Tag Archives: stellenbosch

Japan Day 2017 at Blaauwklippen Family Market in Stellenbosch (2017-03-12) Markets | Photo Gallery 10 SEP 2017

Back in March of this year, the local Japanese Embassy hosted their fifth annual Japan Day celebrations in the form of a Japanese-themed, entertainment-filled market day in conjunction with the weekly Blaauwklippen Family Market in Stellenbosch (who themselves LOVE hosting themed market days anyway!).

Now we as a family love the Blaauwklippen Market thanks to it being such a great, family friendly affair (besides, Catje’s Pancakes makes hands down, the best pancakes found at any of our local markets!), and so the addition of even more free (and Japanese-themed!) entertainment made it a proper no-brainer to visit on the day.

So that’s exactly what the girls and I then did.

We first kicked things off with a bit of a stroll around the lovely, historic Blaauwklippen Estate, admiring the white Cape Dutch-styled walls (well in truth, only I was admiring, the girls were busy picking up leaves and acorns),  and reveling in the breathtaking mountain views on offer from the estate.

Next we picked our way past the horde of international tourists (there for the wine and not the market), before picking a spot and settling down in front of the main stage.

The event kicked off with some words from the Japanese Ambassador and the KFM DJ hosts, followed by some energetic drumming from the always entertaining Tamashi Daiko taiko drumming troupe.

Following that, we browsed through the entire market, lingering past all the unusual Japanese food and craft exhibition stalls, before stopping for a fair bit in front of the Judo exhibition mat, something Jessica ended up taking quite an interest in!

As expected, we feasted on pancakes, bought some kids story books, and then ended off our market visit with some time spent hanging around the kids play area, with the girls enjoying pony rides and of course a trip on the ever present Blaauwtrein quadbike train ride!

In other words, yet another perfect market day outing.

(Honestly, Blaauwklippen is always nice to visit, regardless of whether you are there for the market or for some wine tasting and fine dining.)

Related Link: Blaauwklippen Family Market | Blaauwklippen Wine Estate | Office of Consul of Japan in Cape Town

Things to See in South Africa: Vergenoegd’s Duck Squad in Stellenbosch Travel Attractions 04 AUG 2017

The Stellenbosch wine estate of Vergenoegd went from being completely unheard of to one of Cape Town’s “must visit” attractions in literally the space of a year and a half, and while a lot of this is of course down to some really good marketing, the lion’s share of kudos has to go to the farm’s unusual, eco-friendly pest control scheme – their duck squad.

Cared for by duck handler Denzel Metthys, around a 1,000 trained Indian Runner ducks are used to control snails and other pests in Vergenoegd’s vineyards.

These ducks, who put on daily parades in front of the manor house, are essentially the wine estate’s superstars, and as such are treated rather well.

As for the wine estate itself, well the team over at Vergenoegd produce some rather nice wines, have a great restaurant operating out of the old manor house, host a couple of events, and nowadays, is home to a popular weekend farmers market.

A team over at Great Big Story put together this great little feature on this feathered story:

Well worth putting on your “things to see” in the Western Cape list.

Related Link: Vergenoegd Wine Estate | YouTube

Lunch at Eaglevlei and Play at Weltevreden in Stellenbosch (2017-03-05) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 30 MAY 2017

One particular Sunday back in March this year, Chantelle and I must REALLY have been in the mood for a proper Sunday afternoon drive, because basically our day ended up looking like this: first food at Eaglevlei and then play at Weltevreden (both in Stellebosch), before moving on to scones at Hillcrest Berry Orchards (just outside Pniel), which in turn was then followed up with a drive through the idyllic Franschhoek and of course a jaunt over the Franschhoek Pass. Next was one quick photo stop at the nearly empty Theewaterskloof Dam, before we rounded off our impromptu trip with a drive through the picturesque Viljoen’s Pass to reach Grabouw – and then straight on to Sir Lowry’s Pass to get back home to our beloved little hometown of Gordon’s Bay!

I started off by mentioning that we first had an early lunch at Eaglevlei Wine Farm, a Stellenbosch situated, wine producing farm that just so happens to also be particularly geared towards tourism – aimed almost specifically, believe it or not, at us locals!

