Tag Archives: stellenbosch

Strawberry Picking in the Sun at Polkadraai Farm in Stellenbosch (2019-12-22) Family Attractions | Photo Gallery 01 APR 2020

Of course strawberry picking season rolled around again and of course the girls and I headed out to our favourite strawberry picking spot, the super visitor friendly Polkadraai Farm lying just outside the town of Stellenbosch. This time around though we didn’t make the mistake of going to pick too early in the season, meaning that bringing home buckets of juicy red strawberries was a lot easier than the previous year’s excursion!

Polkadraai Farm has an expansive strawberry growing operation and its years’ worth of experience and experimentation with different strawberry varietals means that they are pretty much able to supply strawberries all year around. Picking season for the public however is only open during the months of September to January, and given the lengths that the farm has gone to in order to make this outing a proper family attraction, it attracts an ever increasing, huge number of local visitors with each and every passing season.

Because the actual picking of strawberries doesn’t take much more than 20 to 30 minutes, Polkadraai encourages longer family visits by having added tractor rides, pony rides, a mini golf putt putt course, two kids playground areas, two big stretches of lawn, and a food court – not to mention their well stocked shop that features all manner of strawberries and strawberry-related products (as well as a decent selection of local wines).

As for the strawberry picking itself, you head inside the shop on arrival, buy as many buckets as what you are people going into the strawberry fields, and then head out and fill the buckets with juicy red strawberries until they are filled to the brim. Pretty simple stuff.

This year the strawberry picking patch we were directed to was on the upper slopes of the farm (under the shade tunnels) which came as a bit of an unwelcome shock to my two girls who really weren’t in the mood to first walk up a hill in the blazing December summer sun that we found ourselves sweating under on the day.

Nevertheless, I managed to cajole them up the hill and into the plantation mounds, and despite all the sporadic groaning I think that overall fun was had by all. Not that it really matters though – the treasure trove of strawberries we returned home with were seriously delicious!

Terrance and Joanne get Married at Nooitgedacht Estate in Stellenbosch (2020-01-25) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 05 MAR 2020

Our group is all at that age where one doesn’t really get invited to weddings any more – at this stage pretty much all of the friends circle is married off and all our kids are still very young – so it generated much excitement when we got word that good friends Terrance and Joanne were going to be holding a second wedding out here in South Africa – having just recently tied the knot back home in China.

The venue selected for the big event was the historic and beautiful grounds of Nooitgedacht, a wine estate just outside of Stellenbosch. Although the venue does have a chapel available should the weather not play along, given our sunny Summer skies the decision was made to have the ceremony outside under the shade provided by the lane of magnificent oak trees that run down in front of the classic Cape Dutch style manor house.

With a large contingent of friends and family following Joanne over from China, and a select group of Terrance’s family, friends and old colleagues from South Africa, we gathered along the lane to watch the two make new vows and put on their rings, before grabbing some petals and getting the celebration started!

Naturally, many photos first needed to be taken, and as such the guest contingent were ushered out onto the massive lawns for a most delectable country table spread (so, so much good stuff!) and a selection of fine estate wines. The musician providing the live entertainment was excellent, and I have it on good authority that he made quite a few of the ladies present swoon in the process!

Of course, the reception had to happen eventually, and so Ryan and Trish (best man and master of ceremonies respectfully) managed to successfully herd the South African and Chinese contingents into Nooitgedacht’s original cellar venue which had been transformed into a botanical and fairy light wonderland delight.

Speeches were made, chuckles had, champagne poured, and the most delicious of meals tucked into, before the dance floor was opened and the party got started. Chantelle’s Helderberg Cake Company had been contracted in to making the big wedding cake for the celebration and her elegantly simple penguin topped three tier masterpiece (Joanne and Terrance bonded over their love of books, therefore the Penguin Random House reference) certainly drew a lot of attention!

Because Terrance and Joanne had graciously given us one of the leftover rooms that they had at the venue, I have to admit to having really gone all out in enjoying myself at this celebration of one of my oldest friend’s (whom I’ve known since we were children) newfound joy. A lot of wine was inbibed, shooters downed, and ill-advised dance moves on the dance floor undertaken. Frankly put, I had a hell of a lot of fun.

I drank and danced right up until the music was turned off, the lights switched off, and the bar doors closed, after which Chantelle and I helped Joanne drag Terrance back to their manor house room, where we stayed for some tea and talk, before eventually crawling back into our own beds in the early hours of the next morning.

And then we woke up to light rain and a slightly disorganized breakfast get together in the manor house.

