forage in the colony, as well as a big troop of Rock Hyrax or as we locals like to call them, dassies.

The boardwalk gives you an excellent vantage point from which to watch the penguins go about their daily lives, and come breeding season it is particularly cute to watch the furry youngsters try and strut their stuff!

The colony lies on the site of the old Waaygat Whaling Station which was used to harvest and process whale meat in the early to mid 1900s. Although nearly no remnant of this industry remains in sight, there are plenty of signage boards dotted around in order to give you an idea as to the scale of the whale trade that used to happen here.

Cape Nature manages the nature reserve and there is a lot of very interesting bits and pieces of penguin-related information posted everywhere, making a visit quite educational if you want it to be. (As a bonus, the entrance fee is relatively nominal – making it a much cheaper visit than say a trip through to the comparable Boulder’s Beach.)

Also, there is now a small restaurant built alongside the parking area, useful if you have complaining kids which aren’t all that enamored with the super cute seabird action along with you. Pleasingly, this isn’t us.

We tend to visit this penguin colony at least once a year (more or less), and this year was no different, with Jessica and Emily joining me for a visit to the penguins back in May (all part of our larger day out and about in Rooi Els, Kleinmond and Betty’s Bay).

Pleasingly, for a change the wind stayed away, leaving only perfect weather for us to have to contend with…

The surrounding landscape is quite pretty and there are plenty of opportunities for some great photos to be taken, making a visit to this well managed and relatively quiet nature reserve definitely worth the while!

Related Link: Stony Point Nature Reserve

Sand and Boulders on Llandudno Beach in Cape Town (2017-06-24) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 25 NOV 2017

Just outside of Hout Bay and on the way to Camps Bay lies Llandudno (named after the Welsh town with a very similar look), an extremely upmarket, small and particularly picturesque residential suburb of Cape Town.

Despite their well to do status, Llandudno residents strive to maintain a private, coastal village feel to their suburb, achieving this by banning the operation of any shops or restaurants, disallowing the installation of street lights, and maintaining only the most minuscule amount of public parking spaces in the area.

Despite all of this, their tiny Llandudno beach is a popular beach with many Capetonians, thanks in no small part to its boulder strewn rugged beauty, the magnificent fynbos to each side, the view of the Twelve Apostles, Little Lion’s Head,and the Karbonkelberg Mountain all around, and its surfer exciting waves!

Popular with families for picnics, beach sports and sun worshipping in general, it really is difficult to walk away not appreciating this small beach’s well earned charm.

(Oh, and for nudists, it also marks the start of the 20 minute long, apparently not so gentle, walk to Cape Town’s famous nudist beach, Sandy Bay.)

Back in June, as part of my day out and about with the girls, I took a slight detour on our way to Hout Bay Harbour in order to see what this beach looks like for ourselves – and I’m pleased to report that neither the girls nor I left disappointed! :)

A pretty little beach indeed.

Related Link: Llandudno

Jam and Scones at Hillcrest Berry Orchards in the Banhoek Valley (2017-04-22) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 24 NOV 2017

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.

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.)

Related Link: Hillcrest Berries | Facebook

Burgers and Milkshakes at Diesel & Creme in Barrydale (2017-07-03) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 19 NOV 2017

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!

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!

Related Link: Diesel & Creme | Facebook

The Lions of Rhodes Memorial in Cape Town (2017-06-24) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 17 NOV 2017

I’ve written about the Rhodes Memorial on these pages before,  and earlier in June I took my two girls up the slopes of Devil’s Peak to go and see this unique, classically inspired memorial to the English-born South African politician Cecil John Rhodes.

Firstly, if you have never seen this national monument in person before, then the Sir Herbert Baker and Francis Macey designed structure sitting on the flank of Table Mountain (above my old alma mater UCT for that matter) is guaranteed to impress.

(Well, that said, the girls didn’t really think it was all that. The liked the stairs and the horse, but as far as what they were concerned, the most exciting bit was  the prospect of being allowed to take a photo or two with my phone camera, a promise that I had to make before we had even exited the car!)

Flanked by eight lions (cast by J.W. Swan and modeled upon those protecting Nelson column in Trafalgar Square), the memorial is fronted by the dynamic ‘Statue of Energy’, an imposing horse with rider sculpture – said to be a tribute to Rhodes’ restless drive and determination.

49 granite steps (one for each year of his life) then lead you to the main viewing platform which is adorned with a classic arrangement of Doric columns, the center at which stands the bronze bust of Cecil John Rhodes himself.

At this point of the photos, you might of course notice something slightly out of place.

Sadly, during the populist anti-colonialism outcry (complete with symbol defacement) that took place throughout South Africa in 2016, a few activists tried to behead the bust, ultimately failing in their attempt but doing enough damage so as to leave Rhodes without his nose.

