Tag Archives: stellenbosch

Breakfast with a View at Jordan Wine Estate in Stellenbosch (2020-12-06) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 14 MAR 2021

Geologist Gary Jordan and economist Kathy Jordan have as a husband and wife team been making world-class wines since 1993, on a 300 year old farm which their parents purchased back in 1982. Now standing at 104 hectares in size, the Jordan Wine Estate produces a bevy of award winning wines from the range of grape varietals that it has planted in its vineyards, and like any good wine estate in the Cape Winelands today, Jordan offers a full visitor experience with its award winning signature restaurant, more relaxed bistro, luxury accommodation options, picnics on the lawn, and of course the all important tasting and tours.

At this point in the game, despite the global Covid-19 pandemic swirling all around us, Chantelle was certainly enjoying quite the nice 40th birthday (which was definitely going much better than what mine did due to the stricter lockdowns of earlier in the year). Having treated her to a spectacular evening of fine dining at Bertus Basson’s immaculate Overture restaurant at Hidden Valley, the morning of her birthday saw us shuttle through in search of the rather hidden Jordan wine estate, where we were booked in for a sumptuous morning of breakfast with a view.

Opting to dine ‘al fresco’ on The Bakery@Jordan’s recently completed wooden deck, we sat in the shade of its huge overhanging trees, looking out over lush green lawns, pretty shrubs and a very tranquil dam, with the rolling hills and distant mountain vista of Stellenbosch laid out before us. Eggs benedict with a thick Hollandaise sauce and good coffee completed the scene, as we eagerly got down to the serious work of relaxing a little before the next celebration event kicked off.

Scones, Tea and Jam at Hillcrest Berry Orchards outside Stellenbosch (2020-08-30) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 13 MAR 2021

Without a doubt, Hilllcrest Berry Orchards has now for years been our family’s most favourite spot to tuck into scones with jam and cream. Perched up high on one of the slopes of the gorgeous Banhoek Valley, on the outskirts of Stellenbosch just before you reach Pniel, its welcoming terrace offers spectacular views over the surrounding mountains and is perfectly positioned to catch all those warming rays of sunlight. In other words, the perfect spot for a cup of tea or a plunger of coffee!

Hillcrest Berry Orchards is of course primarily a berry producing farm, though they are far more famous for their huge array of delectable jams produced from those aforementioned berries, packaged in their very recognizable, cutest of little glass jars. The farm shop is where you’ll find a full assortment of frozen berries, jams, dessert toppings, relishes, jellies, berry vinegars, liqueured berries and gifts, as well as freshly picked berries when they are in season during the summer months. In addition to the farming and jam producing activities, the farm also offers accommodation options in the form of two comfortable self catering cottages.

Then of course there is the eatery section of the business. Armed with a cosy fireplace warmed interior section and the gorgeous outdoor terrace, Hillcrest Berry Orchards is open for the always important business of eating throughout the year, offering a good choice of meal options that cover both breakfast and lunch, as well as a very enjoyable high tea experience. That said, we pretty much only ever visit there for their delicious scones, topped with a selection of interesting jams and of course that divine Devonshire clotted cream of theirs!

Obviously, with the various Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns that kept us indoors pretty much the whole of last year, getting out and about really wasn’t a thing (for anyone), but we did at least manage to squeeze one very unplanned visit to a quiet Hillcrest Berry Orchards in, following a day of escape to see the fields of yellow canola at Dassiesfontein and gather chocolate supplies from Huguenot Fine Chocolates in Franschhoek.

Pork Belly Lunch at Sweetwell outside Stellenbosch (2021-01-16) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 06 MAR 2021

Having enjoyed an enthralling, thought-provoking morning of wandering about the magnificent Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden in Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch, Chantelle and I decided to further make the most of not having the kids with us by going out for a nice lunch. In the mood for Eisbein and knowing fully well that they do indeed do a good one, I suggested the restaurant at Sweetwell, situated along the R44 on a farm plot in Raithby (on the outskirts of Stellenbosch).

Pulling in at the Hennie & Allison Cronje owned farm, the clouds were grey and heavy but the rain thankfully all gone, meaning that the ivy laced, hydrangea decorated terrace was looking mighty inviting, even more so thanks to the absolute dearth of people. Again, great for us wanting to avoid crowds during this Covid-19 pandemic, but of course horrible for people trying to keep their businesses alive. Anyway, we walked up to the stoep, located a table and got comfortable, only for me to come to the stark realization that Eisbein was not currently on the menu.

