Going to Mozambique with kids

1. I love Bilene because it’s situated on a lagoon with no waves or strong currents. Perfect for little kids & water sports. The water is that gorgeous translucent turquoise, blue & green like you see in postcards. The water is shallow and refreshing and warm.
2. We booked & flew straight to Maputo via AirLink / Travelstart at about R2700 (from Cape Town) a flight. It’s about R2000 from Joburg. That seems steep but compare it to renting a 4X4 for your entire trip or even driving. Sometimes people wait up to 6 hours at the borders (without food, water or bathrooms), but the flight from JHB -> Maputo is 40 minutes. If traveling from Cape Town, pay special attention to layover times as  you’ll be flying Cape Town > JHB > Maputo.
3. We got a transfer from Maputo to Bilene with a tour company called Tours2Moz. They only operate on certain days so they referred us to a different company for our transfers.
4. In Bilene, we stayed  in a self-catering waterfront villa that sleeps 8 people. It’s called Villa’n Banga and it has its own on-site restaurant, bar, canoes, snorkeling, volleyball, pool table etc.
It’s currently R2000 a night. The villa is serviced daily (inclusive) and you can have your laundry done daily too. It’s SO much more relaxing being on holiday when your basic cleaning is done for you – especially with kids and a house that is covered in sandy towels & wet clothes half the time. Your kids will go through 3 outfits a day – easily!
5. We booked a boat via a man called Dercio who works at Villa n Banga. Our skipper was John. We booked the boat from 12 noon to about 7pm to go tubing, skiing, bar-hopping, exploring the town of Bilene & going shopping etc. They charged us +- R3000 for a family of 4 to use their services for like 7 hours.
John charges about R800 – R1000 an hour for tubing which my kids said was the highlight of their trip! Again, rates are always negotiable depending on duration.
6. My one son went on a fishing trip. We paid R2500 for him to go deep-sea fishing for about 8 hours. This included his rod, reel, bait, snacks, juice, water & a fishing coach & skipper. He also brought plenty of fish home for us to eat! We booked via Highlander Fishing Lodge. Piet junior & senior are SO great with kids. They loved Ben so much that they let him go on a second trip for free! Trust me, you will catch.
7. You can’t reach Villa n Banga without a 4X4. The owners (Lee & Anton) will gladly fetch you from Bilene at a small fee. I honestly wouldn’t rent a 4X4 for your trip if you’re flying in. Your car will just stand as everything you need is at the Villa.
8. If you need a transfer to Highlander Fishing Lodge or into the village for groceries, then Kobus is your guy. He’s a local with a 4X4 and he will take you on trips for a small fee. We only went into the village (Bilene) once for groceries. Your family won’t go hungry.. the restaurant (Babalaria) is a few metres from your villa and they even bring coffee, breakfast, food whatever to your house. John (boating guy) will also drop you at the village and walk with you to draw money / buy basics etc
9. Things to do in the area: Most family friendly is Nghunghwa Lodge with 2 pools & canoes for the kids. Don’t leave without trying their R&R slush puppies! We also loved the Flip-Flop bar! I recommend booking John for a day as he’ll scoot you from one place to the next and happily tube your kids along the lagoon right in front of you while you sip on your cocktails & demolish a prego roll (Flip-Flop Bar!) Don’t forget the R&R jello shots
(I HAVE to give a special mention to our new friend, Clint. I found him via the DriveMoz facebook group and he gave us all these great tips. The trip would not have been the same without his recommendations, which I’m now passing on to you!)
10. Activities at Villa n Banga include snorkeling (rent snorkels at the Babalaria bar). They also have a swimming pool, pool table & big screen with DSTV going for the kids. The bar is right on the lagoon. Your villa also has a huge outdoor braai & seating area. I most loved sitting on the balcony couches with a coffee or a drink and watching the water and the kids play.
You will need to stay in Maputo while you wait on your negative Covid result. We found a gorgeous, cheap & cheerful guesthouse called “Guesthouse 1109” with a pool, rooftop bar & air conditioning. You will find hundreds of places on Booking.com (where I always book) but Maputo can be quite dodgy and this place is central & safe (and walking distance to a Spar) 

