“A delectable amalgamation” of cuisines – Séjour Restaurant


“I want my food to tell a story – yes it’s about feeding people but it’s more than that it’s about telling stories, evoking curiosity and creating conversation around a table. I love that food can do that.”

Dining at Séjour is all about going on a culinary journey of discovery curated by Chef Freddie Dias’.

Restaurant Entrance

There are two menu options to choose from. The first option, Pioneer – the tapas menu honours the effervescent City of Gold, pays tribute to the people who are constantly pushing boundaries and overcome great challenges.

The second option, Explorer – the modern fine dining menu that traverses the globe and pays homage to the curious souls.


The menu itself is cleverly presented and one can take it home as a memento.
Because my husband and I don’t like to be limited with option, we dabbled in both journeys and had one of the most memorable dining experience.

The menu
Combination of the Pioneer and Explorer menu options
Dessert

Séjour is a splendid place to share food be it with a +1, family or friend, the experience stays with you.

TS!

Abu Dhabi – aThrowBack

Etihad Towers

“We take photographs as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone”

Pre-2020 travelling was effortless (no mask, no PCR test, no vaccine certificate) With all these Covid-19 variants, planning a trip has become an extreme sports. We are all yearning for things to somewhat go back to some form of ‘normality’

For now, some of us, will continue to look back at old photographs, they tell stories of a moment and time once lived. They have become the only constant is this uncertain world we are living in. Thanks to google gallery #throwback, I was recently reminded of a trip we took to Abu Dhabi in 2019. Looking through the photographs brought me so much joy. Our family trips had become a highlight.

The timing of these pictures from is actually unfortunate with the recent drone attack claimed by Yemen. I do hope it does not have any negative impact for future travel to Abu Dhabi. Just recently, it was named the safest city in the world by Numbeo Safety Index 2022.

Abu Dhabi is a fantastic holiday destination, there’s so much to see and do – iconic landmarks, cultural and historical attractions, action-packed theme parks, breathtaking natural landscape dunes. You can laze on the beach, sample numerous dining options and go shopping.

Etihad Towers seen from the Emirates Palace

What we did

Our holiday was a great blend of indoor and outdoor activities. Thanks to our family holiday planner, my sister has our holidays on lock-down, she’s just gets it right.

  1. Warner Bros (WB) World Abu Dhabi – is the world’s first ever indoor theme park for WB and its such a joyful experience. When we entered, the theme song from Bugs Bunny was playing, there’s nothing quiet like a theme song from our childhood cartoons. WB World features blockbuster rides and attractions, themed restaurants, boutiques and live entertainment.
Bugs Bunny Statue at the Entrance

The theme park combines six immersive lands:-

a. Warner Bros – which celebrates the golden age of Hollywood and acts as the portal to the rest of the park.

b. Plaza, Gotham City – this is batman’s hometown, you’ll also find The Riddler, The Joker, Catwoman, Harley Quinn and many more.

c. Metropolis – is home of Clark Kent/Superman and the Daily Planet. This land is also home to The Justice League.

d. Cartoon Junction – home to Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, Scooby-Doo and more.

e. Bedrock – The home of the Flintstones.

f. Dynamite Gulch – You will find Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner on the Fast & Furry-ous roller coaster as well as Yosemite Sam, The Jetsons and Marvin The Martian.

Riddler Revolution Ride

Fast and Furry-out Roller Coaster Ride

The joker fun house – image cred timeoutabudhabi.com

  1. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi – home to the fastest roller coaster on the planet, the largest indoor theme park in the world, with over 20 rides and a hyper-realistic racing simulator. Whether you are a Ferrari fan or not, this theme park is a lot of fun. Where else can one tour a Ferrari factory, attempt an F1 tyre change challenge, do a driving experience, go karting, go on ample rides and wander through a gallery of ferrari cars.
  1. Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi – waters greatest playground.
    This water park is a combination of Valley of the Waves in Sun City, uShaka Marine World in Durban and what was once Shareworld (if you grew up in the eighties and lived in Soweto you will know what I’m talking about) but with more water activities, rides and a roller coaster.
    The water park was perfect for a lazy day, we soaked up the sun, swam and kids went on rides.
  1. IMG World of Adventure is Dubai’s first mega theme park and the worlds largest theme park. If you know anything about Dubai, they don’t do small scale stuff. On one of the days, we drove to Dubai for a day (The drive from Abu Dhabi to Dubai is 1h23m)

The theme park has 4 zones – Cartoon Network, MARVEL, IMG Boulevard and The Lost Valley – Dinosaur adventure zone.

