Mini road trip through Malmesbury

Mini road road trip
Returning from our little road trip to Riebeek Kasteel we headed towards the well-known farming town of Malmesbury (map).

In case you're planning a trip, perhaps it's worth noting that Malmesbury isn't really a town to visit on an outing - in my opinion. The town itself isn't very pretty and rather the kind of town that one passes though when heading up the West Coast, or when going to places like Riebeek West, or Ceres.

Please, I'm looking for someone to disagree with me - so if you're keen on Malmesbury, please do leave a comment to say why you love it. I'm just being honest when I say that although the countryside is extremely beautiful, I've never found the town very pleasant at all.

Wind, pump, water

Wind, pump, water
It's weird to think that someone figured out that they could drive a pipe down into the earth and then use the wind-power to extract water. What kind of mind thinks to do this?!

While looking around the Web for information on wind-pumps, I found a photo gallery depicting the restoration of an old wind-pump. If you've ever wondered how they fit together, take a look at Andy's photos.

Incidentally, you'll notice from the gallery that the photos are from an old wind-pump in Riebeek West - which is more or less where this photo was taken.

A beautiful landscape

A beautiful landscape
I wrote about the Royal Hotel in Riebeek West yesterday, and before that I showed you a photo of a pastel-blue building from that same town. This photo of the little town is taken from just outside its borders. If you've visited Riebeek West before, you'd immediately recognise the large church building.

Colourful vineyards, green fields, blue mountains, and billowing clouds. The late afternoon sun makes this such a beautiful landscape. I wonder if people living here ever become jaded towards its beauty.

Sky, mountain, grass

Sky, mountain, grass
This time of the year is probably the best time to travel the Cape province's inland countryside. Around time we'll often have cool, yet bright and sunny, windless days - whereas during summer our inland countryside is terribly hot and often windy.

The only problem with visiting Cape Town from abroad during winter is that the weather is so unpredictable - your visit could co-inside with superb weather like this, or with two weeks of rain, often accompanied by wind. Sorry about that. :)

Yellow fields and blue skies

Yellow fields and blue skies
We took a drive out to Riebeek Kasteel - a little town in the Riebeek Valley recently. If you've been out into the Cape countryside, I'm sure you'll believe me when I say that the view in real life is so much prettier than what this photo portrays!

In case you're wondering, the white nets that you see in photo cover the grape vines. I assume that they're used to protect the ripening grapes from the harshness of the sun. It's curious to me though that only this patch is covered - do you think it could be because this particular patch is used to provide grapes for late-harvest wines?

Surrounded by Table Mountain

Table Mountain
I love Cape Town on days like this. This photo unfortunately doesn't convey adequately how beautiful the mountains, the trees, and the sky looked. It's so beautiful in real life that I honestly don't believe that any photo could do it justice

We stopped here, in Vredehoek, at about 10am for our first stop of the day - breakfast at Woodlands Eatery. However, even though the information we found said that they were open from 9am - they appeared not to be open - the door was closed and there was nobody in sight.

Even though we were disappointed, Kerry-Anne heard that Woodlands is a great restaurant, so I'm pretty sure that we'll be back to give them a try soon enough. :)

Cloudy-grey on Bottelary

Cloudy-grey on Bottelary
This photo was taken on the Bottelary road that joins Bellville, Brackenfell, Kuilsrivier, and Kraaifontein to the Stellenbosch wine district. The word "bottelary" is an Afrikaans word that refers to a bottling plant - specifically, the kind that bottles wine. :)

The weather represented in the photo is actually in stalk contrast to the weather that we've been experiencing yesterday and today. In my next post I'll show you just how great the weather that we're having now is. After living here for so many years it's still astonishing to me how quickly and drastically the weather conditions change in Cape Town.

The vineyards are orange

The vineyards are orange
On 2 February 1659, Jan van Riebeeck (founder and Dutch Commander of the Cape), produced the first wine recorded in South Africa. Today Cape Town and its surrounding areas are well-known for wine production - possibly because of the ideal weather (not too cold, not too hot, with a lovely summer sea breeze to cool the grapes) but more likely because of its inhabitants love the drink (arguably) a little too much. :)

This is a closer view of the vineyards shown in yesterday's post about graffiti. Many vines in vineyards over Cape Town have already lost their leaves, but like this one, some still have a beautiful red/orange hue.

A beautiful view from Stellenbosch Cemetery

A beautiful view from Stellenbosch Cemetery
If you never caught the first post in the series of cemetery photos – click here to see what the series is all about.

Isn't it interesting that graveyards often have the best views? This is clearly not for the sake of those buried, but I'm guessing more for the sake of their visitors - the people who come here to remember those whom they've lost.

