Category Archives: My Life

Exploring all the way to Chapter 4 Eatery outside Stellenbosch (2020-08-29) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 13 DEC 2020

The Western Cape experienced some truly cold weather this winter, enough to spark snowfall on most of our higher peaks, which of course then meant lots of chasing about to view this wonderful and relatively rare occurrence for a territory not exactly used to receiving snow. As it stood, even our lowly peaks of the surrounding Helderberg mountains managed to get a bit of icing sugar on the top of their heads and so into the car Chantelle, the girls and I clambered to see if we could get a slightly better Helderberg view.

This particular sightseeing trip saw us first head out to Sir Lowry’s Pass Village and up to Knorhoek Estate, taking the steep road right up to Da Capo Vineyards and the beautiful Idiom Winery and Restaurant on the slopes of the Helderberg range. (The view of course was stunning, and if we didn’t have the girls with us in the car, we probably would have indulged in some wine tasting at their majestic tasting centre.)

Oh well. Down the mountain we came and back in Somerset West, we pulled over on Reservoir Road to take in the stunning view of the white frosted peaks. And also the mom who was diligently taking photos of her daughter doing ballet photos with the mountains as a backdrop. Clearly we are not ‘influencer’ enough!

From there I sought out a new place that I had caught wind of via Google Maps, a small green cluster in the heart of Somerset West referred to as Silver Tree Gorge (or Silwerboomkloof). As it turns out, Silver Tree Gorge is a small protected valley that is home to a forest of rare Silvertree, the silver-coloured tree member of the Protea family that is actually indigenous to the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. This clump, far removed from its normal habitat is somewhat of an anomaly, so it was kind of cool to stumble upon.

By this stage the girls were moaning about being hungry, so after a nice drive around the idyllic Spanish Farm suburb of Somerset West, I set course to the Cape Garden centre outside Stellenbosch, more specifically to a small little eatery called Chapter 4 Eatery – opened by the former owner of our once beloved Mondeor Garden Kitchen.

This little jaunt to the nursery for pizza and milkshakes was actually our very first restaurant visit following the big Covid-19 lockdown, but it was exactly what we needed. Super quiet, lots of space, and a little bit of outdoor fun equipment for Jessica and Emily to stretch their limbs out on. Nice.

A Year of Beach Walks in Strand (2019-12-31) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 11 DEC 2020

Catching up with another trove of files for safekeeping from the “Unposted Photos” folder on my laptop – this is a whole lot of images of Strand beach taken during walks/visits in 2019. Five kilometres of white sandy beach overlooking False Bay, one of the safest swimming beaches in Cape Town, surfing, kiteboarding, water slides and a tidal pool, and some pretty impressive buildings dotted along a beautifully renewed promenade.

There’s a river estuary, a protected marine area, good fishing, a lifesaving club, gorgeous sunsets, and soft serve ice cream. Lots of soft serve ice cream. What can I say, it’s a great beach to live close to!

USA 2019 – 07 Fuel Pizza and Wings at 600 F St NW in Washington DC (2019-10-25) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 10 DEC 2020

So after a very successful day of on foot architecture, memorials and sculptures sightseeing for my first day in Washington DC, my now very tired feet were urging me to pick my way back to the hotel, but more importantly before that, find something to eat considering the fact that I hadn’t eaten the entire day – and for my first night in Washington DC I knew very much exactly what I wanted: America-style pizza!

So I slowly worked my way up along 6th St NW and just before I reached the Capitol One Arena (which was a hive of bustling, hay-fuelled horsey activity thanks to the grand Washington International Horse Show about to kick off – which unfortunately I wasn’t able to secure tickets for), I bumped into something looking particularly promising tucked away on the bottom floor of a very interesting looking building marked as the former Oriental Building Association headquarters – Fuel.

Fuel Pizza & Wings as it turns out is a small franchise that started up in 1998 by a couple of New Yorkers who found themselves living in Charlotte but in need of some really good New York-style pizza. They eventually found the perfect location to start in an old funky 1930’s gas station and fast forward 20 years, the team now have four locations scattered around Charlotte and two in Washington DC – one of which I had now perchance stumbled upon.

