Writing about: Family Travel, kids, places, food…

Month: March 2017

Township Visit in Cape Town


Driving through Cape Town is a big mix from gorgeous gated villas to mile after mile of corrugated shanties in the townships. Such inequalities were hard to see.



We were able to find a tour through the townships (mostly Langa) and also visit a preschool. This is run by an NGO and is clean and safe for children albeit rather bare and of course crowded by US standards. Very few play items for children and just mats to lie on. The teacher feeds them from one bowl of porridge/corn meal. It’s relatively expensive at about $18 a month for a child to attend. Looking around at the living conditions it was difficult to imagine raising small children there.

A rather strange poster for a preschool classroom


Living conditions in some of the townships.

Entire families have one room

This one was a hugger



Wedding South Africa Style

Our initial push to go to South Africa was for my brother Tim’s wedding to the amazing Lara (they still live in Dubai). We had a big group of family and friends from all over the world and it was a week of fun.

They rented an entire vineyard that was beautiful and other days saw long brunches and lunches. Too much food and wine but memorable times.








It was also a really fun time for the kids as they had cousin Janet to hang out with and Crazy Aunt Jo. We had an apartment together and laughed so hard we pulled muscles!

The girls all got to ride horses along the beach which made Charlotte very happy!



Cape Town

Cape Town showed us multiple weather conditions from hurricane force winds to hot afternoons in the outside pool, cold rain, fog, and lovely cool days with low humidity. We heard you can get 4 seasons in one day here and this was certainly evident in Cape Town.

Hermanus (just outside Cape Town)

Pretty but windy!

Table Mountain had impressive clouds over it often, which seemed to bring rain soon after. We headed down the coast to the Cape of Good Hope and had glorious blue skies.


The journey ended up taking about 7 hours working our way slowly to see penguins on one coast and then ostrich and baboons at the national park, which takes up the lower half of the Cape. This is the second southern most spot of Africa (Cape Aguila is the main one) and you can see both the Atlantic and Indian oceans. It was really gloriously blue and clear on the day we were there but it was easy to imagine the high winds and storms that have caused many a shipwreck off those coast lines.


The penguins are primarily located at Boulder’s Beach. We stopped at the beach right next to this one, which is free and had more penguins we are told than Boulders. They were very laid back and didn’t seem frightened of people but as they bite, we didn’t get too close. The water was incredibly clear around there and wasn’t that cold (too much for me).


Cape Town Tour Guide and Restaurants


Fancy sushi at Nobu

We ate at some pretty great restaurants while in Cape Town. It’s a very cosmopolitan and impressive city with top chefs opening all kinds of places.

We got to have sushi at Nobu and sample African delicacies of zebra, ostrich, warthog, kudu and mopane worms.




Grandma’s not too sure of the worms.

Neither is Auntie Jo!

The worms were a little hard to get down psychologically and tasted best to us when roasted rather than softer in a sauce (squishy that way). Max also liked the biltong which is jerky from various kinds of African animals and available all over the place. It’s kind of South African fast food.



Our favorite evening was a visit to the number one tripadvisor rated restaurant in Cape Town: Mzansi. The restaurant was started by “Mama” in her house in Langa Township.


She has a team of local township cooks and musicians and serves about 20 visitors or so a night. The food is delicious and everyone tries to make you feel welcome and “at home.”

Don’t the kids look like they are having fun!

The musicians are great but the fun started when they get everyone included with homemade shakers and drums. We laughed so hard we couldn’t keep up – although our musical talent is such that it was hard to anyway. The township is not a place you drive to at night by yourself but they arrange safe transport to and from and we felt completely secure the whole time. Really a must go to spot.





The driver (Stephen) who picked us up has ended up as a family friend. Erika Green (amazingly talented daughter in law) created a website for him and we hope he will soon be on tripadvisor. He is the nicest tour guide and we really enjoyed getting to know him and learning about life in southern Africa. Please consider contacting him if you need any tours in the region.


27 73 315 9849








Fancy meals with family

All kinds of things on offer

Brunching with family

And of course these are everywhere — huge here



Views driving up to Oudtshoorn



Ostriches and cheetahs were the memorable pieces of this town in the desert. It took about 1.5 hours to get here from Wilderness and the drive up was lovely with well maintained highway through mountain passes and into the little karoo.

