Covering 36 hectares, Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens is situated in Cape Town, South Africa at the foot of the eastern slopes of Table Mountain.
A well known exhibitor at Chelsea Flower show, displaying the floral diversity found in southern Africa, this natural paradise offers a comprehensive taste of the Cape's flora and fauna.
Enjoyed by locals walking their dogs and tourists alike, often seen picnicking on the manicured lawns which lead to ponds frequented by bird life, an afternoon can be had in the warmth of the sunshine and peaceful sound of Cape reeds moving in the breeze, perhaps only marginally dogged by inquisitive and noisy guineafowl.
Permanent Shona stone sculptures from Zimbabwe are positioned around the grounds while organised events including changing art exhibitions showcasing contemporary, local talent and botanical drawings can be viewed and purchased. During the year bonzai and orchid workshops are held as well as summer concerts in the warm evenings under starry, African skies.
Craft markets provide outlets for local communities to showcase their work while the deli and restaurant offer local specialities and champagne breakfasts. The ever popular tearoom refreshes hikers with cups of rooibos tea and tasty cakes.
Ancient cycads are housed in their own protective amphitheatre while rockeries and streams provide interest for youngsters. The shady camphor avenue offers some respite from the heat of the day and if you are lucky, the sighting of owls, almost hidden in the upper branches. This is near the conservatory, home to southern African succulents and cacti, the majestic baobab, the smaller kokerboom and rock plants.
Paths for children, the blind (sensory trail) and wheelchair users are all catered for while longer trails radiate into uncultivated areas and the surrounding Table Mountain National Park. These surrounding routes, enjoyed by dedicated walkers follow in the footsteps of historical figures such as General Smuts, leading to native silver trees which shimmer in the sunlight and the location of van Riebeeck's hedge on the slopes of the mountain - the Dutch national credited with establishing a refreshment station for seafarers at the tip of Africa in the1650s. Here the occasional mountain tortoise can be spotted ambling along on the hot, dusty sand.
Energetic visitors can walk past beds of ericas and proteas to embark on a winding route up Nursery Ravine to Castle Rock, the imposing stone hunk above the gardens and admire the vegetation or fynbos, as it is called, from above. You might be lucky to spot a disa orchid, indigenous frogs or just admire the sunbirds and sugarbirds darting around dipping their long beaks into nectar rich blooms.
This 76 mile frontier extended across the width of Britain from the Tyne in the east to the Solway Firth in the west.
Built out of necessity by Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD to mark the Roman Empire's northwestern border in a landscape devoid of natural geographical barriers, it provided a base for soldier patrols to impede the movement of the Picts in the north.
Together with their families military and civilian settlements formed, encouraging traders and associated custom posts and depots. Forts were built at mile intervals accommodating around thirty men. Each of these mile castles were intersected by two observation turrets while a vallum or broad ditch behind the wall was crossed by causeways leading to bigger forts and barracks housing 1000 men.
The scale and traces of these communities has all but disappeared at this UNESCO world heritage site, although archaeological sites and museums can be visited today, notably Chester's Roman Fort and museum near Chollerford and the remains of Houseteads Fort (reputed to be the most complete Roman fort in Britain) around Haltwhistle as well as east of Birdoswald where there are extensive ruins of a fort with a drill hall. Farmhouse-style accommodation and tearooms cater for families while along the length of the wall hiking and cycling routes work in tandem with driving itineraries.
In the region of Northumberland National Park between Housesteads and Steel Rigg is the natural beauty of the dolerite crags at Whin Sill. Here a footpath along the top of the ridge incorporates part of the Pennine Way. Sheep graze in the surrounding green wilderness punctuated by this snaking stone rib.
In less well preserved sections of the wall the expansive unbroken views of undulating low hills absent of prominent landmarks and sight of uniform stones covered in lichens, stacked in an orderly linear fashion is eerily peaceful. The well worn grassy path running parallel to Hadrian's Wall by current footfall reminds us of past division. Reflection of it's historical significance is often as a solitary visitor, away from tourist hoards, watching the wave of grass at its summit ruins move in the breeze. Accessible to all with an interest in history or the great outdoors Hadrian's Wall can also be enjoyed in the bleak winter months when snow covers the landscape and biting winds prevail.
This public outdoor swimming pool complex is set below a raised promenade off Beach Road in Sea Point, Cape Town, South Africa. Situated between Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean it comprises an Olympic sized, filtered seawater pool, two splash pools and a diving pool.
Above and alongside the sea, the spray from breaking waves that occasionally land over the boundary railing reminded us of our location, at the southern end of the African continent.
The sound of seagulls overhead, the visual pleasure of seemingly limitless open ocean as you cool off on a hot Cape summer's day and the imposing yet restful backdrop of Table Mountain make this outdoor pool quite special.
The aromas from BBQs on the adjacent grassed area encourage locals and tourists from all walks of life and is the ideal spot to relax after a refreshing dip beneath blue skies.
Whatever your swimming level it is an affordable day out and costs adults around R9,50 while children pay R6,00. Die-hard swimmers meet in the winter months as it is open all year round from mid-April to mid-October (08:30 -17:00) and in the more popular summer season from mid-October to mid-April (07:00 -19:00) when swimming just prior to sunset and the onset of the evening precede a lazy stroll along the paved coastal path, ice-cream in hand.
Sea Point Pavilion, Cape Town
Address: Beach Road, Sea Point, Cape Town, South Africa
Phone: (+ 27) 021 434 3341
Google map: tinyurl.com/32momns
Situated off the national road within easy driving distance of Cape Town in Somerset West, is Vergelegen Wine Estate.