Eagles and Owls at Eagle Encounters in Stellenbosch (2019-05-18) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 25 FEB 2020

Home to eagles, owls, vultures and just about every other raptor that you can think of, Eagle Encounters is a long running wildlife rehabilitation, conservation, education and eco-tourism centre based at the historic Spier wine farm in Stellenbosch. Easily one of Jessica’s favourite animal attractions to visit, Eagle Encounters is the place to go if you want to have a closer look at some remarkable South African birds of prey.

Founded as a non-profit organization by Hank and Tracy Chalmers back in 2001, the self-funded Eagle Encounters is home to a large contingent of raptors, most of which are either injured or were hand-raised, thus making it impossible to be safely returned to the wild.

Visiting their site is something I always return with slightly mixed feelings about, primarily because I am not a particularly huge fan of aviaries (unless they are massive free flight operations of course), but it should be noted that the excellent team continuously evaluate and update their facilities to keep in step with the latest global conservation practices, meaning that just about every time I visit they’re doing something in a slightly new (better) way.

While there is an impressively large collection of birds of prey to make your way through, it is always the interactive attractions which the girls love most, like getting up close to the diminutive Scops owls, touching and talking to the pretty Barn and Wood owls, and holding up the big Spotted Eagle owls.

The touching and handling of various snakes, lizards and dragons is always a hit, the woolly sheep and his grumpy goat partner that guard the small kids play area always entertain, and the snake striking hunt of the secretary bird always catches the eye.

Then there are the playful cape foxes to observe, buzzards, falcons, hawks, vultures and eagles to admire from up close, and of course the brilliantly entertaining (and educational) flying displays to marvel at.

With three flight displays throughout the day, the enthusiastic team of bird handlers show off their charges’ flying, hunting and other behavioural quirks, all while doing their bit in educating visitors all about these majestic birds of prey.

It’s a brilliantly educational visit for both young and old alike, and one always comes back having learned more than just a thing or two about these remarkable birds that we share our open spaces with.

And as an added bonus (just in case all of the above wasn’t enough), your are of course on the beautiful, tourist friendly, art filled, historic beauty that is Spier wine estate. So no real reason not to visit then, is there?

Cotton Candy Cuties at ROOT 44 Market in Stellenbosch (2019-07-21) Markets | Photo Gallery 15 FEB 2020

So I had successfully managed to convince the girls (my Jessica and Emily plus one Cara) to come out with me for a healthy late afternoon walk in Somerset West’s Radloff Park – the only catch being of course that they TOTALLY expected a reward for having agreed to the outing in the first place!

The walk was lots of fun (primarily because the numerous dogs being walked around Radloff at any point in time always give my girls a big entertaining fright), but with that now done and dusted it was time to pony up with a reward – so I decided to take a drive down the road to Stellenbosch for some pancakes and cotton candy at the Root44 Market.

The Stellenbosch/Somerset West area is blessed with a number of amazing family friendly market experiences, from the likes of the exceptional Lourensford Market, the Oude Libertas Slow Market, the Blaauwklippen Family Market and of course the aforementioned Root44 Market, a market that we have certainly visited more than just a few times in the past.

Situated on the Audacia Wines estate (right next to the big Mooiberge strawberry farm with all its crazy colourful scarecrows), Root44 is a sprawling market space with its ample food and craft traders operating out of big sturdy marquee tents, absolute loads of seating for visitors (both covered and uncovered), space for the kids to get rid of their energy, constant live music to entertain, seemingly endless wine and beer options, and of course the constant energy and buzz of what is basically a never ending crowd of excited patrons.

It’s an incredibly busy market with just about something for everyone and of course the incredibly stunning mountain and vineyard backdrop that is the hallmark of any Stellenbosch winelands experience.

As for our visit, I managed to successfully browse through everything without losing a single child, indulge in pancakes, samoosas, springrolls and all manner of other little spicy bites, entangle the girls in seemingly endless cotton candy (so, so sticky), and then watch them attempt to climb the nearby trees.

A Mont Marie Anniversary in Stellenbosch (2019-11-08) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 10 FEB 2020

So I didn’t quite manage to get back from the USA in time to celebrate our big 10 year wedding anniversary with Chantelle (back in November last year), but to be fair I did only miss it by a single day – so hopefully not all marriage brownie points are completely lost.

Making the most of my unfortunate scheduling mishap and the onset of a very busy baking weekend for Chantelle and her Helderberg Cake Company endeavour, we decided utilize the lone Friday afternoon available to us by celebrating with a romantic lunch out in the Stellenbosch winelands.

Chantelle suggested that we head out to Mont Marie, a simple but elegant restaurant tucked away on the slopes of the Blaauwklippen Valley that prides itself on its ethos of family friendly casual gourmet dining.

Sitting on the outside deck, taking in the view over the rolling green fields, the dam, and the mountains, we tucked into the most succulent of mains, downed a bottle of excellent vino and then rounded it off with the most decadent of chocolate desserts.