As soon as we got into the desert we started to see fields with ostrich in them. Seems to be loads of farms up here. We visited a big tourist one and got to learn about the whole process of farming them. A tractor ride around the farm and feeding them was enough; the kids chose not to ride the ostriches. Max did get closer than the rest of us – we are just not bird people.

Max contemplating riding ostrich

Max enjoying ostrich later!












The next day we visited Cango Animal Ranch and it was really fun and informative. The animals are pretty close and the guides are well informed about them. They have a couple of electronic surprises that make you laugh but aren’t overly cheesy.

Max eating croc — seems to be a trend for him!

Large Crocs

The best was the cheetah encounter. We saw a couple do this earlier and the cheetahs were fast asleep (the do that for about 20 hours a day) and it didn’t look too scary to hang out with these lanky, SLEEPING cats. However we decided to have lunch and then go in and apparently the cheetahs also had lunch and woke up.

We were taken to the first area with “the girls” but they were pacing and looked a bit active so the guides took us to the boys’ pen. These two were also wandering around and were certainly more playful than earlier. I almost backed out and wouldn’t let the kids in but Grandma set off with gusto following the guide so we were committed then! For a woman who an hour prior had raced away from feeding the birds, she was suddenly

The cheetah lay down with a sigh and then started to “growl” which was nerve wracking. The guide laughed and just kept petting him and shared that he was simply purring like a house cat. Everyone had a turn petting him and the guides were clearly very comfortable with these animals and you could see they respected and cared for them a lot.

The cheetahs are bred at this ranch and are sent around the world to zoos and parks in order to strengthen the gene pool, which is apparently a bit weak (inbreeding in the wild due to reduced areas to live in). They are not sent to ranches where they are killed as the lion parks do. The lion parks breed lions so visitors can play with the baby lions but they are later sent onto ranches where rich Americans can come in and shoot their trophy easily because the lions are tame and unafraid. We had read about those and chose not to support that unpleasant and sad side of tourism. Also the cheetahs are certainly not drugged as the tigers are in Thailand (thankfully I’ve read that has been closed down). These creatures were lively for sure.

Later at dinner, Charlotte asked us all which or favorite animal was. We all chose the cheetahs or tigers. She however sighed and shared that her favorite were the baby guinea pigs. They had a petting area with a big pen full of about 30 guinea pigs and she was able to sit in there and feed and play with them for ages. Those were her chosen favorites: such a softie.



This town was only about half an hour away from Knysna but had a completely different feel yet again. It’s quite small and on the ocean with a river running through it so water sports abound. It’s also surrounded by national park, which means great hiking.

Garden in front of our little apartment

We found this amazing B&B that was right on the river with free canoes and paddleboats and the kids could swim off the dock. There weren’t many rooms and we had a little private cottage with it’s own walled terrace. Everything had thatched roof and stone walls and the décor was Egyptian/South African. I loved the claw foot tub with chandelier over it in the bathroom and chandeliers hanging from rafters. The staff members were very friendly and booked our restaurants and helped suggest hikes and places to go. Breakfast on the terrace overlooking the river was lovely with full English including big pot of teach and coffee. I could have stayed there much longer as it was so relaxing.




Moontide Guest Lodge: http://moontide.co.za/

The restaurants in town were excellent as well. We ate one night overlooking the ocean and the next at a more local spot that only did steaks, chips and salad. Those were some of the best chips (French fries) I’ve ever had and the steaks were pretty darn good too! We also had Italian with outstanding wood grilled pizzas. Helps too that the wine to wash all this down is so darn cheap. Seriously cheap at about $1.50 a glass in restaurants and rarely would you find an entire bottle above $10 in a restaurant. Grocery stores they are about $3-$6 for good South African wine.


We did need to work some of this food and drink off so had a long hike in the national park. It was pretty hot going but the trails were well marked and maintained and mostly quite easy to maneuver up and down. We had to cross the river in one place and there was a pontoon boat that you stood on and pulled on the ropes to get back and forth. Quite hard work going across until I realized that being in the front, I was the one doing all the pulling! Coming back we put Charlotte up in front.