The park boasts an extensive range of thrilling rides, roller coasters that are one of a kind attractions based on popular Cartoon Network characters, iconic MARVEL super heroes and dinosaurs

  1. Dune Bashing and Sandboarding
    A travel to the Abu Dhabi in not complete without a visit to the actual desert. Some of the tours have a great mixture of desert experiences.

Our tour included – a 4×4 drive on sand dunes, a visit to a camel farm, a camel ride (from the day we arrived, this was on my youngest nephew’s to do list), sandboarding, falcon experience and dinner under the stars.

Our last full day was pool day but I decided to immerse myself in a bit of culture. Spent the morning at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the afternoon at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.


a. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is an architectural beauty, one of the largest in Abu Dhabi, it was built to embody Islam’s foremost message of peace, tolerance and welcome people of all beliefs.

Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque view from the road
Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque view from inside

It holds a Guinness World Record for the largest hand-woven carpet and also boasts one of the largest chandeliers in a mosque.

You need to see it to fully understand what a unique marvel this place is, a remarkable monument in its beauty and aura.
Conservative attire is a must, in order to gain entry and love the fact that they do provide Chador – traditional garment that covers full body and hair but open in the front.

Dressed in a Chador

b. Louvre Abu Dhabi“is a new cultural beacon, bringing different cultures together to shine fresh light on the shared stories of humanity.”

A collaboration between United Arab Emirates and France, Louvre Abu Dhabi presents a historical narrative of art that spans the entire history of civilization to the dazzling architecture that combines French design with Arabic heritage.

The uniqueness of the museum and its beautiful setting is a must see for art-lovers, collectors and the curious.

Fountain of Light – Ai Weiwei Germany, Berlin and China, Beijing
Virgin and Child, France, Normandy | Illuminated Quran, Mamluk, Sultanate, Egypt
Left Image: Portrait of a Woman called La Belle Ferronniere – Leonardo da Vinci, Italy Milan and Right Image: Virgin and Child – Giovanni Bellini Italy, Venice
Jenny Holzer’s iconic wall

Where we stayed

The story of our stay at Emirates Palace will go down as one of those believe it or not stories. When my sister was planning the trip, the hotel confirmed a rate that seemed to good not to miss. She then requested they send her a confirmation in writing.

Unfortunately for the hotel, the rate was indeed to good to be true and yes we lucked out due to that error. The hotel honoured their confirmation and we got to stay.

Hotel Exterior: Image cred: mandarinoriental.com/abu-dhabi/emirates-palace
Image cred: mandarinoriental.com/abu-dhabi/emirates-palace

Driving inside the property, we were in awe, the hotel has that palace feel you see in movies. Granted the hotel name does allude to the fact that it’s a palace, but then again, there are myriad of hotels with the word palace in the name and are far from being a palace.

The main palace building stretches over a kilometre from wing to wing, with its gardens stretching across 100 hectares. I actually managed to run 5kms inside the hotel property.

Chasing the Sun – Scenes from my morning run inside the hotel
Scenes from my morning run

The hotel interior is opulent, grand and evocative of Arabia’s rich décor – luxurious chandeliers hanging from ceilings, ornate tapestries, elaborate geometrical designs with gold dominating the theme.

Hotel Interior – The chandeliers and gold interior
Hotel Interior
Our Accommodation

This place is magical, it has a private beach, as well as a private marina overlooking the natural bay, two temperature-controlled swimming pools, a lavish spa, a fitness centre, bars, restaurants and a Kids Club.

Hotels private beach – image cred: mandarinoriental.com
Top Image: Pool, Bottom Left: Spa Entrance, Bottom Right: Gym

Staying at this distinctive landmark was a whole new level of opulence and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

One cannot deny the fact that Abu Dhabi has transformed itself into a iconic and thriving 21st-century city. It offers something for everyone regardless of age and interest. A truly splendid experience.

‘A Perfect Stay’– Royal Malewane

‘A perfect stay‘ simply describe our bush weekend stay at Royal Malewane Safari Lodge which is situated within the greater Kruger National park in the Thornybush Nature Reserve – the lodge redefines the concept of solitude.

