Fall in love with Franschhoek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chamonix Wine Tasting & Game Drive

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

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

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

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Wildekrans, Grabouw, Botrivier and Elgin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A weekend away as an Experience

A few months ago, I got an “Experience Days” voucher to try out. They’re a company that lets you buy experiences for people, – instead of presents. I happen to be big on this; I would much rather buy someone art lessons, a weekend away, bungee jumping etc instead of a random, heartless gift. So “Experience Days” is how you can gift someone things like horseback riding through the winelands, weekends away, shark cage diving, a supercar driving experience, a flower arranging course – etc. If you’re stuck on getting something for ‘the person who has everything’ then this site is for you. They’re big overseas and have just launched in SA. The company asked me to pick an experience for my family to do… just to get the feel of it and how it works. Check them out here > Experience Days.

I chose a night away, ‘Glamping’ with the boys in Montagu. You can find the listing on their site here. The place we stayed at was really, really cool. A few things I loved:

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  1. They’re totally affordable. It’s R800.00 for the voucher and you get your own, private campsite for a night, that sleeps 4
  2. They’re dog-friendly. It’s so hard to find a place where we can take Jack. I hate leaving him behind
  3. There’s a working farm on the premises with chickens, sheep, goats, geese, and alpacas. The owners live nearby and they give you food to feed the farm animals. The boys got to hold a 3-day old goat, see a 4 HOUR old lamb and baby geese too. They fed the Alpacas which was so sweet.
  4. There’s a dam there for fishing/swimming. We didn’t catch anything, but it was fun trying. Sort of!
  5. There are braai facilities, and you can order wood (R25 per basket) Your campsite has its own private kitchenette (with gas stove) and a bathroom with a shower.

The boys really enjoyed playing in a proper tee-pee. We slept in the handmade gypsey wagon which was pretty darn cool. There are beds with bedding and towels in the ‘rooms’ so you don’t have to worry about dragging your entire house along to go ‘camping’. It was a short stay and we definitely could have stayed an extra night. The drive is pretty far from Cape Town (about 2 – 2.5 hours) so pack entertainment for the kids.

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We fished, and Francois braaied for us. The boys played ball on the lawn and we felt like we were a million miles away, which was really nice. I made a big bed under the stars for the boys and we all laid there watching the sky together. Even Monkey (our new baby lovebird) joined for the weekend. He’s super tame and hand-reared – but I’ll tell you more about him another time!

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So check out Experience Days if you’re stuck on a gift for someone. What I like about them is that you can send gifts to friends and family in other provinces/countries without relying on the post office or a florist. The prices are good and there’s a big range of things to choose from. E.g. my dad lives in Durban, and I can send him a voucher to go River Rafting for Christmas. It’s something that I know he’d never do on his own, and I think it’s more special than sending a bottle of whiskey or similar, you know?

 

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The Forgotten Route

Last weekend I went on The Forgotten Route tour, which is a 2 day excursion in to the Karoo. The itinerary look something like this:

Starting point: Cape Town Tourism Office in Cape Town CBD. You arrive and quickly put your luggage into the tour bus’ vehicle. I don’t want to give too much away as there are some really great little surprises, but the group goes on a short city walk with some fascinating stops and mini history lessons. There is so much that we don’t know about this city! After a few stops (and great photo opps) we head to The Kimberly Hotel for a quick coffee and to receive our passports. The guide (in our case – Riaan) took photos of everyone with a polaroid camera, and these got placed into our passport for the weekend’s stamping!

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We took the tour bus from Cape Town to Karibo Wine Farm in Rawsonville. Our host (and winemaker) Karen le Roux was incredibly charming and we got to experience a private wine and biltong pairing as well as a wine and cupcake pairing. We also sampled some of Karen’s homemade Shiraz ice cream / sorbet that was super delicious.

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After Karibo, we headed to the Worcester station and boarded our train to Matjiesfontein. The train ride was beautiful and scenic. We all had a quick lunch and enjoyed relaxing and soaking up the view. The Karoo landscape is breathtaking and it was such a great feeling to be out of the city and amongst nature.

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We got to Matjiesfontein and were greeted by our guide, Riaan who had driven our bus there while we were on the train. We were welcomed at the station platform with cocktails and music before heading to our accommodation at the Rietfontein Private Nature Reserve. After dropping our bags, we headed to the famous Lorde’s Arms pub (the only pub) in Matjiesfontein and then boarded our bus – the shortest bus tour in the world, I’m sure. Our host, John was incredibly fun and hilarious. If you’ve ever been on his famous village tour then you’ll have a smile on your face just thinking about it. We were in stitches. After the (literally) five minute tour, we headed back to the pub for some honkey-tonk entertainment and singing from John.

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We had dinner at our accommodation – a beautiful Karoo braai, potatoes, braai broodjies, wors and salad coupled with loads of wine and more music. We huddled next to the fireplace while our guide braaied for us and their team prepared the other dishes and set our table for us. After dinner, Riaan took us to the Matjiesfontein Museum which is scary, creepy and fascinating. Their museum houses the largest private collection in the country.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the beautiful Lord Milner Hotel. Here you can choose between a cold breakfast (cheeses, meats, cereals, pastries etc) or the hot a la carte menu. After breakfast and loads of coffee, we boarded our bus and went to the famous graveyard in Matjiesfontein. Here our guide gave us more information on James Logan and his family. We then headed back toward Cape Town via Montagu. We stopped at their local market and shopped for homemade jams, soaps, art, crafts and treats before boarding our bus again and heading for Platform 62 in Asthon. If you haven’t been – this is a great find for a day trip! It’s basically an enormous farm stall with a huge wine, brandy, gin and liquer selection. They offer various tastings and pairings, and have a large restaurant outside with a kids play area, pet chickens and even a pet pig. The food is also really, really good – huge portions at such a good price. After tasting various spirits and wines, we headed outside for lunch before going back in to the tasting room for a really interesting and fun brandy tasting / pairing. We tried various (I honestly lost count) brandies with chocolates, honey, ginger, tonics and even orange juice. I highly recommend this pairing experience if you ever find yourself in Ashton.

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We boarded our bus again and headed for Marbrin Olive Farm in Robertson. Here we got to sample their various (delicious) olive oils and homemade bread. The truffle was definitely my favourite, with the sundried tomato variant coming in at second. We also tried their balsamic vinegars and then a good helping of their famous limoncello – which was a huge hit. The setting is so beautiful and they have plans to expand the property and introduce a restaurant offering. We’ll definitely be back for that.

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After that, we boarded our bus back to Cape Town, merry from the day’s festivities. We’d all bought wine (and limoncello) during the day and at this point we were all sharing and having a little party on the bus – coupled with The Forgotten Route’s very cool playlist. We arrived back in Cape Town at about 7pm filled with great stories, memories and new friendships from our trip. I’d highly recommend this tour amongst friends as everyone had a super great time.

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The tour costs R1850.00 per person and includes everything except your lunch on the train (average R100) and your lunch at Platform 62 (average R150 with your beverage/coffee) so you’re looking at about R2100 all inclusive for a full two-day adventure in the Karoo. This includes your tour, the guide, the bus, your train ticket, wine tasting, cupcake and biltong pairing, Matjies bus tour, Karoo lamb braai, accommodation, breakfast, brandy pairing and olive tasting. For more info > check out their website. Looking for more things to do in and around Cape Town? > Highly Rated

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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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