Tag Archives: south africa

False Bay views from Steenbras Water Treatment Plant Lookout Point in Gordon’s Bay (2021-04-10) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 04 MAY 2021

Situated on the opposite side of False Bay, finding Gordon’s Bay when travelling from Cape Town is easy enough thanks to the giant white ‘GB’ anchor and letters symbol emblazoned on the slopes of the Hottentots Holland Mountains that form the backdrop of our village. While the huge Steenbras Dam sitting at the top of that very same mountain is pretty much invisible if you are not flying overhead, the big hunk of red brick infrastructure jutting out next to the GB symbol is however very noticeable indeed. Its name? The Steenbras Water Treatment Plant.

Built during the Second World War (a difficult task given the acute war-time shortage of labour), the Steenbras Water Treatment Plant was the third and most expensive of the initial three water filtration plants erected by the City of Cape Town in an effort to try and solve the problem of pipe corrosion wrought by the Cape’s natural water supplies. Now while the dam and the plant itself is obviously closed off to the public at large, the road leading up to Steenbras WTP has gifted us a superb vantage point in the form of the Steenbras Lookout Point, a spot that delivers some absolutely fantastic views over False Bay and the Helderberg region of Gordon’s Bay, Strand and Somerset West.

Up until a few years ago, the lookout point featured a narrow path that allowed you to walk around the corner and get a much better view of Gordon’s Bay, and if you turned around, the water treatment plant itself, but sadly this walkway has since been fenced off – a real pity but probably for the best given the relatively unsafe nature of it in the first place. Regardless of this though, the Steenbras Lookout Point remains as popular as ever, and if you have the inclination and some time to kill (like me – Chantelle and the girls didn’t want to leave the house on this particular day) then there are always the various paths criss-crossing down from the parking area to stumble along if you want a little more ‘walk’ out of your visit to a lookout point.

That said, you’ll note that the picture above isn’t quite from the same place as the first two. Having happily scrambled up and down the paths at the Steenbras Lookout Point, I next decided to poke my head in at the entrance to the Danie Miller Hiking Trail, situated on the other part of the Gordon’s Bay mountainside suburb. Also part of the Steenbras Nature Reserve, the Danie Miller trail (previously known as the Mayor’s Walk), is a contour path hike along the Hottentots Holland Mountains that takes you from one end of Gordon’s Bay to the other, all the way up to the white-painted stones that forms the aforementioned ‘GB’ anchor and letters symbol above the town. I only snuffled around for a very small bit of the trail (originally laid out by former town mayor Danie Miller), but having now had a taste of what’s on offer, I reckon that I need to give the full trail a go sooner than later!

Golden Syrup and Ice Cream at La Galerie in Pringle Bay (2021-03-06) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 03 MAY 2021

Having just completed a day of marching about Betty’s Bay, a day that had seen us strolling along the coastal walk, communicating with the penguins at Stony Point, and striving to see the waterfalls of the Harold Porter Botanical Garden, the girls decided that enough was enough and that it was now definitely time for a well deserved treat.

Of course these days whenever we find ourselves in the Overstrand stretch that is Rooi Els, Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay, the choice of treat has pretty much already been made before I’ve even suggested something – all they ever want is waffles with ice cream and Golden Syrup from La Galerie in Pringle Bay!

Situated in the cheekily named Pringle Mingle Centre, La Galerie is a small mix of a restaurant and an art gallery, offering an enjoyably simple menu to be consumed while surrounded by all manner of art from local painters. Its cozy space is filled with friendly staff, books and even a boardgame or two, and is always an absolute pleasure to visit whenever we find ourselves in this diminutive and charming coastal village. As for this particular visit, as luck would have it, the girls managed to snag the VERY last waffles available for the day, meaning that thankfully it was smiles all around!

Snacking from Cooked at the V&A Waterfront Watershed in Cape Town (2021-03-22) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 02 MAY 2021

Having just completed roaming through the blue tinged halls of the excellent Two Oceans Aquarium, Chantelle and her folks decided that it was now time to grab a seat, rest their feet, and nibble on something delicious. Now obviously the V&A Food Market would have fit the bill just perfectly, but seeing as the gorgeous Watershed was standing there right in front of us, we rather wandered in there like a small group of penguins first.

If you aren’t familiar with the Watershed at V&A Waterfront then you are in for a treat. A complete renovation of the space has resulted in a big airy structure that is vibrantly coloured and packed to the brim with all manner of artisans and studios. Art, ceramics, textiles, fashion, jewellery, and of course curios by the bucketload, the Watershed is a buzzing commerical celebration of art and the creation of it.

As luck would have it, we stumbled upon Cooked, a wonderful little eatery space that draws its inspiration from its Middle Eastern and Mediterranean roots. And while its menu certainly does look amazing, it was the baked goods that we were most interested in for this particular visit. A round of coffee and babyccinos for the kids, a selection of baked treats including croissants and muffins to pull pieces from, and of course the visual treat of the surroundings to take in. So yeah, that was our first taste of Cooked. Definitely not the worst of little restaurant experiences to have bumped into!