So in addition to their wine tasting facility, Eaglevlei is also home to a large, welcoming restaurant, a pizzeria & beer garden in the form of The Nest, and perhaps most surprising of all, a giant indoor kids play park!

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, they even have their own indoor movie screen, perfect for date nights, or as they call it, Movies in the Vines!

Also, and this is a pro tip mind you – be sure to keep an eye out for a very vicious little step leading down to the kids play park. Nearly did a very impromptu tuck & roll manoeuvre myself in case you’re wondering…

Lunch at Eaglevlei was pretty good, but because we didn’t particularly feel like sitting inside watching the kids play, we decided to head back towards Stellenbosch for a cup of coffee at Weltevreden Estate, another great option for couples with kids thanks to their awesome Kids Carnival (and little more upmarket Lekke Neh) space.

So that is exactly what we did (though, only after first stopping to buy some of Eaglevlei’s rather enjoyable wine).

Naturally, and as always I guess, the kids had a ball.

So, just in case you want to check them out for yourself, first a map of Eaglevlei:

Followed by a map of Weltevreden:

And there you have it – Two rather enjoyable family-friendly outing options in Stellenbosch then!

Related Link: Eaglevlei Wine Farm | Weltevreden Estate

Indian Runner Ducks and a Market at Vergenoegd in Stellenbosch (2016-10-15) Markets | Photo Gallery 22 APR 2017

Following some delightful deli delicacies from the upmarket Asara boutique hotel outside Stellenbosch one early Saturday morning in October last year (the original plan had been to pick strawberries at Polkadraai Farm down the road in case you are wondering), we next popped our heads in at nearby Vredenheim – where we promptly decided to much rather head further down the road to visit the newly revamped Vergenoegd Wine Estate for the first time – and man are we glad that we did!

Despite being the third oldest wine farm in the Cape (having been established way, way back in 1773), Vergenoegd has never really been a part of Stellenbosch’s famed (and super lucrative) wine route tourism market – a fact that has only now recently been rectified, following a change of ownership in 2015.

The new owners have done an amazing job of renovating and breathing new life into this grand old dame of a wine farm, allowing for Vergenoegd to very much become the new Stellenbosch destination darling that everyone seems to currently be talking about!

(Seriously, whomever is handling their marketing needs a massive raise. That team is doing a brilliant job of putting Vergenoegd very firmly on Stellenbosch’s tourism map!)

Front and center in terms of popular attractions is of course their amazingly well trained herd of Indian Runner ducks, tasked with keeping the vineyards snail and bug free.

The famous duck parade (the girls LOVED it!) is of course a massive hit with the kids, and in fact, has done so well for Vergenoegd that they now even host full on, informative duck tours!

In terms of dining offerings, they have a lovely restaurant area in front of the manor house, as well as a range of artisan picnic options to choose from.

Then of course there is the wine tasting covering their various well made wines, and even more interestingly, a range of interactive wine, olive oil, tea and coffee blending experiences that teaches you about the source and technique behind some of the Cape’s best food and drink products.

Naturally, as just about every other place in the winelands is doing these days, Vergenoegd is also home to its very own Saturday farmer’s market, with both adults and kids well catered for.

Given the market’s runaway success, the team has now further expanded on the this experience by hosting live music events, bringing in some surprisingly popular local musicians in the process!

(Oh, and they also have a weekly, family friendly fun run/walk through the vineyards.)

In other words, it is really, really hard not to like this place.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, we kind of just wandered onto the estate without knowing anything about it other than there was a pretty cool duck parade to be seen. The market was certainly a pleasant (and welcome!) surprise, and we ended up having a great afternoon out there on the day, soaking up the vibe and enjoying the live music.

As always, I snapped a few pictures which does nothing to do the place any sort of real justice, but serves well enough to give a decent idea of what you can expect to find any given Saturday afternoon at Vergenoegd:

In summary: The little ones are of course guaranteed to get a kick out of the ducks, but that said, the restaurant location is fantastic, not to mention the new market. Well worth a weekend outing then.

