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.
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(Honestly, Blaauwklippen is always nice to visit, regardless of whether you are there for the market or for some wine tasting and fine dining.)
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.
Forged in the 2000’s and named after the mountain whose western slope is home to many of their vineyards, Tulbagh’s award winning Saronsberg, despite the farm itself’s deep historic roots, is actually a relatively new wine producer, having only produced its first vintage back in 2004.
Saronsberg Wine Cellar is known as a patron of the arts, and as such have married their wine tasting facilities with an unique art gallery, showcasing the work of a broad spectrum of famous and proudly South African artists.
I’m particularly fond of Angus Taylor’s work, and his hauntingly beautiful “From Earth From Water” (more commonly known as Lady of the Lake) sculpture serves as Saronsberg’s official mascot.
In addition to the actual wine (and nowadays olive oil) production, Saronsberg caters as a superb conference venue, and if that wasn’t enough, accommodation in the form of elegant self-catering vineyard cottages is also on the books.
As for the wine, well two of Saronsberg’s red wines stand at the top of SAWi’s (The South African Wine Index) scored list, meaning that you are guaranteed to taste something remarkable if you ever find yourself in the area.
Which is exactly what happened when Chantelle and I paid a visit to their wonderfully modern wine cellar facilities last December.
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A perfect marriage of wine and art.
(Hint: Angus Taylor’s “Conduit” stone man is a good indication that you’ve successfully navigated your way to Saronsberg!)
Related Link: Saronsberg Wine Cellar
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…
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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).
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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!
Last year December saw Chantelle and I break away from the kids for a weekend in Tulbagh. There was of course a lot of wine tasting, eating and sightseeing, and for the drive home, we opted for the long way around, going via Bainskloof Pass and through Wellington – mostly because we REALLY wanted to stop and taste wines at the famed Val Du Charron Wine and Olive Estate.
Originally proclaimed in 1699, the working farm of Val Du Charron is currently a darling of Wellington tourism, with its offerings including both 5 star and 4 star accommodation options, a spa, wine tasting, wine and olive production, and two eating options, the first in the form of The Local Grill, and the second a new family friendly pizza-centric offering known as Piza e Vino.
Lying on the slopes of the Bovlei valley, the historic Cape Dutch architecture of the estate is framed with beautiful views of both the Groenberg and Hawequa mountains, and on this particularly hot, windless Summer’s day, we were treated to cloudless bright blue sky as far as one could see.
The wine tasting took place in a small intimate little wine tasting room, where our host took us through some of Val du Charron’s amazing wines and their associated tales – with their Black Countess sticking particularly favourably in my memory.
For lunch we opted for the busy Piza e Vino, choosing to escape the blistering heat by sitting inside the cool restaurant building as opposed to all the families clustered under the umbrellas while the kids enjoyed the water play area outside. (A sacrifice of view I know, but man, you wouldn’t believe how hot it was on the day!)
Pleasingly, the pizza was pretty damn good. (No wonder the restaurant was as busy as it seemed!)
So. Art, food, drink and a view – what more could one ask for?
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Val Du Charron is a particularly beautiful space with a lot of history mixed in with plenty of modern touches, making for a very definite stop if you ever find yourself being a tourist (wine drinking or not) in the area!
Last year we were away from home for at least one weekend every month. This year we’re doing it a little different, and rather going away for one big July holiday instead. However, all that this then means is that we now get to go on a LOT more local adventures every weekend instead!
(Plus, now with Chantelle no longer working at the guest house in favour of doing her own cake-related thing full-time again, there are plenty of great spots that the girls and I need to first show her around anyway!)
Not that the excellent Lourensford Market is one of those mind you. No, as we’ve already previously established, this particular Somerset West market held on the grounds of the venerable Lourensford Wine Estate is definitely one of her firm favourites when it comes to the farmer’s market scene.
On this particular day, the market as always was buzzing and busy, so the Lotter girls and I found a nice space on the soft grass banks around the water fountain, where we then took turns fetch and devouring all sorts of food whilst watching Emily and Jessica have a ball in rolling down the surrounding grass mounds.
For some or other reason, Chantelle chose to tuck in (and enjoy) this monstrosity that is apparently a bunless vegetable burger, while I far more sensibly stuck to some Mediterranean ostrich dish.
I didn’t particularly feel like taking lots of photos on the day, so I didn’t, snapping only a few quick ones so that you can get a feel for what the market was like on this particularly pleasant, sunny and windless Sunday afternoon:
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I’ve said it before, and it is worth saying again – the Lourensford Market is definitely one of those markets worth going to, even if you’re only going for the incredible setting!
Also, in case you are keen and in the area, Lourensford Market also hosts twilight market events which are pretty cool and well worth coming out for if the weather holds up. The next two of these night markets are on the 5th and 19th of May respectively, so you may as well start planning already…
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:
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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
Having tasted wine at both Rickety Bridge and Grande Provence, and lunched at Le Petite Dauphine’s Cafe BonBon, next on our wine tram experience was a wine tasting at La Bourgogne wine farm, itself a subdivision of the farm Bourgogne which was among the first Huguenot farms, proclaimed way back in 1694!
Shaded by 150 year old oaks, the farm house at La Bourgogne is the heart of this working farm which today produces quality wines, export quality plums and pears, and some rather good olive oils to boot.
It also boasts a couple of rather fine, secluded riverside cottages.
We were there of course to taste some wine, but to be honest, most of us were already pretty much done with wine for the day, which is probably why Chantelle immediately settled for a dessert, while Monty opted to try some olives.
So we sat and enjoyed some wine, olives and cake, overlooking the lush green, rolling lawns behind the tasting room, surrounded by vineyards, accompanied by the local St. Bernard dog, observed by passing horse riders, and completely satisfied in the tranquility of the surroundings.
So yes, it was rather nice.
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At this point then, everyone pretty much agreed that the day had now drawn to a close. The wine had been good, the company great, and besides, it was still a long drive back home for everyone involved!
The third stop on October last year’s fabulous Franschhoek Wine Tram excursion (having had already tasted plenty of wine at both Rickety Bridge and Grande Provence) was La Petite Dauphine, an estate that bills itself as a guest farm – which translates then essentially to superb accommodation nestled on a historic working fruit farm, with a particularly good wine collection and some fine dining options to boot.
After hopping off the Wine Tram bus, we made a beeline straight to Café BonBon, the main restaurant at La Petite Dauphine to make good on the lunch reservation that Chantelle had earlier organized for our group.
Although you can dine in the 200 years old, restored wine cellar, we instead opted to take full advantage of the amazing weather and sat at a large table outside, where we set about investigating the mouthwatering lunch options on the menu.
Naturally, wine was ordered, conversation flowed, and mouths salivated at the food eventually placed down before us.
Surrounded by large oak trees all around, the setting is one of serenity and tranquility, and once combined with the excellent food on offer, the experience is definitely one to savour!
So yes, definitely a contender if you are looking to stop for lunch whilst on the wine tram route then.
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Next stop for us on the day though? A final tasting at La Bourgogne!