“You ‘ll know the people that feed your soul…because you ‘ll feel good after spending time with them.” 

I spent the weekend with the ‘aunty’ crew, the most amazing group of ladies – we laughed, we ate, we danced, they sang ballads till early hours of the morning. Not even a major storm that caused a black-out, could deter them from staying up late and having a jovial time.

The Aunty Crew

Our itinerary was well put together by our hostess with the mostess, she’s a stickler for detail. We received information on what was planned for the weekend, what to pack and the weather forecast.

Our Itinerary: –

Friday

  • Depart Joburg for Hoedspruit Limpopo
  • Lunch at the Lodge
  • Afternoon Game Drive 
  • Pajama Dinner Party

Saturday

  • Early morning game drive 
  • Brunch 
  • SPA 
  • All White Dinner

Sunday

  • Morning at leisure
  • Brunch 
  • Depart Hoedspruit for Joburg 

The Accommodation  

Our home for the weekend was nothing but exceptional. The decor – classic safari style, furnished with rich antiques, african art paintings, cozy couches and persian rugs.

There were some questionable décor pieces but overall, beautifully curated and love the brave use of colours. 

The rooms are uniquely decorated, the bathrooms are elegant, with inside and outdoor showers and Victorian-style bathtubs. The personalised welcome on the bathroom floor was super cool.

The lodge is surrounded by wilderness, with an outside pool that overlooks the bush where animals roam freely.  

Elephants roaming outside our villa
The courtyard by night

Royal Malewane has two accommodation options:-

  • Main Lodge which has six Luxury Suites, two Royal Suites (which each have two bedrooms), and Africa House, the six bedroom villa. 
  • The Farmstead has three Luxury Farm Suites, and The Farmhouse – a three and a half bedroom private villa.

The property can accommodate up to 32 guests. Africa House and the Farmstead guests have the exclusivity of having a full team on site (Chef, butler, housekeeper, ranger and tracker) which works well as these villas are seperate from the main lodge.

The Game Drive – ‘Unique Encounters’ 

Game viewing at Royal Malewane is tailored to the individual needs of the guests. Like most people going on safari spotting the Big 5 animals (lion, leopard, cape buffalo, elephant and black rhino) is a must.

Royal Malewane takes pride in ensuring that ‘the most experience and qualified guiding team in Africa’ accompany guests on their game drives.

On our Friday afternoon game drive, we spotted Mufasa (Lion) and learned that he had just eaten Pumba (Warthog) for breakfast and was struggling with a bad case of itis.

Comatosed Mufasa

On route to go see the pride of Lions, we spotted a Giraffe, Rhino and an abundance of ‘fast food’, a term used to describe impalas. Our game drive was unfortunately cut short by thunderstorm that was brewing and we did not want to risk being outdoors with the Limpopo lighting. 

Our Saturday morning game drive, we spotted buffalos, nyalas, hippos and wild dogs. Unfortunately for us, no leopards were spotted but both game drives were a delight.

The Food – ‘A sensory experience’

A personalized menu set the scene to the type of culinary experience we were in for. 

Our lunches were light meals but substantial, with our dinners being extra special – a four or five course meal. A full breakfast buffet with fresh fruits, cereals, pastries and eggs to order.

Our special dietary requirements were catered for by the chef who ensured that we had a sublime dining experience.

The Spa – ‘Complete Harmony’ 

The spa is a perfect refuge, its peaceful and tranquil. We spent most of Saturday being treated by their in-house therapist. A range of treatments and massages are available.

The Spa includes a fully-equipped gym, a heated lap pool, steam room, hot and cold African baths.  

Royal Malewane is a perfect balance of luxury and nature, a perfect setting for a weekend getaway be it with friends or family. 

There’s bush weekend getaway and theres Royal Malewane bush weekend getaway, simply exquisite. What a splendid weekend and grateful to have been invited to celebrate the life and friendship.

Tea Time at Hazendal Wine Estate

I took a journey into a centuries old Russian tradition at Hazendal ‘where heritage is celebrated through the introduction of contemporary architecture and design.’

Hazendal Wine Estate is a ‘unique winelands experience’ nestling in the Bottelary Hills, on Bottelary Road, in Stellenbosch.

Whether you’re in search of indulgence, adventure, or simply a spot of relaxation, there’s something for everyone.

The estate offers a variety of unique venues and experience, one such experience is the Russian Tea Ceremony which was the sole purpose of my visit.

