Fall in love with Franschhoek

I’ve received dozens of messages from friends asking for travel advice. Everyone wants that first-hand recommendation on places to stay and things to do in certain towns. I’m exactly the same, which is how I’ve discovered so many incredible places. I’m lucky that both Francois and I work in tourism and love traveling, so we often nip away for mini breaks and excursions around Cape Town.

I’ve been to Franschhoek a few times and over the years, and I’ve hand-picked a few favourites. This is also a really nifty little guide to send on to friends who are visiting the area! I’ve included all budgets here, as we’ve been there for different reasons and experiences. Eg, I treated Francois to a weekend’s stay at one fannnncy place as a gift for his 40th Birthday. Other places we’ve stayed at in a quick “We really, really don’t feel like driving home” situation. I love Franschhoek very much, but I would pick these places and activities as recommendations to my friends, and wanted to share it with you!

This is by far the most important part of your Franschhoek journey. There are so many new restaurants on offer in the valley, and they are exceptional. I mostly enjoyed:

Beleef Restaurant: I can’t get over how really cool this chef is. Herman Steyn has created a menu that features traditional South African cuisine with a brand new twist on “boerekos”. He’s so animated and I really, really love what he’s doing with the entire vibe of this restaurant. The food is no frills, no fuss – just really great food in generous portions. He changes menu items weekly and changes the South African dish (Ou Kaapse Kos) daily. On the night I was there, I had the Lamb Tomato Bredie which was honestly *incredible* and is a family recipe from one of the kitchen staff. View the full, standard menu here > Beleef Menu Franschhoek. Honestly, it’s such a great vibe for dinner and they have a special lunch menu too. The cocktails are really tasty (go for the Gin ones) and the atmosphere is great. The walls are adorned with art pieces on sale, with a different artist on rotation. Contact: 1 Place Vendome Huguenot Str. Tel: 010 110 8325. Websiste: http://beleefrestaurant.co.za/ 

Le Petite Manoir: Again, I don’t know which one I’d recommend more out of this one or Beleef. They are both exceptional for completely different reasons so please do both if you can! Such a great chef with an incredibly warm and friendly atmosphere and very experimental food. Not “weird” experimental like “Here is a mapani worm oyster slug wrap with a freshly creamed eyeball”. The Flavour combinations and textures are honestly incredible. I highly, highly recommend the Salmon and the Shortrib. Franschhoek is honestly so spoilt with these two, brand new restaurants on the scene.  Address: 54 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek, Telephone number: 021 876 2110. Website: http://lepetitmanoir.co.za/

La Colombe: If you’ve never had a dining experience like this, then treat yourself immediately. This is a fantastic venue for a fancy special occasion, as the entire experience is quite (deservedly) fancy. The food experience is immaculate. I have never been to a restaurant that had as good service or attention to detail. Everything about La Colombe is… perfect. You will not go wrong by treating your partner to an experience here. You get to meet the chefs, and the dishes flow effortlessly as every plate grips you with it’s beauty and flavour. My food writer friend, Sam recently tried the same menu and let me use some of her pictures. View her full post here. Find La Colombe at the Le Quartier Français Hotel . Website: https://www.lapetitecolombe.com/menus

Le Petite Ferme: If you want beautiful, vineyard views then this is where you want to dine. This restautant is definitely child-friendly if you want to dine somewhere where you can enjoy great food at an incredibly beautiful place but where your toddler can still run around on the grass. I have always loved the food here and their wines are sensational. I would recommend La Petite Ferme as a stay-over or a great place for parents to enjoy a seriously delicious meal outdoors where children can roam free. Pack them a blanket and some lawn toys and you’re good to go and enjoy your lavish lunch in peace. This is where I took Francois for his 40th birthday but more on that just now! Another child-friendly dining spot in Franschhoek is La Motte and Maison if you’re looking for more options.

The Elephant and Barrel: Perfect for if you just want a beer and a lekker plate of ribs and chips. Perfect for when you’ve just stumbled off the wine tram and need a tequila or a burger or maybe both. That’s exactly how I first discovered this fun, easy-going sports bar in the middle of the winelands. Great spot to watch the game too! Highly recommend. Address: Centre du Village, 48 Huguenot Street.  Website: http://elephantandbarrel.co.za/

Chamonix. This is great, great, great for families. This is sooo great for kids! I can’t believe that I hadn’t been to Chamonix before but it really just blew me away. They have beautiful lake houses that you can hire, they have game drives and wine tasting and restaurants and waterfalls and cellar tours and absolutely incredible wine. I saw this little cabin where you have your OWN. PRIVATE. WATERFALL and natural pool outside your door with absolutely zero cellphone reception. If you’re doing a long-stay in Franschhoek then I would definitely recommend this estate. It’s also a very popular honeymoon destination and all-around fantastic place to spend your time. I hear that they’re getting giraffes too, so I’m definitely going back. Address: Uitkyk Street. Website: http://www.chamonix.co.za/

Le Petite Dauphine. Another incredible place to stay at very friendly prices. It’s a big estate with lots of little chalets scattered about, all within walking distance of the main house, restaurant and coffee shop. The estate has loads of long, winding dirt roads so take your bicycles and take your kids. I saw at least two dams and two pools and there is loaaaads of open space. I love the way that the little houses are decorated. Some sleep 2 but there are family units too. This is such a sweet, pretty and comfortable place to stay. I really felt at home here. Address: Excelsior Road. Website: https://www.lapetite.co.za/

Le Petite Ferme xxx I’m not joking when I say that this place has the most beautiful ‘hotel room’ that I have ever stayed at, ever. So beautiful that we’ve stayed there twice. This is where I booked for Francois’ 40th and treated him to the luxury and beauty that is Le Petite Ferme. If you’re looking for a destination to really treat your loved one, then book the Bridal Suite. With your own verandah, pool, gorgeous views of the valley and an incredible restaurant and wine selection – you won’t disappoint. Website: https://www.lapetiteferme.co.za/ 

There are so many other great places to stay and my friends over there have also recommended The cottage at Montpellier, the Lavender farm guest house and to look via Airbnb in the hills.

