As a self-proclaimed craft gin fanatic (which is just a classy way of saying closet alcoholic), I have experienced my fair share of gin bars, craft festivals and gin tastings. Which also means I am constantly looking for a new experience or one that has an extra edge. This search lead me to the Vredenheim craft gin bar, where an amazing selection of craft gin was combined with the fine art of classical cars to create a truly unique environment.
I like to think that I stumbled across this local gem out of pure chance. The truth however is that Daniel is a classic car fanatic and I am a craft gin enthusiast. Which means that we were destined to discover this place that somehow combined our respective passions. Either way, one relaxed Saturday afternoon we found ourselves at Vredenheim. Upon first impression, I really felt that the atmosphere of the gin room perpetuated an air of relaxation. Almost as if you could completely forget the outside world. Whether you were sitting on one of the benches outside: staring at the beautiful gardens of Vredenheim, or were chilling at the bar: chatting to the friendly bartenders, or like Daniel: drooling over the beautiful classic cars. It truly felt like a place where you could escape the daily admin of life.
The bar offered various cocktails but also offered a gin tasting. Since both of us struggled to choose a single gin to drink, we opted for the gin tasting. This allowed us to choose 3 (out of the 47) gin products to taste. Each chosen gin was paired with a fruit or herb that truly highlighted the unique nuances of each blend and (of course) some Fitch and Leedes tonic water. The bartenders would then explain the ingredients and process that had blended together to create each unique gin and then leave you to experience the flavors at your own pace. As someone who loves to learn, I truly appreciated the care with which each product was explained. It truly added depth to the experience and makes you appreciate each product for the effort that had gone into creating it.
Even though we finished our tasting in under an hour, we may have spent about half a day at Vredenheim. Soaking-up the sunshine, taking in the scenery and of course ordering some additional cocktails of our newly appointed favourite gin products. So whether you need a break from studying or are just looking for something to do during the approaching holiday, I would recommend you experience the magic of a gin and classic car pairing.
"The good times of today are the thoughts of tomorrow"
There is a reason that George Ezra's latest song 'shotgun' has become such an overnight success. There is something truly universal about the thrill of a road trip. The feeling of the wind in your hair, sing-along music blasting through the speakers and an endless landscape: all fused together to create the illusion of infinite possibility. This week's blog follows our road trip adventure to Wilderness, where the soon-to-be annual Torpedo Swim Run was taking place. Packed as tightly as my great aunt's stockings, in a chaotic mishmash of wetsuits, surfboards and doritos, our humble little vehicle took to the road toward the east coast. Our group consisted of athletes, avid supporters and a few tag alongs that honestly just enjoyed the outdoors and the festivities of such a prime event. An extremely diverse group united by a single, positive mindset: experiencing all that this life and this beautiful country has to offer!
To offer some context to this week's blog, we delve into the history and essence of the Torpedo Swim Run. The event started as a competitive bet between a group of friends, who attempted to complete a Running and swimming route that eventually took nearly 24 hours to complete. The annual challenge later evolved into an event known as the swim run, with events that take place across the world. This year this historical race settled in the often overlooked beach town of Wilderness. Known for beautiful indigenous forests (that honestly make you feel as if you have landed in a Jurassic Park movie) and prestige beaches. Wilderness is another local gem that truly deserves to be viewed as if by an awestruck tourist... And what better way to truly take in the nature than by bundu-bashing through the local rivine, running along the beaches and all-around adventuring through 26km of mostly untouched environment. Yes... You read that correctly, the event totals 26km of which you run 17km, you swim 4km and you rock-hop 5km. Now if you are anything like me, you probably twisted an ankle by merely reading the previous sentence. Luckily for people like me , the race caters for athletes and spectators alike. The Ebb and Flow campsite, where the event took place, was transformed into a mini-festival ground, offering snacks, drinks and music. So whether you were running the race, hanging out in your tent or snapping pictures of the racers (definitely me), you truly felt part of the event, part of the nature and part of a community.
However, more than just the excitement, the nature and the amazing people. This adventure taught me a valuable life lesson about time. Charles Bukowski once said, "to fight for each minute is to fight for what is possible within yourself, so that your life and your death will not be like theirs." Now at first, I didn't really understand what he meant. However, I realized that time seemed to slow down over the weekend, as if the weekend had somehow turned into a week. This phenomenon I later discovered was because I had been more more aware of what was going on around me. By discarding my phone, my laptop and all my other daily distractions, I had been present. This is what I think Bukowski meant... By fighting for each minute, he suggests that we truly experience life, only when acknowledging the sanctity of a minute...by being present. Instead of distracting ourselves with meaningless noise and meaningless routines, we must simply take time to (literally and metaphorically) smell the roses! So in summary, take a few seconds to acknowledge the good things around you and the beauty that this life and this country has to offer!
