Boulders Beach penguin colony

Hello, and Happy January!!  I know, I know – isn’t it the longest and dreariest month in the year?  We kick-started ours with an escape to the sunshine of Cape Town where it’s springtime and the whole country feels vibrantly alive and full of promise.  Here’s a few of my absolute favourite highlights from the trip (along with some creative inspiration for projects this year).  If you fancy some armchair travelling, or are planning a trip …here we go!

1. Boulders Beach penguin colony

We came here in 2017 and were keen to return to swim with the incredible African penguins who colonise Boulders Beach; you can wander on the beach and swim and kayak around, and can then follow a path of elevated boardwalks through a protected breeding area where you have a birds eye view (sorry) of everything without disturbing the birds.  This penguin had a newly hatched chick resting on its foot, the egg still visible tucked underneath.

African penguin with new-born chick

 2. Babylonstoren

A new discovery for us, Babylonstoren  is a magnificent Cape Dutch working farm with a hotel and restaurant that gets booked months in advance and acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, vineyards and farmland.  We spent a day there (and could have spent many!) and every twist in the path seemed to reveal another magical discovery.  I came away with a handful of ideas I’m dreaming about trying at home this year, including these reinvented scarecrows that could have made the pages of Vogue;

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…an incredible living-arch walkway strung with giant pumpkins of every variety;

Living archpumpkin archway

an insect hotel worthy of inclusion of in the Luxury Invertebrate Hotels of the World collection (this would be such a good weekend project!)

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Endless pebbled-mosaic pathways with inlaid features… I’d love to try this in our garden (have you ever done it?)

IMG_0738Everywhere was teeming with life and activity;

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…including a 10 year old paparazzo :-)

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 3. Boschendal Wine Estate

Boschendal is one of the great historical wine estates in the valley between Stellenbosch and Franschoek.  Last time we visited we had one of their magnificent picnic hampers in the grounds, and this year we decided to try a wine tasting with small plates in their restaurant overlooking the vast kitchen garden.  I loved the art in the restaurant entrance and the quirky, brilliant interiors styling (those portraits! the hanging plates over the bar!!)…

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The food itself was art, and I’m keen to try to replicate it; one of the most stunning surprises was the breadboard; an explosion of colour from activated-charcoal sourdough, beetroot loaves and whipped butter and a pinch of salty proscuito…

Board plate at Boschendal

The emphasis is on farm-to-table cooking, and almost everything is sourced from within the estate.

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And finally to wildlife; our highlight was..

4. Aquila Private Game Reserve

Just a 3hr drive from Cape Town in a valley in the Karoo, Aquila is a 10,000 conservancy focused on wildlife conservancy and protection. Safaris last a few hours and you can go out at sunrise and dusk to see the animals at their most active (there’s also a star safari to help you navigate the night sky, accompanied by wine or hot chocolate!).  The animals we saw were breathtaking – and breathtakingly close – here’s just a few;

Lion in South AfricaIMG_0922Rhino in SAIMG_0877

This one made us want to shout ‘look out behind you!!’ at the bird…IMG_0844_2

It was a fabulous trip, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  To preserve the memories, each night we sat down together before dinner and did a ’15 minute art challenge’ to draw or collage our favourite parts of the day.  In order below… my pumpkin arch from Babylonstoren; Harry’s zebra from the safari trip; the vibrant flowers that lined the avenues at Boschendal and a paper collage penguin from Boulders :-)

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IMG_0991collaged penguin

Have a great week, wherever you are and whatever you’re up to. It’s good to be back.

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