1. All they need is a backpack with like 5 swimming costumes, a beach towel & 2 pairs of slops. Pack light. They will NOT wear all the clothes you want to pack. Also pack an activity book, pencil, their tech device & earphones. Just that 1 backpack. Don’t check any of your luggage in.
2. Draw cash at an ATM as soon as you land in Maputo. You have no idea how many times the kids will want a water / snack and the local stop won’t have card facilities.
3. Get a SIM CARD at the Maputo airport and load it with at least 5G data and airtime. The transfer to Bilene is 2.5 – 3 hours and you will save your soul by letting the kids use your hotspot and connect to your WiFi / data.
4. Download at least 5 new, free games that DON’T use data for their devices for actual emergencies (delayed flights / queues / transfers)
5. Have 1 travel envelope to keep all the passports, Covid tests & boarding passes in 1 place
6. If you fly AirLink, note that they do serve a light meal and beverages on all flights. But still carry snacks in your bag. Why do they always need snacks?
7. Pack a first aid kit. I don’t mean just burn shields & plasters. You MUST pack:
Allergex cream for insect bites
Swimmer’s Ear drops for sore / blocked ears
Allergex tablets
Panado
Valoid (for nausea)
A stick of Peaceful Sleep that you can easily rub & re-apply after swimming
Malanil malaria tablets
1. If you fly in via Maputo, you will ask your transfer company to stop at Baia Mall. Here you will buy the groceries & basics for your stay. If you have only packed hand luggage (and I recommend you do as you don’t need much and it makes the airport such a breeze) then you will need shampoo, conditioner etc. You will also need long life milk. A few loaves of sliced bread (I freeze the bread & pop slices in the toaster as needed). Lots of eggs, cheese, cold meats, firelighters, bottled water, snacks, cereal etc. With the kids, I found that those packets of ready-sliced cheese on toast went a long way! You will need lots of fruit juice and of course your alcohol (which you can buy at the GAME). Pro tip – there are bakeries in the mall that sell authentic Portuguese pasteis de nata. Do not miss out
2. Learn basic Portuguese phrases for hello, thank you, please etc. This goes a long way in how the locals treat you.
3. Join a Facebook group called DriveMoz. It has like 68 000 members and people post daily tips & questions re life and travel in Moz. They also have VERY handy printable documents & info on their website. Eg, if you’re divorced / traveling without the other parent – all the consent forms & info is there.
4. DriveMoz has an option where you can pre-order registered and loaded SIM cards, delivered to your door before your trip. Highly recommend!
5. The roads in Mozambique are mostly awful. After Maputo, you won’t easily (or at all) find any luxuries or even fresh milk. No fast food chains.
6. Bilene has a bottle store and a very, very basic shop and some fruit / veg vendors
7. The Mozambique ATMs will only allow you to draw 5000 meticals (about R1000) at a time, up to 3 or 4 times a day. Most places & suppliers accept rands, so have a backup stash of cash to tip people, pay for boat trips, drivers etc. Where possible – pay via EFT in advance.
8. You need at least 8 days in Bilene to truly get settled in and have enough time to relax. Then you need to add another 2 days in Maputo for your Covid tests & waiting on results
9. Take Malaria tablets. Malanin is expensive but great. You don’t need a script. A few pharmacies don’t have it so contact / order in time for them to get stock
10. Have fun. It’s a tiny mission / 2.5 hour transfer from Maputo to Bilene but once you’re there it’s absolute paradise!
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Stanford Cottage & Guesthouse

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 info@stanfordcottage.co.za 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. 

 

 

 

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Our perfect honeymoon

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.

Moving on.

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.

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Weekend accommodation near Cape Town

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

Old Mac Daddy trailers, camps & villas

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

Website: https://oldmacdaddy.co.za/stay/

Wildekrans Country House

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

Website: https://www.wildekrans.co.za/gallery.htm

Galileo Farm

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

Website: http://www.galileofarm.co.za/accommodation/

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!

Son-n-See: Paternoster

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 

Lilla’s Landing: Paternoster

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 

Zula Beach House: Paternoster

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

Website: http://zulabeachhouse.co.za/beach-house-paternoster/

Gordon’s Bay:

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.

Other

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…

The Dragonfly!

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

Website: https://stanfordcottage.co.za/

Stanford Hills Estate and Africamps

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

Website: http://www.stanfordhills.co.za/stanford-accommodation/

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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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