"The present moment is the only moment available to us, and it is the door to all moments!"
Have You Ever Heard The Saying, "A Change Is as good as A Holiday!" I always thought this referred to a physical change. A misconception that admittedly resulted in more than one saga of me trying yoga, going vegan for a week (more like a day) or recently (inspired by the Avril Lavigne song) attempting skateboarding. Which ironically did lead to a change in my life in the form of a hospital bed. This being said, I have recently started to realize that the change I needed all along was, in fact, a simple mind shift. You see, I recently had the pleasure of meeting a group of exchange students. Little did this group of overly excited, slightly pale Europeans know their presence in our country would lead to a rather profound epiphany. Their childlike wonder regarding the amazing gems our country had to offer, allowed me to gaze at our country with a newfound awe. Thus inspiring this new blog segment...celebrating our beautiful country through the eyes of a tourist!
Our adventure begins close to home...exploring the beautiful gem that is koel bAY! In the style of true South Africans our impromptu travel squad arrived from a variety of origin locations using a variety of different travel methods...one of us even cycled from Stellenbosch. Nonetheless...we had everything we needed for an adventure: sun, friendly faces, good music and (perhaps most importantly) delicious snacks. Koel Bay, better known as ‘Dappat se gat’ is located along the scenic, winding beach road between Gordon’s Bay and Rooiels. The magic of this secret spot lies within it’s untouched nature. The untouched white beaches, delicately hidden by lush fynbos and the elegantly folded mountains of the Cape. Basically a 360 view of South African paradise. The perfect place for lounging on the beach, reading your favourite Charles Bukowski book (I may be biased with this one), surfing, body boarding or classic game of beach frisbee.
Now I know the skeptics among you may suggest that the above mentioned activities are not exactly unique to a specific beach and others may argue that it’s a long drive for ‘just another beach’. Although these critics are far from wrong, they may be a bit short sighted. You see, Koel Bay is far more than just activities and sunshine. It is a symbol of the raw and untouched beauty of our country. More than that, the endless blue ocean expanse and the majestic, monstrous mountains are a reminder of our own insignificance. In this case, insignificance does not mean that we do not have an important role in this life, but rather that there are more pressing matters than our own. In a nutshell...Koel Bay to me is a beacon of perspective. Reminding me why I choose to fight for the environment and this exceptionally, unique and beautiful country!
"The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will fix it!"
One of the most precious things in life is the ability to inspire through infectious and unapologetic passion! I will be honest; I have never really had a passion for optometry. Nonetheless, the positivity and energy of the Paarl optometrist known as Bril may have made me question my career path.
The story of the so-called “over-night success” started in George, expanded to Johannesburg and was then coaxed back to Paarl with the promise of mountains and vineyards. In this regard, a business is rather like an iceberg: for every white peak of success that rises triumphantly above the water, a rich history of hard work, disappointments, success and passion resides below the surface. At this point you are probably thinking, “Every town has an optometrist…what makes Bril so special?” Well, contraire to the Hollywood portrayal, there is no one secret ingredient. Bril has simply succeeded in embracing the authentic existence of its passionate owners, which has in turn led to a plethora of unique characteristics that truly distinguishes Bril from their competitors.
As the saying goes ‘Passion breeds progress”, which leads us to the first distinguishing characteristic of Bril. Most customers are inclined toward things that are new and exciting… Bril entertains this customer fantasy by attending expos, talks or conferences (anything where they can learn what is hip and happening). Therefore, their techniques and stocks stay cutting edge. Werner, one of the owners goes on to explain that the trends that Bril adopts are also more than just current; Bril truly invests in designs that have a story and that are authentic. The second characteristic that makes Bril exceptional is that the business is truly centred on making you a happy customer and not a billable number. This is achieved through small, yet essential details. Whether it be their coffee stand in the shop, their favourite house music playing in the foyer, there interaction with their customers on Instagram or their dogs playing in the garden in front of the shop. They thrive on being an interaction-based brand and their winning recipe has attracted people from as far as Namibia.