The Wine Tram. Oh man, Francois and I loved this so much. You will taste plenty of wines. You will have fun. You will get drunk. Enjoy and kind regards. More info here > http://winetram.co.za/

Perfume Museum. This sweet-smelling little building is part of the Huguenot Musuem so just pop in there and they’ll direct you. Their website here: http://www.kumanovperfumery.com/

La Motte Wine Tasting & Sculpture Walk. Find more information here > https://www.la-motte.com/pages/sculpture-walk

Chamonix Wine Tasting & Game Drive

Option 1: R900 per person. Note that there are cheaper options and I highly recommend doing this! It includes:

Game drive and Tasting: Experience starts at Franschhoek Wine Tram; Day ticket on Franschhoek Wine Tram; Premium Wine Tasting at specific vineyards; Game drive.

More on their website over here > http://www.chamonix.co.za/wine_game_drive

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My Bonnie lies over the ocean

WE GOT ANOTHER DOG. Her name is Bonnie and she’s the cutest, sweetest little ball of fluff that you’ve ever seen. If you’re a Border Collie fan, then I’d definitely advise you to find a pup from an actual farm. I don’t know what it is, but those working dogs have such good breeding. Bonnie is from a dairy farm near Riebeek Wes. It took us forever to drive out into the farmlands to fetch her! I got her as a gift for Francois as he’s NEVER had his own, own dog and I think there’s something beautiful in having a companion like that. Francois loves bodyboarding and is at the beach every second day, so Bonnie (and Jack) are going to get loads of time outside! Dogs are also great because they keep you active. I don’t know what I would do without Jack, he’s the actual best. Anyway, Bonnie…

She is super cute but she is such. hard. work. right now! She’s really nervous in cars and makes a poo (!!!!) every time I put her in there. Francois has the weakest stomach I’ve ever ‘seen’ so I’m doing ALL the potty training and pick-ups myself. If he even smells a dog poo, his eyes water and he gags and it takes him so long to recover that I just do it all because really… it’s not that dramatic. Maybe motherhood toughened me up in that department. Does anyone have any tips on getting a puppy used to a car? Do I just google “How to make your dog stop pooing in your car?” This morning, she pood THREE TIMES on my BACK SEAT. She was sitting between the kids and made a pretty lady turd right between the boys. Then we had a nice long, peaceful drive on the highway with Bonnie crying, the kids screaming and me trying to chuck towels on the mess from the front seat while trying to navigate lane changes. Get a puppy guys, it’s great. Two towels, three poos and one vomit later, I got home. What is up with this dog? Do they get nervous tummies? Is it safer to just stop feeding her altogether? Her other favourite thing is to crawl under my seat while I’m going 100 on the highway and then sticks her head out at my feet pedals, which is GREAT for my anxiety and all of your general safety. (I’ve learned to stuff things under my chair so she can’t get in there!)

Potty training is just. not. happening. I wake up to a screaming family every morning because Bonnie really enjoys pooing in the bathrooms and in the passage that separates our bedrooms. She then especially enjoys stepping IN HER OWN (warm, squishy) poo, followed by running around the house and sometimes even rolls in it. I generally wake up to Francois gagging down the passage and the kids shrieking as they all (like intelligent, observant humans) keep stepping IN IT. It has been several weeks of this and my children (Francois included) have not learned to look down before entering the passage. We even bought those special Puppy Training Mats that look like big linen savers. They’re expensive and absorbent, designed and manufactured to encourage the puppy to use them. Something about a special scent added that attracts the puppy and provokes natural instincts and encourages return behavior. WELL.

Bonnie’s favourite this is to take these special and expensive mats and chew them to absolute shreds. Even the ones that I’ve frantically tossed on her puddles to absorb the liquids. I actually think that she prefers those, to be honest. Right now, this house is a mess of soggy newspaper, shredded cotton and half-chewed rolls of toilet paper. We’ve bought special cleaning products, air fresheners (with timers) and even specific sprays from the pet shop to break down bacteria and disguise odours. Every time Bonnie ‘goes’ inside, I have to cover it up like a freakin crime scene and I am tired. It’s really hard work to make it look like we’re a semi-hygienic, decent family at the moment.

So anyway, we got a dog. She’s cute and disgusting and you’d totally love her. This morning I caught her chewing on stale turds from the cat’s litterbox, wagging her tail at me in delight. Please will someone come and fetch her. Send us love, light… and a time machine. Welcome to our home, Bonnie Banana xxx

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Our new bedroom

A few months ago, we moved houses and Francois and I finally moved in together! We live in sunny Tamboerskloof in a really old and beautiful home that is super close to all our favourite places. Moving in together also meant getting rid of a lot of things, like my old bed that used to kill his back (old age, hey babe) and his bed that was just way too old. We played a bit of Goldilocks and found something that worked perfectly for both of us.

