Tag Archives: stellenbosch

Christmas Market at Blaauwklippen Family Market in Stellenbosch (2016-12-19) Markets | Photo Gallery 25 MAR 2017

I visited the Blaauwklippen Family Market a couple of weekends ago in order to catch a glimpse of the official Japan Day 2017 celebration, an annual event organised in Cape Town by the embassy of Japan. However, that reminds me that Chantelle, the girls and I actually also turned up at the beautiful Stellenbosch-based Blaauwklippen wine estate last December, in order to partake in the rather successful Blaauwklippen Family Market’s yearly Christmas Night Market event.

Held in the evening, we lucked out with absolutely perfect weather – warm, no clouds in the sky and not a breath of wind, making for a perfect family outing.

As always is the case at any Blaauwklippen Family Market event, there were loads of things for the kids to do, with my girls naturally making a beeline for the pony rides first, followed up with a trip on the opportunistically named (I love it!) Blaauwtrein kids ride.

(For those of you not living in South Africa, the “Blue Train” or “Blou Trein” is one of our most luxurious train trips, and “Blaauw” is Dutch for blue. Incidentally, “klippen” is stone, hence Blaauwklippen is probably named for the stunning blue mountain ranges that surround it).

Anyway, Jessica is chomping at the bit to go on the mega trampoline, so we’ve promised to let her do that soon enough (we’re not 100% sure she’s ready for that mind you), though she wasn’t too keen on trying her hand at the exceedingly cute kids bull ride attraction on the night!

As always there was a great, positive buzz around the market, with the stalls (especially the food stalls) doing plenty of brisk trade. The live music reinforced the good vibe, and everywhere you looked you saw people having a great time!

We grabbed our usual delicious pancakes from Catje’s Pancakes, before Chantelle swooped in on some sushi, and I on some craft beer, before finishing it all up with some delicious handmade ice cream for the girls.

All in all, it was a particularly good outing, which I guess then means that come this year Christmas, we’ll have to do it all over again – and maybe drag some of our family and friends along with us for a change!

You’ll note that the last four images in the gallery appear to be completely unrelated to this post. That is because they are, but I don’t really have anywhere else to put them. Essentially, the day after the market we let the girls try out Baskin Robbins that had finally arrived in South Africa, followed up with some coffee and delicious sandwiches from the new Baconville eatery at Willowbridge Mall, and then finally a Spur playdate for Emily with her best friend Marli – which naturally included facepaint.

Also, back to Blaauwklippen Family Market, a map:

Related Link: Blaauwklippen Family Market | 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

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

Feeling the Vibe at the Root 44 Market in Stellenbosch (2016-11-20) Markets | Photo Gallery 26 FEB 2017

The Root44 (or Root 44 depending on what marketing material you look at) market is one of those unusually nice markets precisely because so much money has been thrown in behind it. (Also, the fact that its surrounds are so damn pretty doesn’t hurt either!)

There is literally loads of seating and chill areas (more than enough to cater for the massive crowds that seem to visit the market each and every weekend), plenty of different stall vendors, evenly split between crafts and foods, constant live entertainment, and even better still, actually roofing which make this one of the more weather resistant markets in the area.

(One of the only minor complaints that I have is that they stole away most of what was an okay kids play area and commercialized it into an offering that is okay if you plan on hanging out at the market for most of the day, but completely overboard in price if you are just popping in for a half hour long visit.)

Whilst both Chantelle and I actually prefer Somerset West’s Lourensford market in terms of the actual food stalls, there is no denying the absolutely pleasurable vibe that you get from visiting Root 44 – thus effortlessly retaining its spot as one of the most popular Saturday morning hangouts in the Stellenbosch surrounds.

(Oh, and have I mentioned that its weekly Parkrun is apparently one of the prettiest in Cape Town?)

We took a bit of a break from visiting markets last year, with these photos from November 2016 being one of the few occasions that we did actually venture down to Audacia’s grounds for a Root 44 market excursion… meaning that we are probably now somewhat overdue another Saturday morning pancakes fix! :)

Bonus: As always, here is a handy map, just in case you want to figure out for yourself where in the world this place I’m talking about actually is:

Related Link: Root44 Market | 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

Snacking at Asara Wine Estate & Hotel in Stellenbosch (2016-10-15) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 02 JAN 2017

One Saturday in October last year, Chantelle and I decided to take the girls out for a spot of strawberry picking at Polkadraai in Stellenbosch. However on arrival at the strawberry farm it was immediately clear that pretty much the entire Cape Town must have had the same idea as us, and so we did a u-turn and headed back towards Stellenbosch, looking for something else to do instead.