However, the interaction does not stop at attracting distant customers; this brand is also passionate about the community and reach out to their community through various charity project. Sticking to what they know best they have set the optimistic goal of helping over 1 million people in communities that may not have access to eye care. At this point in the conversation, I was smitten with the brand and like most inspired youth, I wanted to know how I could get involved with this amazing brand! Luckily for me, and anyone reading this, Bril needs both volunteers and old glasses for their projects (So spread the word). Alternatively, you can get involved by simply adopting their simple motto: Spread happiness!
The bril-liant (pun intended) thing about Bril is that they thrive on transparency, personal service and one of my favourite things in life…unapologetic authenticity. Don’t believe me, see (another pun) for yourself @hello_bril ;)
"Stay true to you and you will end up incredibly happy!"
This week we say happy birthday to a particularly spectacular Stellenbosch gem! Exactly 9 years ago, The birdcage was started as a vintage gift shop. Capturing the imagination of the Stellenbosch locals with their beautiful products and petite coffee shop. Now, nearly a decade later, this iconic brand has expanded to the restaurant,cake shop,cafe and gift shop we know today. A unique brand with a truly multi-dimensional existence. This inspiring characteristic, partnered with the fact that The Birdcage is owned by two woman, made this brand perfect for a Woman’s day feature.
You see, The Birdcage, like all the beautiful and amazing woman we are celebrating today, has truly gained my respect.Being the sweet tooth that I am, I will start with their highly successful bakery. The bakery has perfected a range of delicious recipes and constantly change up their options based on trends or as one of the owners divulged, “things that look cool on pinterest!” The other big facet of the bakery is the creation of spectacular wedding cakes, which range from classic, tiered masterpieces to delightfully modern naked cakes. Their restaurant menu follows the innovative style of the bakery, with amazing food and new launches (like the launch of their new salad menu). Then lastly, The Birdcage is known for it’s beautiful and ornamental gifts. Which, to be honest, makes The Birdcage the first place I stop for birthdays, Christmas or Mother's day! These characteristics in themselves are inspirational, but The Birdcage has earned so much more than just my respect, it is truly a place I am in love with! I remember having lunch on their sunny patio with my grandmother, I remember countless occasions of staring at their wide variety of treats to satisfy my sugar cravings and I remember countless coffees dates with my best friends!
So whether you are celebrating a birthday (like The Birdcage) or the fact that you are an amazing woman...both occasions are best celebrated with cake! And luckily for you, The birdcage has a cake for every occasion and taste preference!
"A Party without cake is just a meeting"
I scream, you scream…we all scream for ice-cream. But let’s be honest, as universal as our love for ice cream is, not all ice-cream is made the same. Especially when it comes Cape Town’s legendary ice-cream shop The Creamery.
The story of The Creamery, like most special things, started at home, where Kate (the co-owner of The Creamery) loved making delicious home-made ice-cream for her family and friends. She quickly realized that other ice-cream in the area was (quieted frankly) mediocre compared to the natural and fresh products she created at home. This conundrum quickly led her to partner up with Kye to open The Creamery. According to the founders, the ice-cream shop not only provided an ideal platform to exhibit the amazing seasonal products that Cape Town had to offer, but also supplied the owners and their workers with a sustainable living. Other than creating delicious and local products, The Creamery has three key characteristics that make it truly unique! Firstly, the ice-cream is made from only natural ingredients and contains no preservatives or artificial stabilizers. Secondly, their ingredients are sourced from local, small farm owners. Which is both sustainable and supports growth within our beautiful country. Lastly, The Creamery has a unique approach to flavour. Although they have their main 5 flavours, their menu is constantly changing as they experiment with new ingredients and as they are inspired by changing seasons. Whether it be carrot cake and ginger chocolate chip in autumn or sesame seed and jasmine tea in May. The brand is constantly reinventing itself! And this is truly my favourite part of the brand. It is not a once-off, tick-off-the-bucket-list experience. The Creamery is a brand that provides a new and exciting taste sensation with every visit and is therefore a brand that I have built a personal connection with. It’s that place swing by every time you are in the area, it’s the place you take that special someone for a treat and the place you go when you are having a bad day!
In a nutshell…a truly special establishment that represents an inspirational ideology as a simple cone of ice-cream. I think Kye said it best when she described the brand as combining the best aspects of life: working with small farmers, celebrating the abundance of foods grown in the Western Cape, caring for the environment, and an inclusive workplace that empowers people!
"Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy ice-cream...which is close enough!"
As a writer, one often has to add a bit of pizazz to create a truly engaging story. However, once in a while you stumble upon a story that simply writes itself. The story of Wolf and Maiden, a local leather shop, is one such story.