Our new bedroom doesn’t have built-in cupboards, so we have two gorgeous antique cabinets in a “his and hers” setup. Another thing we really wanted in our bedroom was a television. I know you’re totally NOT supposed to do that, but we wanted to create that “hotel room” feel with a bit of luxury and it is so great to cuddle in bed and binge-watch series. Also – so perfect for winter. When we moved in together we had an extra TV, so in to the bedroom it went! We have our own en-suite bathroom with a shower and a huuuuge bath, further adding to the hotel-room-aesthetic. Our bedroom also has a balcony with a semi-good view of Table Mountain.

Probably my favourite part of our room is our bed and the Balinese drapes which adds some beautiful romance to the whole setup. We got our new bed and headboard from Teljoy (An online retailer for appliances, electronics and furniture) on a month-to-month contract, which means that if we didn’t like the bed or if it hurt Francois’ back then we could just cancel and return it – like that whole rent-to-own setup with the choice to upgrade. You can rent a bed from R169pm and assume ownership after the pre-determined rental period. I downgraded from a King Size bed to a Queen and if I change my mind and want to go back to King, then I can. It also helps that delivery, risk and maintenance is included if anything were to happen to the bed. Check out their bed range here. We’re busy furnishing the Stanford guesthouse so this works out pretty well for us right now.

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Wildekrans, Grabouw, Botrivier and Elgin

Francois and I love to break away for weekends. We both work in tourism and hospitality and really treasure exploring new towns together. I’m going to start sharing these mini holidays on my blog because I get so many requests for recommendations and I want you guys to know about these cool places to stay near Cape Town. Many of our friends are also parents or dog owners, so I’ll always stipulate which places I feel are kid or dog-friendly. If you follow me on social media, you’ll see that we’re usually in Stanford, Gordon’s Bay, Swellendam, Hermanus, Matjiesfontein, Stellenbosch or Franschhoek. I’m going to start sharing more great “weekend away” spots at all these places, but today… I really want to talk about Wildekrans.

We have good friends who live in Elgin and another friend who recently moved to Villiersdorp nearby. We planned to stay with our friend Deborah, but we were also itching to stay at this beautiful little place that we’d both heard of before: Wildekrans Country House. Francois had surgery on his knee and ankle recently, so we needed a weekend to really relax, recover and connect with each other again.

We started the weekend by stopping at Peregrine Farm Stall, obviously. If you haven’t been, then drive out there (1 hour from Cape Town) just for that. Get their Springbok Pie, their pressed apple juice, a coffee AND a handful of crunchy apples from their own valley. Right around the corner, we stopped at a place called The Pool Room for wine tasting and tapas. I would highly recommend the chardonnay and their housemade Emmenthaler – which was the best I’ve ever tasted, even when compared to what I tried in Italy and Paris. The place is seriously beautiful.

We drove through Grabouw and stopped at this famous butchery where the ORIGINAL Grabouw wors comes from. You know the ones you see in the shops? That’s not “THE” original Grabouw Wors. Francois explained that the original has an apple tree on the label and is the recipe of the butcher that works there. We also bought biltong (that I thought was a bit too salty) & droë wors.

Feeling super full and quite chuffed with our purchases, we headed around the corner (all of these places are like a 5 minutes’ drive apart) to Wildekrans Country House. They have one big manor house with three en-suite bedrooms, a lounge and a big dining room where breakfast is served. We booked the room with the en-suite lounge, so we had a private breakfast nook in our room, which I LOVED. The main lounge has a really great book selection, a fireplace and a little honesty bar. It was just perfect. Our room and private lounge also had a mini library, private fireplace, patio and gorgeous view of the garden. The manor house has a really impressive contemporary South African art collection (loved the Kentridge pieces) with loads of gorgeous sculptures in the garden. If you’re an art lover, you’ll be in heaven. The owner, Alison runs really cool hikes and guided walks around the property, so if you’re feeling energetic (I was not) then totally check that out.

We checked in to our room, dropped bags then took a taxi to Botrivier – also around the corner. A quick heads up: There are ZERO uber drivers in that area, so if you’ll be having wine with dinner, then use a shuttle/transport company. We used Overberg Transfers and were helped by Adam > +27 79 503 6849. The service is not cheap as they drive through from Grabouw, so just check prices before you book.

Botrivier Hotel is insanely cool. They have a bar there, and it’s so old school. SO old, in fact, that they have two separate bars: One for ladies, one for men. The space isn’t used like that anymore but you can still see the original, separated rooms. Isn’t that crazy? We played cards and had a few drinks while chatting with the locals. When we got back to Wildekrans Country House, we lit our private fire, opened some wine and sat chatting until the early hours. It was so perfect. The next morning, breakfast was delivered to our little dining table at 9:00 am. After breakfast, we climbed back into bed with tea and biscuits and read and napped.

That afternoon, we went to our friend Deborah’s house for a braai. She lives in Elgin and has a beautiful house overlooking the valley. We huddled around the fire and played with her kids and chatted until late before heading back to our guesthouse. The next morning, we slept late again and had another private breakfast. Francois got back in bed and had a nap while I explored the grounds and checked out the estate’s old converted barn, swimming pool, sculptures and rose garden.

I wish that Wildekrans was dog-friendly, but unfortunately, it’s not. It’s definitely (extremely) kid-friendly, as there’s another self-catering, private cottage on the estate that would be great for families. Also note that the pool is enclosed/fenced off (is anyone else AS paranoid about water as I am?) Affordability wise, this country house won’t break the bank because the winter rates for June, July and August are between R625 and R725 per person sharing – including breakfast.

