A Garden Route Sho’tleft

Knysna Featherbed dock

I want to preface this post by saying that I am, along with the rest of the country, incredibly devastated at the disaster that Knysna and the greater Garden Route has experienced due to the fire. I can’t personally imagine what it must be like to loose all your personal belongings, everything that has sentimental value to you, and to have to do a dangerous and uncomfortable evacuation not just of your home, but the general area. What I do know is that Knysna needs our help to rebuild and that whilst donations do help, ultimately a large part of the area relies on tourism for an income, which they now sorely need to rebuild and recover. Please don’t let the destruction keep you away, the incredibly beautiful area still has so much to offer. There are still so many amazing properties available to book in area largely unspoilt, so there is literally no excuse. In case you need further motivation, scroll down.

Knysna Heads

I was incredibly lucky to be invited to join SA Tourism earlier this year on a journey through South Africa’s Garden Route. This is an area of our country that I was largely unfamiliar with as I’ve only driven through the region when we attended a wedding in Port Elizabeth. On that trip we spent one evening in Knysna on a very tight budget, so I was keen to return and see what the area really has to offer.

First stop was Port Elizabeth, where we took a quick historical tour. When I drove through on the highway the first time, it didn’t look like much. But Port Elizabeth is steeped in history and has quite a few historical buildings of architectural note.

Port Elizabeth Public Library

We did a walking tour of PE’s central district, called the Donkin Heritage Trail. The highlight on the hour-long walking trail was definitely the beautiful Victorian buildings and statues, but I was surprised by how little I knew of the city’s rich history. Our guide was passionate and definitely made the experience so much more special than it would have been if I’d just read about everything before hand. So I’d highly recommend you get someone to show you around and take you into the Opera House and the beautiful Cathedral Church of Saint Mary the Virgin.

This was followed by a quick stop in the surfer’s paradise that is Jeffrey’s Bay, where we had a lovely lunch overlooking the ocean at the Kitchen Windows Beach restaurant before moving on the millionaire’s playground that is Cape St Francis. I had my first taste of calamari at Port St Francis. Everyone else raved about it, but at the ripe age of 28 I figured out that I am not big on seafood.

We ended off the first of three days with a sunset canal cruise in Cape St Francis (thanks to BriSan on the Canals) before retreating for dinner and bed in one of the self-catering homes in the Cape St Francis Resort. I must give a shout-out to the Joe Fish Restaurant as I had a very memorable chicken and spinach dish that I still sometimes crave and have tried to recreate multiple times.

The next morning we set out for the Tsitsikamma, an adventurer’s dream. We started the day off with ziplining at Tsitsikamma Falls Adventures, something I was very happy to observe from the sidelines. So I enthusiastically observed from the deck and wiped my sweaty palms on my pants any time someone went over the edge. I did however participate in the segway tour and was surprised to find how easy it was with the proper training provided before hand.

Although we definitely didn’t have enough time to do everything the region has to offer, I feel like these activities gave a glimpse of its natural beauty. I’d love to return and complete a few hiking trails. If you’re planning a trip, I can highly recommend the quant Tsitsikamma Village Inn where we stayed as it is perfectly located for a night out with beer tasting and a 60’s diner right next-door. The inn consists of various smaller buildings, all recently converted into comfortable bedrooms with on-suites and each beautiful with a unique architectural style.

Knysna view from the top of the Featherbed Reserve

For our final full day, we went to Knysna, where I mentioned earlier I’d been before. As students we were on a strict budget back then and no boat cruises made the cut, so this time I made up for the missed opportunity and went on no less than two! The first cruise for the day took us over to the Featherbed Nature Reserve (the eco-experience) where I completed an hour long hike in jeans and sandals (we weren’t prepped), but the breathtaking views kept me distracted from my blisters. Sadly large parts of the reserve, including the restaurant, has apparantly been damaged in the fire. Luckily the Cape’s fauna and flora can take quite a beating, and often excell because of this.  The morning’s trip over was folllowed by a short break at the Harbour before we embarked on a sunset cruise (a Paddle Cruiser Experience). This is where I’d like to add that their piña coladas were amazing and I’d encourage everyone to at least try one. In keeping with my seafood aversion, I skipped the raw shell fish known as oysters.  We spent the night at the Premier Resort The Moorings, which offers all that you need in a place of such beauty and incredibly is also rather budget friendly.