The Russian Tea Ceremony celebrates the central role tea has played in Russian society since 1638. Russian people are known for not just drinking vodka but also tea, which is an important part of culture.

Tea for One

How the Russian Tea Ceremony is presented at Hazendal:-

A specially sourced and imported black Russian tea blend is served from a steaming Samovar (ornate Russian tea urn)

  • The Samovar is the central symbol of the Russian Tea Ceremony.
The Samovar

The tea is then served using a traditional hand-painted porcelain tea sets from the Dulevo porcelain factory, one of the oldest and most famous porcelain producers in Russia.

Sweet and savoury Russian delights are served as part of the tea experience. The delights are eaten from the centre with the Olivier salad, then to the left of the plate going clockwise.

  • You can choose between standard (meat), vegetarian or gluten free menu, they even have an option for kids.

The Vegetarian Menu

Baranki on Samovar – crisp tea biscuit on a Russian tea urn
Oladyi – crumpet with mushroom and herb ragout
Blinchik – thin crêpe with créme fraiche and spring onion
Spinach Piroshok – fried pastry filled with creamed spinach and feta cheese Cabbage Piroshok – fried pastry filled with braised cabbage and potato Olivier salad – Russian potato salad
Dark chocolate custard tart
Sharlotka inspiration – apple and phyllo rose pastry Pavlova – meringue with non-dairy cream and seasonal berries Russian chocolate salami
Zephyr – fruit meringue

Hazendal’s Russian Tea Ceremony stands out as an exotic and culturally enriching memorable experience. ‘radostnoye vremya (a joyful time)’

Booking Information:-

  • The Russian Tea Ceremony is presented Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 – 17:00 (last booking at 15:00)
  • Bookings are essential and require a minimum of 24 hours’ notice. 50% pre-payment is required to secure the booking.
  • The Russian Tea Ceremony is R395 per adult and R255 per child (12 years and under)
  • Mid-week Special (Tuesday – Thursday) is R335 per adult and R216 per child (12 years and under)

The Estate

The Estate offers a variety of unique venues where all types of functions and events can be held.

Yet another Splendid Experience!

Gåte Restaurant at Quoin Rock – By Day

While Shot Lefting in the Republic of Cape Town, I ventured out to Stellenbosch for a vegan lunch experience at Quoin Rock Wine Estate. Being a non-drinker surrounded by vineyards, one would wonder why I would venture out to a wine estate?…Well, there’s a growing trend where these wine estates are creating a wholistic culinary experience.

Some have become intentional about communicating that their food is sustainably and ethically sourced from their Estates and sources locally.

Gate Restaurant Entrance
Restaurant Interior
Views from my table
Welcome Melie Bread

Gåte restaurant – ‘a gateway to an extraordinary dining experience’ has created that experience. With a variation of menus from three-course daytime dining to the full Chef’s experience of a seven-course dinner.
I went with the the Five Course Vegan Tasting Menu without the wine pairing.

Carrot
• carrot fondant | coffee & oat tuile | watercress pesto

Barley Risotto
kale | courgette | Limpopo black winter truffle | peanut

Pickled King Oyster Mushroom
• leek | seaweed salad | mushroom poppadom

Beet Steak
• beetroot dauphinoise | baby beetroot | hazelnuts

Pineapple & Lime
• coconut sorbet | salted caramel | pineapple confit

Top (Left to Right): Carrot and Barley Risotto
Bottom (Left to Right): Pickled King Oyster Mushroom, Beet Steak and Pineapple & Lime

The only course that did not tantalise my palette was the Pickled King Oyster Mushroom. I’m extremely finicky with how mushroom is prepared, and this version did not work for me. All the other courses were exquisite, particularly loved the Barley Risotto. The food experience was delectable and the service was world class.

Beautiful surroundings with stunning views of Simonsberg, not forgetting the alluring architectural design of the event venue.

“Quoin Rock Wine Estate is the inspiring home of captivating experiences, from wine-tasting to picnics, weddings, culinary adventures and tranquil mountain escapes.”

Eat. Shop. Relax. at Yard 41

Nestled in the heart of the Midlands, in a town called Howick, the location of the Howick Falls and the Mandela Capture Site made famous by the impressive sculpture of Nelson Mandela, you will find Yard 41.

Yard 41 is a unique retail and lifestyle experience with splendid views across the Umgeni Valley offering a one a place to Eat. Shop. Relax.