If you want to create a weekend like this for yourselves, then here’s an easy link-map: Peregrine Farm Stallhttp://peregrinefarmstall.co.za/, Grabouw Slaghuishttps://www.facebook.com/grabouwvleis/, The Pool Roomhttps://www.oakvalley.co.za/the-pool-room, Wildekrans Country Househttp://www.wildekrans.co.za/, Botrivier Hotel > http://bothot.co.za/. And the shuttle company we used > http://www.overbergtransfers.com/425116157 

If you’re looking for dog-friendly accommodation in the area, then stay at Galileo Farm nearby >http://www.galileofarm.co.za/ and if you’re traveling as a family or if you want the best ribs in the Western Cape, then rather have lunch at The Hickory Shackhttp://www.hickoryshack.co.za/. If you want any further details or recommendations then please drop me an email. I’d love to help you plan a super fun trip!

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Wedding Inspiration

Francois and I are getting more and more excited and involved in planning our dream wedding. We both want something that is very intimate, romantic and sentimental. We’re getting married in the garden of his home in Stanford that has been in his family for four generations. Francois used to visit his grandmother there as a little boy and has so many good memories of the home. His dad has put so much love and hard work in to the house, even laying the new wooden floors by hand. He’s also created a beautiful vegetable garden and built a little fence for it too. It’s become a huge, family love-project and he’s just gotten started on the garden to make it beautiful for our little wedding.

We’ve decided on around 80 guests who are our closest friends and relatives. We’re hiring furniture and bringing in caterers and we’re getting married in a little chapel a few blocks from the house. It’s so exciting as we both love planning. I’ve put him in charge of food, beverages and music / entertainment and I’m handling decor, admin and logistics. We haven’t had a single disagreement on anything because our personal taste is actually exactly the same.

We want the food that is served to be our favourite dishes. The menu is going to get weird – from oysters to toasted cheese sandwiches, but we think it’s going to work! We also want to cook some of the food ourselves (at least the main dish) so we’ll liaise with the catering team and figure out how we’ll be able to pull that off, even if we can just have help with the prepping. There will definitely be loads of surprises on the day, so I can’t say too much without ruining the magic for our friends who are readers.

I’ve pulled some ideas together to help us with the look and feel of the wedding. We found pictures of exactly what we had in mind, which really helps with planning amongst our friends. I definitely want to do the flowers myself (with the help of my mom and his sister) and we both really want our friends and family to get involved in the setup. I definitely don’t want a wedding where we just ‘arrive’ and everything was done for us. We really want to get involved and savour every moment of the planning. I want to use fresh produce from our own grown vegetables and flowers from the home’s garden. I want every little detail to have meaning and for the people who we love most to get involved with us. These pictures are a little peek of what we have in mind. It won’t be exactly this, but this is more or less how we envision spending the afternoon and evening to celebrate our marriage. Less than 6 months to go!

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From the future Mrs van Binsbergen.

About two years ago, a friend who also works in PR (hello Sascha) was working on another project and asked me to help one of her other friends (and previous client) with the launch of his new wine. I’m trying to remember how I met Sascha, but it was through social media and other wine events, I’m sure.

Enter: Sascha’s email on the 24th of May, 2016 with the introductions, client brief and this extract on Francois: “He is doing really well with the relaxed, quirky and entertaining spin on his tours – he is a really likable guy – one of those cheeky and charming Afrikaans boys.” A few days later, I met Francois for coffee to discuss the event… and now here we are, almost 2 years to the day from our first meeting (8th of June, 2016). Here are some pictures from his launch. Little did we know!

I’ll never know what ended up differentiating me, or what made him want to commit his entire life, heart and future to me… and to us. The chemistry between us is a beautiful mix of friendship, adoration… and love. What has always attracted me to my relationship with Francois is that I suddenly had an overwhelming desire to be the best person that I can be. Somehow, I had the same affect on him. I grew so much stronger in everything that I did.  Throughout these changes in myself and the way he mirrored on to me, was like we were standing there all alone in the brightest light and really started to understand each other.

If you’ve ever had an experience where a relationship with another human has really hit your core then you will completely understand how incredibly rewarding this kind of bond with another person is. I read something the other day that really resonated with me:

“But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.”

A person who brings you to your own attention. Isn’t that just so beautiful?

So 657 days after that first coffee meeting, the man who I grew to love as a part of me got down on his knee, held my hands and cried as he asked me to be his partner in everything for the rest of our lives. To be his wife and to share my life with him.

Devastatingly, we lost Francois’ mother in April last year. Shortly before her passing, she had a dream that Francois and I would marry… and that things would happen in March and in November. We decided to have our wedding reception at her favourite place – their family home in Stanford, which Francois purchased last year and is in the process of renovating. We want to feel like she is part of the celebration, so true to her prediction (prophecy?)…  our wedding will be in November this year. Francois proposed to me on Thursday the 29th of March. This picture was taken after several bottles of celebratory bubbly. I love it!

I love telling the story of how he proposed. When Francois and I started getting serious, I always told him that I knew he would propose in the literal worst way. It would be something like… I would open the fridge and there would be a ring in the mayonnaise jar. On our trip to Italy, rumours stirred amongst friends that he was going to propose and I was like “No way – this is not him.” Way too predictable and romantic. He later told me about all the other ways that he’d considered proposing – one of them was to put my ring on a beer bottle. In. A. Grave. Yard. You get the point?

