Knysna Hollow Manor House

Knysna Oyster Festival 2016

I’ve been to the Knysna Oyster Festival a few times and it never disappoints. I’ve been for leisure, pleasure, work and fitness. From exploring the nightlife and jumping off bridges to running a half marathon, it’s always been some kind of adventure.

BUT, I’ve never gone as a family. For years I walked past the numerous (many) kids play parks, activities and areas with regret and always promised that I’d return with my baby bunnies in tow. Whenever I attended the Oyster Fest, I always stayed at Knysna Hollow Country Estate. It feels like going ‘home’ walking through their doors because the lodge / resort is so homey, welcoming and unpretentious in it’s beauty and surroundings.

Knysna Hollow Manor House

Knysna Hollow Country Estate Pool

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We’re heading off to Knysna Hollow from 1 July for a long, long weekend of activities, adventure and quality time. I already have bungee jumping, paragliding, a forest walk, educational elephant encounter and whale watching in our itinerary. Their spacious family chalets are between R750.00 and R1000 per person on a Bed & Breakfast basis, and kids under 12 years sharing with parents stay free!

Family chalet at Knysna Hollow Country Estate

Accommodation - Knysna Hollow Country Estate Garden Suites

Knysna Hollow Country Estate Garden Suites

The chalets open up to gorgeous lawns with various pools, play areas and a man-sized chess board on the estate. Don’t forget about Charlie, the resident cat. He is definitely my favourite and quite a legend at Knysna Hollow. I have such happy memories edging up to the fireplace and catching up with Keri for hours over bottles of wine and having sundowners at the poolside. If you’re looking for a family-friendly, jovial and festive but relaxed place to stay over the Oyster Fest or any other time on the Garden Route, then this is my highest recommendation. They’ve also launched Superior Eco Estate Rooms that overlook a perennial dam with prolific birdlife. The spacious rooms are decorated in a fresh Scandinavian-style which combines natural wooden finishes with a refined palette of blues and greys creating a calm and inviting space. View all their accommodation options here.

View of the newly built Knyna Hollow Eco Estate block.

Eco Estate Rooms at Knysna Hollow Lounge area with Flat Screen TV.

Knysna Hollow Eco Estate Rooms all have superior bathroom facilities.

See you soon, Knysna. The boys can’t wait! Looking for accommodation in Knysna? Check AccommoDirect for more <a href=”https://www.accommodirect.com/destinations/knysna/“>accommodation in Knysna</a>.

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Sydney and Melbourne highlights.

On 1 January this year, I got on a plane and flew from Cape Town > Johannesburg > Sydney and then Sydney > Melbourne. I’m so glad that I got to spend just over 24 hours in Sydney because it is breathtakingly beautiful. Really, I had no idea. I spent 6 days in Melbourne and didn’t see nearly enough, so I’ll need to go back real soon. It’s hard to decide between the two cities as a favourite, so I’ll let you make up your own mind. I have never really considered myself to be a foodie, but Melbourne has changed my mind on that. I ate some of the best meals of my life in Australia. Eeek, even (much) better than the food in Paris. I was really lucky that my host, friends and relatives in the area directed and treated me to all the right places. If you ever find yourself (or currently live in) Australia, then consider these my recommendations.

In Sydney, we dined at Darling Harbour at a place called Nick’s Seafood Restaurant. It’s right on the water, and has such a great atmosphere. Here I feasted on delicious oysters, seared salmon and wine. Even though it was after New Year’s Eve, there were still firework displays on that evening. Throughout my life, I will never forget standing in the doorway of that restaurant, gripping a glass of good wine and watching the colourful explosions over the harbour. I’ll never forget that evening. I sipped Moet at a trendy harbour club and danced until my feet hurt, finally collapsing in to a Novotel bed at around 4am, happy, content and exhausted.

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In Sydney I also really loved Opera Bar which is adjacent to the Sydney Opera House. I loved the Ice Bar? at Bondi Beach and I really, really love an area called Manly which has a gorgeous little bay with warm water and lots of little sail boats and yachts. I missed the boys so much here, because Sydney is built for kids and families. I imagined my boys playing in the (almost) deserted bays and taking them sailing in the afternoons, letting them jump in to the water from the boat and staying outdoors until 9pm every day, when the sun sets there. Honestly, I left my heart in Sydney. I’ll definitely be back.

