Tag Archives: south africa

Snoek Pizza at the Franschhoek Station Pub & Grill (2017-08-13) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 26 APR 2018

Franschhoek is a fantastic town to visit, beautiful surroundings, incredible wine estates, brilliant restaurants, a grand monument – but in truth isn’t really all that geared for visiting families, given the general upmarket offerings of the area. That said, there is one restaurant that does actual cater for those needing a more casual experience – the Franschhoek Station Pub.

Situated in the historic, but now disused, town train station, the Franschhoek Station Pub & Craft Bar is one of those dining spots that gets a whole lot right when it comes to entertaining families (and men who want a place to watch sport). The menu is nice and cosy, the beer selection wide (and yes, this includes a lot of the local craft brews), the pub’s decorations interesting, and most important of all, they have a small kids play area behind the pub, right next to the big stretch tent that covers the outdoor eating area.

Oh, and they offer a biltong tasting too.

Our particular visit saw myself tucking into a particularly good hamburger and downing a surprisingly good Stellenbrau Craven Craft Lager, while Chantelle opted for something far less conventional – a snoek covered pizza! A weird combination for sure, but nevertheless a taste which wasn’t half bad in the end.

Chantelle and I had a good time, the kids had a good time, and so all in all a pretty easy spot to recommend to visitors looking for something a little more casual in among the rest of Franschhoek’s more sophisticated offerings.

The station pub is on the main road and pretty much impossible to miss (the building is unique, the old steam engine stands out, and then there are the large tin buffalo, elephant and rhino statues to catch your eye), though here is a map for just in case you did somehow manage to ride on right past it!

Related Link: Franschhoek Station Pub & Grill | Franschhoek

Staying at De Oude Meul Country Lodge in Oudtshoorn (2017-07-03) Accommodation | Photo Gallery 24 APR 2018

One of our stops on last year’s June Holidays Road Trip was the ever delightful Oudtshoorn, a visit filled with caves, ostriches, camels and milk tart jaffles. In terms of accommodation, we went with De Oude Meul Country Lodge, a fantastic family friendly self-catering accommodation complex that lies about 14km out of Outshoorn, at the foot of the Swartberg Mountains.

A working ostrich farm come season, De Oude Meul has no shortage of facilities,  counting among its many offerings a restaurant, two pools, free (and pretty decent) Wi-Fi, game hunting, hiking routes, 4×4 trails, a kids play park, fishing, a wedding venue/conference hall, and yes, as you can see from the photo above – a whole lot of bunny rabbits! (Plus a Shetland pony or two).

Our unit was more than spacious enough for the four of us, the braai worked a charm and a working DSTV a nice bonus. I adored the open space (prompting many a stroll through the well tended, lush green grounds), while the kids absolutely loved the animals and the play area.

The restaurant was pretty decent as well.

Being in the shadows of a mountain meant that it got bitterly cold at night, but nothing that a few extra blankets couldn’t solve! Besides, everybody cheered up the minute the bales of hay was carried towards the rabbit pen anyway…

Bonus find – De Oude Meul commissioned this video to give you a bit of a better feel of what to expect when staying with them:

Pretty accurate and thus not hard to see that this is indeed a thoroughly enjoyable place to call home for a couple of nights – especially if you have small kids in tow like we do!

Related Link: De Oude Meul Country Lodge | Oudtshoorn

Seals, Cannons and Fishing Boats at Hout Bay Harbour (2017-06-24) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 21 APR 2018

Visiting Hout Bay with the girls invariably means one of two things – either we’ll be checking out the bird life of World of Birds, or we’ll be strolling along the old harbour watching all the fishing boats dart in and out, and as you may have surmised base on the photos probably still loading below, this time around it was most definitely for the latter.

Hout Bay is of course a lovely place to visit (though not so much at the moment thanks to all the ongoing unrest and tension following the last major fire that ravaged the Imizamo Yethu informal settlement), with its lush leafy green farmland vibe giving way to the small beach and buzzing harbour district as you head down the mountain – no wonder then that this place is as popular as what it is with both tourists and locals alike!

We actually started our little harbour walkabout with a stop first at the West Fort (or Karbonkelberg) site, where it was rather nice to see that the long neglected antique cannons have finally undergone some much needed, loving renovations. Surprisingly enough though, despite the site’s status as a National Monument, there really is nothing there other than the cannons themselves. A bit of signage would certainly not be amiss!