The industrial architectural design with a modern touch, creates a perfect blend of old and new offering a distinctively curated retail space.

EAT

  1. Treatery
  • Treatery, specialises in artisan baked goods, cakes, good coffee, healthy smoothies and freshly squeezed juices. Breakfast and Light lunches are also available.

2. Village

  • Village is a family style restaurant with a very dynamic space. Upfront it has a cafe feel to it, the veranda has more relaxed, slow paced vibe and upstairs has a boutique bar.

SHOP

  1. The Ruby Orchard
  • A décor, homeware, furniture and gift store.

2. Collective @Yard 41

  • Specialises in vintage, industrial, retro furniture and décor.

3. Blackwood Gardenette

  • A nursery that belongs to the Blackwood’s group of retail garden outlets in KwaZulu Natal Region.

RELAX

The beautiful views of the Umgeni Valley, create a peaceful environment and there’s a lovely play area and garden for the little people to run around.

It truly is a great space not just for locals but tourist visiting Howick and looking for a place to unwind.

Stay Splendid!

Brunching at the Greenhouse Restaurant – Babylonstoren

“Wonder at everything, even the most everyday things”

Entrance at Babylonstoren

I was in Cape Town (CT) for work and had a day to spare so decided to take a drive to Babylonstoren for brunch, the drive from CT is 45m.

‘Babylonstoren is a working farm with a hotel, spa, farm-to-table restaurants, winery and magnificent garden.’ The farm is set set at the foot of Simonsberg in the Franschhoek wine valley.

Roosters having a family meeting!

I had brunch at the Greenhouse Restaurant which is located at the far end of the garden next to the greenhouse conservatory.

What I like about the location of the Greenhouse Restaurant is you get to walk through the farm. You get to see how well thought out the property is.

The Greenhouse Restaurant

The meal wrapped on the left was a Layered vegan seitan mayo and garden slaw sandwich.

The farm has so many spaces to visit, another key highlight for me was the healing garden which is located close to the greenhouse.

The Farm house shop stocks fresh produce and freshly baked bread.

I thoroughly enjoyed being at Babylonstoren, love how the land has been utilised with craftily unique spaces.

I must add, my visit was bitter-sweet…I visited the farm a day after Freedom Day in South Africa (27th April), a day where we celebrate our ‘freedom’ and commemorate the first post-apartheid elections that were held on the day in 1994.

As I walked on the property snapping away and enjoying my ‘freedom’ there was a moment when I did feel sad. Land ownership has become a bone of contention. When we have debates about land, the one question that comes up is, ‘if the brown people in the country are given back the land, what are they going to do with the land? We have no experience in managing land’

Land ownership matters. It just gives one options – be it to farm, to live or to sell and live of the sale. Owning acres of land gives one Freedom to also create their version of a Babylonstoren.

Proud Mary Modern Eatery and Wine Bar

Proud Mary Modern Eatery and Wine Bar is a lovely addition to the Jozi food scene.

The menu has a variety of options from small plates, to café plates and salads…there’s something for everyone. Had the Beluga Lentil and added avo. The dish was scrumptious, the almond herb yogurt just added a lovely texture to the overall meal.

The interior of Proud Mary is ultra-chic and comfortable, found myself snapping away in the bathroom.

Overall, lovely dinning experience. Think we have found our new weekly after work place to dine or have coffee.

Stay Splendid

TS!

Destination Florence and Pisa – (The Finale, The Italian Trilogy)

Destination Florence (The Finale) the last blog post from my Italy escapade. I kicked off the trilogy with a trip in Venice, then Milan and now Florence (Firenze). There were some breath-taking in-between transit stops and it all fell into place so well.

Had 3 days to spare in Florence, decided to add PISA to the mix. Besides the fact that Florence is the capital of the Tuscan region of Italy, home to many masterpieces of Renaissance art, it’s rich in history and Architectural marvel. Below are some fun facts:-

  1. Italian Gelato was invented in Florence! It was the Florentine architect who in 1565 made the first frozen dessert considered as Italian Gelato.
  2. Florence was the first city with paved streets in Europe.
  3. Opera was created in Florence.
  4. Florence is the Birthplace of the Piano, Invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori in the 18th Century.
  5. Home to Pinocchio.