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For Melbourne, I’m going to give you just one favourite restaurant, where I had the best meal of my life to date. If you’re ever in the area, then you absolutely should visit…

Mamasita: For the best and most delicious mexican food of your existence. Mexican and Italian are my two favourite cuisines, and dammit this place was good. You can’t book a table at Mamasita, so expect a queue (all the way down the stairs, out the doorway and sometimes down the street) to get a table. And people do queue. Even in heels, like I did. The vibe is just so incredible, and you can tell that everyone is having a super good time and are seriously in to their food. The portions are small, served in a tapas style which is tradition in Mexican households. You get to order loads of different dishes and share them amongst your friends – and remember to wash it all down with a jug of their deliciously sweet Sangria. The highlight for me here were the Plantains which consists of long, baked, crispy banana fingers lathered with their signature salsas, sauces, relishes and guacamole. That would hands down be my “death row” meal if I ever had to make such a decision. Everything here was incredible and I ate until I really just couldn’t anymore.

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It was really nice to get a 9 day break from well, everything. I’m planning another trip for July and I can’t decide between Italy and America. July is ideal because of school holidays and also because I HATE WINTER TO DEATH. The first time I went overseas, the boys really missed me. But now, with the new school schedule, routine and dynamics – they are super in to seeing dad 24/7. So when I went to Australia they *really* treasured the time with him and I swear they hardly noticed I was gone :((( or :))))? So now I’m dead set on traveling a tiny bit more this year.

I’ve grown very fond of traveling alone. I don’t think that I would ever want someone by my side through any of it. I get to read and write and think and spend some good quality time inside my head. I get to internalise what I’m feeling instead of shouting “LOOK AT THAT BUILDING” to someone else every five minutes, you know? I always get home feeling a bit more adventurous, stronger and that tiny bit braver. And like I know this big, wonderful secret that nobody else does… you know? I hope you do.

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I wanted to mention that I didn’t take my ‘big’ camera on this trip, because I found it too stressful in Paris – constantly worrying about it, lugging it around, being physically weighed down. So I relied on my iPhone for all of this because memories don’t need to be perfect, right?

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Guest House in Stellenbosch, Cape Town

I recently stayed at the very charming Vine Guest House in Stellenbosch. Actually, it was my second visit. It’s a gorgeous little gem nestled in the heart of the winelands with pretty views, lush gardens and luxurious finishes. The first thing you’ll notice is how neat, clean and tidy it is. Second you’ll spot the modern, sophisticated yet comfortable decor style. The palette is soft and neutral – think warm greys, natural wood, and crisp white with pops of colour and some greenery. A lot of love, passion and consideration has gone in to the recent re-vamp.

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At the entrance you’ll find a little fountain, a dam with an abandoned rowing boat, tall trees, flowers and an uninterrupted view of the mountains. Vine has 9 guest rooms ranging from Superior to Executive. All rooms have a patio canopied by lush vines and some rooms offer a private terrace. They’re all fitted with air conditioning, flat-screen TV, a safe, hairdryer, bathrobe, Charlotte Rhys toiletries, snacks, wine, pool towels and a fully stocked minibar (even a Nespresso machine!) Check out their rooms here.

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I love this little guesthouse, which is situated on Bottelary Rd, just a stone-throw from Stellenbosch, and close to Paarl and Franschhoek too. This is the perfect spot to stay at if you want a tranquil environment that’s close to all the tourist attractions, cycle routes, monuments and wine farms in the area. Stunning for a stop-over if you’re exploring the winelands and don’t want to drive too far to get back to Cape Town. They serve a mean breakfast, and they’re opening their restaurant in just a few months! I had a sneak peek, and it’s going to be gorgeous. More on that soon!

