Francois and I have a cute & cheerful house in Stanford that we rent out as a little guesthouse. We have spent years renovating, decorating and loving this house. Sometimes we have friends or family who stay at the house, so I thought I’d do a little post on *everything* you need to know about Stanford to have a really good time here. Here is your Helpful Guide to Stanford for Beginners:
Stanford is about 15 minutes drive from Hermanus (quaint seaside town famous for whale-watching and popular with holiday-makers), so about 2.5 hours from Cape Town. It’s a tiny little country village situated on the Klein River. It’s surrounded by beautiful farms and mountains. It is very quiet and very safe. One of my favourite, favourite places in Stanford is a farm called Stanford Hills Estate. It’s so GREAT for kids and dogs.
Stanford Hills Estate is about 3km before Stanford. It has a restaurant called The Tasting Room that overlooks a sweet little dam with rowing boats. My kids (and dogs) love to swim in this dam. The estate also has putt-putt for the kids, lots of things to climb and play on and loads of room to run around. They also have horses and offer horse riding through the vineyards & farm. Also look out for little buck, sheep and the resident pig called Crackling. You will love spending loads of lazy afternoons here; sipping wine, having lunch and watching the kids play.
The estate also offers loads of accommodation on the property. From the big Manor House with swimming pool to the sweet cottages and the gorgeous Afri Camps camping sites. We have stayed at all their accommodation options over the years and love them. In fact, we love this farm so much that we got married here. Here are some pictures of their Afri Camps ‘glamping’ sites. Please note that the entire estate is dog friendly!
There are other super fun things that you can do inside Stanford Village. A few of my favourites definitely include booking a boat cruise on the African Queen! The boat can take loads of people (I had a birthday party on it) and they have a braai on-board. They also have tubes so you and your kids can swim, float & cruise along the river in style and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Just pack your meat, cooler box, a towel and drinks!
Other things that I really love in Stanford is that they have a Sunset Market on the Village Green on the last Friday of every month. They also have a little farmer’s market outside the Stanford Hotel every Saturday morning with fresh produce, pies, brownies, cheeses, meats and all sorts of delicious treats. I also really love riding my bicycle around the village and taking long walks along the river!
If you feel like taking a drive to Hermanus for lunch or an early dinner – there is a fantastic little restaurant there called Fick’s. It’s situated around Fick’s Pool – a famous tidal pool in Hermanus. It’s dog friendly and the kids can swim there too! Perfect for hot days. Unfortunately they don’t take reservations, so you might wait for a table. It’s totally worth it though!
Other things to do in Stanford: Eat Italian food at La Tattoria. Great Gelato bar next door, too! Have lunch, wine and chocolates at Oliilo Coco. Visit their only pub: Table 13 for great pizza, sport and sometimes live music. Find great coffee and pies at Ou Meul Bakery. If you love animals, you might want to venture out to Panthera Africa for a big cat experience. If you’re super adventurous, you can book Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai around the corner. Marine Dynamics are the best and it’s actually a very kid-friendly activity! If you have kids who love gaming, you can drop them at Stuffed Creations for an hour or two while you explore the village. Stanford really has something for everyone.
If you’re looking for a dog and child-friendly guesthouse in Stanford, then you can even book our own house, The Dragonfly! It’s a 2.5 bedroom house with a big garden, kids play room and it’s dog friendly! You can mail firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about dates and rates! I’m really proud of this house because Francois and I decorated, furnished and renovated it together while we were still dating. Here are some pictures.
This year has been a nightmare for most of us, but especially over here at The Rabbit Haus. My husband, Francois works in tourism and owns a well established tour company called Wine Flies Tours. It relies mostly (and I mean 95%) on international tourists. In season, he has 5 or more tour busses out into the winelands every day. Above this, they also do private tours, Kruger Safaris and helicopter tours. When we hit lockdown, his business closed completely. He didn’t earn an income for almost 6 months and had a whole team of staff and tour guides to try support. I do marketing and PR for mostly the hospitality industry and I also write for a few other companies – mostly content and blog posts. I lost 80% of my clients during lockdown and the clients I did have, decreased their services to a minimum. The schools closed. The kids were adapting to home schooling and everything changed in what felt like seconds.
My dad (who I am extremely close to) let me know that he was leaving the country. For good. He lived in KZN, in my same childhood home. I quickly bought flights for him to come and say goodbye to us in Cape Town. I hadn’t seen my dad in over a year and all I wanted was a last hug, dinner, cup of tea and for him to see his only grandchildren before he left South Africa. A few days before his arrival, he caught wind that the airports were going to close and they had to move their UK flights forward. Immediately. I got a frantic voice note and my dad got on a plane to the United Kingdom that same day. I didn’t get to say goodbye. Out of all the ways that Covid affected me personally, that remains the worst.
