Wolf Rules

It’s been quite a year for our little household.

Between packing up our lives and deciding to move across the country, starting a new job, trying to decide what I wanted to do, giving freelancing a try and driving for 18 hours with 2 cats the Photog and I were a touch strung out and frazzled.

We needed a holiday, yes even from Cape Town. Time for just the 2 of us, preferably with minimal human contact. I find living in a city, even one as amazing as this, leaves me feeling a bit touchy after a few months and something inside me craves dusty nature, starry skies and no cellphone reception.

Thanks to a brilliant site Budget Getaways (which I’ll definitely use for future Cape travel) I found exactly what we were looking for, without breaking our fragile bank accounts.

Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge, in the Cederberg mountains, hooked me with a photo of a man in a hammock overlooking the bush. Too good to be true?

This is where I spent a large part of my time. Accompanied by G&T’s and my book.

The lodge is self catering, the rooms are wooden cabins with no electricity and there are communal bathrooms. So it’s not a luxury break, it’s a back to basics break. Oh and it has a wolf. And there is a long list of rules for staying with him.

But he’s super chilled. A real down to earth type.

The nearest town is Clanwilliam, which was voted South Africa’s best small town, and the region boasts large quantities of citrus and rooibos. There’s a cute tea house in the town that has over 100 flavours of rooibos tea and does a very interesting tea tasting that explains the process of making rooibos. Neither of us were huge rooibos fans before but the tasting definitely opened our eyes and we came home with a few boxes of delicious tea for my growing collection.

And thanks to the Photog’s ability to sniff out a wine farm in any vicinity we even came home with bottles of great wine, but that deserves a blog post all to its own.

Cederberg, I love you. And I didn’t even get to hike around and see the San paintings or waterfalls. Next time less gin and I’ll bring my takkies.

Monday By The Seaside

I’m a Vaalie and I now live by the sea.

Of all the things I will achieve in my life, this will be the best. There is no topping this. I can now die happy and fulfilled without the taint of Vaal water on my lips.

And in Cape Town there’s a great variety of beaches to visit to get my sea fix. Despite my pigmentally challenged skin I love the beach and I’m enjoying driving around with the Photog discovering the Cape’s seaside.

This weekend we found what I know will become a firm favourite. Slangkop in Kommetijie. Complete with lighthouse, boardwalk in the fynbos that is covered in daisies, happy doggies being walked by chilled owners and an uninterrupted view from benches with just the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks.

Just beautiful.

And no ice cream sellers yelling in my ear either.

 

Some Good Marketing

Markets used to fill me with images of old ladies selling doilies they’ve made out of their cat’s fur and some terrible art comprising of running zebras and old men.

But now they’re all the rage. And the stalls have gotten a lot better. In fact there are many different types of markets all over the Cape, ones with fresh fruit and veg, ones for hipsters, ones for hippies. I have yet to visit them all but I did get to one this past weekend that I’ve been dying to see – the Palm’s Market.

Twitter’s been busy singing it’s praises and it was easy to see why on Saturday. The market is held in the Palms centre in Woodstock, so no fighting for parking which was a nice bonus to start the day (you know you’re Capetonian when you add parking as a plus).

Inside was even more of a treat with plenty of stalls all stretched out calling to me with their delicious wares and tempting goodies. I’d heard talk of good waffles so we made our way around with one goal in mind. But of course we got sidetracked. By a delightful stall with plenty of bottles of interesting looking wine, bubbly and cheese.

The Tulips Culinary experience was wonderful.  The stall promotes various wines, cheese and preserves that are unusual and from smaller farms and concerns. The wines were all new to our taste buds and even though the Photog has an ulcer and is technically not allowed alcohol, we couldn’t pass up tasting them. There was also something delightful called Guava Cream, which I did not get so it’s one more reason to go back.

Another thing I loved about the Palms was the space.  It gets busy but not so that you feel crushed and claustrophobic as you try to taste some sausage or get something to drink. You can stop and chat to the stall holders without having to shout and be stood on by hungry patrons.

With a glass of bubbly in hand we found the waffles.  They lived up to their promises with dollops of fresh cream and the biggest, juiciest strawberries. A breakfast of champers and waffles is one to be highly recommended.

With fuller tummies we explored the market happily, but it didn’t stop us from tasting more of the mushrooms, chocolate covered cherries, fudge, cheese, charcuterie, Turkish delight. Eventually I had to put a stop to it otherwise I would’ve had to run behind the car home but there were lots of things we didn’t get to try so another few visits are called for.

The market is every second Saturday so you’ve got over a week to prepare yourself for some serious culinary delights and to clear your schedule.

A Weekend Made For Two

What better way to celebrate the explorer team’s anniversary than with a weekend of exploration, sponsored by and designed by the Photog. I love surprises (I think I might have mentioned that before) so when we woke up on Saturday morning and packed the car I was one happy bunny.

We made our way into the winelands along the Paarl wine route and I got more excited. Just the thought of good wine does that to me, no matter the time of morning. I was a tad worried about the effects of it on an empty stomach though, I have not been known to hold my wine tastings well.