Site Seeing in Florence

Day 1

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

Legend has it that during WWII Hitler prevented the destruction of Ponte Vecchio. The bridge is the oldest and has become the most iconic landmark in Florence and crosses over the Arno River. This medieval stone bridge still preserves its original characteristic with shops built along with it. The bridge was initially occupied by Butchers but today you will find art dealers, jewellers and souvenirs.

Piazza della Signoria

The Piazza della Signoria is the heart of the city for Florentines. It has been the political center of Florence since the 14th century, a site for political rallies, festivals, and ceremonial events. You’ll find several iconic Florence tourist attractions: Palazzo Vecchio (Florence townhall), the Neptune Fountain, the Uffizi Gallery (a prominent art museum), the Loggia dei Lanzi (corner building with wide arches), and copies of statues by Michelangelo and Donatello.

The Palazzo Vecchio

Because I’m a secret Liker of Things, I had to visit Gucci Garden – a museum dedicated to the iconic Italian fashion house. The museum is the brainchild of creative director Alessandro Michele, its a place where fashion, art and haute-cuisine meet. The space is home to an exclusive boutique offering unique pieces, the Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura restaurant, and the Gucci Garden Galleria exhibition area.

The Gucci Garden museum is a great concept, some great collectors items and some very questionable one. My next stop was the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

This cathedral is what Saint Mark’s Basilica is to Venice and the Duomo di Milano is to Milan. Standing tall over the city with its magnificent Renaissance dome design, the Cathedral referred to as the Duomo by locals is the prominent landmark. The cathedral complex includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile and located in Piazza del Duomo, the heart of the historic center of Florence.

The tour of the cathedral which includes climbing the Dome which is known to be the largest in the world was the highlight. At the base of the dome, you walk along an interior walkway for a close-up view of “The Last Judgement.” a beautiful work of art which was started by Giorgio Vasari and completed by Federico Zuccari. From there, you continue and then step outside for incredible views of Florence.

Day 2

‘Life is getting up an hour early to live an hour more

I have this ritual when I travel of getting up before sunrise, I usually go for a run or a long walk. I use the time to discover the city while its peaceful. On my 2nd day in Florence, I decided to go for a run from Ponte Vecchio to the Piazzale Michelangelo (1,6km’s one way depending on the route).

The Piazzale Michelangelo is square with panoramic views of Florence, a great place to catch the sunrise or sunset. Unfortunately for me, the weather was not great but still made the most of it. The square is dedicated to the Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo. The 2nd copy of the statue of David is on the square.

The Galleria dell’Accademia (Accademia Gallery)

If you a lover of sculptures and art, the Galleria dell’Accademia is a must visit. The gallery houses the most famous statue in the world – the sculpture of David by Michelangelo. Photos don’t do justice to this genius work of art. Being up, close and personal with the original was awe-inspiring.

To think that David was sculpted from a single block of white marble that had been worked on more than 50 years earlier by Donatello. At that time the marble was said to have had a flaw in it and the project was abandoned.

The gallery also houses some unfinished works of Michelangelo, some beautiful old musical instruments as well as a host of beautiful artworks.

Where I ate

Food plays a big part in everyday Italian lifestyle and they have a relaxed nature in how they appreciate food. It’s all about authenticity, tradition, unique senses, aroma and most importantly family.  

Eataly

I discovered Eataly – a retail outlet dedicated to the best of Italian regional food and wine on one of my walks. You can go there for grocery shopping, coffee, lunch or dinner and it’s a one stop shop for Italian produce. Decided to treat myself to dinner at Pizza  & Cucina Restaurant that forms part of the retail outlet.

Gelatarium

Gelatariuma dream ice-cream… is indeed dreamy. This place is about eating gelato, swinging and enjoying the simple pleasures of life.

Day 3: PISA

Pisa is one of the most famous regions in Italy, its known for its iconic Leaning Tower.  The city has an array of beautiful historical buildings and beautiful scenery along the banks of the River Arno.

The Leaning Tower forms part of a complex known as The Field of Miracles and consists of four structures – the Cathedral of Pisa (Il Duomo di Pisa), the Baptistry, the Bell Tower of Pisa and the Monumental Cemetery.  The complex is located in Piazza dei Miracoli, one of the most beautiful squares in Italy.

The Tower of Pisa referred simply as the Bell Tower, or Campanile which was made famous by its noticeable tilt is the crowning glory of the complex. A climb to the top of the bell tower is a must but its not for the faint hearted. The entire experience is weird primarily because the building is tilted.