Fast forward a few months and Francois and I completely restructured our businesses. I stepped in as the Marketing Manager of Wine Flies Tours, I started teaching again and I put my writing career in children’s books on hold. We launched an extensive PR campaign for local travel and got great coverage on television, radio and online media. Francois got bored and started making biltong fun fun, which quickly turned into a little business and he is now stocked at quite a few places around Cape Town. I picked up a few new additional clients, the kids were finding their groove at school and getting ready for their final exams. We booked a holiday to Mozambique and JUST as everything seemed to be going better… We all got Covid.
Monday, 23 November
Francois’ birthday was on Monday, 23 November. He woke up saying that he felt tired and that his body was sore, but we put it off to him being very tired. It’s the end of the year, we had been on holiday in Stanford for our wedding anniversary and had many late nights and far too many drinks. I genuinely thought he just had a 2-day hangover (which you know, is a thing). We even stopped to visit his dad in the morning (a diabetic) and I had arranged a little surprise party for him: A full day in the winelands with some of his best friends. We spent that Monday with at least 20 of our friends – eating, drinking and travelling together until at least 10pm that night. We had no idea. We did take Francois’ temperature on Monday morning just to be sure, and it was completely normal. Also – the tour bus we were in was seated according to Covid regulations, eg the bus can normally take 13 passengers, but we were at capacity of 9 passengers according to Covid regulations. The bus had also been fogged, sterilized and all passengers were checked for temperatures, hands sanitized etc. This is important later.
Tuesday, 24 November
On Tuesday morning, the kids came back home from a week with their dad. Noah was at school for an exam and Ben was just hanging at home with us. Francois felt bad, but still not like – “flu bad”. He said he felt like his body was really sore and he was feeling chills like hot and cold vibes. Not like a fever. He had no cough, no sore throat. Not even a sneeze. No temperature. I on the other hand started coughing a dry cough and also started feeling the chills. The worst was definitely the lethargy. I felt like even walking to the bathroom was impossible, but I had the kids and everything else to take care of.
Wednesday, 25 November
Our nanny came into work. Ben started getting cold symptoms so I kept him home from school just in case. I still honestly thought that we were just tired and probably just had a hangover from Francois’ all-day party on Monday. We had scares before. I have gotten sick with colds this year and so has Ben. We had been for Covid tests earlier this year which were negative. Not wanting to take a chance, Francois went for a test and by now we were letting the friends from Monday’s party know that three of us were sick. I got hit with the worst case of lethargy I had ever felt and I am counting having raised 2 newborns. I got into bed that afternoon and could not move. Francois and I were just like, critically exhausted. My cough was getting a bit worse but not bad – just the odd wet cough. No other symptoms except a really sore body and absolute exhaustion. Francois and I dragged ourselves to Lancet for his test. I stocked up on all the flu meds I always use: Corenza C, Myprodol, Vitamin C and Zinc for us. For the kids, I got Corenza C paediatric syrup and Stilpane syrup. If you’re a parent, you may know that Stilpane knocks a kid out like a sleeping pill, and I knew that Ben needed to sleep to help his body heal. My son Ben is asthmatic and is on chronic medication. He has been hospitalised a handful of times, making him high risk for Covid. Things were starting to get real very quickly at this point. I pulled the kids from school and told our nanny not to come in anymore. I still didn’t think that we had it, but I was just being safe.
Thursday, 26 November
I woke up feeling like I could never get out of bed again in my life. I almost wet the bed because walking the 2 meters to our en-suite bathroom seemed impossible. Francois was literally just groaning next to me. I checked on the kids, gave them more meds and got straight back into bed. At this point, I told Francois “This isn’t flu. Something is wrong.” The only thing that really set up alarm bells was the total exhaustion and inability to move, stand or walk. Francois and I felt really, really dizzy and spaced out. I slept in for a bit and got out of bed at lunch time. I still had to look after the kids, make sure they were studying, eating and sorting out their odd squabbles. I had a few urgent work matters and had to clean the house and still walk and take care of the dogs, rabbits and our cat. We survived on take-aways and lets just say that my kids ate a LOT of cereal.
Later that afternoon, Francois got the text. He was positive. By now my denial had disappeared and I went into full-on panic mode. We had to contact everyone we saw that Monday. We saw his dad who is high risk. All our closest friends. Our nanny had been in. The kids had been at school. I felt this feeling of total guilt and almost like, grief? I had to contact the school, pull the boys out of exams. At the same time it hit me that Ben is extremely high risk. The kid has ended up in hospital with a cold before. Asthma attacks are scary. We put ourselves in total lockdown. Obviously.
