Sunday, 30 April 2017

South Africa with a Toddler - Driving the Garden Route - Plettenberg Bay - Part II

Day Four - Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay 

We began the day with a hearty breakfast at the Taj again, along with having a special check in for 'Taj Kids' the also offer them there own breakfast menu including items such as eggs and soldiers, french toast, chocolate doughnuts and milkshakes. Bubs was a bit too young to make the most of this so I helped him out sample a few of the delights.

In England we do not actually drive very long distances since most of our family and friends live close by therefore doing an all day drive with Bubs was very new territory for us. I did plan ahead and set the car up with a backseat organiser containing toys, sticker books, music and story CDs and as a last resort the iPad was fully loaded with some of his favourite programmers. I also made sure we had car sunscreen shades, lots of water and snacks. Mr S had also done his part by planning the drive to ensure we had plenty of stops to let us stretch our legs and give Bubs a chance to let off some steam. In the whole time we were away I think I drove for around 10 minutes so Mr S definitely wins a prize for the number of miles he covered.

All the roads we drove along were in great condition, without much traffic once we had left Cape Town, all the drivers also stuck to the speed limits of around 100-120 kph. Mr S quickly picked up the road etiquette to pull over to the left to allow other cars to overtake and flash to acknowledge. Also along the route are several stops to pull into with permanent picnic tables setup, useful if you have to make a sudden stop to get something out of the boot for example. 

Our planned route along the N2:
  • 9am: Cape Town to Sir Lowry Pass
  • 10.15am: Sir Lowry Pass to Swelldenham
  • 2.00pm: Swelldenham to Mossel Bay 
  • 5.00pm: Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay
In total around six and half hours driving over a ten hour day. Bubs actually fell asleep as soon as we hit the road so we carried on driving past Sir Lowry Pass and went straight onto Swelldenham. We stopped off in the town centre and a local Spar to pick up a picnic before heading to Bontebok National Park. It took us a while to find the entrance using the tom tom and local signage since an old entrance had now been closed down and we were very close to giving up and having a picnic in the car but the persistentance was worth the views and peace that awaited us when we did finally make it there.

After fuelling up and chasing bubbles around the park we sent off for the second leg to our journey onto Mossel Bay, we had a pitstop at a small beachside coffee shop, whilst Aaran enjoyed a run collecting shells on the beach. Throughout our time in South Africa one thing that really stood out was how friendly the people were, even our coffee shop ended with a twenty minute conversation before we hit the road for our final stretch onto Plettenberg Bay. 

After doing some research on places to stay along the garden route I soon learned that there are not many large hotels, more so smaller resorts and b&bs so for our first stop off I booked the Formosa Bay resort, which had a great location just off the N2. 

For a bargain price we ended up with a huge two bedroom two bathroom apartment, complete with a full kitchen, lounge area, dining table and balcony with a built in BBQ, I think we could have easily fit another four people into the apartment with the size it was. They were cleaned daily and a restaurant attached served food all day too. There was also two swimming pools, crazy golf and a kids play area so we got lot for our money.

After a quick unpacking of the car and freshening up we made our way into central Plett along the coast for dinner at the Fat Fish.

Build your own carbonara 


Hake and Calamari

For starters we shared the sushi platter along with a crispy fried fish and for mains Mr S went for the Hake and Calamari with wasabi mayo and I had the Kingklip, Bubs had the carbonara pasta which came with a build your own sauce and cheese. After starters we were really full so did not enjoy mains or even attempt desert, out of all the places we ate at this was probably my least favourite.

After a long drive we were all more than ready for bed, unfortunately soon after we hit the sack Bubs decided to vomit up, luckily this was mainly on the tiled floor so was easy to clean up. 