Vine_Gallery-12You can find more information on their rates and book online on their website. Also check them out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I’m going back there again on Wednesday! I might try my hand at some tennis this time! Website here. **All pictures by Vine Guesthouse.**

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Carb free options at Col’Cacchio this Summer

I haven’t done a food post in such a long time, so I thought I’d share this with you guys. I’ve been doing a lot of eating at Col’Cacchio lately. We ate at the Cavendish branch the week before last and last week we went back to take aways. I’m trying to cut back on my sugar and refined carb intake because those food items make me feel pretty gross. Although I’m not a banter, I am always keen to try a carb substitute and kill some calories. Their new summer menu is simple, fresh, healthy and colourful. They’ve added banting ‘pasta’ dishes, and the vegetarian option I had was hands down the best meal I’ve had this year. I am not kidding. It was the Zucchetti pesto, made with zucchetti (julienned zucchini) basil pesto, Italian parmesan and toasted pumpkin seeds. I ate a huge portion and still finished off a caprese salad on my own (oink oink)

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Their new banting ‘pasta’ dishes use zucchetti as a replacement to pasta. Pastas include the Piccante made with zucchetti, pomodoro, chorizo, peppadew piquante peppers, mascarpone, chilli flakes and the Verde Rosso, a combination of zucchetti with chicken parmigiana. They still have their original menu if you’re keen on carbs, but have only added a handful of healthy, carb and sugar free options which they call their ‘banting’ section but should just call the ‘carb free’ option. Check out the Orientale dish below.

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I also tried the vegetarian banting pizza, which comes with a medium side salad and delicious dressing. You can eat a whole cheesy pizza covered in veg and not feel like a fatty-fat face afterwards. A cauliflower pizza base does not taste like a flour based one, but it’s kind of like white bread vs wholewheat bread – tastes good, but not exactly the same. My kids didn’t know the difference and ate the whole thing. I tricked them (and myself) right in to those vegetables.

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They also have banting desserts which I understand as (refined) sugar free? I’m kicking myself that I didn’t try one, but the cheesecake (with macadamia cacoa base) looked so good. If anyone wants to take me to lunch this summer, it will be here. As a side note, they are kid friendly. The kids get crayons to draw on the table cover, and some dough and cookie cutters to ‘bake’ with.

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Price wise, I didn’t write down numbers but when I took the boys: We all had mains, I had a coffee and the kids had a milkshake each. Our bill was R250 so it’s really good. Check out their new menu here > www.colcacchio.co.za for more details.

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My top beach prep & packing tips for families

We’re planning our December holiday and I’m sure that you are too. Over the years I’ve become quite the bag-packing expert. I wanted to share some of my essential (and also favourite) items that need to be in your family beach bag this festive season, as well as some beach safety and convenience tips.

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1. Freeze bottled water the night before your day on the beach. This way, you can use the frozen bottles instead of ice to keep your other refreshments and snacks cool.

2. My favourite beach foods to pack that keep well in a cooler bag (and are easy to eat) are grapes, berries, naartjies, sandwich rolls, drinking yoghurt, dried fruit and nuts.

3. Always take wet wipes for sticky fingers (and bathroom emergencies) and a plastic packet for rubbish in case there isn’t a bin around when you leave.

4. Baby powder works a charm to soak up moisture and easily removes sticky sand off of legs and feet before getting in the car! The beach sand in some parts of KZN is the worst, but baby powder will remove every last grain of sticky black sand. Try it!

5. For safety at crowded beaches, I like to draw a big circle around our spot and tell the boys to stay in the circle unless given permission, eg to fill a beach bucket with water. It’s good to have a general ‘reminder’ chat with your kids in the car about petting dogs they don’t know, blue bottles and water safety on the way.

6. Remember to have some money on you to treat the kids to an ice cream. Sometimes you really just want a lolly to make you jolly on the beach. I mean, it’s the holidays, after all. Take cash!

7. Let the kids pack their own bag of beach toys, and don’t think conventional. Items like tupperware, plastic spoons, ice trays or plastic cups will entertain them for hours.

8. Apply sunblock to yourself and your kids before you leave the house or hotel. This saves you from spending your first 20 minutes on the beach struggling with wiggling kids and rubbing suncream on your husband’s back. Use a 50spf with kids – it just lasts longer.

Other than that, you’ll definitely need your essentials like towels, cozzies, spare clothes, music, goggles, a book, floaty toys, a camera and some sun hats. Moms might want to pack a nifty travel razor like the Venus Snap, as well as your tweezers for some last minute and on the go grooming emergencies. Here are some fun pictures that Graeme took of Noah and I at the beach this weekend.