Friday, 27 November
All I could think about was monitoring Ben. The doctors wouldn’t see him and I was too scared to take him for a Covid test. It was very clear that we all had it. My other son, Noah absolutely NEVER gets sick. He had a headache for like 2 hours that week and that was it. Also, note that I started dosing Noah with all the same meds as soon as Ben got sick, so I think that definitely helped. We got a peak-flow meter (From Wynberg Pharmacy) which is a device that measures your lung capacity. I was advised to get Ben to blow into the device every 2 hours to see if his numbers were decreasing. I also got his emergency asthma meds (a strong cortisone called Aspelone) to boost his lungs above and beyond his regular meds. By the time I noticed a decline, I called our doctor who referred me to a Paediatrician who admitted Ben straight to the Paediatric Ward at our nearest hospital. By now, I was slowly getting my energy back but I was probably just running on adrenaline. We had run out of food at home and Francois was still very sick. He definitely got it the worst out of all of us. I had to leave Francois and Noah at home alone and stay over with Ben in isolation at the hospital.
They tested me and Ben straight away. The test itself is really sucky. We got swabbed around our tonsils which makes you want to hurl. I would much have preferred a blood test, to be honest. It seems like a stupid thing to even mention, but a lot of people ask what the test is like.
Ben was put on a nebuliser. This was Friday. Ben’s 10th birthday was on the upcoming Sunday and it looked like he was going to spend it in hospital.
The nurses couldn’t really come into our room because they had to put on like a dozen garments to even enter our ward. This meant that most of his medication was dropped at a table outside our room, which I would administer to Ben. I had to run his nebs and turn them off. I slept on a chair next to his bed and he struggled to sleep. His lung capacity wasn’t coming back up fast enough and would just drop every 2 hours again.
Saturday 28 November
If you’ve ever been in hospital with your kid, then you know that they wake you up at 5:30am. I was feeling super sick at this point and in my rush, hadn’t packed my own meds, toothbrush or even a change of clothes for myself. Obviously Ben had everything he needed because this is just how parents operate, right? The doctor came to check on Ben and didn’t want to discharge him as she felt that we would just come back again later. Knowing that it was Ben’s birthday the following day, she let us leave on condition that we purchase our own Nebulizer for at home, which we did. We ordered some groceries online and all of us literally just slept for what felt like a hundred years.
Sunday 29 November
Ben woke up feeling so much better. I actually felt 80% fine and Francois too. We had a cute little drive-by party and all the family dropped off cakes and presents for Ben. He really got spoiled rotten and was off his nebs by Sunday evening.
The following week…
We had another week of isolation to get through and were all feeling the cabin fever really badly. Luckily, we have a house in Stanford to we packed the family in the car to go isolate there. Our Stanford house has a big, beautiful garden so at least the kids and dogs would have more space to play and be active. We left on Monday and I asked my nanny to go to the house on Wednesday / Thursday to check on the cat and bunnies. She is a single lady living with another family, so she often stays over when we travel. Our Stanford house is my sanctuary.
On Wednesday our nanny told us that she was feeling sick. On Thursday her chest was severely tight. By Thursday evening she was taken to hospital for medication and a Covid test. I felt so helpless being all the way in Stanford, so I ordered groceries online for her to be delivered to the house. She had medicine and everything else she needed. By Friday she had tested positive. This meant that she had to stay at our house and was officially in quarantine. This also meant… that we could not go home. Apparently you can get Covid twice and if we went home and lived with her, we would need to go right back into isolation.
We would have just stayed in Stanford, but I had a meeting in Cape Town on Tuesday and the boys were also seriously missing their dad who they hadn’t seen in two weeks. We ended our quarantine, drove back to Cape Town, gave the kids to Graeme and then Francois and I had to check into a hotel. We stayed on Long Street for a week before we could come home on Friday afternoon.
Only 1 of our friends also tested positive for Covid. One who was at Francois’ birthday party that first Monday. Out of the other 20+ people we were with that day, everyone else was luckily fine.
Our nanny went home yesterday and she is feeling absolutely fine now. We are all 100% recovered. We did miss our holiday to Mozambique (you need a negative Covid test to get through the border) and the boys missed their final exams, class picnics and everything else. It’s the 12th of December and I haven’t even put up the damn Christmas Tree. We’re still tired. I spent all of today in bed, watching Greys Anatomy re-runs. I still feel exhausted and like I could just fall asleep anywhere, at any time. And (because I hate myself) I got on the scale this afternoon. Three weeks of no exercise and trying to “eat for energy” has really, really taken it’s toll on my body. I must have gained about 7kg but even worse is that I just feel horrible. Tired, gross, unhealthy and dehydrated. I feel like I need to run 10km and eat 10 salads and drink 20l of water to just feel normal again and I will. As soon as I can get out of bed again.