Next to the cannons, the ever popular “Fish on the Rocks” restaurant was alive and kicking as always, though it was the two busking, colourfully dressed minstrels that stole Jessica and Emily’s attention, with the two of them soon foot tapping and twirling along with the quintessential Capetonian sound/tunes.

Eventually I managed to drag the two of them away, getting our visit to Hout Bay’s working harbour back on track – basically meaning that we gently strolled along the pier, counted coloured boats, and got to watch the Emerald Isle steel-hulled trawler make a surprisingly quick and graceful exit out of the bay. (Truthfully, I rather enjoyed that last part).

Boats aside though, the seals dotted all around were by far the highlight of the walkabout for the girls, while for me it was the neatly dressed skipper with a roll of barbed wire in his hand who took to chatting with us about his restoration of the old SAS Oosterland, a decommissioned SA Naval Ford Class vessel that was built in 1959 for the navy and which then eventually fell into private hands come 1990.

An interesting find indeed.

I am of course joking when I say that a visit to Hout Bay means either the harbour OR the World of Birds though – of course we did World of Birds as well on the day – there is absolutely no way that Jessica would EVER let the opportunity of interacting with squirrel monkeys slip her by! ;)

(In actual fact, this was one of those jam packed outing kind of days – we had already started the morning off with a visit to both Rhodes Memorial and Llandudno beach!)

Related Link: Hout Bay

Admiring the Tranquility of the Huguenot Monument in Franschhoek (2017-08-13) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 18 APR 2018

We don’t really create large scale monuments any more (makes sense, they’re expensive and usually only relevant to a small slice of the population), but I do find that a pity because I rather enjoy the spectacle of a well designed monument space.

For me, the Huguenot Monument in Franschhoek is a thing of absolute, tranquil beauty. The distinctive arches that frames the strong central character, the flanking pillars of the colonnade, and the reflective pool all combine to create a striking vision, with the large manicured lawns ensuring that the elegant monument stands central to the scene.

Inaugurated in 1948, the monument, designed by J.C. Jongens, honours the Huguenot’s who, fleeing religious persecution back in France, arrived in the country between the years 1683 and 1756 and primarily hunkered down in the valley of Franschhoek (literally “French Corner”).

It was here then that the French Huguenots settled, built farms, produced wines, and impressed their culture onto the area, leaving a huge mark on colonial South African life, and indeed, leaving a legacy which to this day survives in what is undoubtedly the premier wine producing region of South Africa.

The monument itself is dripping with symbolism: the three great arches represent the Holy Trinity, above from which the Sun of Righteousness shines, topped by the Cross of the Christian faith. The central female figure (created by Coert Steynberg) is meant to personify religious freedom, with a bible in her one hand and a broken chain in the other. Her cloak of oppression is being cast off as she stands upon the globe symbolising her religious freedom. The fleur-de-lis on her robe represents a noble spirit and character.

The still, reflecting water pond below expresses tranquility of mind and spiritual peace, important considering the strife and conflict the Huguenots had experienced back in France.

As for the globe itself, the central Southern tip of Africa includes a symbol of their religion (the Bible), a symbol of their art and culture (the harp), a symbol of their viticulture (the sheaf of corn and grape vine), and a symbol of industry (a spinning wheel).

In addition to the monument, on the grounds next door stands the Huguenot Museum, itself with a rather interesting story to tell. It used to be the elegant home of Baron Willem Ferdinand van Reede van Oudtshoorn, which had been erected around 1791 in Cape Town.

Despite all attempts to save it, the historic building was demolished in 1954, but not before an agreement was reached to use it as a French Huguenot museum. So each brick and stone was numbered, and transported from Cape Town to Franschhoek, where it was erected exactly how it had originally stood, complete with its original decorations intact.

As interesting as a stroll through the museum would have been, this particular visit to the monument had the kids along for the ride, which of course then meant that while open spaces with a boring building but interesting lizards was tolerable enough for them, a visit to a dusty old museum was definitely not on their acceptable things to do for the day!

Still, I got plenty of pictures from what was a quiet, peaceful experience:

As with most monuments, the Huguenot Monument is best experienced when there are few or no other people around – a certain level of quiet is needed to truly experience the surreal tranquility of this beautiful space in the Franschhoek valley.