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Keen to WIN a really cool prize? Venus is giving away a shopping spree worth R20,000 at Topshop to a very lucky girl! All you have to do to stand a chance to win is:

  • Buy one of their Venus Snap razors
  • Snap a flat lay image including your Venus Snap
  • Upload it to Instagram using #VenusOnTheGo. I made you a little example below. How easy?

I’ve got some more holiday vibes and ideas to talk about and share with you, but please go enter this competition in the meantime and tag me in your pictures. I want to see what’s in your beach bag this Summer!

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Win a 20k shopping spree with #VenusOnTheGo

Gillette Venus has launched their new razor, the Venus Snap. It’s aimed at women-on-the-go, nestled in a cute little case that makes it safe to store in beach bags, your gym kit or handbag. In all honesty, there have been moments at the beach or at gym when I’ve needed a razor. I mean, who wants to do pilates or yoga donning a 3 day underarm shadow? I have! As a brunette, all my hair is on display. No tiny little white hairs for me! I have to shave everything, every day. I could write sonnets about my personal struggle with unwanted hair.

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I’ve added the razor to my car’s emergency vanity kit along with my wet wipes, tissues, sunblock, cover stick and lipstick. As a (mostly) (okay fine always) frazzled mom, I don’t rely on myself to be organised at all times, let alone groomed. Most moms reading this are like “lol what even is grooming.”

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The Venus Snap razor is the coolest grooming accessory for your summer holidays, handy for those “just quickly shaving my legs at this basin” moments. I’m excited about packing for our beach holidays and trips this summer, and I’ll be sharing some tips on packing for families really soon. Here’s a snippet below. Can you even see the little baby razor?

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To celebrate the launch, Gillette #VenusOnTheGo is launching a competition where Venus fans can win a shopping spree worth R20 000 at Topshop. Too cool. To enter:

  1. Buy the NEW Venus Snap Razor** (R74.99 including VAT)
  2. Snap a picture of the contents of your personal bag including your NEW Venus Snap Razor
  3. Upload it to your Instagram using #VenusOnTheGo between now and 15 January 2016
  4. Visit GilletteSA on Facebook for terms & conditions

**View pack for competition details

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Stellenbosch is perfect for families this Spring!

We did some exploring in the Stellenbosch Wine Route last weekend! My mom moved closer to the area this week, which means that we’ll be spending so much more time in Stellies now. Obviously I’ve already started booking a few things for us to do. I wanted to tell you about a few favourite places that we discovered recently, in case you like them too. Or maybe you’re stuck on something fun to do with the kids these school holidays. So in no real order, we really loved:

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We did a walking tour of a vibrant township, called Kayamandi. Anyone can go, just take your kids or your family and book with Thembi, a registered tour guide. Thembi has lived in Kayamandi for most of her life, and even went to high school there. It seems she’s a bit of a celeb in the town, because so many people stopped to greet her and chat. She’s a most excellent guide and had all the inside stories on the development projects, and obviously all the good local skinner too.

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I really want the boys to learn about the Xhosa culture and way of life, so this was a really great experience for them. We weren’t perceived as tourists or outsiders at all. The kids meshed straight in to the community; challenging every kid with a ball to a soccer game, demanding treats at the spaza shop and wandering in to people’s houses to chat.

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I’m really jealous of the sense of community in Kayamandi. Here in the Suburbs, you would never dream of just walking in to your neighbors house and making yourself at home, or hanging up someone else’s washing just because there’s space on the line. Even in my ‘nice’ area and neighborhood, I wouldn’t let the kids run around the block to meet friends at the park, ride their bikes or play soccer without me. In Kayamandi, your child is everyone’s child. Even mine. Everyone’s doors are open as they cook, wash dishes or watch television. Even when they leave their homes, they don’t even close the front door. The area that we were in (close to the school) is the good or safe neighborhood. Thembi explained that the closer you get to the outskirts – near the shebeens, things start to change… but only late at night.

It’s frowned upon for young women to hang out in Shebeens so girls in their 20s and so on have get-togethers at each other’s houses, which is viewed as more appropriate. Another normality at Kayamandi is that the older children are expected to help take care of their younger siblings once they start walking. There were loads of toddlers being dragged around by their annoyed older brothers who really only wanted to play soccer. Education is very important to the community, and schooling is free. The students get 2 ‘free’ meals at school every day. One of their greatest community development achievements is a colourful day care and creche that has been built opposite the local high school. Girls who fall pregnant in their teens now complete their schooling and get their matric, which Thembi says has changed the lives of hundreds of young girls over the years.