But when we stopped at the lovely Fairview I first saw they had goats (cue squeal of delight) and then saw they had a restaurant. A quick and tasty breakfast at The Goatshed was just what I needed before we made our way into the cellars. Cue another squeal of delight when I saw there was cheese.

Eight different kinds to be precise along with a tutored tasting of eight wines – all for just R60! It was the obvs choice. The tasting was in the cellar in a private room with two expert sommeliers. The more casual tastings take place at free standing bars dotted around the cellar. Our sommelier Janene was a treasure and we tasted some truly magnificent wines, wonderful cheese and even had three kinds of olive oil to cleanse our palates between wines. She even gave us a extra tasting of the unusual wine we wanted to try, the Pegleg Carignan, along with some cheese of course. This was an amazing wine. I love finding and tasting unusual varietals. The Photog was in heaven with all the Shiraz.

What a perfect start.

After waving goodbye to the goats the Photog drove us on to our next destination along the Wellington wine route, a boutique wine farm Dunstone. The Photog chose it for the dog logo, a novel way to choose wine farms I think. No puppy was to be seen but he was probably busy in the cellar.

The third wine farm was Bergsig which was on our trip for it’s ports. Nothing like a good port, especially in the Cape winters in front of a fire – the Photog knows me well.

I still had no clue as to where we would be spending the night but I was glad when we got on our way, a nap is needed after 3 tastings as I’m not the kind of girl to spit. I kept trying to guess until we drove into a quaint town with a sign that read “Tulbagh“. I’d never heard of it, much to the Photog’s disbelief, and I was thoroughly charmed  when I saw the street we were staying on lined with beautifully restored Cape Dutch houses. In fact these houses bestow the honour on the street of having the most national monuments on a single street in the country.

We stayed in one of the restored monuments, De Oude Herberg and were given a very warm welcome by the owner, his dog and cat. Beautifully furnished with a huge, very comfortable bed, I had to tear myself away to go for a walk along the street and find a place for dinner.

And find a place we did. The Belgian Kitchen on Church street was a cozy, eclectic eatery with delights such as Belgian beer, mussels and some ironic art on the walls. Ah the mussels. I’m salivating as I write this.

With a good night’s rest after such a feast we were ready for a second day of exploring and wine tasting (the theme of the weekend which I hope you got by now). We visited the magnificent Doolhof easily one of the most beautiful wine farms I’ve ever seen. And then we went small with a tasting at Lemberg a boutique wine farm in Tulbagh and one of the few open on a Sunday. It was warm and friendly with effusive greetings by a herd of Bulldogs. There’s something to be said for the smaller cellars and the more personal tasting experience.

Then I rolled/sloshed into the car, declared it to be the best anniversary ever and dozed off as I was driven home.

 

In The City I Love

There is not just something about Cape Town. There is Something about this city. Numerous tweets and blogs attest to the absolute passion that its residents have for this incredible city.

I myself have an ongoing love affair with this city. Not the kind which is whispered over illicit phone calls and carries on in seedy motel rooms with a pristine bible on the nightstand, but the kind that you want to shout from the rooftop bar, tell your parents about and change your Facebook status for.

It all started when I was 18 and culminated in some serious commitment when I packed up my life, my boyfriend and my cats and made an 18 hour journey in a car with all three to make Cape Town my permanent home.

Love inspires you to do these things.

What do I love about my city?

To start with it’s beautiful. Jaw-dropping, Instagram inspiring, I’ve got to move here, beautiful. With Table Mountain on one side, the ocean on the other and amazing architecture, wine farms and forests in-between just your drive to work is something.

It’s a vibrant and creatively diverse city, just a walk down a side street to get a coffee will inspire you to write a play, sculpt and start a band and when you get to your coffee spot, you’ll probably find someone there who is doing all three and would love to work with you on your vision.

There’s always something to do. For everyone. No matter your taste. Adrenaline junkies, nature lovers, restaurant connoisseurs, fashionistas and the ordinary Joe Blog who just likes a good burger and beer, Cape Town has what you’re looking for in spades.

I could list a whole lot of things here but for my submission for the ‘3 Things in the City’ I Love contest by Velvet Escape, Traveldudes and Wimdu.co.uk, I can only write about 3 things (the title tells me so) to do or see that will make you fall head over heels for Cape Town.

1. Go taste some delicious wine.

Good wine is good for the soul. True story. And in the Cape we produce some of the best wine. And some of that wine is to be found on the Constantia wine route, just 15 minutes drive from the centre of the city. Follow the wine route and you can taste the world renowned Vin De Constance, a favourite of Napaleon, at Klein Constantia,

2. Go eat some amazing food.

One of Cape Town’s nicknames is Tavern of the Seas and it’s pretty appropriate considering the wide array of food experiences you’ll find in the city. High dining, hipster restaurants, food markets, molecular gastronomy, it really just depends on what you are in the mood for or what you want to try.
My truly favourite restaurant of the moment though that I think embodies the food spirit of Cape Town is El Burro, a very awesome Mexican restaurant that just takes creativity and good food to a whole nother level. And there’s an excellent selection of Tequila. Enough said.