I feel like I need to walk around here with a feather duster and dust all the cobwebs off of this blog! It’s been so long, and I’ve missed being here. I really love keeping all my memories in one place and having a little online journal! How I’ve missed writing.
Today I want to talk about Benjamin Nicholas Clark! He is the sweetest little guy that you’ve ever met in your life, and he loves nothing more than fishing. He started when he was about 2 years old and he’s NINE now. He’s caught more fish than anyone else I know and he’s really, really good at it. I don’t know what attracts people to fishing, but whatever it is – it literally has Ben hooked!
My boys each have their own hobbies, talents and interests. Benjamin is all about fishing and art. He loves to draw and sketch and has built up a gorgeous portfolio of pieces. I think that I help out more on the art side and his dad is also a passionate fisherman. They spend hours at the local dam or on a kayak pulling bass out. Once, when we were in Paternoster – I organised for him to go deep-sea fishing with a family friend. He pulled out the biggest fish out of all the grown men and was in his element. They caught Hotentots and that night Ben helped scale, prep and braai his very own catch. It was such a lovely moment to be a part of. He was SO PROUD.
Anyway, I need to keep all these pictures together for him, because it’s so nice to watch him grow through the years and develop into a proper little fisherman. I always wonder if he’d want to join a fishing club or go professional in some way one day. I love that fishing gets him out the house and into the outdoors, and that his best friend (James) is also a major fishing enthusiast. When Ben has a great catch, he immediately wants to call James on the phone and tell him all about it. Here’s a look at Ben’s fishing trips and catches throughout the years. What a great little man! I love you Ben.
I haven’t even written about our wedding, and here I am writing about our honeymoon. I think I’m saving that post for our 1-year anniversary which is closer than I even realised. I lost my phone a few weeks ago, and with it a whole bunch of images. It’s sort of terrified me about backing up photos, memories and thoughts in other places other than my phone and external hard drives. I didn’t actually LOSE my phone. Someone followed me (and my kids) through a shop and stole it out of a bag in my trolley but hey. It’s gone.
I’ve always loved the feeling of journaling because it makes all your feelings and memories that much more tangible. As I sit here, I’m worried that I won’t remember all the beautiful and perfect little details of our honeymoon and it was only a few months ago? Like literally 2 or 3 months ago… and it’s already faded.
So anyway, Francois and I went to Italy together when we were semi-serious boyfriend-and-girlfriend. I remember that we had a big fight in Florence and I sulked for hoooooours, which is why I will absolutely never see the Arno river again. Traveling as husband and wife is sooooo much more fun (and even more romantic). For this Italian trip, we headed straight for our favourites: Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. I mean, we love Venice but we had been there twice before. I remember my first night in Venice, I ran to our hotel room to charge my phone and woke up the next day. I was so tired. Francois was furious haha. I’d always traveled alone before that trip, so it was really weird for me to do things WITH someone, but now I love it. I love experiencing destinations through him and his enjoyment, too. My favourite is after a long day of sights, we would pour a drink, watch the sunset and go through our photos of the day. That daily recap was the best!
So anyway, if you’re thinking about seeing Italy, then definitely see Venice. If you want to see the Amalfi Coast (Positano etc) then 100% stay in Sorrento and take ferries everywhere. Avoid Capri unless you’re a hardcore Camps Bay / Cafe Caprice type fan in which case you’ll love it. We hated it. Enjoy spending (literally, honestly) R350.00 on a drink for a mediocre view. I don’t want this post to be too “advicey” but you can go to Italy in the HEIGHT of season and you won’t be crowded in Sorrento or Atrani which are by far the most beautiful in Italy. If you’ve never been: go to Venice, Sorrento, Positano and Atrani in that order. You can land in Venice, take a train /ferry/road trip to Naples, then Sorrento, then a day trip to Positano, then a ferry to Amalfi and then Atrani is literally walking distance from there. T R U S T M E. If you’re super into art or history, then throw Rome in there. The Sistine Chapel and Colosseum are literally… colossal. I found Florence to be very hipster and undeservedly overcrowded, but hey. Maybe it was that fight. It’s *extremely* Cape Town.
Anyway, we headed straight to Sorrento for our honeymoon and checked in at the sweetest little (weirdly affordable) private, penthouse apartment.
Wait, sorry – backtrack.