Related Link: Huguenot Monument | Wikipedia | Franschhoek

Mini Golf at FantaSea at the Point in Mossel Bay (2017-12-29) Kid Activities | Photo Gallery 17 APR 2018

Now that she is more or less old enough to play, I suspect that this might now become a thing whenever I find myself down in Mossel Bay with the eldest munchkin in tow – putt putt at Fanta Sea at The Point.

This particular round of mini golf happened as part of our lovely December holiday getaway, though funnily enough, Jessica and I had actually already played at Fanta Sea back in March. Thing is – all of a sudden the joint was sporting a burst of color and a whole lot of upgrades since we last were there, plus this time around we had both Chantelle and Emily to watch us in action!

(Also, it was believe it or not, quieter than what it had been in March – that Buffalo Biker Rally of the Nomads Motorcycle Club sure knows how to pile the people in here at Mossel Bay! I suspect though that we were somewhat lucky, perhaps most of the Christmas holiday crowd had already packed up and headed off before we finally made the time to come down for a game.)

Anyway, as I mentioned last time, the downside to playing at Fanta Sea with smaller kids is that they only have the adult length putters available, making it pretty difficult for Jessica to play 100% properly – and near impossible for Emily who is still way too small. (Not that that stopped her grabbing a putter and trying of course!)

The weather was good, the putt putt rather nice, and pretty much everyone put in one or two quite excellent shots. I can’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure that my mom managed to sink the most hole-in-ones on the day.

I can’t remember having a particularly good day at the office…

Fanta Sea at The Point is actually a great spot for families with young kids. Putt Putt, skateboarding, a jungle gym play area, light meals, splash pool, car rides, ice cream – there is more than enough here to keep the young ones happy for a fair bit!

Related Link: Fanta Sea @ The Point | Mossel Bay

Seals and Penguins at the Bayworld Oceanarium in Port Elizabeth (2017-07-09) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 16 APR 2018

While the days of the crowd being splashed wet while being entertained and enthralled by Bayworld’s team of well trained bottlenose dolphins are now long since passed, the now visibly less vibrant (despite its R10 million 2013 revamp) Port Elizabeth tourist attracting complex is still worth the visit – even if the oceanarium is no longer the star of the show.

While our day out to Bayworld revolved mostly around the excellent Port Elizabeth Museum (which I’ll dedicate a separate post to), we did of course kick things off at the oceanarium (animal activists perhaps look away now), where the kids were delighted to watch the seals and penguins splash about and play in the two open view pools (next to the sadly, but thankfully hidden, dilapidated dolphinarium zone).

Next came the short seal (and turtle) show, with Jessica particularly pleased at being called out to the front to receive a kiss from a superbly trained seal and his flexible whiskers. (Turns out, the kiss was a lot more ticklish than what she was expecting!) 

Following that, the last remaing thing to be seen in the Oceanarium section of Bayworld was of course the actual oceanarium itself, though to be fair, with the large tanks now all out of action, the dimly lit space is perhaps better referred to as an aquarium, containing only a few tanks, but thankfully filled with enough interesting fish species to make it worth the while.

(When you have a small fish tank dedicated to a LEGO shipwreck build then you might just realise that perhaps something is not running 100% according to plan…)

Anyway, I grabbed a few photos here and there, but honestly, given the oceanarium section’s now diminished state, there isn’t a whole lot to actually take photos of! Still, the kids all seemed to enjoy the space enough to have made the visit worthwhile…

Still, I have to admit, seeing the now abandoned dolphinarium (which holds such wonderful childhood memories for me) is admittedly more than just a little heartbreaking.

Next up: Bayworld’s much more amazing Port Elizabeth Museum!

Related Link: Bayworld Oceanarium | Port Elizabeth

A Train and the Colourful Changing Rooms of St James Beach (2017-10-30) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 13 APR 2018

Ah, the brightly coloured Victorian bathing boxes of St. James Beach. What Cape Town travel blog could truly call themselves local without including at least one post detailing this internationally recognised view, right?

St. James itself is a suburb of Cape Town, situated alongside the Atlantic Ocean on the shores of False Bay, tucked away between Muizenberg and Kalk Bay. As with a lot of old Cape Town suburbs, St James is constrained to a piece of land that is sandwiched between a rocky shore and the steep slopes of a mountain.

Deriving its name from the early St James Catholic Church (built around 1880), the majority of the current suburb was built between 1910 and 1950, following the completion of the railway line that connected Cape Town to False Bay.