This particular Fuel eatery is themed around the 1930’s racing circuit and goes for a relatively industrial, minimalistic feel to it. Aesthetics, bar, and wings offerings aside, pizza is what I was there for and thankfully Fuel delivered exactly what I wanted. By the slice, cheese dripping, crispy thin based pizza heaven. It sounds stupid of course because we have plenty of good pizza options back home in South Africa, but admittedly there is something a little different about how the American ingredients influence the final product.

Pizza and Baboons at Something Els in Rooi Els (2020-11-08) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 08 DEC 2020

Last month Chantelle and her The Helderberg Cake Company venture had as her last bake for the weekend a Sunday delivery out in Betty’s Bay, and so to combine wanting to get out of the house and grabbing a spot of brunch at the same time, we all piled into the car and drove off over the beautiful Clarence Drive coastal road, picking our way along the mountain slopes and the sea in what can only be described as some rather overcast weather.

Betty’s Bay and her dirt roads were of course thus a mud and puddle heaven, and not wanting to take a chance of sinking our car into a particularly deep hole, Emily was employed as official puddle depth tester (she being the only one wearing gumboots on the day), meaning any overly large puddle we weren’t sure of, she would have to jump out and go walk through the water. Genius use of child labour I tell you!

Delivery done and now on the way back, I wildly gesticulated at Chantelle that she pull over just outside of Pringle Bay, for I had spotted a magnificently gushing waterfall a little ways off the road. As luck would have it, there was in fact a small road that got us relatively close enough to admire the waterworks and well as the beautiful fynbos flowers that were so prettily framing this majestic Kogelberg Biosphere scene.

From there we rolled into Rooi Els, a perennial favourite of mine, pulling up at Something Els, an eatery and more interestingly, a botanical bar. Now I’m not entirely sure what they mean by “Botanical Bar”, but seeing as this is the Western Cape it is probably something to do with fynbos infused gin. (Seriously, you can’t move more than a few metres around Cape Town without tripping over some or other brand/style of gin these days!)

Not that it mattered though. We were there for food and to chill, and so a combination of pizzas and breakfast options were devoured, games of noughts and crosses were played, rain and grey sky atmosphere soaked up, and as if that wasn’t entertainment enough, one of the local baboons entered the restaurant much to the giddy excitement of the girls and of course, consternation of the staff. (No damage done, he didn’t get away with anything, and now Chantelle’s car has a furry baboon butt imprint on it).

USA 2019 – 06 The World War II Memorial in Washington DC (2019-10-25) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 DEC 2020

At the opposite end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, on the site where once stood the Rainbow Pool, now sits the World War II Memorial, a memorial of national significance that serves to honor Americans who served in the armed forces and who survived World War II. Opened by George W. Bush in 2004, this compact and open memorial sits in a relatively central space on the National Mall and offers yet another space for self-reflection and remembrance among all the surrounding tourist bustle.

The memorial consists of 56 granite pillars arranged in a semicircle around a plaza, with each pillar inscribed with the name of one of the 48 U.S. states of 1945, as well as the District of Columbia, the Alaska Territory and Territory of Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are two large arches at either end of the plaza, the northern arch inscribed with “Atlantic” and the southern one with “Pacific”, with the plaza itself giving way to a fountain lined pool. The walls include many reliefs of war-related scenes, as well as numerous historical quotes taken from the period. (Interestingly, the memorial also includes two inconspicuously located “Kilroy was here” engravings, acknowledging their symbolic role played among American troops).

On the west side of the plaza is the Freedom Wall, a block of granite set with 4084 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war, and with an inscription that reads “Here we mark the price of freedom”. Given its sunken level and central position, the memorial allows for views of both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, whilst the ever moving water creates a space to sit down and quietly reflect on these terrible events that forever stained human history.

The World War II Memorial is by no means a grandiose memorial nor one that screams its ideals at you, but as with the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial it does the job of making you think about and to remember this period in the hopes that it never need be repeated.

A Featherbed Co Three Legs Rivercat Cruise on the Knysna Lagoon (2020-01-08) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 03 DEC 2020

With neither Chantelle nor myself being ‘boat’ people (despite living in a small harbour-rich coastal town like Gordon’s Bay), we don’t exactly ever get around to taking the girls out for an ‘on the water’ adventure – something we thought that maybe we should address come the last December school holiday break. After all, with us soaking up the Summer sun in Mossel Bay, the still blue waters of the Knysna Lagoon were certainly within driving reach!