3. Go to the beach.

Like everything else it does Cape Town doesn’t just give you one type of beach to lounge on, there are a host of choices that are all as varied as the swimming costumes you find upon them. From Clifton whose beaches are full of the young, gorgeous and tanned, to Noordhoek where horses and surfers roam, to Simon’s Town home to some very cute penguin bathers, and more besides. My favourite of the moment has to be Noordhoek. The looooong walk, the view and the dunes are very soothing.

I could wax lyrical for about another 20 posts but it wouldn’t come close to conveying how spectacular this city is. Get your extra memory card, book a ticket and come see for yourself!

Knysna Is Mine Oyster

Moving to the Cape has opened up a whole new set of experiences for me to drag the Photog to, taste/drink and blog about.

Not that I had to do any dragging when I mentioned the idea of the Knysna Oyster Festival. I’d never been but when the name of a festival contains one of my favourite foods, it’s guaranteed to be a good time. Before he met me the Photog wasn’t a big oyster fan, things have changed (luckily for him). So we packed up, found a kitty feeder and embarked on our first proper weekend away since the big move.

We arrived on the Friday and I was in such a state of anticipation of that first tasty mollusc that we just threw our things into our room, took a photo of our view and made our way into town.

Even though neither of us had been to Knysna before things were made super easy thanks to Tabasco, their oyster hotspots, and GPS. They compiled a great list of places serving all sorts of oyster specials, from the fancy schamcny, to the downright budget. All we had to do was look at our list and pick where we wanted to try first. I chose Harry B’s because I liked the sound of oysters done in sherry and it was just down the road from our B&B.

They had more than just oysters cooked in sherry. There was a whole array of scrumptious sounding dishes, from steak stuff with oysters to oyster stuffed calamari but we’d already booked dinner at Cafe Z in the Pezula resort so we just had some fresh oysters to get our tastebuds in the mode of the weekend and the sherry ones. I’ve never been a big fan of cooked oysters, often they’re cooked into rubbery balls of tasteleness but this was not the case with the sherried beauts. Delicious sauce and soft, juicy oysters made our first hotspot a very good one.

Dinner was Cafe Z in the stunning Pezula resort. I’d seen some good reviews of it online and happy customers tweeting about it so we booked on our way down. First stop was a good cocktail in front of a roaring fire and my exhortation to the Photog to find a way to keep me in this sort of style constantly. The thing I love about 5 star places is the service. From walking in the door, to ordering at the bar to the restaurant we felt like the most important people there; a girl could get used to that. The food was worth the trip, especially for the chocolate brownie ice cream peanut brittle mouthgasm.

Saturday started off with the Photog’s man flu taking him down for the count. Luckily I’d bought the pharmacy with me so I dosed him up and head out scouting our day’s activities. At lunchtime he felt up to continuing so we made our way to another hotspot, the Oystercatcher, for some lunchtime oyster goodness and bubbly. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten 12 oysters at a time so the level of happy was quite high at this point.

It just got better with a stop off at the Mitchell’s beer garden. Knysna is home to the Mitchell’s brewery but it was closed on the weekend so we settled for a tasting of all 8 beers. Then we needed to find warmth so we klapped another hotpsot, the Turbine hotel. It’s a really cool hotel in a power turbine. They’ve restored everything beautifully and the hotel bar feels like you’re inside a steampunk watch.

Too much fun was had and we hit the flu wall so it was an early night in our very warm room at Bradach Manor, complete with bath in the enormous tub and some champers. Sunday was the last chance for mollusc madness so I quickly slurped a couple more. Oysters before 11, another first for me.

And then it was off home with a tummy full of deliciousness and a happy pair of explorers.

Clink Clink On The Rooftops

There’s something inherently cool about a rooftop bar. The combination of city lights, chic decor and fancy booze makes you feel as if you’ve stepped onto the set of a New York movie.

And Tjing Tjing is just such a rooftop bar. And it’s a rooftop bar that has free wine tastings every Wednesday. Yes free wine with your view. Every week a different winemaker pays a visit to the bar and you don’t even have to book. Just show up between 5 and 7pm and taste some great wines.

We got to taste three wines from Neil Ellis and I am glad to say I have found yet another range of wines to add to my list of delicious, well-priced favourites. Moving to the home of South African wine has shown me that this country is full of talented winemakers, the only hindrance is there are not enough hours on the weekend to devote to tasting them all.

Not only is Tjing Tjing on a roof, but the inside is done really well, with a mixture of Asian pieces, raw wood and dark leather and vibrant reds. In fact it is so cool, it made the Conde Nast Traveler’s list of the 10 hottest new bars around the world.

Plus there are hints of bunnies.

This blogger approves.  And the food looks like it would meet with my approval too. Didn’t get a chance to try anything as we were headed off to dinner elsewhere but next time I think some tapas and beer battered fish will be making an acquaintance with my face.