Eggs Benedict Breakfast at Cape Cafe in Strand (2021-03-01) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 01 MAY 2021

Absolutely dominating its stretch of the Strand Beach skyline, the big white beautiful apartment building that is Hibernian Towers is also home to a few small businesses hidden down on its ground floor, with one of those very worth knowing gems being the excellent Cape Cafe.

Although it is situated behind the glass doors of this behemoth of an apartment tower, the diminutive family-owned and operated Cape Cafe is still technically a beachfront cafe, fully licensed and with a penchant for serving great breakfasts and ground coffee, signature burgers and craft beer, and of course their exceptional hearthstone thin crust pizzas. Billing themselves as a South African Social Cafe, they say that they take pride in their Cape Culture with dishes such as Skilpadjies & Mash, Bobotie Pancakes and Boerewors on the menu. Now while I can’t really comment on those, I can say that their eggs benedict breakfast is most excellent, having been treated to one by Chantelle one weekday morning back in March.

It’s a small cozy space, with friendly people, great food, and importantly, well shielded from any of Strand’s notoriously blustery bouts of wind. In other words, a great little coffee shop/eatery to keep in the back of your mind should ever you find yourself in Strand in maybe not such perfect beach day weather.

Pizza at the Bluebird Cafe in Stellenbosch (2021-04-11) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 30 APR 2021

Chantelle was eager for a spot of Sunday lunch out with me and the girls, and so we decided that what would really be nice would be to tuck into some delicious ribs while watching the small planes come and go outside at the Stellenbosch Flying Club. However, after arriving to a packed parking lot (never great sign in the time of Covid-19 anyway), we were turned away from the gate as the flying club was currently only serving members. Oh well, so new plan instead, we decided to give the seemingly diminutive but eye-catching Bluebird Cafe a little bit down and across the road a go instead.

I’m not entirely sure if the old (always seemingly slightly grotty) Mountain Breeze Farm Stall next to the Mountain Breeze Caravan Park is still operating, but regardless of this fact, the recently erected, double peaked, distinctive looking building that now hosts Bluebird Cafe has certainly taken over the space of the aforementioned farm stall, and despite its proximity to the busy R44 that endlessly shuttles cars between Somerset West and Stellenbosch, actually does make for a pretty nice space to enjoy an aromatic cup of coffee with a delicious baked treat in tow.

There are certainly a lot of interesting sounding dishes on Bluebird Cafe’s menu, but with the girls at our side we opted for the ever family friendly pizza option, settling down to a nice assortment of beer and milkshakes as the kids got down to the necessary scrambling about on the small jungle gym dominated kids play area.

Bright green lawn, farm fields and mountain views to the back, and great tasting food in front, the Bluebird Cafe certainly didn’t disappoint, and a nice and relaxing Sunday lunch outing was enjoyed by all.

A Stroll around Rooi Els and Pringle Bay (2020-10-11) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 25 APR 2021

Rooi-Els is by far my go to place whenever I am in need of a nice easy outdoor walk, rich in fresh air and landscape scenery, but generally devoid of people. Such was the case on one particularly clear Spring day in October of last year, when I bundled the kids into the car and sped off along the achingly beautiful Clarence Drive in search of some Shank’s pony time in my favourite little Overstrand village.

Situated beside the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, and itself a registered conservancy, the tiny town of Rooi Els has almost no tarred roads, is without street lights, and stands pretty much without any commerce except for the (now three!) eateries, estate agent, and a little corner shop as you enter the village.

With the distinctive Klein-Hangklip mountain looming ever present over us, we set off, following the streets along the sea, skipping across the sands of the beach, and picking our way past the wild flowers on the occasional boardwalk encountered. The girls giggled at the sculptures spied, gazed at the various Agama lizards sunning themselves all over the rocks, and kept a constant vigil for any baboon that might get a little too close for comfort. (For a change, there weren’t any to be seen).

Full of fresh air and with sweat now dripping off from our brows, we next headed down the road to the next little town along the Clarence Drive/R44 route, Pringle Bay – another firm favourite especially among my girls as they now pretty much only associate it with tea, waffles and ice cream from La Galerie, the only bribe that I ever need to throw out there whenever I want them to willingly join me for a walk.

That distraction done though, the next fresh air activity was taking them for a scramble up and through the sand dunes, as you have to power your way across the sinking soft white sand to end up on Pringle Bay’s surprisingly large beach – which just so happens to have the most magnificent of views. In other words, well worth the sandy effort!

Pizza Time at Rooibos Restaurant in Strand (2021-04-03) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 19 APR 2021

With two young girls in the mix, we generally don’t go out at night, preferring to do all our activities during the daylight hours and leaving the dark for sleepy time. However, sometimes we do have to break this routine – case in point, earlier this month, on one Saturday evening after a long day of sending out The Helderberg Cake Company celebration cakes, Chantelle decided that she just couldn’t spend a minute longer in the kitchen, and with fridges bare, shops already closed, and not wanting to do takeaway food again (which is generally something that we do on a Friday night when she’s in the thick of it in terms of decorating cakes), we took the snap decision of popping out for a late supper somewhere local instead.