He proposed to me on the street. While I was waiting for my Uber. No really, he literally (actuallllly) went to my uber as I was waiting outside and said to the driver “Sorry, can you just wait… I need to propose to this girl quickly” like… are you joking? It was so unexpected. He had my DREAM ring made by my favourite jeweller and said that he would plan something lovely and romantic for when he gives it to me. He booked a beautiful dinner at the gorgeous Mount Nelson (my favourite) and arranged for us to stay at a guest house for the night. We went for pre-drinks at our favourite bar, and en route dinner he took me to the SAME spot on the same street where he first proposed and gave me my ring. What an idiot. It was perfect. I could not have asked for a more beautiful ring. It is honestly the most gorgeous and feminine ring that I have ever seen. It’s an oval diamond tube-set in a rose gold band and it feels much too fancy for my fingers, but I’m getting used to it. I love it so, so much. He did so good with this.

So right now we’re planning a very special, romantic and sentimental wedding for around 80 guests in Stanford. He’s planning the menu and choosing music and I’m hiring furniture, trying on dresses and sending out invitations. It’s all a big whirlwind and we can’t wait. Please expect a LOT of wedding posts, because we want to do something entirely different… and I really want to share it with you!

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Flying with children

Travelstart asked me to share some tips with them on flying with children. My friends, all I really want to tell you is what NOT to do by telling you a story of what happened to us the last time we flew with the boys. There is a big reason why this was the last time. We actually got those tickets via a Travelstart search, so check their deals on cheap Flights to Cape Town

Three years ago, we flew to Durban on Christmas Day because the flights were so much cheaper. The boys had received toy swords for Christmas (yay) well actually all their gifts included swords, shields, superhero costumes, water guns and erm… handcuffs. Metal ones. Obviously, those were left behind. On the plastic swords, I was just like… “maybe I should just call the airport and check if they can bring them on the flight…” like a good and organized mother, taking all the necessary precautions *pats self on back* It went something like…

Me: Hello Cape Town International Airport?

ASCA: Yes

Me: Is this Airports Company South Africa?

ASCA: Yes (doesn’t like being at work on Christmas Day)

Me: My sons have these erm, swords. You know those cheap, plastic, kiddies swords?

ASCA: Yes ma’am (probably doesn’t though)

Me: They’re not like, dangerous. I was wondering if the kids are allowed to take them like, on the plane. Just as carry-on? I mean carry-on is probably better. Is that fine? You know those plastic swords? Totally not dangerous

ASCA: They’re not metal?

Me: No-no, they’re plastic. Pretend. Like, for playing

ASCA: Those are 100% fine, they can bring them as carry-on. Yes that’s fine, as long as they’re not metal

Me: You’re really sure?

ASCA: Yes

Me: Oh good, I mean – they just got them today and they’re so excited about them… you know how kids love swords

ASCA: Was there anything else ma’am?

Me: Nope! Thanks so much for assisting! And HEY – Merry Christmas! :))))

ASCA: *click*

So off we headed. Okay no well, wait… They also had these plastic water guns. They’re so cool, you can add a balloon to the end of the (rifle shaped) gun and then you pump water into it. So actually not a gun, a pump!  They’re plastic and I was in charge of packing, so I was like “no man this is fine… it’s plastic, won’t even show up in the detectors… totally cool… I’ll just put them in.” And then the boys each had a backpack of toys and colouring books to entertain them on the plane ride. Check. Best mother ever. All sorted.

Well.

We got to the check-in counters to get our boarding passes. Load the bags. And the check-in lady (CIL) was like

CIL: Where are you flying to?

Me: Durban! And hey! Merry Christmas!! :))))

CIL: The 13:30 flight? (I don’t think she was of religion that celebrates Christmas) (at least not the sort of Christmas where you buy weapons for your children as gifts) (why did I do that again?)

Me: Yes

CIL: Bags please ma’am

Me: Graeme! (I mean really as if I could lift that bag. We’d only packed two bags – a communal one for him and I and a joint one for the kids. Because I’m smart!)

CIL: This bag is 27kg ma’am (HATES me)

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Me: That’s nice

CIL: You’re only allowed 23kg per bag, per person

Me: Yes, but you see – my husband and I put both our things in ONE bag. So like technically, the bag is 19kg UNDERweight.

CIL: No ma’am

Graeme: It’s fine, what do we do now? How much is the charge per kg?

Me: NO! I mean, this is ridiculous. We have an allowance of 46kg between us. That doesn’t make sense.

CIL: You could move some of your things to another bag so that this one is at 23kg

Graeme: That’s fi…

Me: NO! I mean. This is ridiculous. It’s the same amount going on to the same aircraft, you just want us to move it into a different container? I mean this doesn’t make any sense. This is just so ridi…

Graeme: Unzips bag to begin moving things from one bag to another. As soon as bag is unzipped, two water balloon rifles are exposed

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CIL: Ma’am…

Me: It’s fine, they’re plastic. Like, they don’t even have triggers, it’s just to…

CIL: Ma’am. We need to take you to security.

Me: WHAT THE ACTUAL F…

Graeme: Where are they? Do we need to have these cleared? What is the procedure? (annoying how level-headed and rational he is)

CIL: Please come with me. You’ll need to be escorted

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Before we could leave we had to fish through our bags to distribute those golden 4kgs. There is nothing glamorous about diging through your underwear with about 37 people standing behind you in a check-in queue. We had to go to the other side of the airport, the whole family and CIL in tow, with the 23kg bag containing the forbidden plastic water pumps shaped like guns. Very dangerous. Kids are by now all WTF YOU SAID WE WERE GOING ON A PLANE (fine, they did not actually say WTF) The bag needed to go through some sort of special clearance, departments were phoned, we had to wait a while and CIL was very happy to leave us there as somebody else’s problem for the day.

