Tag Archives: south africa

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!

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).

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!

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…

Carnival Weekend at the Winter Wonderland Festival in Gordon’s Bay (2019-06-15) Family Attractions | Photo Gallery 15 SEP 2020

So clearly 2020, the year in which, thanks to Covid-19 and the ensuing pandemic, everything got turned upside down right across the world, did not feature the return of our little town’s now annual festival of lights. Having been running since 2010, the locally organized Gordon’s Bay Winter Wonderland Festival has done a fantastic job of injecting fun and life into our small economy during the quiet winter months, so not having it happen this year on what would have been its 10th birthday was a little disappointing to say the least.

The 2019 edition of the Winter Wonderland was a great success, with the formula now well and truly locked down. Spread over two weekends to mitigate any weather related disasters (of which this time around there were none), the festival kicked off like it always does with a small procession of local clubs and groups down Beach road and through to the festival grounds at Hendon Park (where the carnival has now been based for the last couple of years). As part of Moxy Movement’s dance classes at school, Jessica got to be a part of the fun, swathed from head to toe in LED lights and neon coloured accessories!

Hearty food stalls, fun and games for the kids, live music and even an enthralling laser show were the order for the first evening of the festival, though of course come daybreak we had to be back again in order to take full advantage of the live entertainment, food stalls, arts and craft exhibitors, candy floss, and most important of all, the fun fair rides set up and operated by Funland Amusements.

If you have small children like we do then pretty much 90% of the time spent at the festival involves buying strings of tickets and watching the kids spin round through the air through a cacophony of light and sound, but seeing those massive smiles stretched across each of their faces is definitely more than worth it!

So hopefully with all the good news currently swirling around successful vaccines against Covid-19 and the all-encompassing pandemic, 2021 takes on a bit of a more normal shape and with it sees our little town festival make an enthusiastic return.

A Fort of History at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town (2020-02-15) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 15 JUL 2020

Back when the world was still mostly blue skies and smiles, with not a single Covid-19 mask in sight, I took the girls out for an exploratory jaunt around the Castle of Good Hope, otherwise known at the Cape Town Castle, a 17th century pentagonal shaped bastion fort standing in the heart Cape Town, South Africa’s oldest city.

Built by the Dutch East India Company around 1666, the stone fortress that is the Castle of Good Hope served to replace Jan van Riebeek’s older wood and clay fort (Fort de Goede Hoop), and is currently the oldest existing building in South Africa. Built primarily in response to rising tensions between Great Britain and the Netherlands, the fort was seen as a way of safeguarding the Dutch Cape settlement which was responsible for replenishing ship supplies on the lucrative but long trade route between the Netherlands and the Dutch East indies, now known as Indonesia.

Although it seems out of place, originally the Castle of Good Hope actually sat on the coastline of Table Bay, but following extensive land reclamations that took place around the city, the fort, an historical monument (now a provincial heritage site) since 1936, now sits completely inland, with its five bastions (named after the main titles of William III: Leerdam, Buuren, Katzenellenbogen, Nassau, and Oranje) surround by the city it was once tasked with protecting.

In the past the Castle acted as local headquarters for the South African Army in the Western Cape, and today houses the Castle Military Museum and ceremonial facilities for the traditional Cape Regiments. The Castle is also the home of the Cape Town Highlanders Regiment, a mechanised infantry unit. Extensive restorations were completed in the 1980s, resulting in the Castle of Good Hope being one of the best preserved examples of a Dutch East India Company fort still left standing.

In its heyday the yellow painted fortress, that colour chosen because it lessened the effect of heat and the sun, housed a church, bakery, various workshops, living quarters, shops, and cells, among other military-themed facilities. A dividing wall was eventually added around 1695 to protect citizens in case of an attack, serving to split the courtyard and also to house the De Kat Balcony (now fronted by four legendary bronze South African warrior kings).

These days the Castle serves as a museum, with the public invited to stroll around the grounds, watch the ceremonial guards of the castle undertake the daily Key Ceremony, observe a signal canon being fired, browse around the top of the bastions, visit the military museum, take in the William Fehr art collection, peek into the torture rooms, or simply join one of the many guided tours to learn more about this bit of our shared City of Cape Town history.

Warm Water and Mini Doughnuts in Hartenbos (2020-01-06) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 15 JUN 2020

I don’t think that we’ll get the chance to head up to the Garden Route this year again, but at least we did enjoy a good week long break up that side of the world back at the start of this year, just before Covid-19 started to make its global presence felt.

With us usually based in Mossel Bay, the siren’s call of Hartenbos is too strong to ignore and so, as has now quickly become a tradition, we make sure to haul our butts over to the ATKV Seefront to take at least one dip in the warm water swimming pool, people watch the predominantly Afrikaans holiday-goers, take a stroll along the boardwalk, watch the sea, and of course have multiple goes at the delicious little fun mini donuts of the Pizza and Donut Den.

And if the timing is right, we’ll even pop over to the little informal market that hovers around just outside the Seefront complex to see if we can rustle up some pancakes. (We did. So now I’m just patiently waiting for Emily to get a little older so that we can tackle the more serious business of a proper family Putt Putt challenge!)

A Holiday Week at Pinnacle Point Estate in Mossel Bay (2020-01-03) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 25 MAY 2020

Yeah, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and this lockdown accompanying it, I am pretty sure that we are all longingly staring out of the window and dreaming of taking a holiday that is anywhere so long as it is as far from home as possible. For us the last holiday was our December school holidays break which saw us head down to the usual family haunt of Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay for a few days of well deserved rest.

Having only headed down following the New Year’s celebrations, the estate wasn’t quite its usually bustling December holiday self, meaning that we had much more freedom in crafting a break that we really wanted to – when the weather played along of course. We did a fair bit of swimming in the warm waters of the heated pool at ATKV Hartenbos, browsed the various Saturday markets of Sedgefield and George, went for a boat ride to the Heads on Knysna Lagoon with the Featherbed Co., and of course spent a lot of time in Mossel Bay itself – from drinking coffee at The Coffee Club, tucking into fish and chips at the Sea Gypsy Cafe, watching the surfers have fun from the deck of Delfino’s, to slurping up soft serve ice-cream whilst watching the waves crash down at The Point.

Back in the estate we went for long walks up and down all the hills, played lots of games with my Mom and Dad (who were there with us), built a ton of Lego houses with the girls, did a lot of colouring in (well that was me mainly), braaied of course, and had the most unbelievable amount of fun armed with an ultraviolet torch to hunt for golf balls and scorpions in the middle of the night. (Oh, and we even popped into the clubhouse for some cake that Chantelle simply swore we absolutely had to do given how good it is meant to be.)

And yes, of course the girls and I did a lot of driving around the estate on the golf cart whilst taking photos of anything and everything that moved! :D