Garden Route coast

Our final day in Knysna was spent in George, before our afternoon departure from the small airport. On the afforementioned trip we did a short hike in the Wilderness and on this occasion I got to paddle up the river in the beautiful area thanks to Eden Adventures. We didn’t even mind the fact that it meant we’d have to board the plane wet!

If I were travelling on my own dime, I’d definitely consider driving back from George to Cape Town as it is such a beautiful route and with boarding times and everything taken into consideration, it is probably not even that much shorter. I honestly can’t wait to return to this beautiful region and neither should you!

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My trip to Italy: Florence

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Hi everyone,

It is kind-off hard to believe that we have been back home for almost a month already and I am still sorting through photos from our trip. We’ve also got a myriad of videos still lying ahead and I’m going away for work next week so I think it might take up until the end of the year to get through it all. Which isn’t a bad thing! We had such an amazing time and I really want the feeling to last for as long as we can.

We spent a glorious three days in Florence which in my opinion wasn’t nearly enough! Between seeing all the amazing art works and eating copious amounts of gelato we didn’t manage to get to everything on our list. We kicked off day one, which was technically a half-day with a visit to the Galeria del Academia for Michelangelo’s David. Trust me when I say that none of the copies come close the real thing. You can even see the veins on his arms and hands and it is about three times the size of a real man! The Galeria also has a few other impressive works like the Rape of the Sabine Woman, which you really have to appreciate from all angles and a few other famous Michelangelo works.

We stayed close to the San Lorenzo market so we visited it a few times during our journey. I ended up buying a leather handbag for about 40 euros, but we did have to bargain slightly. Don’t buy at the first stall you see as they all have similar if not the same bags and everyone makes their own price. The market is also great for picking up a few cool souvenirs.

On day two we hit the Uffizi Galery where I fell slightly in love with Botticelli’s Spring. The gallery also offers some great views of the Ponte Vecchio and of course a secret passage across the river if you’ve got a special ticket.

By this time of our trip our feet were really getting the better of us, as I’d wake up feeling just like I did the night before. So we decided to skip the climb up the Dome tower and rather enjoyed a slice of pizza overlooking the dome. That evening we grabbed some take away and a large bottle of wine and dined underneath the stars on the stairs of the Piazza Michelangelo overlooking the city. There was a live musician and we even met another South African who recognised our Afrikaans. We  enjoyed the evening so much that we decided to do the same the following evening.

The next day we really tried to cram it all in and paid a final visit to the San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale, an amazing food market where you can do some grocery shopping on the ground level and get your meal on on the first floor. The pizzas there are totally worth it! I also really wanted to see the Santa Maria Novella and visit its pharmacy. The pharmacy is unlike any fragrance store I’ve ever visited as it feels like you’ve stepped back in time. Sadly I left empty handed as I just couldn’t decide what I wanted.

A visit to the Boboli Gardens was one of the things at the top of my list and it did not disappoint- even though a large part of the gardens were off limits due to (what we understood between the broken English) trees falling. We also went in to see the Costume Exhibition and finished with the Bardini Gardens which were even prettier! Both gardens offer amazing views of Florence. From the Boboli Gardens we saw some typical Tuscan scenes and from the Bardini Gardens we got a great view of the city.

We finished off our final evening in Florence with a gelato watching the sun set over the beautiful city. I hope we get to return soon!

Photos taken either by me or my talented fiancée. You can check out more of his amazing shots on his Instagram account here.

 

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Italy Trip

HewittHello, as some of you might know (because I’ve been rambling on it about it for months!) I’m heading to Italy next month. Whoohoo! Sorry, I just had to get it out there as I am so excited. Italy has been on my list forever! We’ll be visiting Rome, Florence and Siena. So if any of you guys have got some tips, must-visits or just simply amazing places we have to see please leave me a comment. It is our first time in Italy and we’d really love to see more than just what you’d find in a travel guide. I’m already preparing for all the amazing pizza and gelato, so if you’ve got a favourite place you can recommend please do so. I am also looking to narrow down the best food markets and shopping districts. I hope to bring back many beautiful photographs to share with you guys. 🙂

 

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