As you might imagine, this does rather spoil the whole effect.

The site is also home to a popular tea garden and restaurant (makes sense when you consider the gorgeous view over Cape Town to be had from this location), and is also the starting base for a couple of popular Table Mountain hikes.

(The hour long walk to the King’s Blockhouse being one of those).

For the record, we didn’t pop in to the tea garden because we still had quite a few other interesting things to get to on the day (Llandudno Beach, Hout Bay Harbour, and World of Birds to be exact), but the girls were okay with that – after all, I did let them fool around with my phone camera for a bit…

A visit to Rhodes Memorial doesn’t take particularly long, and no matter your view on colonialism or the likes of people like Cecil John Rhodes, it is worth a visit just for the architecture and view alone!

Related Link: Rhodes Memorial | Rhodes Memorial Tea Garden

Joggers and Birthday Parties at the Jack Muller Danie Uys Park in Bellville (2017-10-28) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 16 NOV 2017

Around 2013 the City of Cape Town embarked on an ambitious project to upgrade its aging district parks, with the goal of developing world class, public open spaces of which the local communities could be proud of.

One of these spaces that saw (and is seeing) a significant upgrade (to the tune of around R15 million) is my old home town of Bellville’s previously dilapidated 13 hectare large Jack Muller Park.

Earmarked to be developed as a facility capable of hosting major events,  the Jack Muller Park (also known as the Danie Uys Park) saw the installation of a borehole based irrigation system (as a part of the City of Cape Town’s commitment to reducing water demand on potable water resources) as well as the updating and laying down of new footpaths throughout the grounds.

The large picnic area was completely revamped, and loads of fresh instant lawn was laid down. Bathroom facilities were updated, new security structures were built around the park, kids play areas were added (as always, the jungle gyms are a hit with the little ones), a dedicated biodiversity section was established, the amphitheater rehabilitated, and of course (it is currently a very popular thing for public spaces to do), an outdoor gym was installed.

We visited the park recently in order to celebrate Damen and Michelle’s kid’s birthday with our friends and I was pleasantly surprised to see just how popular the park seems to have become.

There were loads of birthday parties, joggers and outdoor enthusiasts to be seen, and the environment appears to now genuinely be a nice one to visit.

We’ve been to the outdoor cinema held here before, and I know that music concerts are sometimes hosted as well, but by far the most popular activity for the park must be the weekly Bellville Parkrun, which sees hordes of joggers and walkers arrive at 08:00 on a Saturday morning to tackle the timed 5km fun run.

One day I suppose we should actually join them.

So, a great free green space option if you are looking to get some fresh air in Bellville then.

(Bonus: You might have noticed that the last picture in the photo gallery looks very different from the rest in terms of landscape scene. This is because that photo was taken on the same day but at a very different location! After our turn at Logan’s birthday party in the park, we raced back to Somerset West to make the pirate-themed spitbraai social get together for Emily’s Vergeet-My-Nie playschool. We arrived a tad late, meaning that the girls and I set out into the backwaters of Lourensford Estate in the hopes of catching up with the treasure hunt party that had already set out. Hence the lush green photo opportunity.)

Related Link: Jack Muller/Danie Uys Park

Donut World Doughnuts at Dolphin Beach in Jeffrey’s Bay (2017-07-10) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 15 NOV 2017

Having now completed the Oudtshoorn, Addo and Port Elizabeth legs of our June Holidays Road Trip, we were driving through the Eastern Cape down along the coast (via the N2) towards the Garden Route, to spend a couple of nights in Sedgefield as the final stop on our journey.

By this stage, both the kids and Chantelle were all fast asleep in the car next to me, so I decided to make a stop for doughnuts, hanging a sharp left and heading down to South Africa’s de facto surfing capital – Jeffrey’s Bay.

Traditionally the town has always been known as a sleepy little fishing town, transitioning into a fully hippie hangout in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and out of which emerged the now burgeoning surf community.

These days that only holds partly true, as over the last couple of years Jeffrey’s Bay has seen a rapid urban expansion – something very visible when you first enter what used to be quite the small little seaside town!

Having first been given a clue to the existence of a doughnut shop from Natasha, some quick Google work led me to punch in the coordinates for Donut World into the GPS, a small shop that is very close to the Jeffrey’s Bay famous Blue Flag Beach – the aptly named Dolphin Beach.

Perfect. A spot for me to stretch my legs and take some photos then! :)

While the others continued their nap in the car, I parked close to the waterslides of the Dolphin Beach Entertainment Centre and went for a short exploratory stroll. Sadly for me though, not too many people were on the beach on the day, never mind the fact that no one was actually in the water for a change. (For reference, there seems to almost always be someone in the water at Surfer’s Corner in Muizenberg!)