Then a brainwave hit me – I’d previously visited the five star Asara Wine Estate & Hotel in Stellenbosch for a business meeting with Distell, and have wanted to show the place off to Chantelle ever since. So I took a chance and turned in by Asara’s manned gates and stated that I was off to visit the deli (which I think I remember having spotted that last time I was there).

As it turns out, they do have a deli on-site – and surprisingly it is a pretty cool little find.

If you aren’t familiar with Asara, then know that it is an award-winning wine estate and 5-star hotel billed as being situated in the heart of the Cape Winelands. Breathtaking views, tranquil atmosphere, upmarket service – well you get the picture.

Previously known as Raphael’s (where I previously had enjoyed a lunch), mise en place is the new destination fine dining restaurant at Asara, while the Sansibar is their casual, bistro-style dining option.

However, the spot that we were interested in seeing as we had our two little ones tagging along with us was Asara’s main courtyard and more specifically, the deli that then opens up onto it.

I was super surprised to find the deli stocked with all manner of exciting baked treats, and was even more taken aback at how well priced the finger snacks were – pretty soon we had placed an order for all manner of niceties, before selecting a table outside and then sitting back as our array of treats was brought out to us in a manner which I’m more than happy to dub as being a ‘simple high tea’ experience! ;)

The view from the courtyard is spectacular, the service is top notch, and amazingly, this was such a cool, well priced treat that all three of my girls thoroughly enjoyed!

(In other words, I guess we’ll have to head back that way sometime soon then – though maybe without the girls this time around so that Chantelle and I can give some of their other offerings a proper go…)

As always, a useful map:

Related Link: Asara Wine Estate & Hotel | Facebook

Food and Sculptures at Tokara Delicatessen in Stellenbosch (2016-09-17) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 29 DEC 2016

I used my weekends to visit a LOT of different places this year. One of the more visually interesting outings came about in September, when I took my three girls out for a light lunch at the Tokara Delicatessen, situated on the stunning Tokara Wine and Olive estate at the top of Helshoogte Pass outside Stellenbosch.

Tokara is itself a very upmarket estate, so it is pleasing that the team saw it fit to create a secondary, child friendly venue in the form of the excellent Tokara Delicatessen.

Given the farm’s elevated location, you are afforded stunning views of the surrounding mountains, down into the valley below, and all the way across False Bay for that matter. Both the vineyards and olive groves stretch as far as the eye can see, and picturesque is really the only word that fits the scene as you arrive in Tokara’s parking area.

Tokara is know for four things – its wines (made of grapes from three separate districts – Stellenbosch, Elgin and Hemel-en-Aarde), its range of exquisite olive oils, it’s leading fine dining restaurant, and its extensive collection of art and sculptures.

It is this love of art and sculpture that first greets you as you exit the car, with a wide variety of modern sculpture dotted all around the grounds of the Delicatessen and neighbouring Olive Barn.

Peacocks roam freely and visitors enter the ground with an immediate sense of wonder and awe thanks to the beautiful and visually interesting surroundings.

There is a beautiful deck outside the simple but elegantly designed deli, great for warm sunny days, while the cosy interior with its walls of glass simultaneously makes for the perfect winter venue.

There is a large lawn for kids to run around and play on, with the garden itself also dotted with a host of very interesting sculptures to take in (and in some cases, play on!).

The deli’s food is of course much easier on the wallet than Tokara’s restaurant proper, but pleasingly the deli’s food is just as good, with us thoroughly enjoying what was set down before us on the day.

Naturally, Chantelle was in love with every single aspect of the place, whilst the girls were far more interested in running about outside than sitting inside with boring old mom and dad!

(Obviously I did a lot of strolling about as well, snapping loads of photos and ambling about the openly accessible vineyards and olive groves out back whenever the opportunity arose.)

With lunch done and Chantelle’s interior/product browsing curiosity now sated, the girls and I then trundled down Tokara’s sculpture path, an easy walk through the olive trees and then down the road to Tokara proper, with the route again being dotted all along with some interesting sculptures and pretty flowers to boot.