We flew out to Italy and our plane stopped in Zambia to refuel or something. And then the plane wouldn’t start again. Hilariously, they did the whole “put it off, put it back on again” thing while we were grounded which was alarming but still didn’t work. We disembarked after a very short flight from Cape Town. This sucked for various reasons, but mostly because of Francois and I’s “travel tradition”. We like to hang at a bar and get pretty decently drunk before a night flight because 1. fun! and 2. you sleep better. This has led to circumstantial issues in the past, like when we flew from Venice to Cape Town and had an *extremely* boozy “goodbye Italy” lunch. That led to us having to disembark a ferry from Venice to the airport because they wouldn’t let Francois urinate off the side of the boat. Look, when you need to go – you need to go. We had to make a stop, then (obviously) had more drinks there, VERY nearly missed our flight and led to F getting so ‘joyous’ on the plane that he couldn’t understand why the air hostess (he literally referred to her as a waitress) wouldn’t serve him gin and tonics while we were still grounded. He then got all the passengers around us to join his party, which they obviously did.
We had such a fun time before our Cape Town -> Italy flight that we were fully prepared to pass out right after dinner, which we did. Very rudely, we were woken up about 2 hours later, bleary – boozey eyed and then had to face the bright lights of the Zambia airport. Even worse? Small airports’ coffee shops, restaurants and shops close at like, 6? There wasn’t a bottled water or cup of coffee in sight, so we just sat on the airport floor for like 3 hours while the airline tried to figure out where to put us all. It really, really, really sucked.
Positive side: They ended up putting us into a hotel, which I realised was literally RIGHT next to Victoria Falls and on the Zambezi’s doorstep / river bed? so I was in my element! I’ve always wanted to see both the abovementioned. We ended up spending 2 more (fully paid and fed) nights in Zambia while they booked new flights and honestly, we were fine. We made friends with other stranded passengers, did a magical Zambezi sunset cruise, went into Zimbabwe, saw Vic Falls, went to the Royal Livingstone and even the Vic Falls Hotel. We had so. much. fun. It was a very welcome and unexpected honeymoon surprise.
When we finally got to Sorrento we were buggered, elated and relieved. It was the first time that we booked a self-catering house and it was the BEST. We shopped at the local grocer and made our own dishes from Italian tomatoes, truffle oil, buttery pasta and parmesan. The best part? On our first night as Casa Correale, our stupid umbrella wouldn’t open (it was HOT) and I couldn’t figure out the airconditioning. I knocked on a neighbour’s door for ‘damsel in distress’ assistance and met our downstairs neighbour, Gerardo. He is a fantastic old man (late 80s) who lives alone in his g o r g e o u s apartment. It ended up that he owns our flat and he assisted us with everything we needed. We loved him so much that he invited us to see his apartment the next day (I die) and we invited him for drinks at our place, which ended up as a sing-along at HIS place (he used to be in a jazz band) and thus began a lifelong friendship between us. We still stay in touch with him with regular phone calls, voice notes and an open invitation for us to stay in that glorious penthouse apartment again, as his guests. We’re already planning our next trip! We love that man deeply and want to get a long-stay visa so we can pop over to him if he ever needs us.
Anyway, Sorrento is magical and if I can recommend ONE restaurant it would be what Gerardo recommended to us: The Five Sisters. You have never in your life had such authentic Italian food, which such a good view and the absolute worst service (depending on which sister you get). The 5 Di Leva Sisters restaurant is situated at Marina Grande which also happens to be the BEST spot in Sorrento! Honestly, I get teary just thinking about it as it was by far my favourite day in Italy, ever. The restaurant has been visited by the likes of Jamie Oliver and Sophia Loren, and it’s run by 5 obnoxious, charming, irritable, gorgeous and rude Italian mamas. They aren’t tourist-friendly. Nobody tries to upsell you. They aren’t interested in English. It’s kind of “come eat or go home, we don’t really care” attitude and it’s just so authentic and awful and wonderful all at the same time. Please go. Ignore the thousands of Trip Advisor reviews from the snooty English and just go. It’s definitely my most memorable dining experience of all time and the food is phenomenally authentic. We ended up having limoncellos with the sisters and they looooved Francois / Franco (everyone in Italy calls him Franco or Francesco)
From Sorrento, we did our usual (frightful, anxiety-clad) bus trip to Positano as a day trip. A bit later in our trip, we headed to Amalfi and then walked up the hill to Atrani which is (my God) the most beautiful, picturesque place I’ve ever seen. In my life. Ever. Atrani is tiny and consists of exactly what you see in the photos: One beach, one square. Maybe 5 restaurants and like 800 people. That’s it. And it’s magic. On our next trip to Italy, I’m heading straight for Sorrento and Atrani, without a doubt.