Eventually, they decided what I knew all along: THAT THEY’RE PLASTIC BALLOON PUMPS that can inflict absolutely no harm on another living being or aircraft containing passengers. Like, if someone was (let’s say) trying to hijack a plane with a neon green toy then y’all would be like “sit down”. I know you aren’t allowed to mention plane jackings in airports but like THIS IS MY BLOG AND I’LL SAY WHAT I WANT.

Satisfied and reassured that all our bags are safe and will arrive at the said destination at the same time, we were super eager to get to the boarding gate, maybe have a Wimpy  burger, buy a magazine (all parents going lololol right now) and relax before our flight (more lololol) Yay us! Before we even got to the boarding gate, while we were in the queue, it started again. This time from the Boarding Gate Lady (BGL)

BGL: Ma’am. Excuse me ma’am? Those aren’t allowed

Me: WHAT?!

She was pointing toward the boys’ backpacks. The sword handles sticking out in the centre – too large to be zipped up.

Me: No-no it’s fine, I called the airport and they said it’s cool. Really (trying to reassure her) it’s totally cool! (like really… I wasn’t worried at all) (thinking “shame”, maybe she’s new)

BGL: Ma’am those are not allowed through these gates

Me: Can I speak to your manager? This is unacceptable.

BGL: Step aside please ma’am

By now, the boys are inconsolable, we’re about to miss our flight and Graeme and I are having a full-on argument in the airport. On Christmas day. In front of everyone. The supervisor arrives.

BGL2: What seems to be the problem?

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By now, I am not wishing anyone a Merry Anything. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not even Christmas anymore. I mean, I am such an organized person. I had booked these flights in like October and all our Christmas shopping was done by mid-November. I LOVE administrative detail, being organized and having things go according to plan.

So I explained the whole thing to her, that I’d phoned, that I’d been told the swords are allowed, that well – we’re going to miss our flight and we really need to get going.

BGL2: Who did you speak to on the phone?

Me: I don’t know? The person who answered it.

BGL2: That person gave you the incorrect information

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Me: I’m sorry, but when you call THE AIRPORT which REPRESENTS… our airport and you ask an AIRPORT RELATED question, you sort of expect them to know how things work and give you the correct information, right?

BGL2: You were given the incorrect information. Those are not allowed on the plane. You can go to the security point and put them in with your main luggage. They might give you clearance.

Me: We were JUST there, our bags were already cleared. They’re probably already on the plane. I mean, I can’t do this anymore.

I usually don’t care a lot about these kinds of things, but these were my kids’ Christmas presents that I’d told them they can keep and that I’d already called to clarify and confirm because I was unsure. I mean, they were from Father Christmas, after all. Graeme was SO over it by now, but I was adamant that I was told this was allowed, and BGL2 is obviously wrong. And so it just got worse.

BGL2: Ma’am you’ll have to leave these here

Me: WAIT! I know. I’ll *phone* the airport right now here next to you and you can speak to them and they’ll just clarify everything. I’ll sort it all out right now! *presses redial*

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ASCA: Airport Company South Africa

Me: Hello, YES! Is this Airports Company South Africa?

ASCA: Yes (still doesn’t like being at work on Christmas Day) (basically this whole thing is all this guy’s fault) (not that I’m BLAMING him) (I am)

Me: I spoke to you earlier, about the swords – you know the toy swords? Did I speak to you?

ASCA: *pause* yes ma’am

Me: OKAY!!! So. I’m at the boarding gate. With the swords. And they won’t let me take them on the plane. Can you speak to the supervisor, please?

ASCA and BGL2 exchange words for at least… 7 seconds. BGL2 hangs up. Passes phone to me.

BGL2: Ma’am. You spoke to customer care. They aren’t authorised to make those decisions or to handle security queries. They’re just customer care

Me: That’s odd, cause I AM A CUSTOMER. Is there another number I should have called to get this kind of information?

Graeme: Tash seriously, we’ll leave the swords here, it’s fine. Is there a holding locker or something? Can we collect them on our way back?

We had to explain it all to the kids who by now had forgotten they even had swords they were so over it. I was over it. The airport was over us. Finally, all issues aside, we made our way through the boarding gates. I sighed with relief as nothing beeped when I went through the metal detector. No weapons in my handbag. Laptop all scanned through. I was READY to get to Durban. Christmas, round two was underway! Whoohoo!

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*beep beep beep beep beep*

Wait, what? No really… WHAT? Somewhere behind me, there was an issue with Graeme and the boys and security. No, really. I could see the Boarding Gate Scanner Guy (BGSG) freaking out a bit (whispering and making eye contact) as the boys’ backpacks went through that x-ray carousel thing.

BGSG: THERE ARE GUNS IN HERE

Me: You have got to be…

All other airport folks are now stepping back and staring at my family. Graeme looking at me as if I had just murdered someone. Or farted. The kind of fart that makes you not love someone anymore.

Me: I SWEAR I have nothing to do with… Graeme? they packed their own bags. Oh dear God why did we let them pack their own activity bags?

Noah’s bag contained: One pair of scissors. Two plastic guns. Another water gun. All of which got thrown into a big container next to the BGSG. Ben’s bag contained much of the same, another two pairs of scissors. Fair enough. Eventually, the boys got the backpacks back with wide eyes and renewed respect and fear for the airport system. Grays and I sort of stood around putting things back into bags, sheepish grins as the piled up queue and other parents just stood there watching us. Judging.

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And that was the first 2 hours of our holiday. It was obviously all forgotten as soon as they saw the plane and got lost in the excitement and wonder of flying. Have any of you had airport dramas like this? Of course you haven’t. Because you don’t pack guns and swords into your luggage, and nor do your children!