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It’s not really in the Xhosa culture to keep pets for companionship. Animals are kept for food or wealth or work. Kayamandi, like most informal communities (hell even here in Claremont) has a serious rat problem. The infrastructure of their homes makes them quite vulnerable to pests, so lately they’ve started keeping cats in an effort to keep the rat population in order. They don’t show any kind of ‘human’ affection toward their pets and don’t kiss and cuddle them, but they respect their position and purpose in the household. There aren’t that many dogs roaming about, but I did giggle at one young lady who was super keen to get in a taxi to go shopping, but her dog had followed her all the way from home and she had to turn around and take him back. She was trying really hard to be mad, but the dog was so freakin happy and victorious that he’d stopped her from leaving.

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I really enjoyed walking around the neighborhood and chatting to everyone. I especially loved talking to the mamas, and getting their take on parenting. Every mama I spoke to was super shocked that Benjamin is only 4 years old; and such a big little guy. They all offered advice on how to raise such a strong boy and could not emotionally deal with the fact that Noah doesn’t like to eat meat. I also enjoyed how proud the mamas are of their homes, and how all the women work together and have wonderful friendships with their neighbors. I couldn’t believe that they hang their laundry outside their homes or on a hill for the day and nobody ever takes or touches their things. I mean, I’m a stone-throw from Bishops Court and if I hung our clothes outside, you must know that someone on our street will make off with my Country Road coat, you know? If you’re keen to go on a Stellies tour, whether it be a wine, town or cultural tour, then check out all the options here > Stellenbosch Tours

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Another really fun thing to do for the whole family is Middelvlei Wine Estate‘s Boerebraai. I am gutted that we only discovered this place now, and I’m so excited to go back. They have such an unusual offering in a beautiful, picturesque setting. Middelvlei is exceptionally family friendly with kiddies juice pairings, food boxes, colouring in, farm animals and loads of space to run around and play.

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They have toys for the kids to play with on the grass and a big old sandpit on the edge of the lawn. Families can have a long, leisurely lunch without worrying about the kids getting bored or fidgeting at the table. The food is incredible, all prepared on a big braai out at the back. You’ll especially love the homemade Potbrood and Pampoenkoekies. The Snoek Pate is a game changer, and the Malva Pudding is exactly like your Ouma would have made it. Also, go here for literally the best braaibroodjies in Cape Town. You’ll pay R165 a person for a traditional, gourmet braai that includes literally everything. Take a look > here’s the Middelvlei Boerebraai full menu.

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A word of warning, they’re pretty much always full and fully booked, so call +27.218832565 or email info@middelvlei.co.za to make arrangements. The kids can also braai their own marshmallows, feed the farm animals or go on a tractor ride.

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If you’re having a super good time and want to stay over or even do a midweek break with the family, then head over to Spier for a drive-in movie. We went last Saturday, and it was the boys’ FIRST ever drive-in experience. I know that there are loads of outdoor cinemas around, but Spier has the original offering. We reversed my car, put the seats down and made a little family bed from the back. They also have a little tuck shop going where you can buy wine, MCC and snacks. Even popcorn. It’s such a great atmosphere, with the kids running around or sitting on blankets in front of the cars. Again, they book up really fast, so get in touch here > Spier Events.

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We stayed at Wedgeview Country House and Spa, which was really central and super affordable, starting at R695 per night. Again, very family friendly. There are solar heated pools, loads of space and a lapa with a pool table. It’s beautifully decorated and the staff are super friendly too. The estate is surrounded by vineyards for as far as the eye can see, so expect spectacular views from every angle. Graeme had a quick nap before the movie because shame he can’t handle all this fun. Wedgeview is so beautiful that I went full-on ‘The Sound of Music’ all over the place.

