Thursday, 23 March 2017

10 days in Cape Town

South-Africa is my favourite country in the whole wide world. Ever since we first visited (all the way back in 2002 to adopt our oldest daughter), the country, the people, the nature, the food... it all took a special place in my heart.

We have been lucky to visit a number of times since then, first of all on two more adoption trips (2004 and 2007) to get our two other kids and then a few years ago I took my mum on a tour of the country. Last year, we decided to go back as a family to catch up with some dear friends and also to give our youngest son more of an idea of his home country. We opted for a relaxed trip and decided to stay in one place the entire time.  

I was lucky to find this amazing house on Airbnb. It was located in Kalk Bay, half an hour outside the city of Cape Town, on the way to Simonstown.

The house was spacious and had a lovely design and more importantly... a great kitchen! ;-). The small pool was of course a hit with our kids. The house also had incredible views over the bay.

Kalk Bay itself is a cute little town, packed with quirky shops and cute little cafés. I could live there, honestly, I could. And there even is a small beach, next to the railway which gives it a rather special effect.

A fantastic place to go for lunch in Kalk Bay is the famous Brass Bell restaurant which is literally set near the ocean. Sometimes the waves come crashing in over the restaurant's terrace, our kids loved it! (and the fish is lovely and fresh)

Our favourite breakfast place in Kalk Bay has to be The Olympia Café. I sneaked out several times early morning just to sit on the pavement terrace enjoying my morning coffee while the rest was still sleeping (hope my wife is not reading this blogpost...). Another nice, friendly place for lunch or dinner is Lekker.

Cape Town and the whole Western Cape area boast so many wonderful attractions, one can easily spend a couple of weeks there.

A few fun things for you to do:

- hike up Table Mountain (and come back down by cable car). We used the Platteklip Gorge Trail which is tough (especially on a hot day...) but the rewards are plentifull. Amazing views and gorgeous nature along the way. Check the weather forecast before heading up as the weather can change very quickly!

- stroll around the Waterfront area. This is of course a very touristy area, but I love it. Great for shopping and wining and dining. The amazing Two Oceans Aquarium has been a hit with our kids for years. From the Waterfront, you can also take a ferry (book way in advance!) to Robben Island, which I visited with my mum. Definitely an interesting experience as we were guided by a former political prisoner.

In Cape Town Central, Long Street and Kloof Street are both interesting. The african market at Greenmarket Square is nice too. We absolutely loved going to lunch at the Company's Garden in the middle of town. Kids can play there and it is really nice eating under the trees. When you are in the city, make sure to also head to 201 Bree Street to visit Skinny laMinx's shop . Heather Moore's inspiring designs are wonderful and make for great gifts.

- drive along the Cape Peninsula and hike from Kaap die Goeie Hoop to the lighthhouse at Cape Point.

- stroll around the colourful houses in the Malay quarter called bo-kaap. Ideal for a fashion shoot; ;-)

- do some penguin spotting at Boulders Beach We visited this place every time we went and we still love it. Such cuties!

- enjoy a nice lunch and walk at the Groot Constantia wine estate. The setting is so charming, you will love it! Other wine estates we especially love are Boschendal and Vergelegen. Talking about the Winelands. Stellenbosch, Wellington, Paarl, Franschhoek are all really nice places to visit.

- walk around or just sit under a shady tree at Kirstenbosch Gardens. During summer they also organise concerts.

-enjoy the wonderful views from Bloubergstrand. This could easily be one of my favourite spots in the whole world. I have never been to a place where the air was more fresh and 'crisp' than here. You should experience it yourself!

-head over on a Saturday morning to Woodstock in Cape Town and hang around the Neighbourhood Goods Market at The Old Biscuit Mill. Great vibe! Afterwards we had a lovely lunch at Superette (hotspot!!).

- hang out at Muizenberg beach and then go for some amazingly good pizza and burgers at Tiger's Milk. (our kids' favourite place!)

- visit a township to learn more about and meet the people living there. Last time we did a tour of Langa through a local agency and that was absolutely great.

- go for a sunset walk along Sea Point. If you are heading down there, make sure to pop in at Kleinsky's (hotspot!) for a delicious lunch.

We can also definitely recommend driving along the Garden Route which stretches all the way from Cape Town to Port Elisabeth. Knysna, Wilderness, Tsitsikamma National park, Oudtshoorn all have so much to offer.

If you are a bit of an experienced traveller, you will have no trouble at all travelling through this beautiful country. If you feel more comfortable using a travel agent, you could check out Stieviewondertours . For getting good flight deals, I personally always use the connections site, because it is so user-friendly. I also sometimes make my way down to their Leuven office to find out more about certain great deals they have on offer.