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<sidebar> Obviously I do not BLAME the airport for not allowing us to take these items on to the plane. It’s just a funny story. If you’re ever unsure of an item that you’re allowed to take on the plane, it’s best to phone ACSA and ask to be put through to the SECURITY department. The airports do a very good job. Please don’t ban us.

Unfortunately, I have to fly with the boys again this year. We’re planning a trip to Johannesburg  because I really want to take the boys to the Johannesburg Zoo. They both love animals and Benjamin wants to work as a Zoologist one day, so it’s going to be a huge treat/surprise for them. Check out TravelStart’s deals on > Cheap Flights From Johannesburg To Cape Town because there are so many deals on right now. I’m also including the infographic on how to fly with children, just so you can be more prepared this holiday season.

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How much do you weigh?

It’s New Year’s Eve and this is the time of year when people decide to make changes. While this isn’t my personal resolution (this year)… I do get a bit dismayed when I talk about my own weight. It’s usually met with a casual eye-roll because people generally consider me to be thin and healthy. When thin people feel unhappy about their weight, there are whispers of “attention seeking” or even “eating disorder”. Right?

When I was a young girl, I was incredibly thin – naturally. I was also really tall (I’m 1.74) since I was in like, standard 5. I struggled with sport because I didn’t have much muscle and I struggled with boys because I was so much taller than all of them. Who wants to dance with the lanky girl who is at least three heads taller than them? None of them did. Being tall and thin disrupted a lot in my social, sporting & romantic development. I was insecure and awkward as a young girl, so my mom enrolled me in modelling classes. I learned how to walk on a ramp, turn (half turn, full turn back turn) and swing my bony hips to try gain confidence in my body. I entered pageants (gross) and much to my surprise even won a few. I never really enjoyed it, BUT it did help with my confidence to have someone other than my parents tell me that I was pretty.

<Side bar> I don’t support the pageant industry in any way at all. Let’s pin women up against each other to compete on their looks, education and bodies? What the hell you guys!!

When I got to high school, I remember my guy friends laughing at me in my new uniform. I looked ridiculous in the navy pencil skirt because I had no hips, no thighs and no calves. I drowned in the starchy fabric. There was this guy at our school who sold fudge for R2 a square. I asked my mom for pocket money every day and made that year my sole purpose to gain weight. I ate up to two chicken & mushroom King Pies every day and bought at least 4 squares of fudge every day. When I got home from school, I towered bread and cheese into the microwave and had extra helpings of food at dinner. It took about two years of this and my standard 8 I finally felt more like a woman. I had hips and a bum, but my health had plummeted and I’d developed acne from the bad diet and hormones. By standard 9, I stopped doing sport completely. Eventually, I had little fat rolls and was wearing a size 36 pants. Great job, Natasha

By matric, I was dieting to look better (and haha – thinner) for my first year at university. Shrinking my stomach back to its natural form and trying to backtrack those past 5 years of damage was a nightmare. I kept a journal of what I ate and how much I weighed just to try to make sense of everything. At varsity, I had two waitressing jobs and was living in a student res with a breakfast service. I didn’t grow up eating breakfast because in high school I was literally always late for school and had to run the few blocks to get there on time. With all this new exercise (hello have you waitressed), a breakfast routine and more activity (money being spent on apple sours instead of actual food): I plummeted to 52 kg and stopped getting my period. At my ‘natural’ weight at the beginning of high school, I was 58 kg. By matric I was 65kg. I had lost 13kg in the space of months and my body was panicking. I remember I got a bit furry like… all these fine white hairs sprung out all over my arms and I was like…. well this is weird.

When I moved back home, I filled back up to about 60kg and maintained this naturally and effortlessly for the next few years. Whenever I felt my jeans get tight, I would skip dinner for a while until it evened out again. When I was about 23 and living and cooking alone, I finally found the foods and diet that I really enjoyed and was truly healthy for the first time in my life. I thrived on salads, seafood and vegetables. All I ever wanted was a hearty, loaded salad, sushi and vegetable stews or soups. I felt incredible, I was healthy and my weight stayed steady.

When I was pregnant with Noah, I gained a beautiful 17kg (including him, amniotic fluid etc) so my body gained about 10. When I was expecting him, I craved cheese curls, cheese russians and kit kats and loved every second of it. As soon as he was born, I craved summery, crunchy salads and the weight shed like it never happened. I had exactly the same experience with Ben’s pregnancy, but the weight took about a year to go.

When I turned 30, the boys were toddlers. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but little kids are not really into salad. Dinners turned in to pizzas, macaroni cheese and fish fingers. The house was permanently stocked with boudoir biscuits and nesquick. I started drinking more often (hello – toddlers) and became addicted to sugary red bull. Within 2 years, I reached my highest ever weight of 75kg.

Understand that I am naturally about 60kg. That’s when I’m eating healthy food, 3 meals a day, doing exercise with treats and drinks in between. When I’m NORMAL.

I signed up for a half marathon, joined a gym, did a juicing fast & went back to my old (normal) eating habits. It took me about 1.5 years to lose 15kg and I kept it off. The only thing that I’ve ever done to re-set my body and to lose weight is: To switch to salads, running, more water and skipping dinner now and then. Because I have always known 60kg to be my body’s normal weight, I get really stressed when I go too far beyond this number because it means that something is wrong. It means that I’m not healthy or fit and that I’m not taking care of myself. Because I’ve always associated my weight to my happiness and aspects of my personal health – it’s become important to me. To me, it means “HEALTHY” – inside and out. When I say that I want or ‘need’ to lose weight… what I am really saying is that I want to be my normal and happy.