The famous Knysna Lagoon is of course more accurately a big estuary, taking in water from five fresh water rivers flowing out from the surrounding Outeniqua Mountains, which it then lets out into the Indian Ocean through its iconic twin sandstone headland cliffs, the Knysna Heads. This large, calm body of water makes for a truly sheltered space (the massive number of leisure craft, yachts and even houseboats easily attests to this), though journeying through to the rough sea on the other end is of course a whole different story.

One of the heads is taken up by the privately owned Featherbed Nature Reserve (a registered nature reserve and coincidently a South African Heritage Site), which in turn is managed by the for profit Featherbed Co., which over the years have expanded their operations and turned the Featherbed Nature Reserve as one of the must do Knysna tourist attractions.

To reach the nature reserve (where they conduct tours and have built an incredibly inviting restaurant area), you can take any one of their boat options (which generally also offer cruise to nowhere and onboard dining options), the likes of which include the very special Paddle Cruiser (not a type of boat commonly seen in South Africa anymore), the famous John Benn yellowwood ferry, the Heads Explorer luxury catamaran yacht, and the cheeky Three Legs Rivercat open ferry.

We opted to take the girls for a cruise aboard the Three Legs Rivercat over to the heads, and after killing some time at the very inviting Knysna Quays Waterfront area, we shuffled over to Featherbed Co’s base of operations and boarded the cheeky little blue, yellow and all metal ferry. Its open sides and shaded seating area made of the perfect ‘wind in our hair’ ride out on the still waters of the lagoon, with the us all enjoying the sights and sounds of this very special piece of water play paradise. (Well okay, I can’t really talk for the others but I certainly enjoyed it!)

The little narrated jaunt took us past all manner of yachts, houseboats and sailboats, before the heads loomed up before us and we got a glimpse of the little coves and caves around the edges of the famed Knysna Heads. For the most part the girls thoroughly enjoyed this experience on the water though as with any relatively non interactive experience, they did get a little bored towards the end. Next time maybe I’ll put a little more money together and make them walk the nature reserve instead – by all accounts the regrowth in the nature reserve following the devastating 2017 Knysna fires is looking amazing!

USA 2019 – 05 The Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC (2019-10-25) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 01 DEC 2020

Like the nearby Washington Monument, or the Statue of Liberty, or the Golden Gate Bridge, or the Eiffel Tower, or even our beloved Table Mountain, the incredibly special Lincoln Memorial is one of those iconic landmark pieces that filmmakers are able to (and often do) use so that you immediately know just exactly where in the world this story is currently taking place. As such, the opportunity to experience such an incredibly important American landmark in person was enough to make me giddy with excitement!

Of course, the Lincoln Memorial is a lot more important to the fabric of American society than just a landmark. The memorial honors Abraham Lincoln, the 16th and perhaps greatest of US presidents, a statesman and lawyer that before his assassination in 1865 managed to lead the nation through the American Civil War, earmarked as one of the country’s greatest moral, constitutional, and political crises, and in doing so, succeeded in preserving the Union, abolishing slavery, bolstering the federal government, and modernizing the U.S. economy. In short, the memorial serves to symbolize his belief in the freedom and dignity of all people, and as such has featured prominently in almost all campaigns for equality (especially in terms of race relations) across the broad spectrum of people that call themselves American.

The architect commissioned for the job was Henry Bacon, who went on to draw inspiration from the great neoclassical temples, with the end result being this incredibly beautiful and stoic Greek Doric temple which contains an exquisite and large seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln (designed by Daniel Chester French and carved by the Piccirilli Brothers) flanked by excerpts from both his second inaugural address and his Gettysburg address. Clad in Yule marble quarried from Colorado, the structure is surrounded by 36 fluted columns, above which are inscribed the names of the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death.

Shuffled off to the side is a TINY little gift shop, while below the structure is a small underground museum, which delivers some history about Lincoln as well as the memorial itself, expanding on in particular its role as a race relations center. Stretching out in front of the memorial, all the way through to the World War II memorial, is the Lincoln Reflecting Pool, a massive canal of still water that completes the design and turns the whole affair into this really special space of self-reflection that has a certain air of tranquility about it – despite the overwhelming hordes of tourists that make the pilgrimage to see this very important piece of American history!