There was a lot to do in Wilderness considering it’s a small town. Very well located to reach other places too and would be a great base for the Garden Route.




The Heads at Knysna

Getting to Knysna from Colchester took about 4-5 hours with a stop for lunch. We had a place that was just out of town that ended up being delightful. It was on a road into an area called Rheenendal and reminded us a lot of northern California with small farms, yoga, organic farm stalls, and teashops. Our apartment (2 bedrooms) was one of four by a couple who had spent years traveling and then decided to settle back in her homeland. They renovated an old school up on a hillside overlooking a lovely ravine. The work they have done on this place is amazing. The apartments are very Scandi and calming with soft colours and uncluttered feel and the outside has little paths leading to hidden benches and repurposed flowerpots and artwork dotted around.

Gorgeous views of the valley from the apartment.

There were also delightful gardens to hang out in although the duck ponds were empty of water because of the drought. They had also hacked their way down the ravine and made a very walkable but long trail down to the river at the bottom. We got about half way down this accompanied by their lovely dog but it was getting dark and strange noises were heard (baboons and monkeys live there) so a hasty uphill journey ensued!

Woodlands Self Catering:


Knysna is a nice beach town but we liked our little place up the mountain best. We did try the oysters and beer that the town is famous for. We didn’t love the oysters as they were a bit stringy and overly salty compared to Florida ones plus they served them with overly sweet dressing. Cooked ones were good according to Grandma but raw only OK. We found a nice grocery store with decent fruit and vegetables (it’s been more limited here so far) and got delicious figs and mangos. We also ate local organic lamb and pork from the farm shop that was delicious eaten on the terrace overlooking “our” ravine. It was nice to be homebodies for a couple of nights.


Off to Port Elizabeth and Addo National Park

We flew from Jo’Burg to Port Elizabeth (PE as it’s known) via Mango airlines. A low cost in-country airline that was fine for bags (one checked free) but no free food or drink. We survived, as it was an hour flight!

Then we picked up the rental car and headed out of town on well-marked, good roads and highways, to Colchester about 30 minutes along the coast. This is a small town on a river and is right next to the south gate of Addo Park. This is a newer gate and the area is quieter than the main town of Addo which is good as apparently there have been attacks on the road into the northern gate of Addo as it goes through an industrial/township area.

We stayed at a nice B&B and had a 2 bedroom little house. Fun set up and all our needs met. The owners were very nice and booked our tour into Addo for us with a guide who grew up in the house next door to them (so knows the area well).


Addo Elephants

Our tour guide and her husband picked us up in the morning and we were thrilled to be the only people on the little bus. We spent the day with them in Addo and Janie was amazing at finding animals and telling us all kinds of facts about each of them and history of the park etc. Her husband also knew a lot about the plants and birds so it was nice to have all this expertise along. At lunchtime we reached the main gate area and while we wandered around the exhibits and gift shop, they set up a delicious BBQ (braa) and cooked up lamb chops, chicken kabobs, and local sausage. They set a fancy table and provided wine and beer plus an amazing desert of malva and custard (a South African pudding).

I haven’t tried this recipe but looks good and similar to what we ate. Also some other good ones on this site:


So I skipped over the animals we say and focused on the food. Tells where my heart lies! But the animals were amazing. We saw a monkey first just a few feet into the park and went on to see loads of elephants, zebra, various kinds of antelope, buffalo, warthogs, ostriches, dung beetles, termites, vultures, lion, tortoises, and a little ferrety thing (Janie wasn’t with us to see itJ There were probably more but it was so impressive and fun I’m forgetting. To see these animals in the wild and just doing their own thing naturally was so much more rewarding than in a zoo or nature park. Janie interpreted lots of their behaviors for us and it was then fun to try and spot those later on in the next groups.



Sundays River and Sand Dunes

Sundays River and sand dunes

The next day we did the Sundays River ferry cruised with the B&B owner’s husband. He has a great boat that cruises along the river to the estuary and then stops so you can scramble around the huge sand dunes. Max, Charlotte, and I managed to climb our way up these and the views at the top were amazing. The sand was so soft it was difficult to get up but very easy to get down!

Nice little town. Not a lot to do other than the boat and Addo plus one pub restaurant. But it was fun and relaxing.

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