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Another great family outing idea is Delvera, a little village created with adventurers and little ones in mind. Aside from the gorgeous restaurant, peddle-cart track, trampolines, the dam and lots of open space, I especially loved the Sustainable Living Centre. This is where they encourage and inform the public, especially the youth, how to live and work in a sustainable manner. This is probably the most important place to take your kids these school holidays, or over a weekend. Their ‘training’ takes 2-4 hours in the gardens, during which time you can have a stunning lunch at the restaurant next door. However, I think you’ll want to join in on the training – especially if you’re keen to have a food garden at home! This is what your kids will learn about >

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Soil care, composting, worm farming, creating seed banks, mushroom farming, how to create a hanging, raised or vertical garden. Aquacultures. Hydroponics. Organic pest control and how to successfully create, harvest and maintain a food garden at home. They’ll also learn about the environment, recycling and upcycling with Mark Heinstein, who runs the entire center. He is incredibly nice and packed with knowledge.

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I think I asked at least three dozen questions and we left with a handful of giant pumpkin seeds and a few worms for our compost maker. Graeme was so inspired that he made a raised garden as soon as we got home. Once the kids are done with the business of learning about biodiversity and sustainable farming, they’ll love burning off some energy at the peddle carts. Delvera is gorgeous and has something for everyone – even full moon hikes. Get in touch with them to book your kids at the Biodiversity Center > info@delvera.co.za or +27 21 884 4352.

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If you’re still looking for something fun to do out of town on a weekend, then definitely check out the Lourensford Harvest Market. Great vibe, live music, kids activities, delicious food and lots of jumping castles and sports games for the kids. Open every Saturday and Sunday! You’re even allowed to take your dog. Also check out Millhouse Kitchen and most definitely go for wine tasting around the corner (I recommend the Turkish Delight pairing!) Get all those details here > http://lourensford.co.za/ Or mail info@lourensford.co.za or call 021 847 2333

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I hope that you’ve found something fun to do in this post, and that you’ll get exploring with the family this Spring. If, like me, you’ve been keeping a beady eye on the weather for next week – we’re in for warm and sunny days every day except Thursday. A major shout-out to all the other parents whose kids are on school holidays next week and have busy bodies to entertain. Have fun! (and good luck)

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That time I went to Paris – September 2015

Paris was an important milestone for me. At school, Art History was the only subject that really resonated with me. I loved the Impressionists; especially Degas. I developed callouses on my right hand from writing so many essays about their paintings and different movements and periods. Art history became my sanctuary. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to see the paintings that became so important to me, and I wanted to see them in real life. I held on to that dream for 14 years.

I went to Paris for the art, and the rest was just noise. The Eiffel Tower meant nothing to me. The vintage dress I bought? Just fabric. The bookshop that everyone raved about was quite… average. The Sacre Coeur? I didn’t bother. On the day I went to the Musee d’Orsay I was shaking while getting ready. I trembled on the train. In the queue. My legs wobbled through the corridors and galleries, like I’d just jumped on a trampoline for 20 minutes and suddenly got off. I walked in to the van Gogh room first and I’ll never forget what it felt like. How overwhelmed I felt. I mean, I don’t even like his work, but to see his paintings in real life made me feel heavy. It made me feel insignificant and important at the same time. I felt… heartbroken. Emotional. Like being in shock when something really terrible has happened and you don’t believe it just yet. I felt like that the entire time that I was in there. After I saw the first Degas I cried like a 4 year old girl that had lost her mother in a crowd. I couldn’t understand why people were just walking past the painting, as if it didn’t matter. It all meant so much to me.

I got to see the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay. I got to live in, and inhale Montmartre for 5 nights and 6 days. I got lost. I got emotional. I got scared and excited and overwhelmed and I got drunk. I felt more of myself than I have in years.

I had a really good time, and I would go back again right now if I could. I had so much fun. You can’t help but be floored by emotion when you’re in Paris, and I suspect that’s part of her appeal. Paris is disarmingly charming and you’d love it if you went – whatever your reasons for going. Wherever I travel to from here, I’ll seek out more art galleries and impressionist paintings. Maybe by the end of my life, I’d have seen them all. This was my personal impression of Paris.

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I bought quite a few posters and art prints for the house and my office. I bought a Renoir print that I’m especially pleased with. A smaller Degas and a Monet. I sat for a portrait at Place du Terte and I have a hard crush on Neoclassicism now. I’ll see you again real soon, Parieee x

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On being in Paris alone.