From the colour of the trees, and the vineyards in the distance you can see that it's between autumn and winter in Cape Town. It was rainy on this day, but on clear and sunny days it sure is beautiful to walk among the trees and vineyards of the Cape.

Flat Stanley Lambchop in Cape Town

Flat Stanley Lambchop
Stanley Lambchop is a character from Jeff Brown's 1964 book, Flat Stanley. Stanley was a normal boy who got flattened when a bulletin board fell on top of him while he lay sleeping in his bed. Stanley survived the near-tragedy but was rendered flat - altered for ever.

Although one may imagine this to be a tragedy, it wasn't all bad because Stanley's flattened state allowed him to travel the world very economically - in an envelope. Cristin (class mom of her son's first-grade class in New York) sent Michael M's flat Stanley for a visit to Cape Town and this photo is from a small outing that we went on to show Stanley Table Mountain at sunset.

On the left, in the distance, is Table Mountain covered with it's well-known table cloth, a sheet of cloud that often covers the mountain. If you haven't seen her up close before, click here to see Table Mountain without its cloudy covering.

To the right of Table Mountain is Lion's Head (so named because from a particular angle it looks somewhat like a lion's head), and a smaller hill known as Signal Hill.

The sun sets on summer : 5#6

The sun sets on summer
As I explained in my first post of this series of photos, I'm a little behind on daily photos and trying as hard as I can to catch up. I'm posting this photo for this past Tuesday when it was unthinkable that Cape Town would ever see the warmth of summer again until the end of the year.

And there Cape Town surprises us all with a beautifully warm weekend filled with plenty of sun and warmth ideal for visiting the beach. Don't worry though, next week will see winter returning with all her chilly force. Brace yourself Cape Town - and remember to think of this weekend when you're freezing your toes blue towards the end of the coming week. :)

The sun sets on summer : 2#6

The sun sets on summer
Every once in a while Cape Town's setting sun treats us to the most beautifully brilliant-orange hue. I believe this has to do with the frequency of red and orange light being far lower than the other visible light in the spectrum. On days when a lot of dust has been scattered into the atmosphere the light with a higher frequency is easily blocked by the dust particles, allowing mostly the low-frequency orange and red light to reach us.

But, that said, I guess it's best not to think about the physics of light and to just enjoy the beauty of it. :)  In case you missed my previous post, I'll be publishing a few photos of the sun setting on (what I suspect may have been) the last reasonably warm day until summer arrives at the end of the year. See the first photo in the series here.

The sun sets on summer : 1#6

The sun sets on summer
It's kinda depressing that summer appears to be over. I'm really not enjoying this cold weather that we've been having of the past few days.

You may have noticed that I'm about a week behind on publishing photos. So, please excuse me while I take the opportunity to catch up by posting a small set of photos that I took on Friday. This set of pics may after all turn out to be the our last reminder of Cape Town's last warm day until summer arrives!

Do you recognise the location?

How to kill a dune

How to kill a dune

We've probably all heard about dune conservation, but perhaps we haven't all understood why it's important to conserve dunes. Dunes are our shore's first line of defence against the destruction caused by storms and unusually high tides. Acting as a long barrier, they reduce the chance of flooding, and in the case of severe storms, help to delay flooding. Dunes also help contain the beach sand and salty water spray from being blown inland, thereby protecting vegetation from dying due to excessive soil salinity, and preventing beaches from extending too far inland.

I'd never realised how fragile dunes were before reading this article on dune protection! Beach grass, shown in this photo, is the scaffolding used to build dunes. The grass grows, more sand is deposited, the grass grows above the sand, more sand is deposited, and the cycle continues until we have huge dunes to protect our shoreline.

The beach grass shown in this photo is extremely resilient to the elements. Like a true champ it resists drought conditions, tolerates very high levels of salt in the sand, and flourishes in very infertile soil. However, even though the grass in this photo is extremely hardy, its brittle inner core is extremely vulnerable when stepped on. Even a single person taking a shortcut across a dune kills grass on which they stand. A few people taking a shortcut across a dune will kill enough grass to cause the dune to be eroded by the wind.

Visit this site and follow the links to see the illustrations of how easily dunes erode when people trample the grass. I don't think I'll ever walk over a dune again, except by using the designated paths or bridges.

Santé Spa – a little less than expected

Santé Spa
We visited Santé Spa in the Franschhoek Valley for their Sunday buffet lunch. Unfortunately, we should have known not to visit a health spa for a Sunday buffet! The food wasn't very exciting - in fact, it was pretty extremely bland-tasting, the type that health-nuts would go crazy over. Minimal salt, little flavour, and no yummies. :)

Do you may recall J Arthur Brown and the Fidentia asset management scandal of a few years ago? As far as I know, Santé Spa was (or is) owned by by Mr. Brown's wife and I can only assume that Santé was somehow negatively effected by scandal. The hotel and spa seemed extremely quiet - almost dead. In fact, I swear that I saw a tumbleweed pass us in the courtyard!