The unassuming Rooibos Restaurant sits off a corner along Main Street in Strand, and has been happily operating since around 2016. Although the original guys that put together this pizza slinging local eatery have long since left, the current owners have done a good job of keeping the restaurant going and continuing to attract hungry families from all over Strand. Based out of an old (but spacious) converted home, the operation is split into two main sections, the first being the ever popular bar area, and the second the more family orientated and much larger dining area, with most of the outside garden converted into extra seating opportunities as well.

The menu is pretty large in terms of item spread, including the selection of pizza varieties that they pump out from their custom built pizza oven. Lots of craft beer, massive milkshakes, and a warm welcoming atmosphere that matches the decor, Rooibos comes across as very cozy to me. As it turned out for this particular visit of ours, given the time of the evening that we stumbled through its doors, we were literally the only people in the dining area – pretty much putting in our orders just before the kitchen stopped taking any more. So we had the run of the dining room while everyone else partied in the bar next door, a perfect set up for us in these times of Covid-19, though I suspect not one much appreciated by the owners of the business, that’s for sure!

Rock Faces and Sea Views from Chapman’s Peak Drive (2020-07-04) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 18 APR 2021

Covid-19 and its associated lockdowns kept us all indoors for most of last year, and so excursions were few and far between. Cabin fever certainly became a thing, and to stave if off, one Saturday morning in July saw us all hop into the car and tackle the long drive to Simon’s Town and beyond, with the aim of taking in the views that come with a trip along the legendary Chapman’s Peak Drive.

Stretching between Noordhoek and Hout Bay, Chapman’s Peak is the name of the mountain on the western side of the Cape Peninsula, taking its name from John Chapman, the pilot of an English ship that was becalmed in Hout Bay in 1607, and who had been sent ashore to find provisions on an expedition recorded as Chapman’s Chaunce. Chapman’s Peak Drive itself was hacked out of the face of the mountain between 1915 and 1922, and at the time was regarded as a major feat of engineering. Of course, the issue of the numerous (but expected) rockfalls along the road came to a head in the 1990s after it caused a motorist’s death (and subsequent lawsuit), and many subsequent bouts of re-engineering has since taken place to try and make the route safer for visitors. As such the road reopened in 2005 as a toll road (to fund these constant fixes), and to this day remains one of Cape Town’s most famous drives.

The scenery is of course spectacular. With a base of granite, covered in layers of sedimentary rock and sandstone fynbos, the near vertical mountain faces rise up to the one side of you while to the other you are rewarded with the deep blue hues of the Atlantic Ocean, and further on the stiller waters of the ever picturesque Hout Bay.

Passing by energetic (and clearly not risk averse) cyclists and through the odd stone and concrete overhangs, you are eventually afforded a stop at the main lookout point that provides an incredible vantage point across from Hout Bay, with plenty of additional stone steps waiting to be clambered up by those with the energy to get yet another view of this gorgeous landscape.

Chapman’s Peak Drive is an incredible example of the old mixed in with the new mountain pass engineering, and with those incredible classic views on offer, an absolute must do for any visitor to the Cape – plus on this particular day, the perfect way to break out of our Covid-19 cabin fever funk!

Fine Dining at Overture at Hidden Valley Wines in Stellenbosch (2020-12-05) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 15 APR 2021

While my 40th birthday unfortunately fell in the middle of South Africa’s strict Covid-19 lockdowns (hello swing-ball in my garden and a rainbow cake from Chantelle), thankfully we were a little more lucky come December when Chantelle’s big 40 also came rolling into town. Kids safely dropped off with the grandparents in Bellville, we turned our attention to the big one – an exquisite five course gourmet dinner at the highly acclaimed, awarded winning Overture restaurant.

On the edge of Stellenbosch, tucked away in the foothills of the Helderberg Mountain above the vineyards of Hidden Valley Wines, Overture holds the distinction of being restaurateur and chef extraordinaire Bertus Basson’s first restaurant. Established in 2007, Overture quickly began winning accolade after accolade, swiftly rising up in the ranks of South Africa fine dining establishments, and with it, elevating the name of Bertus Basson. Known for celebrating South African produce like ethically-sourced fish and organic maize, these days head chef Drikus Brink and his kitchen team continue the mission of serving honest, simple, produce-driven cooking based on classical techniques.

Well that’s what the website says anyway. ‘Simple’ isn’t how I would describe the incredible menu at all! We opted to pair a wine tasting with our five course meal, an excellent idea as the broad spectrum of excellent wines suited each dish to perfection. From start to finish the food was exemplary. The canapés, the raw yellowtail, the roasted aubergine, the pork belly, the beef, the beetroot, the dessert – absolute fine dining heaven.

The plating, the simple stone decor, the view over the vineyards, the mountains, the brass fittings, the wine, the sculptures, having Bertus and his wife enjoying a meal an arm’s length away from us – this was an absolutely incredible experience for a foodie such as Chantelle and definitely one that was much enjoyed!