Be aware that parts of South Africa are high crime areas, but there is absolutely no need to be paranoid about it. Just take some basic precautions and be alert as you would in any situation and you will be fine.

And to end... a lot has changed over the past nine years. ;-)

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Chocolate and cheese

If it's raining cats and dogs outside, you just have to create your own summer feeling and no better way to do so than with this delicious no-bake soft cheese cake.

For the base I would normally use speculoos or ginger biscuits, but since that tin turned out to be empty... I had to try something else. I used crispy homemade granola (thanks byevamaria) which I combined with melted chocolate and butter.

For the filling, I used 500 gr of soft cheese, 125 gr of mascarpone, 125 ml of freshly whipped cream, some vanilla sugar, 3 gelatine sheets (melted in some lemon juice), some blueberries and pomegranate seeds. You could leave out the mascarpone (I simply used it because I had some left over from another recipe, use 250 ml of cream otherwise). Spoon it all together and pour it onto the chocolate and granola base. Leave to set in the fridge for a couple of hours (or until your kids can't wait any longer in my case...).

I decorated with some left-over berries and pomegranate seeds and a few cubes of mango. Instant summer feeling!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

48 hours in Sevilla

I am an absolute fan of Spanish cities. Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia... they all have that certain laid back summery feel about them which I simply adore. Although I have to admit, Barcelona still remains my old-time favourite, Seville comes a good second. After visiting this gorgeous city twice before, it was time earlier this week to head back for a short two night trip with the misses.
Despite the colder weather... the summer feeling was still there. You can easily discover Seville in two days as almost all the sights are within easy walking distance. In the past we combined a visit to Seville with a trip to other cities in beautiful Andalucia. Ryanair offers cheap and direct flights to Seville from Brussels Charleroi Airport (not my favourite airport in the world though...).

Seville's old quarter (Santa Cruz) is my favourite part of town. It can be a bit too touristy at times, but still, every alleyway is so charming it just screams at me "Roeckie, please take a picture!". 

If you head down to Seville, you of course must visit the impressive cathedral (the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world) and the really stunning World Heritage site the Royal Alcazar. The palace offers some jaw-dropping interiors and lovely, relaxing gardens. Check out opening times to avoid long queues.

Also, make sure to make your way down to the colourful Plaza de España. The many tiled alcoves, each representing a different province of Spain are just stunning. The adjacent Maria Louisa Park offers a shady retreat in summer. We had a nice glass of tinto de verano (with some more tapas, yes...) at Bar Citroen at the entrance of the park.

The impressive Metropol Parasol, designed by Jürgen Mayer and completed in 2011 makes a stunning addition to the city. It consists out of six parasols shaped like giant mushrooms.

On the top level you have amazing views over the city and a free drink is included in your ticket! Fun to do both during the daytime or at night, your kids will love it too!

I was happy to see that Seville's eating and coffee culture has really made a lot of progress the past years. I am happy to share some of our favourites with you!

Great places for food (modern style tapas):

El Pinton : nice interior, great food, lovely ambiance

Ovejas negras : our absolute favourite! Amazing food and an amazing bartender (Adolpho!).

Mercado Lonja del Barancco : great spot to hang out and enjoy some nice tapas or beer, near the river

Great places for coffee:

Torch Coffee Roasters : in love with this place!

Red House Art and Food : alternative hotspot with great cakes!

Hotel Alfonso XIII : we had coffee in the impressive courtyard, very oldschool

Good hotels we stayed at, both in the very heart of the old town:

Fonte Cruz : with rooftop pool!

To get good flights, I almost always use Connections, because I really appreciate the easiness of the system.

Seville is very relaxing and perfect for a short get-a-way!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Timeless beauty

Last weekend we headed to Belgium's oldest city Tongeren to go and see the 'Timeless Beauty' exposition at the Gallo-Romeins Museum. This exposition is a little bit different from what you usually get to see in this museum (also their permanent collection is worthwhile btw!). 

A combination of authentic artifacts, poetry by classic Roman authors and wonderfully sensual images by art photographer Marc Lagrange (1957-2015). The audioguide is of really high quality and has a special channel aimed at young visitors. 

What we especially loved about the expo was the video installation where contemporary women talked about what beauty means to them and about their perception of their bodies. 

Our kids loved the expo too. They had so much fun making their 'Roman selfie'! 

We had visited charming Tongeren before. That time, we stayed at the lovely Eburon hotel (in the middle of town) on a Saturday night (we can recommend this by the way!) to get an early start at the antiques and brocante market which takes place every Sunday morning (the largest in the entire Benelux). Tongeren offers some great restaurants too! Plenty of choice there.

The Timeless Beauty expo runs until June 30th 2017, giving you plenty of time to head down south and go and see this wonderful expo. More info on this website!

Thanks a lot Toerisme Limburg for having us!