(Depressingly, I later learned that we had also just, just missed the running of the renowned Corona J-Bay Open, which by all accounts was quite an exciting surfing contest this year – shark attack and all!)

Anyway, I returned to the car (where by now everyone had already woken up), and we then headed out in search of the little Donut World shopfront, finding it easily enough (it’s super close to the Shell Museum – which funnily enough none of us actually thought of entering) and each then grabbing something off their sickly sweet menu.

My choice looked rather funky I thought:

Donuts devoured, we then let the girls stretch their legs a bit on the nearby jungle gym before hopping back into the car, grabbing some road trip refreshments from Mentors Plaza at the edge of the town (where I read up on some very cool information around the big Jeffrey’s Bay Wind Farm that we where about to drive through), pointing our nose towards the Western Cape border and then hitting the road once more!

Bonus: There is a very cool scale model outside Mentor’s Plaza depicting the 2013 record breaking big wave surf by Garrett McNamara. It’s crazy to think that any sane human would ever attempt to surf a 30+ meter wave!

Related Link: Jeffrey’s Bay

Springbok and a round of Golf at the Mossel Bay Golf Club (2017-03-19) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 14 NOV 2017

Back in March, Jessica and I spent a long weekend away with my folks up at Pinnacle Point Estate in Mossel Bay. Unbeknownst to me, my dad packed in my golf clubs (and by “my golf clubs” I mean a bag filled with clubs donated to me and periodically upgraded every time my brother or dad buys something new), with the intention of putting in a day of golf over the weekend.

Which is exactly what we then did.

The Mossel Bay Golf Club itself is over a hundred years old, having been first established back in 1905 when the course was still positioned at the old aerodrome. The current golf course location came about in 1924 (after the Mossel Bay Municipality made the land available to the club), with its current form the result of a big 1999/2000 re-development that pumped new life into the golf club through the establishment of the surrounding Mossel Bay Golf Estate.

The rebranding and new, modern club facilities worked, with the club now enjoying a very healthy membership and often cited as a major tourist attraction for the town.

Seeing as I only play a round of golf probably once or twice in a year, I was really appreciative of the fact that by some miracle the weather played its part, leaving us to enjoy a cloudless, and, more importantly, windless day, all of which combined rather nicely with the golf course’s already picturesque nature.

That said, I hadn’t even set foot on the course yet before an official pointed out that without a proper golf shirt I wouldn’t be allowed to play. Cue a hasty jog to the Pro Shop situated in the clubhouse, a quick discussion with the helpful store clerks, a rushed swipe of the credit card, and finally the emergence of myself wearing something that was very definitely NOT my usual black.

As with a lot of coastal golf courses, the Mossel Bay golf course is of course very pretty, but for me the icing on the cake was definitely the herd of springbok that happen to call the course home. These guys are obviously very used to all the golf carts and angry men brandishing metal/carbon clubs, because they just lazily move about the various fairways, chewing grass, going for a gallop, or just wistfully looking out towards the sea.

I didn’t get close enough to exactly touch one, but they were definitely close enough to admire!

As for the golf itself, it was as always a mixed day, with the number of okay shots equalling the number of bad shots, with just the occasional great shot thrown in to ensure that you don’t wrap your clubs around a tree or toss them over the next convenient cliff.

(I’m speaking for myself of course. Dad had a pretty decent round on the day).

Nevertheless, it was loads of fun. The customary lunch break was had, I zoomed about in a golf cart, and I hit a lot of balls as hard as I could – seriously, what’s not to enjoy about spending a day doing this?

Also, because Ryan wasn’t there, I actually got the chance to take a few photos without being shouted at or triggering stares of annoyed contempt the whole time! (To be fair though, he just doesn’t like me wasting time if there are other people on the course. Or at least I think that’s the reason that he gets so annoyed with me every time that I whip out the phone when playing a round of golf with them).

So, the photos then:

In summary, the Mossel Bay golf course is a really pleasant course to play, well suited to casual players like myself and which definitely features some really nice views to take in. That said, from listening to my brother and dad speak about it over time, it certainly sounds like Mossel Bay can get a bit windy out there at times!

(Also, we didn’t just forget about Mom and Jessica for the day – a thank you involving supper at The Sea Gypsey was definitely well received!)

Bonus: In case you are wondering why we didn’t just play at the spectacularly picturesque Pinnacle Point golf course (which by the way, I have played before) seeing as we stay on the estate, the reason is twofold. Firstly, I’m such a casual golfer that the difficulty level of the Pinnacle Point championship golf course makes for an even more frustrating outing that what it should be, and secondly, Pinnacle Point asks a much higher fee to play – as a non club/association member, that visitor fee – around R800 – often feels just a little too steep for my liking.

Related Link: Mossel Bay Golf Club | Mossel Bay