A few people (mostly Graeme) have asked how I experienced traveling alone to Paris. You need to understand that as a mother, wife and business owner, my life is pretty packed full of commitments and responsibilities. Obviously so is Graeme’s! The thought of being completely alone if even for a few days to do only what I wanted to do, was very appealing. I spend a lot of my time feeling guilty. If I take the boys to get new shoes, I’d feel guilty if I stopped to look at a cute top. When I’m working in the afternoon, I feel bad if I haven’t taken the dogs for a walk, or spent enough time with the kids. I feel bad when I ask Graeme to read the bed time stories because I’m too tired. Or if I wasn’t organized enough to get the kids bathed, lunch boxes packed and dinner ready by the time G got home from work. Of course he doesn’t expect all of that, and definitely not on the clock (and tells me frequently) but this is my family and I want to take care of them. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I like to have these things taken care of for the boys. I feel bad when I don’t hand school forms in on time, or forget the odd change for a bake sale. I can’t attend every school trip and cringe when I tick the “unable to assist” or “unable to accompany” boxes on the permission slips. I know that all parents feel this kind of guilt in some form, and I know that it bites in to all of us.

I feel guilty when I have to cancel a play date, or when I’ve forgotten the dogs’ flea and de-worming schedules. When I haven’t made a nutritionally balanced lunch for the boys and shove a bowl of noodles in the microwave. When I’ve broken a promise on taking them to a movie, or for a milkshake. It’s taxing, emotionally. It’s not a quest for balance, it’s about feeling okay with your efforts in relation to your results.

For me, the prospect of being freed from obligation even if just for 5 days was quite attractive. An actual holiday, from my emotions and the darkness found in the depths of self evaluation. It’s not that I was running from responsibility, because I completely love being a mother, wife and business owner. I ain’t no hussy. I really do love my life, if it’s okay to say that… without sounding conceited.

There’s a vulnerability to traveling alone. An excitement. A sense of anticipation. What will happen? What will I do? Who will I meet and how will I feel? In a world of responsibilities, routine and having Graeme available to run to at every opportunity – I craved a little bit of mystery and wondered how I would feel too. Would I get sad? Scared? What if I got lost or in to some kind of trouble. Being anonymous  and vulnerable in a foreign city filled me with anticipation. A sense of greatness. Strength. Independence. I wanted to learn, experience, grow and make myself susceptible and available to foreign experiences.

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If Graeme was with me, he would have carried our backpack when it got too heavy. We’d dine together, so nobody would have approached me, or confided in me. I wouldn’t have got lost or missed that train because Graeme never gets lost. I would never have felt afraid or vulnerable, because G makes me feel so safe. I wouldn’t have struck up accidental friendships, or spent an hour at the Eiffel Tower taking photos for tourists, just for fun. I wouldn’t have sat in silence at the Luxembourg Gardens pond for two hours, feeling desperately lonely. I wouldn’t have cried at the Degas for 20 minutes, because being alone in front of my favourite painting with nobody to share it with… allowed me to experience and absorb it in silence and in solitude. Without conversation and company as distractions and comfort, I think that I felt and experienced so much more. Of myself.

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There were times that I really longed for Graeme. I had a particularly bad day when I really just struggled with everything. I got lost in translation between 6 floors and 2 information systems that gave me conflicting routes. I missed my train to Monet’s house by 6 minutes (there’s only one every 3 hours) and cried at the station for what felt like most of the day. I put my sunglasses on, I sat on a chair surrounded by strangers and foreigners and I just cried. I missed Graeme when I flooded my hotel room (a disagreement between a tiny shower and it’s curtain) and realized there was no towel in my suite. I missed him when I was queuing at the Louvre and had nobody to share the excitement with. When I saw something beautiful. When I went to bed at night.

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I feel like I really and genuinely connected and engaged with myself for the first time in years. It wasn’t just about the sites and the art or the people and the history. It was about adding another layer to my character, my experience. I feel different. Empowered. Humbled. Satisfied. I mostly think, act, plan and react based on what the people I love need and want. The kids, their milestones and achievements. My relationship with my husband. My business and other projects. Obligations.