Day Five - Plettenberg Bay and Elephant Sanctuary

Bubs had three more vomitting incidents in the early hours of the morning so we had a very early start and after calling a local 24 hour clinic were informed the best thing to do would be to visit the local GP at 8am. Although this was not something I would have planned for during our holiday it was still interesting to see the other side to a holiday village with the local people going about their normal daily business. 
The GP saw us straight away and was great in diagnosing his symptoms, another upper repository infection and prescribing an anti-sickness medicine, antibiotics and steroids. Thankfully as soon as he took the anitsickness he was much more himself and we went for a quick breakfast at the attached Le Journal En Route Bakery within the resort. Bubs then knocked out for a long four hour nap which gave me a chance to wash all the clothes from the morning and night at the onsite laundry, I felt a bit like I was back at university making sure I had enough change for the machines, but it was great to know the clothes would be clean rather than still soiled when we returned back home.

Cheese Croissant and Coffee for me

After his nap his was completely back to being himself and very excited to visit the elephant sanctuary. On our previous holiday to Kenya we visited another sanctuary where he had seen the orphaned baby elephants being fed formula from bottles and loved it, so was even more excited to know he would be meeting elephants again. At the Elephant Sanctuary you are able to purchase a bucket of fruit and veg to feed them whilst on a walk with the elephant experience, it was a fun task trying to convince Bubs the fruit was for the elephants and not him whilst we waited.

The tour begins by visiting the elephants sleeping area, you are also able to spend the night in a lodge above this with an open mezzanine level to watch the elephants in the evening. A tractor and trailer then lead you out to the fields where the elephants all gather around knowing its time to feed as soon as they hear the vehicle approaching. Despite being very excited, once Bubs actually saw the elephants he became very scared and refused to go close let alone feed them, he kept asking for the baby ones and not the mummy and daddy ones, he soon became accustomed to them as a private guide led us around the field giving a brief history on each of the elephants. Other wild animals such as zebras are also roaming free, was a great experience to be so close to them especially without the constraints of a normal safari vehicle.

Later that afternoon we headed down to the Keurboomstrand Beach area where Bubs had lots of fun pouring buckets of sand over himself before we headed to Enrico's for a delicious pizza dinner. As the sunset in the distance around twenty dolphins appeared in the water, making for great evening entertainment.
Garlic Bomba

For dinner Mr A had a baby chicken and me and Bubs shared a garlic Bomba and ham and mushroom pizza, all of which was delicious. For desert we had a tiramisu to takeaway as Bubs was now getting irritated by the amount of sand in his hair - time for a long bath and bedtime.

Day Six - Tsitsikamma National Park

For breakfast we started the day early at Thyme and Again, a farm shop along the N2, breakfast was delicious and the shop was filled with lots of goodies, perfect to grab a picnic from. Also have a large childrens play area attached which we found it hard to drag Bubs away from when it was time to leave.

Bubs Baby Chino

Bubs Scramled Eggs

Now I am not the most active person around but Mr S assured me the hike would be a gentle one and I have to say the hike itself was not so bad, what I was not so prepared for however was the Storms River suspension bridge. The views however were stunning and Bubs loved the climb and walking across the nail-biting bridges.

The first bridge leads to a small pebbled beach where you can stop and admire the views, the actual hike itself is mainly along a constructed wooden platform with a few ropes in strategic places to stop you falling off. It was fine with Bubs but if you have children any younger or those that do not follow instructions well it could be dangerous.

For lunch we stopped at the Bramon Wine estate, all the hiking and worn out Bubs and he had a lovely long sleep on a custom made bed on one of the large dining tables out of lots of blankets. This gave us the chance to enjoy a delicious bottle of wine, lots of bread served with sea salt and butter and probably nearly every one of the tapas items available on the menu. The tables are set in between the actual vineyards, the food and service was amazing and we throughly enjoyed our leisurely late lunch. 

The stunning drive home, where we had a early night and packed up before hitting the road again tomorrow onto Oudtshoorn

Part IV - Hout Bay

Part I  - Cape Town


Friday, 14 April 2017

South Africa with a Toddler - Cape Town -Part I

The final holiday for us in 2016 was to the spectacular Cape Town and garden route in South Africa. We visited at the end of November, just as the UK begins to brace itself for winter, Cape Town wakes up to begins its summer, was lovely to fly out of Heathrow on a cold, wet and dreary Saturday to arrive to perfect blue skies on the Sunday. 