Related Link: Vergenoegd Wine Estate

Picking Strawberries at Polkadraai Farm in Stellenbosch (2016-10-20) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 21 APR 2017

When September rolls around this year, the super popular Polkadraai Farm will once again throw open its doors – and if you have kids then you pretty much automatically have a new excursion option added to the always burgeoning Cape Town weekend to-do list.

Chantelle and I took the girls to the famous Stellenbosch based Polkadraai strawberry farm last year October, though we abandoned our first attempt at a visit thanks to the flood of people picking strawberries on a Saturday afternoon, turning around and settling for snacking at nearby Asara’s fabulous deli instead. (We also then stopped in at the excellent Vergenoed market to watch the now famous duck parade! More on that later.)

Anyway, a couple of days later, we tried again, this time heading out to farmland Stellenbosch mid-week, a ploy that worked perfectly as there was almost no one else in the strawberry field when we arrived!

The process is simple. Enter the wonderfully colourful and inviting little shop at the start, purchase some buckets, listen to the handful of picking guidelines, and then head out into the field and pick some strawberries.

(Tip: This is one of those more unusual instances where you pay for the container and not by weight of fruit picked, meaning that your picking is dictated entirely by how many containers you choose to buy up front. Or rather, on how many containers your kids force you to take!)

The fields are dotted with loads of funky (or as I would put it, disheveled) scarecrows, and with the strawberries being grown on straight, elevated strips, strawberry picking is pretty easy going – though I must say that I was rather surprised at just how much and how quickly both Emily and Jessica seemed to get into it.

The strawberries themselves are of course delicious and, important to note, the filling of the buckets happens rather quickly if you don’t make a concerted effort to take more… leisurely strolls down the picking line.

Pleasingly, Polkadraai Farm seems to have recognised its role as such a popular family friendly excursion destination, and as such has made quite a nice effort to try and expand on the outing experience by building a putt putt (mini golf) course (love the tongue in cheek name – The Polkadraai Country Club!), a food court, installing a big playground area, and offering the always popular pony and tractor rides.

In other words, it really is a family outing that is hard to knock. No wonder it is such a popular attraction come season then!

So yes, the girls thoroughly enjoyed themselves – as did we – which I guess then means that this season we had better make another stop (or two) there.

And yes. As you may have suspected, I took plenty of pictures on the day!

In summary: If you can get there at a time during season when the place isn’t overrun, then your kids are probably going to have a ball.

Related Link: Polkadraai Strawberry Farm

Scones, Cream and Jam at Hillcrest Berry Orchards in Stellenbosch (2017-03-05) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 09 APR 2017

As you drive through the Banhoek Valley on your way to Franschhoek, just before Pniel you’ll encounter an insignificant little entrance marked with a small signboard for Hillcrest Berry Orchards.

This so happens to be an old favourite of Chantelle’s, and we are almost always guaranteed to pull over for a quick coffee stop every time we find ourselves driving along this particular route!

Hillcrest Berry Orchards is as the name suggests, a farm known for growing a lot of varied, good quality berries. They are perhaps even more known for the wonderful jams that they produce from all these berries, though we know them almost exclusively for their wonderful little restaurant and tea garden setup – with the tables along the porch giving one an absolutely stunning view across the beautiful Banhoek Valley landscape.

The scones there are particular favourites of ours, though you must be sure to select the option with the Devonshire clotted cream! It is always great fun selecting something new to try among their large selection of jams, and from the look of things, our girls might be growing up to appreciate the scones too!

This particular outing happened as part of a fairly lengthy early March Sunday afternoon drive for the four of us  – first lunch at Eaglevlei outside Stellenbosch, then play time at The Carnival on the Weltevreden Estate, followed by a drive through Franschhoek, over the pass and on to Theewaterskloof Dam, before heading through the picturesque Viljoen’s pass to reach Grabouw, before finally shooting back home via Sir Lowry’s Pass!

(No sir, no messing about for us when it comes to lazy Sunday afternoon drives! :P)

Anyway, it really is a lovely little late afternoon spot to stop for coffee, well made scones and some particularly delicious jams.

Related Link: Hillcrest Berry Orchards | Facebook

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