Picnic among some of the Cape's oldest camphor and yellowwood trees in the extensive grounds that showcase South Africa's chequered history and Cape Dutch architecture. Experience the sensory beauty of the cultivated rose and herb gardens, the original Van der Stel Winery, the Library, mill, ruins and Slave Lodge as well as authentic Pigeon House.
Breakfast al fresco at The Rose Terrace Bistro, open November to April or sample the fish, meat and vegetarian dishes which are served in the Lady Phillips restaurant together with a selection of premium Vergelegen wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz varieties. Cellar tours are also offered.
Combined with good weather an outing to Vergelegen is well worth its R10 entrance fee. As it is very popular, booking is advised. It is a thoroughly enjoyable experience and well worth a visit especially if heading from Cape Town to Hermanus to enjoy some whale watching.
Phone : +27 21 847 1334
Address: Lourensford Road, Somerset West, South Africa
This upmarket Cape Town Hotel, spa and restaurant offers uninterrupted sea views of the Atlantic Ocean and is positioned beneath the slopes of the Twelve Apostles mountain range on the Cape peninsula amidst a backdrop of unspoilt fynbos vegetation. The Twelve Apostles Hotel has no immediate neighbours yet is less than a 30 minute drive from the heart of bustling Cape Town along one of this coast's most scenic roads.
The location caters for those seeking tranquillity and offers every comfort including five star facilities and a private cinema for after dinner screenings. Besides the Leopard Room bar, popular for sunset cocktails and an envious collection of vodka and port, a café offering light meals, or the option of afternoon tea, the main draw card is the Azure Restaurant which promotes cape-fusion cuisine utilising indigenous plants known as fynbos, herbs, seasonal ingredients and local seafood. It also offers visitors the opportunity to sample pickled fish, incorporating Cape Malay style cooking, a favourite of the BoKaap. It has won acclaim as one of the best places to stay in the world and is on the Conde Nast Traveller Gold list for 2010.
The view of the ocean, Lion's Head and the craggy Twelve Apostles to the rear in wild surroundings makes this luxurious establishment well worth a visit.
+27 (0) 21 437 9000
Victoria Road, Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa
Steeped in history dating to Simon van der Stel's era, this working wine estate is set in the fertile Constantia valley. Once the bread-basket supplying the former emerging settlement now it is only a twenty minute drive from the urban centre of Cape Town. Still holding its rural charm it offers the choice of three restaurants, hotel accommodation, spa facilities and a cricket oval as well as wine tastings seven days a week. History buffs and green-fingered enthusiasts can opt for tours of this restored and popular homestead and gardens. There is a selection of brandies and olive oils for sale in the wine shop as well as advice on food and wine pairing.
The recently revamped River Café offers a menu of affordable seasonal produce from Uitsig's own organic garden which is accompanied with specially sourced home-made breads, meats and cheeses. Understated and relaxed this bistro is open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea throughout the year bar New Year's day.
La Colombe is the winner of numerous awards for both its service and predominately French cuisine but also offers diners a selection of Asian- inspired dishes. The estate's selection of prestigious wines only heighten the experience of fine dining.
Situated in the original manor house on the estate, The Constantia Uitsig restaurant focuses mainly on rustic Italian favourites for lunch and dinner. The best quality ingredients are used and this heartfelt approach adds to the convivial ambience.
With the option of three restaurants, fine wine, stunning scenery and a slice of Cape history this dining experience fails to disappoint.
Situated on the False Bay coast near Cape Town, this harbourside eatery caters for families, students and couples. Located in quaint Kalk Bay, well away from the CBD and more obvious tourist haunts, the area is popular with surfers and beach goers. The Brass Bell can be credited with launching the careers of local bands, who play live.
Offering fresh seafood specialities al fresco, standard pub fare as well as eastern culinary delights, the restaurants, pubs and pizza terrace occupy different levels leading to adjacent tidal pools and the Indian Ocean. Choose from The Main, The Cabin, The Waters Edge, The Pavilion or The Bikini Deck. The nautically themed pubs offer a selection of beverages both imported and locally sourced. The crowd is unpretentious, the atmosphere is very relaxed and the staff friendly.
It is open all year round and even popular in winter, thanks to an open fireplace when the Western Cape experiences its seasonal rainfall and the seas can be rough. Bear this in mind if heading to the Western Cape for the 2010 FIFA Football World Cup.
With Silvermine nature reserve as a backdrop, it is uniquely positioned sandwiched between the crashing surf and the Cape Town to Simonstown railway line. Access is by pedestrian subway under the main railway line. The sandy white beach and station are on its doorstep but there is nearby parking for patrons wishing to take in the views of this superb coastline by car or motorbike.
+27 (21) 788 5455/6
Waterfront, Kalk Bay, Cape Town, 7945, RSA
Situated in the NE of South Africa in Limpopo Province near the town of Hoedspruit, Pezulu Tree House Game Lodge can be described as an ecologically friendly escape from urban life in the heart of the African bush.
As the name suggests, seven raised tree house units accommodating up to 16 people have been built around local marula trees (the marula berry is used to make Amarula liqueur) providing excellent panoramas of unspoilt natural surroundings.
Consideration for nature has been paramount. Live tree branches pass through these minimal impact wood, reed and thatch structures which are equipped with modern luxuries including en-suite facilities and private balconies for views of the Drakensberg mountains and early morning wildlife.
Hot air Ballooning and game drives are available as is outdoor outdoor dining in a traditional boma, around an African camp fire. There is a rock swimming pool as well as treetop bar and this retreat is ideal for people wishing to experience Africa without compromising luxury.
The Blyde River Canyon as well as Kruger National Park are nearby as well as Moholoholo rehabilitation centre, an endangered species centre and the opportunity to see the big five.
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