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Eventually, I’m going to tell you about the people I met. Conversations that struck up in ticketing queues. In bookshops. In cafe’s. While waiting for drinks or a meal. While being lost. I want to talk about the man from Norway who went to Paris to fulfill his dreams, and now works in a bar at the Moulin Rouge.  A 27 year old girl from Italy who was about to return home to break up with her boyfriend of 8 years. She drank a lot of red wine, and I kept her company until midnight. A 20 year old French girl with a broken heart, who doesn’t understand how young she is. A 31 year old man who was distraught after converting from Catholicism to Hinduism for his wife and was about to walk away, without their 2 year old daughter. A young boy who got lost in the Carousel de Louvre and cried desperately until I took his hand and soothed him, waiting for his mother to find him. A baker from Los Angeles who had traveled to Paris for a funeral. A lady from Milan who was visiting her oldest friend, and wouldn’t let her pay for anything at lunch. An American woman named Tasha who travels the world and hates it, and also cries in stations. Her dad likes to take a lot of pictures, and it embarrasses her deeply. A French painter who has been painting for 35 years, and now spends her days doing portraits of tourists at Place du Tertre, for 30 euros a piece.

I have so much to talk about, and so much that I want to remember about this trip. I haven’t even touched the photos and memories on my camera yet. I haven’t had time to absorb everything, but yesterday was probably my favourite day in Paris. We’ll talk soon.

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Paris. The first few days.

I wanted to write this while it’s all still fresh in my head. I’ve been in bed by 7:30 / 8pm every night because the days here are pretty tiring, physically. Emotionally. I’m guessing that I’m walking about 10 – 15km a day, maybe? Including like 10 flights of stairs at stations. Talk to me about the walk from the Pigalle or Blanche station to the Sacre Coeur you guys. This is why I’ve been living on wine, ice cream, cocktails and cheese for like three days straight. I’m also drinking so. much. water. because the metro is hot and humid and the days are pretty hot too… around 22 degrees. When I tell Graeme that I’m in bed at 8pm he is like GO OUT and party and I’m just like zzzzzz. Also, if staying in Montmartre, you know that you don’t need to leave your hotel room to be at the party. Last night the Parisians were jolling ’til like 3am and musicians walk up and down the streets to serenade the patrons. I kept waking up to beautiful Edith Piaf melodies, which was pretty wonderful. It’s 8pm now and they’ve already started. I can hear people chatting, kids laughing and running up and down the cobble stoned streets. It’s still daylight here, up ’til about 8:30 or 9pm. It’s such a vibe and I would highly recommend staying in Montmarrrrt. I’m on rue des Abbesses which is prime Parisian real estate. I’m basically between the Moulin Rouge and Sacre Couer, and there are 3 metro stations within 5 minutes walk in opposite directions. There are I think like 27 restaurants and cafes on this street and a whole bunch of grocers. Every night I’ve been stopping at the same vendor for a bagel or burger. Also, please can we talk about the chinese food in Paris? Holy smokes you guys. I still haven’t eaten at a restaurant or cafe, but everything I have tried has been absolutely incredible. My hotel does crepes, french bread, croissants and pastries every day. Coincidentally, they also put a big bowl of prunes out with breakfast every day. Just that. Cheese, breads, meat, croissants, crepes and prunes. Good morning!

Paris is wonderful, and I am loving every single moment – even the metro, which I’ve started to navigate like a boss lately. I’m saving all my routes on my metro app and using those every day (thanks Rosanne and Mel) which is a game changer. I got really confused at one of the BIG stations today on a change-over, because the big stations are a bit tricksy with different routes per line. Gare de Nord will be the effing death of me. Seriously. Whenever a route takes me to that station I want to self harm.

I don’t know if anyone really cares about all the touristy attractions. Yes, the Eiffel Tower is big. The Musee d’Orsay is beautiful. That’s just information that you can find on google. What Paris actually does to you on the inside, is what this journey is all about. I’m not very geographically secure, and I’ve found a few places completely by accident. I have so much to write about, but right now I’m just bushed.

I’m missing the boys so much, and they’ve been so busy with dinners and visitors every day that we haven’t really spoken much. Here are some touristy pictures. I’m off to Luxembourg gardens & the Louvre tomorrow, and hopefully Marais and Canal St Martin. I’ve packed my acrylics, so I don’t really know where I’ll end up. That’s half the fun. Goodnight, from Paris x

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