After Atrani, we headed to Rome. I was surprised at how much I loved this city. The Vatican City was mind-blowingly beautiful, but the queues are by far the worst I’ve seen in my life. Worse than the Louvre. Literally times it by a hundred. If you plan on going, please just pay the jump-the-line fee because nobody has time to stand in the sweltering heat for 2 – 3 hours. The Sistine Chapel is B R E A T H T A K I N G. I will always be extremely and wholeheartedly grateful that I got to see it in person. Everyone should. We didn’t go inside the Colosseum because it felt weirdly touristy, but just walking around it is magical. We also did a red bus tour of the city which really helps you gather your bearings. The Trevi Fountain is an actual joke in terms of tourists. But… having sundowners on a rooftop bar, overlooking the Colosseum is something that I will treasure foractualever.
Italy is insanely romantic. I have never perved on my gorgeous husband more. Seeing him all tanned and muscular, sporting vests and breaking a sweat in the heat while sipping on Spritz was… rewarding. You will feast on pizza, pasta, seafood, limoncello and spritz. You will swim in warm oceans, tan, love, feast and inhale the entire atmosphere of the beaches lined with lemon groves and sunshine. I could not have asked for a better honeymoon (or husband) and I can’t wait to do it all over again.
<side note> I gained somewhere around 7 – 10kg in Italy over two weeks. Yes, it’s possible. And it’s 100% worth it. You cannot go to Italy and not eat pizza, pasta and spritz every damn day. Three times a day. The food is carb-loaded, the drinks are sugary and it doesn’t matter how much you walk… you’re going to ROLL out of there happier, chubbier and tanned. Enjoy every living second! I just started losing all that extra weight and now we’re off to Paris and Portugal this week. I can’t wait to get fat and happy all over again! Right now, I’m still in the honeymoon phase of our marriage and I suspect I always will be.
You know what this blog is like to me? A friend. A friend that I’m really bad at keeping in touch with and never get around to seeing, but when we catch up again then it’s like nothing ever changed. I miss writing. I mean, I write for a living – but I miss writing here. I write for clients, other blogs and websites and I recently finished my first children’s book called The Silly Adventures of Buttons and Honey. I’m officially an author, and it blows my mind.
I have to tell you about the book first, though. About 5 or 6 years ago I started telling my kids these sweet little bedtime stories. You know when your kids are in bed and you’ve re-read all their books a hundred times? And you don’t even want to switch the lights on to find a reading option because, my God, that might wake them up all over again? I wish I knew the exact date or year that I made these characters up, because it’s literally their birthday and I just have no idea.
I created these characters called Buttons and Honey. They’re brother and sister bunnies who live in Bunny-Land, under a big apple tree. When I think about the sh*t that I made up I find it incredibly hard to believe that I’ve never taken drugs. I really haven’t. When you read the books one day you might suspect this, but seriously… I’m clean, you guys.
Buttons and Honey basically push boundaries. Instead of parents restricting you to one glass of Nesquick, these bunnies’ parents filled an entire swimming pool with Nesquick. And sweets. So it’s not “Alice in Wonderland” or anything like that. It’s more… Richard Scarry meets Beatrix Potter and Julia Donaldson. I have made up dozens of Buttons and Honey stories over the years.
A few months ago, I finally got the courage to actually write them down. I was laying in bed really late at night and I kept telling myself that I need to get around to it… to these books that I want to write. I guilted myself and then I had a super hard conversation with myself. The inner guilt-trip switched to motivation and I thought you know what? I’m just going to get out of bed RIGHT NOW and do it. The whole house was asleep and I was so tired, but I sat writing until the early hours (at least 2 or 3am or later) until I had all three of my favourite books penned.
Over the following couple of weeks, I’d gathered Theodore Key (the most incredible illustrator) and I spent so many wintery afternoons sitting in the sunroom at our Stanford house, putting the layout together. I can’t draw (at all) but I managed to shape the book into a 32-page layout, and off Theo went to bring Bunny-Land to life. There have been so. many. tears. I cried, cherished and celebrated every single step.
I got the most phenomenal literary agent (Catrina) and we signed contracts and put some legal things together. My designer, Colin put it all together and on my 35th birthday – I printed the very first Buttons and Honey book. Having that (and a bottle of Moët) in my hands was definitely one of the proudest moments of my life.
Writing a children’s Picture Book is much, much harder than I imagined it. Honestly, it’s so difficult, time-consuming, meticulous and expensive (if you’re paying for artwork). You don’t need to submit illustrations for picture book consideration (to publishers) but I wanted to do it for myself and for my kids. I was so proud to show them that mommy finally did it. I definitely think that I’ll stick to picture books, as YA (young adult) is so saturated and daunting for me. I think I’d rather leap to an autobiography one day, as I write very easily in this narrative.