Day 1 - London Heathrow - Cape Town 

We flew out of Heathrow with one of my favourite airlines British Airways, check in was smooth as always, I tried my luck with upgrade, still never had a success but I remain in hope.
We then spent the majority of the time in the lounge which had a pretty decent selection of both hot and cold food, Mr S though did pop out for a chicken salad as he found the offering far too carb heavy. As we proceeded to the gate to board the flight, BA excelled yet again with their customer service, before even announcing for those travelling with young families to come forward several of their representatives spent a few moments to go up to the families and let them know they were ready to board whenever they were. The young lady also helped me with my hand luggage and newly accuriqued trunki whilst Mr S tried to convince Bubs it was time to stop climbing on all the furniture and board a plane for twelve hours. 

Unfortunately on our flight the in-flight entertainment was not working, not the best start but it was a night flight so we all tried to get as much sleep as we could. It was also Bubs first time having his own plane meal and although he had already eaten his dinner he enjoyed picking at the selection and having a giant chocolate cake slice for desert. Luckily this did not affect his sleep and he was knocked out for most of the flight only waking just before breakfast was served. 

Day 2 - Cape Town - The Taj 

After leaving the airport we proceed to pick up our first ever hire car, a Kia Rio, a process that was slightly delayed by Mr S forgetting his pin number. At least this time he brought a wallet, on our honeymoon he managed to forget his wallet in England. Although I had tried to pack light for Cape Town we still had three medium sized, hand luggage and a collapsible pushchair and no way did I think it would fit into the car but the boot space was amazing and everything managed to be squeezed into the boot. Obstacle 1 - complete, obstacle 2 - fitting a car seat however did not go so well so I ended up just holding Bubs for the 20 min journey into the central of Cape Town to check into the Taj

Although we had arrived before the check in time, the Taj could not have been more accommodating and helpful, with a full valet parking service and an amazing little gift bag for Bubs which included a cuddly rhino to add to his ever growing animal collection. He is really into animal stuffed toys and has a really cool collection now from around the globe. The hotel and room were stunning, colonial luxury that made you feel like climbing into bed, however the sunshine outside was a bigger pull so after a quick shower we all headed out for sunday brunch. 

Deer Park Cafe

Our first stop on our culinary adventure for this holiday was the Deer Park Cafe, a local hotspot that we managed to luckily get the last table for lunch at, it was filled with lots of locals enjoying sunday with the family. Nestled under Table Top Mountain with a small children play area and park attached it was the perfect place to refuel and relax. 

To start with we both ordered some of their fresh juices to get our immune systems a boast after the journey in, Mr S had an Orange, ginger, spinach and mint version whereas I played it safe with just orange juice. Bubs by this point had fallen fast asleep so we took as a chance to enjoy our food whilst he napped away. 

For mains I enjoyed the Falafel Salad and Mr S had a special of Thai Beef Noodle Salad, I also could not resist a portion of chips on the side. For Bubs we ordered Mac and Cheese and a delicious chocolate milkshake. 

Falafel Salad
Beef Salad
The best part of our meal however was one of the most delicious, moist chocolate brandy cakes I have ever eaten. We asked the owner to recommend one from the various beauties on display and I am so glad we did. Even though it was a large slice it was really light and just disappeared before we even took a sip of our coffees. 

After lunch we continued our day and to make the most of the spectacular clear skies we drove straight to Table Top Mountain. We parked up at the the Aerial Cableway and encountered our first parking attendant too. Mr S had done a little bit of reading and its common on South Africa to have unofficial parking attendants to help you find a spot and look after your car, provide a little bit of chat about the local area etc in exchange for a small tip. A lot more friendly than putting your change into machine for sure. Tickets to go up the cableway cost around £14 pounds return for an adult and under 4's are free, you can also climb up if you are feeling rather energetic. 
Using the TomTom for directions to TableTop

The journey up the mountain was one of the scariest cablecars I have ever been on, with two of the four sides being left open and a 360 degree turning car at times it felt like we would go face first into the side of the mountain. Also not sure how many health and safety regulations were being broken by having such a large opening, despite being rather afraid the views were breath taking.