The only thing that we really enjoyed about our visit was the drive and the beautiful views of the spectacular Simonsberg Mountain Range. Hopefully with some tender loving care they'll step up their game and become one of the great resorts of the Franschhoek Valley, but as for now, I can't say that we were overly excited.

When the Cape Town stadium sucks

Cape Town Stadium
I, and many others, love the Cape Town stadium. It's beautiful design, the sparking white colour, and how it's shape reflects the waves of the ocean make it a beautiful spot on our landscape. The only negative thing about the stadium is that whenever I take photos in this area it always seems to dominate the view in some or other way - which invariably gets me talking about it again and again and again. It's almost like Table Mountain - it practically insists on being in photos.

Have you recently visited Cape Town? Did the stadium manage to make it into your array of photos?

Early-morning Sea Point

Early-morning Sea Point
This isn't a sight that many people get to see - most of us are asleep at 05h30 and regularly miss the best time of day!

As the title suggests, this is a view of the city's coastal suburb of Sea Point. The photo was taken pretty much 180 degrees from this one, which was taken from Green Point in the direction of Sea Point.

Sea Point Promenade

Sea Point Promenade

Although I'm really happy to live where we do - out in a quiet neighbourhood in the northern suburbs - one of the things that makes me a little jealous of people living in the Green Point/Sea Point area is the Sea Point promenade, pictured here.

As Paul mentioned in a previous post about the promenade, the path runs for about 3km along the beach and seafront, stretching from Mouille Point to Sea Point. On pretty much any summer's evening (and most winter's evenings too) you'll find the promenade filled with joggers and walkers. Where we live, if we want to take a walk in the evening after supper, we either have to drive somewhere a little more interesting (bit pointless, really) or make the most of the neighbourhood scenery - which consists mostly of houses, houses, and yet more houses.

If I lived anywhere in the vicinity of Sea Point, I think I'd be out on the promenade most days, either diligently exercising, or else lazily reading a book. Where's your favourite spot for taking walks? Is it close to your house, or do you have to drive to get there?

Sunset road

Sunset road
I took this photo from a friend's balcony in Green Point - facing in the direction of Sea Point. Isn't the sky just beautiful?

Perhaps it doesn't look that way from this angle, but the roads in this area are so narrow that everyone parks on the curb in order to prevent this two-way road becoming fit for only a single lane. The little green Mini Cooper that you see parked on the curb is Kerry-Anne's. You'll notice that we decided to follow suit when parking. This was not only out of courtesy to other drivers, but also to prevent her little car from being scratched by other (under-cautious) drivers.

Flower, sea, island

Flowers, sea, island
The top of Signal Hill is such a popular spot for tourists that I find it hard to believe that there could be locals who'd never been to the top. It's only a short drive, up an extremely scenic road to the lookout point at the top of the hill - so surely everyone must have gone up to take a look?

I discovered that that contrary to my previous belief, this is just not true. One of my very own friends had never been to the top! So, even though it was windy as hell (not that I'd know how windy hell may be) I decided that while we were in the city I'd take her on her first trip to the lookout point.

This is one of the photos that I shot while at the lookout point. I'm not sure what plant this is - but isn't it pretty? The wind was blowing furiously and that's how I got that cool, more-or-less-in-focus effect on some branches while others are partially, or completely blurred.

The ocean that you're able to see in the background is the Atlantic ocean that fills Table Bay; and the island that you see out in the distance is the famous Robben Island - South Africa's own version of Alcatraz Island

A beautiful view

If you saw yesterday's photo then you'll no doubt have realised that this photo was taken from the same location. From here the beaches of Clifton, Camps Bay and Llandudno stretch into the distance from this vantage point.

During summer months the roads in this area get choked with traffic and available parking spots become about as scarce as hen's teeth. I've often considered how awesome it would be to live here, but then when I get stuck in single-lane stop-start traffic on sweltering hot days - I'm not too sad that I live where the roads are wide and congestion is at a minimum.

Click here to participate in my quick poll.

Blue skies and purple flowers

Blue skies and purple flowers
I'm sure if you've been to Cape Town before that you recognise Camps Bay beach and the Twelve Apostles mountain range in the background of this photo. This, dear friends, is the Cape Town we live for. Blue skies, towering mountains, still air, clear water, and of course, the beauty of nature.