What I HAVE discovered is an incredible, supportive, informative, encouraging, friendly and kind community of writers on twitter. Honestly, I have learned more about the world of publishing by following a few key authors, agents, illustrators, editors and publishers than I could have imagined. I’ve also reached out to local authors for support and the amount of gracious love and kindness that I’ve received has surpassed all the expectations I didn’t even have.
I’ve also learned that I need to keep blogging. I need to keep this narrative and my own inner protagonist going so that my craft stays fresh. I need to keep writing, communicating and surrendering my thoughts to typeface. I’ve realised that I’ve always lived in Bunny-Land and every step I’ve taken in my writing career (from poetry and anthologies of verse to gossip mags. From parenting blogs to news writing, press releases, social media content and lifestyle communication) has shaped and nudged my talents into various directions that all either hit the end of the stream of made me run out of steam. I either hit a brick wall or got gloriously bored. But not this. This is different, and I can feel it in every stroke of the keys, in every new rhyme, every furious scribble and I can see it in every illustration.
To quote my favourite lyric in one of my favourite musicals (The Greatest Showman): This is me.
Probably one of the biggest requests I get both personally and on social media is from people asking for recommendations on where to go for a weekend away. Francois and I are very lucky that we get to travel a lot. We both work in tourism and have friends, clients and projects all over the Western Cape, so we move around a lot. These are all places where we’ve paid our own good money to stay while travelling, and these are our favourites that we return to. This is my ultimate list of places to go around our beautiful city over weekends or even for mid-week breaks. I’ve highlighted prices and which places are dog, family or romance-friendly! I’ve put a lot of love in to this post, so please save it or share with friends to ensure that you *always* have the best time on your holidays xx
This is the *ultimate* family-friendly spot for warmer weather. We’ve stayed at both the trailer suites and the villas. Daddy’s Hideaway is ultimate romance. The trailers and kid facilities are absolutely perfect. They are *extremely* child friendly. There is a really cool ‘beach bar’ at the lake with paddle-skis and canoes. The water is shallow enough for kids to swim and play while the parents can completely relax. They also have bicycles for family-rides and a really cool restaurant and pool. For parties and celebrations, they have a gorgeous self-catering house called “The School House” that can sleep 6 adults and 4 kids.
Price: R1695.00 – R4095.00 per night for a trailer suite (3 people) or villa.
Family: Yes | Romance: Yes | Dogs: Nope | Parties: Yes
I did a full review of this house as I loved it so much. It’s a gorgeous historic homestead that is perfect for romance, small families, art lovers and active people. They offer 2 hiking trails through the beautiful Kogelberg and offer gorgeous breakfasts. I would say that this is perfect for active couples who want peace and tranquility, reading a book (they have a big selection) at the fireplace, going on hikes, having naps and exploring the incredibly beautiful garden and grounds. We really loved staying here. They have private suites and free-standing cottages. There is so much to do in the area. We even did an afternoon trip to Botrivier to the famous pub.
Price: R1535.00 – R2375.00 per night for a suite suite (3 people) or cottage.
Family: Sort of | Romance: Yes | Dogs: Nope | Parties: Hell no
I really loved staying here because it is incredibly dog-friendly, private and romantic. I have a thing for water and most of the cottages overlook a private dam with little boats. There is such glory in sitting on your porch, lighting the fire, pouring a drink and watching your dogs play and swim in the dam in front of you. It’s magical. Note that they are 100% self-catering so this is perfect if you want to do your own thing and not see other humans at all. I stayed at Coot’s Cottage but there are a bunch of other properties on the estate, too!
Price: R1580.00 – R4000.00 per night for a cottage or bigger house
Family: Yes | Romance: Yes | Dogs: Yes | Parties: Probably
There are also beautiful wine estates in the area. I personally love Almenkerk. For dining out, I love Hickory Shack and The Pool Room at Oak Valley OR the Elgin Railway Market. Hickory Shack is more family-friendly than Pool Room though. If you don’t stop at Peregrine Farm Stall for groceries, fresh apple juice, droewors and a pie then you’re absolutely nuts.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Paternoster, then this is your best bet: https://www.stayinpaternoster.co.za/. They have loads of gorgeous houses on the website that you can search according to the amount of people you are and if you have dogs, etc. If you can’t find anything there, then try Paternoster Tourism on 022 752 2323 with your requirements. They are super nice and helpful. I was always really scared to go to Paternoster because I heard that the crime is really bad, but we have never had a single issue. The tourism in the area has obviously increased a lot lately due to Wolfgat winning awards, but please note that it is pretty much fully booked all the time, so if you are going to Paternoster FOR Wolfgat, then check with them on a reservation first. My other favourite restaurant is Die Gaaitjie which is ON the beach and has incredible food. My favourite pub in Paternoster is the Panty Bar at the hotel. The bar is legit covered in panties and you’ll have to ask them for the full story of how that all happened! These are the places that we’ve stayed at there, mostly with friends!