View from the bottom of the cableway

Table Top mountain derives its name from the flat surface at the top rather than a peak like most. The nail bitting journey to the top was however worth it once we arrived to see the views at the top of this unique mountain. One thing to note however is it is not very child friendly, with hardly any safety measures or barriers at the edge of the view points. Me and Bubs did soon have to retreat to the cafe for an ice - cream, firstly to escape the heat and secondly because I couldn't keep up with him. He is also a fully fledged toddler so there is no stopping now when he wants to find adventures, which I am normally fine with but not when the adventure is on the edge of a mountain.

We soon headed back to the hotel to relax and freshen up before our evening meal at Bombay Brasserie, the Tajs in house indian restaurant.

We enjoyed a lovely meal of a mixed kebab platter to start, followed by black lentils and a lamb shank curry. All the food was cooked perfectly and it provided the perfect level of comfort after a long flight and day sightseeing. The actual restaurant is beautiful with individually embroidered chairs and wall hangings providing a very opulent settings. With our full bellies we all had an early night before starting our day 2 adventures. 

Kebab Platter for Two
Amuse Bouche - Dhai Puri
Lamb Shank Curry 
Black Lentils
Curry, Dhal and Mint Paratha 
Palate cleansing Sorbet

Day Three - Cape Town 

After a filling breakfast at the Taj (who have a separate kids selection of sugar laden treats like  glittered doughnuts) we sent off for a day of exploring central Cape Town, our hotel was in a great location meaning we were able to start the day early by visiting the Greenmarket Square just behind us. Bubs has been collecting keyring from all the countries he visits and this was a great chance to pick up a beaded hippo after some great negotiating skills by Mr S, it ended up being worth every penny as he was attached to it for the whole holiday. 

We then walked down and spent the rest of the morning in the colourful BoKapp area, an icon part of Cape Town easily recognised by the pastel coloured houses that line the streets. Historically this is one of the only areas that remained unaffected by housing moves during the apartheid. 

For lunch we enjoyed a delicious set tapas menu at Chefs Warehouse, we were lucky enough to get a table outside next to their resident dog Bailey who kept Bubs entertained  throughout the meal. The restaurant is attached to a bookshop containing lots of recipe books, kitchen equipment and food items to take home too. 

Deep Fried Squid
Tuna Tartare


Our first round of starters consisted of crispy deep fried squid served with pork, yellowtail sashimi and tuna tartare.

Round two was a very moreish homemade ricotta served with a pea risotto, the ricotta and squid were some of my favourite dishes

Round three consisted of a lamb rum, version and kingklip fish, by this point we were both very full but had enjoyed every mouthful.
For desert we enjoyed a refreshing coconut and mango desert, the perfect touch to end lunch.

To try and work off some of those calories we went for a long walk around Company Garden which helped Bubs dose off in his pushchair and provide us with the perfect excuse to indulge again in coffee and cake. 

Lemon Meringue Pie
Flat White

As if we had not eaten enough that day we later headed down to The Butcher Shop and Grill for dinner. Beforehand though Bubs enjoyed having a run around the Mouille Point Adventure Playground. The Butcher Shop combines a full restaurant along with a shop and full butchery counter, letting you see all the cuts of meat and fish available before ordering, you can also take these home to cook yourself. A very reasonable priced steak restaurant of exceptional quality.
To begin with we shared some delicious warm bread that was served with butter and sausages, Bubs ordered a chicken kebab and chips of the kids menu, whilst we made a start on the delicious bottle of red recommended to us. On a side note I did pre make reservations at most of the restaurants we dined at during the trip which I would advise as they do get busy, this was a monday evening and by the time we left there was not an empty seat left.

Chicken Kebabs Kids Meal 
T-Bone with peppercorn 

Fillet Steak

Chillies, Mustard and Ketchup

Chocolate Fudge Cake 

After another food filled day we headed home to catch some sleep before our eight hour drive on Day Four.

Part IV - Hout Bay