Chris and I agreed, in the comments of a previous post, that Cape Town is fantastic at this time of the year. I *hate* leaving for work in the dark and leaving the office at dusk in the winter months. These days I wake up to a brightly-lit room - and and atmosphere that shouts "get up, get out!". Cape Town's winters can be pretty - but OMW there's no beating summer!

Farmlands and wine-country

Wheat and dairy farms are fine, but there's something special about wine farms. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that wheat and dairy are essential foods whereas wine is a luxury - an indulgence. Walking among the vineyards of a wine farm brings a sense of style, sophistication and an appreciation for the finer extravagances in life that in many ways makes us human.

Of course, the alternative is that it's too late at night and I've started rambling nonsensical nonsense! You be the judge. :)

Fields, farms, and fountains

Fields and Mountains
Okay, you're right, there aren't any fountains in this photo - only a beautiful array of mountains - but you have to agree that "Fields, farms and mountains" just doesn't have the same ring!

We drove out into the Stellenbosch farm areas in search of a place to enjoy a mid-afternoon snack. I however to say that I'm astonished as to how few farms Ithat are open the rest of the week) either close early on a Sunday, or aren't open at all. We ended up driving through to Delvera (on the R44 between Stellenbosch and Paarl) where we were too late for real food and had to settle for tea and scones!

Could it be that the farmers union insists on Sunday afternoon downtime? :)

Sea, sand and a setting sun

Sea, sand, and a setting sun
This photo is a different perspective on yesterday's sunset picture. I loved the reflection of the sun's rays on the wet sand - there's something so calming and thought provoking about the reflection, the fading light, and the still ocean.

Perhaps being almost surrounded by wide open ocean is what makes Cape Town so attractive to her residents - and to visitors I guess. Were it not for the (often frustrating) wind, our city could be one of the most perfect places on earth. Although, I guess were it not for the wind perhaps we'd be one of the most smoggy and dirty places on earth... :-/

A perfect location

House with a view
If you drive up Signal Hill, through Bo Kaap, you'll come across a small parking area (map) that shares this view of the city and of Table Bay. There's not much here except for an interestingly strange coffee shop (apparently the Noon Gun Tea Room) that was closed on a perfectly good afternoon.

The coffee shop aside though - isn't this just the perfect location for a home?

Lourensford Wine Estate

Lourensford Wine Estate

Lourensford Wine Estate is a large estate in Somerset West that can trace its history back to the year 1700. We spent some time here watching Prime Circle rock the crowds at the estate's open-air venue. It's a beautiful spot to visit for lunch, so if you'd like lunch on a wine estate, consider heading to Lourensford (map).

Night time on Camps Bay beach

Camps Bay Beach

Even though I didn't have a tripod handy, the final colours of the setting sun were too beautiful a photo opportunity to pass up. In the distance a handful of people still walked along the water's edge, soaking up nature's tranquillity, while behind me the bars and restaurants teemed with the beautiful people of Cape Town.

You only have a few weeks left before the cold weather sets in, so if you haven't been out to Camps Bay for dinner and drinks yet, I strongly suggest that you do so soon. :)

World wide weed

Hairy Fleabane

Don't you wish that flowers would grow more like weeds? We wouldn't ever have to water the beds or feed the flowers. Until I discovered my awesome weed-popper (which makes weeding more like a game) I really think I may have had more weeds than grass.

The Hairy Fleabane, shown in this photo, is a very common variety in Cape Town. The long stems and furry heads can be seen covering many people's lawns in spring, making them look more like country fields - which I guess for some has its own appeal. :)

The interesting thing is that according to there's a particular strain of Hairy Fleabane in the Breede Valley that has become resistant to herbicide. So it would seem to me that the only real solution is in fact my awesome weed-popper. Perhaps I should go into the weed-popper business. :)

To Hout Bay from Kommetjie

Hout Bay from a Kommetjie beach

Today's photo was taken just a little way from the photo in this post; in the distance, over the ocean, you can see Hout Bay.

The route from Kommetjie to Hout Bay has one of the prettiest views in the country - it's the famous Chapman's Peak Drive (M6), which you can see on this map. Check out the Chapman's Peak Drive website for information on whether or not the road is open (it sometimes closes in the event of rockfalls), the toll cost for using the road, and beautiful photos taken from the many viewing spots along the way.

In good weather, Chappies (our affectionate name for the road) is definitely worth the trip and the small toll charge. It may even be a cool idea to visit Cape Point in the early morning, take the coastal road past Scarborough through to Kommetjie and Noordhoek, and then head over Chappies and have lunch in Hout Bay. Keep in mind that there's lots to see along the way, so you may only end up in Hout Bay for a mid-afternoon lunch. If you're unfamiliar with the route, take a look at this route map that I drew using Google Maps.