I know that they say they are not dog friendly, but we asked really nicely if we could take Jack and they agreed. I find that most places will let you take your dogs if you ask super nicely or offer an additional cleaning fee if your dog sheds a lot, etc. It’s a 3 bedroom house with the living BEST entertainment area and view! Honestly, there isn’t much better than that view over the bay at sunset.
Price: From R2300.00 per night for the entire house
Family: Yes | Romance: Yes | Dogs: Maybe | Parties: Yes
Website: Stay in Paternoster listing
Again, I know it says “no dogs allowed” but they made an exception for Jack, so he came along! If you call “Stay in Paternoster” they’ll tell you which owners might be willing to bend the rules depending on what dog or how many you have. I really loved this house and we used it for a staff party. It sleeps 10 and is RIGHT ON THE BEACH. The views from the bedrooms are absolutely incredible!
Price: From R3500.00 per night for the entire house
Family: Yes | Romance: Yes | Dogs: Maybe | Parties: Yes
Website: Stay in Paternoster Listing
I’m going to be honest, this is my all-time-favourite place that we’ve ever stayed in Paternoster! It’s more expensive, but please splurge if you can! The other houses are also beautiful and right on the beach but this one is just truly magical. It’s *extremely* dog and child friendly. The owners have put so much love in to this house and even supply dog bowls, toys, kids beach toys etc. The entertainment area is absolutely divine and the location is spectacular. The house has an adjacent cottage so it can sleep 10 or 12 or you can book just the cottage, the house or both. It’s ON the beach and our dogs kept running down to play in the waves and coming back on their own time etc. This is a haven for parents as you can very clearly see the beach (your kids, your dogs) from the comfort of the outdoor area so you’ll have your eyes on them at all times.
Price: Cottage from R2000.00 per night, House from R6000.00 per night (sleeps 10!)
Family: Yes | Romance: Yes | Dogs: Yes | Parties: Yes
We’ve stayed in Gordon’s Bay twice and to be honest it isn’t my favourite and if we’re going away for a weekend, I’d much rather go to Paternoster. If you are pressed for an affordable spot, then check out Manor on the Bay (guesthouse) over here and Harbour View Lodge (ask for the room with the view) over here. Their price range is R730.00 for single rooms and R1198 per couple.
We’ve stayed in Betty’s and Pringle Bay a few times, but again – I really just prefer Paternoster to all these other options! If anyone can recommend an affordable, family and dog friendly house in this area, then please email me so I can add it! And I know that it’s not exactly ‘weekend away’ distance but if you’re ever going to Knysna as a family then I highly recommend Knysna Hollow for kids!
I’ve heard that Yzerfontein is beautiful but I haven’t personally been there, so drop me a line if you’d like me to add you & your family’s favourite holiday spot to this post!
I could honestly lose my mind writing about how much I love Stanford. It’s so perfectly positioned on the Klein Rivier with a gorgeous country vibe, but then it’s also like 15 minutes away from Hermanus. We have stayed at dozens of places in Stanford while Francois was renovating his new guesthouse! Out of all the places we stayed, I highly recommend, of course – his guesthouse…
This renovated old farmhouse has been in Francois’ family for 3 generations. He’s lovingly renovated it for over a year. The house is a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom with a reading room & sleeper couch. So it can sleep 4 adults and 2 kids, I would say! It’s perfect for a family or 2 couples going away for a weekend together.
The house comes with 4 bicycles, a boat (with engine) and is situated a stone-throw from the river. It’s dog friendly and has a gorgeous vegetable garden and cricket pitch. It was a huge garden and is fully fenced, so your pups and kids will absolutely love it.
Price: Cottage from R1350.00 midweek and R1650.00 over weekends
Family: Yes | Romance: Yes | Dogs: Yes | Parties: Yes
Stanford Hills is so special to me. We got married here because it’s just my favourite place on earth, full of so many happy memories. They have every kind of accommodation and are extremely dog and kid friendly. The restaurant (The Tasting Room) makes the most divine food and you can watch your kids & dogs play and row on the river and have fun from the comfort of your table. Accommodation wise they have self catering cottages, a manor house (for big groups) and a sweet little trailer overlooking one of the dams. Then they also have Africamps on the farm which is very ‘glamping’ and has gorgeous views.
Price: Cottage from R800.00 per night in low season, depending on your accommodation option
Family: Yes | Romance: Yes | Dogs: Yes | Parties: Yes
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
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