Granite, Sand and Tears at Llandudno Beach (2020-07-04) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 15 NOV 2020

As the initial lockdown restrictions began to ease and we were starting to get to better grips of knowing how to approach the whole Covid-19 pandemic, the family and I decided that we desperately needed a change of scenery from our own four walls at home and so headed out for a bit of a bit of a drive around the peninsula. Halfway around I decided on an impromptu stop at Llandudno to show off its famous beach to Chantelle, seeing as she hadn’t been with us the time that I first showed it off to the girls back in 2017.

In theory this was an excellent plan, but in practice it all fall apart, as on arrival at the small parking lot by the beach, Jessica promptly took a tumble over a tree root on the tarred path down to the sand, tossing Astros everywhere but more importantly horribly grazing her knee and hands. Blood, snot and tears, and a wife who was now inexplicably angry at me meant that our little saunter about this incredibly small and picturesque beach didn’t quite have the impact I would have liked – though that said, it is pretty hard not to marvel at Llandudno beach’s prettiness.

Big granite boulders just asking to be clambered about on, soft white sand, pooches running around and having fun, icy cold water to refresh, and of course for the surfers, waves, not to mention views of the Twelve Apostles, Little Lion’s Head, and the Karbonkelberg Mountain all around.

As for the town itself, it is named after the Welsh town that features a very similar look, and lies just outside Hout Bay on the way to Camps Bay. It is an extremely upmarket residential suburb of Cape Town and is famous for going out of its way to ensure the residential feel of this stunningly scenic space by disallowing pretty much all commercial ventures, street lights, and basically maintaining as little public parking spaces as what it can get away with! Ah, the joys of having money…

USA 2019 – 04 The Memorials and Museums of the National Mall in Washington DC (2019-10-25) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 15 OCT 2020

If you are a history buff, enjoy grandiose memorials and monuments, or simply love absorbing knowledge wherever you go, then there is simply no finer American location for this than Washington D.C.’s incredible National Mall, the giant landscaped park area pinned by the famous Washington Monument in the middle, bounded on either side by the United States Capitol and the exquisite Lincoln Memorial, and flanked along its length by the grounds of the White House and countless Smithsonian museums (including the famous Smithsonian Institution Building aka The Castle) and other national arts and cultural institutions.

With long walkways and plenty of lawns stretching out all around you, this stretch of green is incredibly popular with the locals as an exercise and relaxation venue, though of course they have to contend with the never ending throngs of both domestic and international tourists picking their way through this smorgasbord of knowledge and culture. (So yes, this means a lot of busses, a lot of electric scooters, and a lot of foot traffic!)

And smorgasbord of things to take in it honestly is. The reality is you probably need more than a week to get a taste of everything on offer. For example, in terms of landmarks and museums contained in the National Mall proper, you have the National Museum of American History, National Museum of Natural History, National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, West Building of the National Gallery of Art, East Building of the National Gallery of Art, National Museum of the American Indian, National Air and Space Museum, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Arts and Industries Building, Smithsonian Institution Building, Freer Gallery of Art, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, National Museum of African Art, and the exquisite National Museum of African American History and Culture. (And bear in mind, most of these are also paired with a garden or landscape to explore as well!).

The eastern end of the National Mall includes features like the imposing United States Capitol, Union Square and the United States Botanic Garden, while to the west lies the majority of monuments and memorials, including the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, National World War II Memorial, Constitution Gardens, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

And then there are all the nearby attractions which should all be included in the above lists but simply aren’t: for example, the White House, Library of Congress, United States Supreme Court Building, National Postal Museum, Union Station, Tidal Basin, Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

While I managed to at least catch a glimpse of every single item mentioned in the above list, my three days in Washington DC meant that I had to pick and choose between what I really wanted to get a taste of – and as you can see from all the items that I hyperlinked above, I only really managed to squeeze in about 12. Not a bad number, but man did my poor aching feet hate me so much! (In hindsight, maybe I should have tried my luck by precariously balancing on one of those electric rideshare scooter things!)

The museums were fascinating, the memorials somber, the beautiful stone architecture grandiose, and all this was paired with the start of Autumn’s magnificent foliage color change. An incredible experience and opportunity for sure.