So in summary: Even if it is just a visit to the kid friendly, more accessible Tokara Delicatessen at Tokara, you can’t help coming away from that place feeling just that little more… sophisticated.

Highly recommended.

Here is a useful map if you wish to explore the exquisite world of Tokara yourself:

Related Link: Tokara Delicatessen | Tokara

Exploring the Lawns of Spier in Stellenbosch (2016-09-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 27 DEC 2016

Back in September Chantelle and I took the girls out for a visit to Eagle Encounters at the world famous Spier Wine Farm. Of course, any visit to the beautiful grounds of Spier is not complete with an amble down its many scenic walkways, admiring the art installations, the gables of the beautiful Cape Dutch architecture, the lush gardens and picnic areas, and of course breathing in that fresh Stellenbosch air. (Wine Tasting is a must as well, but that is often easier when you don’t have little ones darting all about you, excited at the prospect of touching owls and seeing eagles!)

Spier has for years now been one of the leaders (if not THE leader) in the wine estate as a destination tourism industry, and these days are certainly no different.

There is a literal smorgasbord of things to see/do on the wine farm, like tasting wine at their purpose built tasting room, enjoying a picnic on their endless lawns with a picnic basket stocked by the Eight To Go Deli, heading out on one of the many walking tours around the estate, feasting at either Eight or the Hoghouse BBQ & Bakery, shopping at the Craft Market and Gift Shop, relaxing at the Spa, learning about birds of prey at Eagle Encounters, exploring the vineyards on Segways, taking in the Spier Art Collection, or resting your head in one of the lovely rooms of the Spier Hotel.

It is impossible not to spend a lot of time then when at Spier, and so if you have never been there before, then you should know that a visit to the Stellenbosch winelands isn’t quite complete without a visit to the iconic Spier wine farm.

As you would expect from any place established way back in 1692, Spier (one of South Africa’s oldest wine farms by the way) has a fascinating history and a legacy for those interested in that sort of thing to discover.

In terms of architecture, naturally Spier has a lot of fine examples of the iconic Cape Dutch styled houses on display, with a staggering 21 historic gables that can be found on the estate.

As I said, our particular outing on the day was very much centered around our visit to the Owls and Eagles at Eagle Encounter, but we did stroll around the grounds as much as the little ones would allow for, with a stop for a quick lunch at the brilliant Hoghouse BBQ & Bakery.

I would love to explore a lot more, so I reckon a return visit for just Chantelle and myself might soon be in order! ;)

In case you want to go and check it out for yourself, here’s a handy map:

Bonus: Spier published this polished video about the current state of their operation to Youtube in May 2015. Great at summing up the vibe of such a great Stellenbosch space:

Related Link: Spier Wine Farm

Bratwurst from Hoghouse BBQ & Bakery at Spier in Stellenbosch (2016-09-11) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 08 NOV 2016

Based in Ndabeni, Hoghouse Brewing Co. started out as a craft brewery before expanding into artisan bread making and believe it or not, Texan-style smokehouse barbeque food. Following a successful season or two of their popular bakery at the ever beautiful Spier Wine Estate outside Stellenbosch, the Hoghouse BBQ & Bakery is now back bigger and better, with a giant new smoker and a tasty barbeque menu to go along with it!

sdr

Having come to Spier for a bit of bird watching at Eagle Encounters, we decided to give the Hoghouse BBQ & Bakery a go for a lightning quick lunch – and pleasingly, despite the lack of a booking, they were able to help us out with a small table right before the lunch rush began!

sdr

If you are looking for smoked meat decadence, then Hoghouse’s menu certainly doesn’t disappoint, but because we were a  little on the clock, it had to be something small – hence some handmade fries for the girls to nibble on (they were too busy rolling around on Spier’s lawns in any event to even bother with actual food!), a good looking salad for Chantelle, and a bratwurst hotdog of all things for me.

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Mind you, I wasn’t just content with savouring their food alone – no, I also enjoyed one of their signature craft brews which happily turned out to be well worth it in terms of flavour.

dav

The staff were awesome, the vibe really cool, and surrounded by the Cape Dutch architecture and beauty that is Spier’s grounds, pretty much everything now points to the fact that we need to head out that way again for a proper lunch as soon as the chance arises.

After all, have you seen that BBQ listing on their menu!!!

A handy map:

Related Link: Hoghouse BBQ & Bakery | Facebook | Spier Wine Estate