Right now, I’m at 65 and when I say that I need to lose weight – it is not what people think. I don’t think that I’m overweight at all. I don’t feel bad about my body and I don’t think I’m fat. I just know that I need to eat more fruit and vegetables and that I need to start running more… and not eating so late at night. Throughout the years, people have asked me what I do to lose weight and through years of practice (and discoveries I made by accident), I follow the following routine. Obviously, I am not a nutritionist or dietician and you need to find what works for YOUR body, but for those who asked:

When I’m eating healthily to lose weight I:

  1. Have coffee & boiled eggs or apple /fruit for breakfast. Sometimes both.
  2. Have a tuna salad or tray of roast veg & cottage cheese for lunch
  3. Drink loads of water
  4. Snack on coffee and fruit or a nutribullet (mixed fruit) or popcorn when I’m hungry – usually at about 4pm
  5. I don’t eat dinner – not after 8pm anyway. If I do eat something at night, it’s a solid protein like  boiled eggs, biltong or a piece of fruit. Another favourite is carrots dipped in humus.
  6. I take Jack for a walk / run every single day. Not too far. Like a 30 – 40 minute walk.

That’s my guide to my personal comfort zone with my weight. I switched back to this lifestyle a few weeks ago. I call it my re-set. I definitely don’t have any kind of ‘food issues’ but I neglected, damaged and mistreated my body for so long and it took me so many years to find a comfortable weight that makes me feel good about myself and nourishes my body.

What do you guys do when your jeans get a bit tight? Please share your little tips in the comment section for all the other readers who might be interested. I’ve heard of people drinking apple cider vinegar!? Anyway… I hope that you all have a merry, festive and SAFE new year’s eve tonight.

<Side Bar> I’ve decided not to include pictures in this post. I don’t care what my body looks like in a bikini. I care about how healthy and strong I am.

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New blog, old blog

For a long time (about a year) I avoided saying anything personal on the internet, even paying attention to captions on photographs – dare they be too emotional or revealing.

While I realise that there are boundaries to what we share online, I found that both my writing and confidence had dried up. I love writing. I love it more than I enjoy doing anything else. Last week, I decluttered my bedroom and found my old journals. Diaries that I’d lovingly written and kept since 1998. I paged and cringed and giggled through them and my heart burned to write again. To translate my heart within the framework of words again. To whisper those tiny secrets to paper again.

So I bought a journal, I opened this blog again… and I’ve decided to set boundaries. There are so many brilliant writers/bloggers in South Africa and beyond. Our favourite posts are never really the travel ones, or the recipes and how-to lists. My favourite bloggers are the ones who share their feelings and experiences with me. The ones who make me laugh with their candid, unapologetic honesty. That’s  what I want to read. That’s what I want to write about.

Both my children can read now, and both have intermittent access to the internet. While it’s controlled access, I can’t guarantee that they won’t ever google me (or themselves) and find my blog. There are so many letters on here that I’ve written to them and sung their praises. I fear their tiny egos would never recover, so let’s hope that they don’t find them just yet. Either way –

I would never (and have never) written about my children’s private lives. I would never write anything negative about their dad (I save this information for lengthy whatsapps to him personally, when he annoys me). I would never write about anything that my kids don’t know about or don’t fully understand. It would feel like a form of betrayal, so I’m just not comfortable with it.

I would never write about anything that I don’t completely understand. Like… anything to do with geography, the solar system, bitcoin… or love.

But I’m here to share stories. Real ones. I’m here to talk about the issues that we all grapple with. I’m not an expert (on literally anything) but I’d like to talk about how I do, feel and see things – personally. So anyway… Let’s chat.

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Thankful

It’s been my toughest year yet. Health scares, demanding school schedules, loss, business re-structuring and an overall feeling of “underwhelm” in every department. I exercised less, ate more, drank more and spent far too much time indoors. I withdrew from friends, spent less time with my family and was in an unhealthy relationship with myself – which made me more susceptible to a series (or rather, a full-length feature) of much less than I ever deserved.

I’ve emptied my pockets, studied their contents and I genuinely feel ready for 2018. In the spirit of the new year, I wanted to talk about being thankful.

Be thankful for every single person who cares about you. Be thankful for your sense of self and the relationship that you have with yourself. Never take your individuality for granted. At the end of the day, you really are all that you have, and if you lose yourself: everything around you will fall apart. Nurture, compliment, embrace, improve and appreciate yourself as a person… every day.

Be thankful for your body. I had a few procedures done this year when my gynae suspected that I had cervical cancer. Listen, nothing levels you like thinking that your time could be cut short. Ladies: Go for those checkups. Your GP can do a pap smear or test you for HPV (a type of virus that causes cervical cancer) Woman up. Get your breasts checked, lose that weight if it’s affecting your health. Exercise, walk, run, jump. Eat good foods that nourish you. Be. thankful. for. your. body.

Be thankful for your mind. Feed it more information. Study further, learn more, think and read more. Question everything. I got into such a mental comfort zone this year and I honestly feel that I didn’t grow or learn anything new – intellectually or physically. I bought myself a new book and asked for paints and brushes for Christmas. I want to study different writing styles, learn from new authors, listen to new stories. I have a huge passion for art and instead of admiring other people’s work, I want to create something of my own. Even if it’s awful.

Next year I’m going in a few different directions because I’m disappointed in 2017. While so many great things happened, I feel like I didn’t develop enough as a person. That I wasn’t present and didn’t take care of myself. Like I didn’t really achieve anything that I’m proud of. Maybe it’s good to have a ‘gap’ year to just live… But I’m rested, re-set and ready to be so much more in 2018, but this time – with gratitude.

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