It all started when Wade, the founder of Wolf and Maiden, travelled to India. Upon his arrival he back-packed through the colourful country in search of culture, experiences and ultimately adventure. His travels took him to a small town where he observed something quite spectacular. Wade had been socializing with a few locals when a mysterious newcomer had joined the festive environment. What made the man quite spectacular, was not the man himself but rather his the leather products he handcrafted while socializing with the group. Wade was instantly intrigued by the man’s craft, but before he could enquire about the man, the newcomer had disappeared as suddenly as he had arrived.
Two weeks later, Wade had all but forgotten about the mysterious traveller and his majestic leather goods. Wade had travelled to the other side of the beautiful country and was content with exploring the city’s scenes, when he turned a corner and literally walked into the same mysterious gentlemen he had narrowly missed on their previous encounter. (At this point: Wade likes to draw attention to the statistical unlikelihood that two strangers should meet twice within the span of two weeks and usually hints at the intervention of destiny) After a brief introduction the man explained that he had been robbed and that he had lost his passport along with his wallet. Wade then made him an offer, that unbeknownst to Wade…would change his life. Wade offered to buy enough of the man’s leather goods for the man to find his way home. In the days that followed the leather smith showed Wade some of the tricks of the trade and eventually the strangers parted as unlikely friends. Upon his return to South Africa, he further perfected his new leather craft and proceeded to create the Wolf and Maiden brand we know today.
Now, with an impressive product range and a team of highly skilled leather smiths, the brand has grown exponentially since its conception. However, it still remains true to Wade’s initial vision: Handmade leather products that are made to last. Wolf and Maiden is special, not because of the amazing products they create, but rather because of the journey of the products after they leave the shop. You see, good leather products, like good wine, only gain value and character over time and this is where the magic lies…with a brand and a product that have amazing stories.
"One day or day on...you decide"
Helen Keller once said, “Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible!” This universal truth has carried humanity through the ages by inspiring action for a better future. Whether it be hoping that your favourite team wins the soccer world cup, hoping that your country’s state improves or hoping that the future holds something more for you and your potential. This concept has touched most of us and is also at the heart (and evidently in the name) of today’s blog about Hope on Hopkins distillery.
The distillery was founded by Leigh and Lucy when they made the bold decision to leave their corporate existence behind in search of something new in the sunny Western Cape. They settled in Salt River were the Hope on Hopkins distillery was born. Hope on Hopkins distils a range of spirits including vodka, their exotic Esperanza Blanco (a South African take on tequila) and their famous collection of gin products. My personal experience of the distillery exposed three key factors that make this distillery, not only unique, but rather exceptional!
Firstly, Leigh and Lucy have truly infused a bit of their soul into every aspect of the facility. Whether it be the charming Mr Scruff (the rescue puppy turned distillery dog) greeting you with a wagging tail at the distillery door. The famous Maude, Mildred and Mouma (the glimmering distilling equipment that was named after the founders’ grandparents) or even the couple of distillery cats lazily lounging in the tasting room... the facility undeniably exudes their personal touch of the two founders.
Secondly, the quality of the distilling process, the ingredients and of course the product. When the distillery was still in it’s infancy the power duo behind it’s success took the necessary time to experiment and refine their technique and flavours producing first their traditional London dry gin before expanding to the more local Salt River gin and of course their tropical Mediterranean gin. The care they took in developing these products is evident in the quality and flavour of the gin as well as in the atmosphere of the tasting experience. When doing a tasting at the distillery it is evident that the facility truly wants to celebrate their products, whether tasting the products as fun ice popsicles or as a classic gin and tonic.
Lastly, I fell in love with the ideology of this local gem. You see, Hope on Hopkins represents the idea that the responsibility of change lies with every individual whom desires it. Lucy and Leigh needed a change and by taking responsibility for their own future, they created a fantastic and successful business. A business that not only altered their path for the better, but also proves as a reminder that no matter what happens…Hope will always reside in South Africa.
"Look forward with hope, Not backwards with regret."
I decided to take a DIFFERENT approach to this blog. You see,i recently had the amazing opportunity to spend a weekend at the Rickety bridge manor house. However, to describe the experience in a way that would truly represent the unique guest house was challenging as different aspects appeal to different people! Therefore, I decided t share my FAVORITE memories of the weekend and In DOING so let the magic of the manor house speak for itself!
