South Africa and Me: Safaris, Sports Tours, Honeymoons and so Much More - Part Four
So, this was a new experience for us! Traveling with an 18 month old. Don’t do it people said, wait until she can remember it. Fortunately, we didn’t take their advice and in September 2009 the opportunity arose for a week in the Western Cape, basing ourselves in Hermanus in a stunning property called Birkenhead Villa, now a private residence, sat high on the cliffside overlooking a small sandy bay about an hour and a half’s walk along a stunning coastal path from the centre of Hermanus. It’s sister property, (next door) Birkenhead House remains an option for adult guests looking for one of the best places to stay in South Africa.
The time in Heathrow airport flew by; much quicker than usual. Our direct BA flight into Cape Town was also incident free with Paddington Bear on the inflight entertainment system helping with the entertainment. I doubt I’m the first and likely not the last to struggle with a nappy in an aeroplane toilet but all was well and we had made it to Cape Town unscathed, car collected and we were soon driving south east to Hermanus. Top tip, as our daughter was 18 months, we did buy a seat for her otherwise she would have been on our knee, having the extra seat was so valuable and I would highly recommend it for a long-haul flight.
September in Hermanus is height of whale season as expectant mothers return to the warmer waters to give birth and shelter in the bay. The famous Hermanus whale crier with is whale board and Kelp horn announces the breeds present in the bay on any given day, a now famous tradition and popular tourist attraction of the area.
Being in this area at this time of year is fabulous. The standout experience of our holiday was our walk along the cliff top into Hermanus along the coastal path being accompanied by several Southern Wright Whales and their calves for every step. We were close enough to hear their eloquent chatter and the fizz of their blow holes. Being this close to such magnificent creatures is a real treat. Compared to our previous visit to Hermanus, there was a buzz around the old fishing village with the Whale Crier in full swing, market in the town square and restaurants, cafes and bars bustling with visitors. We enjoyed the space and serenity of picnics on the beach by our accommodation, visited a local cheese producer with its own playground and selection of animals and spent time relaxing in and around our hotel.
We made use of our hire car and headed into Cape Town for the day spending time in and around the V&A waterfront where we visited the Two Oceans Aquarium which our daughter loved as Nemo was a big thing back then! We enjoyed a fish and chip lunch at the Signal Restaurant in the iconic Cape Grace hotel and later, drove to Simons Town to show her the penguin colony before heading back to Hermanus with many memories.
Our other larger day out was a return visit to the winelands and Franschhoek in particular. We enjoyed a superb lunch at the stunning La Residence; a unique hotel frequented by the likes of Elton John. My lasting memory is seeing my 18-month-old daughter enjoying a fine dining lunch, sat on what can only be described as a throne like seat in the most palatial of surroundings. We were truly spoilt. Before heading back to Hermanus, there was just enough time to re-visit the Asara Wine Estate to top up on my white port discovered on my last visit!
Before our return flight, we enjoyed one last treat with afternoon tea at the Grande Dame of Cape Town, the Mount Nelson hotel set in the foothills of Table Mountain. Our daughter was perfectly behaved and enjoyed her tea party by spreading her white napkin out on a chair as a tablecloth and standing in front of it to enjoy the most exquisite spread; so cute! She certainly grabbed the attention of the other guests and hotel staff for all the right reasons! While its true that our daughter doesn’t remember any of this trip, we both do and look back on it very fondly. Some excellent experiences right at the beginning of our time as a family that I wouldn’t change in any way.
Plans as a family of four!
Our son is quick to remind us that he is the only member of the family not to have had the pleasure of a South African holiday, so in August 2020, we had planned a fantastic three week trip to South Africa that would have been a trip of a lifetime for us all. Unfortunately the Covid -19 pandemic prevented us from traveling, but we now have something fantastic to look forward to for 2021 as our holiday has been re-booked and I can’t wait to share our experiences with you and for my personal affiliation with South Africa as one of the ultimate holiday destinations to flourish with new experiences shared with the people that means the most to me; if not that, what are holidays for?