Exceptionally good food, cute curious ducks, the tranquility of the setting, the slight buzz of happy patrons all around, and of course the view itself, all blended together to make for a wonderful lunch experience with this most amazing woman that I’ve been blessed to call my wife for an entire decade now.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

Winelands Markets fun at Blaauwklippen in Stellenbosch (2019-11-10) Markets | Photo Gallery 10 JAN 2020

It’s all a little confusing really, but for all intents and purposes the famous Blaauwklippen Family Market (which has been running since 2011) doesn’t exist any more – except that it is still very much thriving if you rock up at the beautiful Blaauwklippen wine estate on a Sunday. So what gives?

Well the organisers behind the super successful market have decided to flex their market organizing wings a bit and as such having a name that ties them to a single estate is a bit limiting – hence the birth of Winelands Markets. (Not the most distinct of company names to run a web search against to be honest!)

Anyway, as part of this process they dropped the whole Blaauwklippen Family Market moniker, the signage has all come down, and instead their most famous creation now operates under the name of Winelands Markets at Blaauwklippen, with I suppose the idea being that they can substitute the @ part of the name with each new venue that comes aboard.

Naming shenanigans aside though, the lush green, family-orientated, pet-friendly market still makes for one of the best lazy Sunday afternoons out and about, with plenty of vibe, delicious food and drink options, and interesting crafters offering up all manner of wares for your perusal.

Mind you, on this particular visit both Chantelle and I thought that the number of stalls is now markedly less than what we remember (bear in mind that we did take a year long break from markets), and the market area itself is definitely looking a little more tired than what it used to – but so long as Catje’s and their delicious pancakes remain onboard, we’ll be okay! ;)

A Stroll through Jan Marais Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch (2019-03-31) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 25 OCT 2019

I’m quite fond of the extremely accessible Jan Marais Nature Reserve in Stellenbosch. Situated within the town itself, the park is compact, has well marked out paths, gives gorgeous distant views of the Stellenbosch mountains, and really is a breath of fresh air and tranquility for any nature lovers out there.

This particular trip to Jan Marais saw me riding solo, with Chantelle busy with cakes/and or relaxing on the couch, and neither of my girls wishing to abandon playing with their friends in order to join me for a healthy walk. Not that this bothered me in the slightest though – the perfect opportunity then to take my time, first stopping to do some plane spotting at the Stellenbosch Flying Club, then tracking down the sports club and Danie ‘Doc’ Craven bronze statue that I remembered from my twenties, before finally setting out to explore the little nature reserve at my own gentle pace.

There is public art to behold, renosterveld fynbos to experience, a kids play area (which for a change I didn’t have to stop at), an outdoor gym for the eager beavers, enough space for both cyclists and walkers to enjoy at the same time, and it always makes for a great photo walk.

Perfect really.

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Flowers of the Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden (2018-09-15) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 01 SEP 2019

Located in the historical center of Stellenbosch, the Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden is the oldest university botanical garden in South Africa. While the garden itself is relatively small, it houses an incredible diversity of plants both indigenous and introduced, and is an absolute MUST for anyone even vaguely interested in plant life!

Open to the public, for a negligible entrance fee you can leisurely stroll around the grounds moving from one beautifully arranged collection to the next, picking your way through the bonsai, fern, insectivorous plant, medicinal plant, oxalis, succulent and xerophyte plant collections, all the while taking in the vast array of rare, threatened, endangered, and even extinct Cape Floral Kingdom species around you.

And then there are the trees, including giant sequoia (the biggest tree species on earth), dawn redwood (thought to be extinct until 1948), California redwood (the tallest tree species on earth), and even olive trees grown from cuttings from the Garden of Gehsemane!

It is a lush, dizzying collection of the most wonderful plants, in a well cared for environment that is scattered with benches, fountains, sculptures and other pieces of historical interest. (And the occasional student frantically scribbling notes).

Also, if you just want to sit, drink a cup of coffee and take in all this verdant green nature around you, then the onsite Katjiepiering Restaurant has you covered. Honestly, what more could you ask for?

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Sculptures and Selfies at Tokara Delicatessen in Stellenbosch (2018-12-08) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 24 JUL 2019

I love the fact that Tokara with its wonderful wines, olive oils and exquisite restaurant, also has the more casual, equally as beautiful, Tokara Delicatessen on the estate, opening the beautiful art, landscape and food experience to an even broader range of people.

This particular visit saw us meeting up with Retha and Miguel who were down in the country for a bit of a visit, but seeing as the girls and I had arrived a little earlier than everyone else (Chantelle was out delivering a cake on the day if I remember right), we had a bit of extra time for strolling around the vineyards and orchards to admire all the sculptures and scenic beauty on display.

And after a light lunch? Well it was time for some silly selfies of course!

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