1) I embrace a warm cup of coffee between ENTWINED fingers as the warm liquid slowly removes all memory of the outdoor chill that still lingered on the tips of my hands. I was sitting in the lounge of our suite in the manor house gazing through one of the classic old dutch windows at the VINEYARDS beyond. The VINEYARDS had already started to show the rust-like appearance of the approaching winter as red and green blended in harmony. moments like these reminded me of a quote my MOTHER often repeats, "We are human beings...so take a deep breath and just be!"
2) Light and shadow danced on the walls as the embers of the wood fire swirled up the chimney and into the night air. I was curled up on the couch, under an enormous, fluffy blanket, giggling at one of my FAVOuRITE movies as i sipped on a glass of red wine. The ruby liquid lighting up as it caught the movement of the fire. This moment: my QUINTESSENTIAL winter fantasy.
3) my eyes open, slow and lazy, as i i attempt to crawl out of the nest of pillows and blankets i had not-so-DELICATELY constructed in my sleep. Warm rays lit the room with the unspoken promise of a beautiful, sunny day. I gazed out of the beautiful, classical window and marveled at how this house had been refurbished to combined the best of the classical cape dutch style with modern design.
4) my tummy grumbled expectantly as i gazed at the breakfast menu. I was sitting at the kitchen table of the MANOR house, fresh spring flowers elegantly displayed on the table next to bowls of fruit and pots of tea. The intimate breakfast setting encompassed the familiar and personal feel of the farm house, with the expert cooking of a five start guest house! Truly a great start to the day.
Now, i admit, these four memories are personal and may not appeal to EVERYONE, but isn't that what a get-away is supposed to be? An opportunity to rise above the mundane routine of EVERYDAY life and experience the things you personally enjoy. This, you see, is the magic of the manor house, combining LUXURY and intimacy means you can truly relax (because everything is taken care of) and that you can do what you find relaxing because it offers privacy! So, To sum it up in three words: beautiful, historic and classy!
"You're off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so... get on your way!"
The previous blog explored the finer aspects of cuisine by discussing paulina's: the famous RICKETY bridge bistro. However, the rickety bridge experience ENCOMPASSES a LOT more than only THEIR restaurant. the experience also includes park runs, BEAUTIFUL scenery, wine blending and wine tasting (need i say more). So this blog is dedicated to the fun and unique activities that add to the historic wine farm's charm!
Park Run: if you are anything like me, you would have made some sort of new years resolution to be a bit more active, which is NORMALLY just a hollow promise to subside the guilt OF christmas indulgence. This year however, i ACTUALLY went so far as to join a local gym (Attending the gym however is another story). Luckily for my aspiring new year's self, there are some other ways to work out! Namely, the rickety BRIDGE park run (because let's be honest, exploring a wine farm is a lot more exciting than walking around a SWEATY gym). The rickety bridge park run happens every saturday and is an open and free event for anyone to enjoy. Whether you arrive to sprint, jog, walk, skip or to drink wine while more active people do the heavy lifting, this is DEFINITELY an event to experience.
Wine Tasting and wine Blending: Ok, so to be HONEST these events are ACTUALLY SEPARATE, but for me they became connected when i realized that I had ABSOLUTELY no talent in blending wine and then drowned my sorrows in the admittedly SUPERIOR professionally blended wine of rickety bridge. Let's start at the beginning: Daniel and i decided to try our hand at wine blending. rickety bridge offers a unique wine experience that allows guests to design their own unique blend of wine with personal help from their friendly and informed staff. It honestly reminded me of being a kid again and baking barbie cupcakes with my mom. it was all about laughing, having fun and being creative. Luckily it was all about the experience and not ABOUT the final product, because in my attempt to make the perfect blend i may have tasted a tad too much and hampered the bouquet of my final product. Nonetheless, you get to bottle and cork your creation and even design your very own label! The wine tasting on the other hand leaves the blending to the professionals, where it evidently should be left. Rickety bridge has a beautiful tasting room that INCORPORATES the best things of warmth, style and nature! (also the wine is good...but i feel that this fact really goes without saying...as RICKETY bridge's REPUTATION far EXCEEDS any praise that my AMMETER-like review could offer).
Scenery: Scenery often goes Un-PRAISED, we as south africans are TRULy SPOILt with the nature we experience everyday. Rickety bridge has a beautiful farm with a view of the mountains, the franshhoek valley and of COURSE their vineyards (which had just begun to show the rust-like signs of AUTUMN when i was there). In a nut shell, beauty that COULD NOT possibly be CAPTURED by any of my photos bellow!
Rickety Bridge: BEAUTY, quality and just plain old fun. DEFINITELY a place to explore (or get lost if you have my sense of direction)!
"The poetry of earth is never dead!"