Of course, in retrospect this makes complete sense. Eisbein is something that has to be prepared long in advance, and so if you aren’t guaranteed customers, it is probably best not to offer it at all. At this point in time, reducing wastage HAS to be on the mind of anyone running a food related business, that’s for sure! In any event, no problem, because the one thing Sweetwell also does particularly well is pork belly, and as expected, it was decadently good -that pork crackling, pure genius! (Of course, this was unfortunately still during the alcohol ban phase of our South African Covid-19 lockdowns, so no delicious wine to pair it with – and as we all now know, Coke Zero doesn’t quite cut it! :D)

Although their on-site deli is now a thing of the past, Sweetwell is also home to two pretty neat lifestyle/home decor businesses in the form of Rustic Rose and Casa Caro Lifestyle, plus there is then Sweetwell as an event venue option itself, with its pretty, manicured exterior and its vibrant, visually interesting interior – perfect for high teas, bridal showers and the like.

Walking under the Pine Trees of Paradyskloof in Stellenbosch (2021-01-23) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 MAR 2021

Previously, on our way to the sublime Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden on the outskirts of the Paradyskloof suburb of Stellenbosch, we passed by what looked to be an informal parking area in front of a gate that in turn guarded a pine plantation – but which most importantly appeared to freely allow people to walk or ride through it. As it turns out, we had passed the gate into Eden Forest, otherwise known as the Paradyskloof nature area, another mountain bike and hiking mecca for Stellenbosch locals.

Forming part of the comprehensive Stellenbosch Trails system (maintained through a partnership between the Stellenbosch Municipality and the Stellenbosch Trail Fund community organisation) that crisscross the lower ranges of the Stellenbosch mountain, the Paradyskloof gate puts you slap bang in the middle of the trail network that stretches from the University of Stellenbosch owned Coetzenburg rugby fields on the left, all the way across to the vineyards of the Mont Marie wine estate on the right.

The area is littered with well maintained mountain bike trails covering both single and jeep track options, including the popular Mark Gordon created and cheekily named G-Spot MTB Trail, to test your skills out on. Of course, the trails aren’t restricted to people racing about on bicycles either, offering plenty to tackle for the hiker marching about on foot. Fynbos, mountain ridges, views for days, and of course as this particular section of the trails indicate, a Pine Forest to waddle through.

Towards the end of January, Chantelle and I chanced the sweltering Summer sun and took the girls out for a walk under these very trees, which they begrudgingly did and hopefully enjoyed. (Its always hard to tell because the initial excitement wears off pretty quickly and then the bargaining with rewards has to swoop in to save the day). We marched about without aim or any sort of plan, and so didn’t necessarily walk particularly far, but it was a good workout accompanied by some crisp clean air – in other words exactly what one wanted after being cooped up for so long following the various earlier Covid-19 lockdowns.

Walk now complete, we next drove our sweaty selves around Stellenbosch, doing general sightseeing and even popping into Adam & Eve Collab to scope out their newly announced on the side Ceramic painting initiative, followed by a drive out and visit to an even better option when it comes to decorating and glazing your own ceramic creations, the aptly name Ceramic Cafe in Raithby, on the outskirts of Stellenbosch. Naturally the girls are now very adamant that we immediately set aside some time to spend a Saturday afternoon doing this! And then of course the aforementioned rewards earlier proffered needed to be honored, hence the final photo of the girls eating soothing McFlurry ice creams in the very crisply air-conditioned halls of McDonalds at Waterstone Village in Somerset West. (Honestly, at this sweaty point in the day I didn’t actually mind doling out this reward! :D)

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.

Bunnies and Decor at Root 44 in Stellenbosch (2019-11-10) Markets | Photo Gallery 11 APR 2020

Having already wrapped up some stall browsing and pancake snacking at the always vibey Winelands Markets at Blaauwklippen (aka the old Blaauwklippen Family Market), we decided to also pop our heads in at the equally enjoyable Root44 market more or less just down the road, pretty much only because it had been quite a while since Chantelle had last visited there.

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, and constant music to entertain the seemingly never ending stream of people paying them a visit every Saturday and Sunday from 09:00 all the way to 16:00 in the afternoon!

Lots of beer and wine swirl together with all manner of prepared foods across a variety cuisine styles, all mixing it up with a wide variety of crafters showing off their wares. Simply put, there is usually a little something for pretty much everyone that visits. In addition to all of that, the fact that the market is situated in the Stellenbosch winelands also means then that the experience comes with some pretty spectacular mountain and vineyard views, thus making it a particularly perfect spot for groups of friends or families to congregate and enjoy a lazy day outside in each other’s company.

Chantelle, the girls, and I enjoyed a leisurely explorative stroll through all the big tents, managed to gather a small helping of various snacks from the food stall section, and amazingly found a table to claim and hunker down around. Also, as expected, I took a lot of photos.

And yes, those are indeed giant wooden bunnies in the picture above.

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?