(Incidentally, this line remains the most scenic train ride that you can catch in Cape Town today).

The main attraction for the area is of course St James beach, a lovely sheltered spot that provides a welcome break from the westerly winds, centered around a large man-made tidal pool that provides a splash free seawater experience that is perfect for families with kids.

The small stretch of sand quickly makes way for some fantastic naturally formed rock pools, perfect for observing small pockets of ocean life, and for added excitement, every now and then sees a train pass by right above your head!

And then there is of course the iconic row of little Victorian bathing boxes to provide a brilliant burst of colour to the scene.

In order to reach the beach you need to either cross underneath the railroad line using one of the the railway tunnels near the old train station, or you could perhaps take the enjoyable stroll along the lovely St James walkway which stretches all the way from St James beach to Surfers’ Corner, Muizenberg.

So, pretty much all the ingredients needed for a nice, free to enter, family friendly weekend visit then.

(Seeing as I’m more of a Helderberg basin, Overstrand and Stellenbosch Winelands travel blog these days, this just so happens to be my very first post featuring the famous St. James beach – though to be fair I have had the brightly coloured bathing boxes synonymous with Muizenberg’s Surfers’ Corner appear on these pages before!)

Related Link: St James | Cape Town

Sightseeing from Shark Rock Pier in Port Elizabeth (2017-07-08) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 09 APR 2018

When in Port Elizabeth, head out for a stroll along Shark Rock Pier. Or rather, that is what it feels like every tourist to Port Elizabeth does at least once while visiting the Friendly City. (Well certainly that is what my Instagram feed seems to suggest anyway).

To be fair though, that is of course exactly what we did when we visited Port Elizabeth as part of last year’s June Roadtrip Holiday.

Built in 1998 and measuring 137 metres in length, Shark Rock Pier can be found between Hobie Beach and the Red Windmill, and interestingly enough, is the only public accessible pier in Port Elizabeth.

Situated at the very center of the Port Elizabeth beachfront, free to access, and giving amazing views across Algoa Bay, it is no wonder then that the pier is both a major landmark of and drawcard for P.E.

Or at least that is what all the travel operators say about it.

I have to say, it is pretty cool though, and we all enjoyed the gentle amble out to its end and back again. The views are great, non locals like us are easily bamboozled by the hordes of open water swimmers who look just like dolphins in their wetsuits, and there are plenty of friendly ice cream vendors waiting for you to look hot on hand.

Oh, and interesting fact. The famous Hobie Beach only exists thanks to Shark Rock Pier’s presence. Its positioning is such that the pier blocks the tidal drift of sand northwards, causing it to instead build up and thus pile on the layers of fun for this super popular sun soaked beach.

Basically, well worth the walk if you find yourself in the area then.

Related Link: Port Elizabeth

From Whale Watching to Fick’s Pool in Hermanus (2017-08-09) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 08 APR 2018

There is a reason why Hermanus is so popular come whale season time in Walker Bay – its elevated seaside cliffs give the absolute best vantage point to watch the whales cavort in the waters down below.

Now while I’m not a massive whale watching fan, Chantelle is, and thus she absolutely loves our infrequent trips to the whale watching capital of the Western Cape – but only if there are whales to be spotted of course! ;)

Last year August saw us take an impromptu drive through to Hermanus for a spot of Southern Right Whale watching, which turned out to be a fortuitous day to pick thanks to the fact that there was in the end plenty of activity down in the water to be seen.

We started our exhibition up on top of the cliffs (across from the Cliff Tops Piazza), which gave us a particularly good view over the bay for a minimal amount of effort.

Amazingly, neither of the girls were scared or overly cautious about being up so high, leading to a rather nice and relaxed bit of time spent staring out over the ocean.

The spot where we had climbed up turned out to be right alongside Fick’s Pool, one of the older tidal pools in Hermanus and one that back in the day used to very much be the place to be seen if you were looking for some local fun as a teenager.

These days this quite well protected, small tidal pool is particularly popular for families with kids who want to splash about but who don’t feel like getting sea sand shoved up every nook and cranny.

Only one problem though – this wasn’t summer and we weren’t here to get wet!

From Fick’s Pool we then made our way over the nearby Cliff Tops biodiversity path before ending up, ice cream in hand, watching whales from the piazza.

Perfect way to spend a whale watching day in Hermanus then.

Related Link: Fick’s Pool | Hermanus