Adding PISA to my itinerary was a good call, another day well spent. I took a train back to Florence and decided to ‘treat myself’ to some Gelato. Went to Venchi, a chocolate and ice-cream haven.  The chocolate wall for me was everything.

Italy is magical, the cities I visited all rich in history and each city has its unique characteristic (Venice – the city of canals, Milan – the fashion capital, Rome – home to the Vatican and the Coliseum)

The Italian way of life is unique, the people are passionate, family is an important value and food isn’t just nourishment, it is life. There is still so much more of Italy that I want to explore, for now we reminisce on past adventures.

Stay Splendid!

Layover – Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino #Wanderlust Wednesday

“Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures”

On route to Florence from Milan, I decided to add a layover in Portofino. I had stumbled upon some beautiful pictures of Portofino on Instagram, I just had to include it on my itinerary. I took a train from Como to Santa Margherita Ligure.

Santa Margherita Ligure is a great base and I found this town extremely charming with its brightly coloured house, harbour, beach and eateries.

Portofino

Arriving in Portofino was surreal, I had read about why the town is loved and frequented by ‘VIP’s around the world. I understand why that is, Portofino is the “quintessential fishing village on the Italian Riviera”

It has a small habour, colourfully painted buildings and the ‘Piazzetta’ (small square) overlooking the sea.

Exploring the Italian Riviera was another Splendid Experience!

Milano and Como – La Triola Italy (The Italy Trilogy) – Part 2

I had the best intentions to be more consistent with my blogging in 2020 but then life just kept happening. Adjusting to the ‘new normal’ has become somewhat of an extreme sports. We really are living in unprecedent times.

I must say, I do miss being inside a plane and travelling to a destination unknown. Travelling afforded us the opportunity to explore, experience and create memories in different parts of the world. As they say “Memories are timeless treasure of the heart”

While we still navigating the 2nd wave of the pandemic, I will be using the blog to re-live some of my travel memories. I had started what was meant to be a Trilogy from our trips to Italy, so it only makes sense for me to continue where I left off.

Part 1 was a trip to Venice. Part 2 we explore Milano – Italy’s fashion and design capital of the world, home to the second largest catholic cathedral in the world and the fourth largest in the world.

What we got up to?

I travelled to Milan with one of my Bestie. Milan had been on our bucket list for years now. So when we eventually made it happen it exceeded our expectations. With 5 days to spare in Milan, my bestie and I wanted to strike a balance between exploring the rich artistic cultural heritage, indulging in a bit of shopping and “lunching”

Day 1:

With rain forecast for the entire day, our hotel concierge recommended we start at the Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s oldest shopping mall, a landmark for Milan and named after the Victor Emanuel II, the first king of the Kingdom of Italy. The galleria houses some of the most luxurious boutiques and numerous restaurants.

The Grand Galleria is nicknamed “il salotto di Milano” (Milan’s drawing room) and connects two of Milan’s other most famous landmarks – The Duomo and the Teatro Alla Scala.

Duomo Di Milano (The Cathedral)

Known as the heart of the city, the Duomo is an architectural masterpiece, the largest Cathedral in Italy and the second largest Catholic Cathedral in the world. Construction to this place took five centuries to complete.

The Duomo is a striking blend of Gothic and neo-Gothic styles. With its beautiful marble façade, with the statues standing guard over the city and the famous Madonnina, the gold-colored statue of Mary that stands on the cathedral’s highest spire.

Inside you find many more statues, marble columns, paintings scattered throughout, the stunning floor, with its design in black, pink, and white marble and stained glass windows.

The Duomo is at the centre of Milan in Piazza del Duomo, and at walking distance from many of the town’s other tourist attractions. Great place to navigate the city.

Day 2:

Santa Maria delle Grazie and “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci

Santa Maria delle Grazie is a church and a convent in Milan, world-known for housing The Last Supper painting by Leonardo da Vinci.

The painting can be found on north wall of the refectory of the convent which forms an integral part of the architectural complex. Painted between 1495 and 1497, this is undoubtedly one of the most important works of art of all times. “A timeless and unique artistic achievement of outstanding universal value.”

Interesting Facts:

During World War II, this Dominican monastery was almost completely destroyed by bombing. Three walls of the refectory that houses “Il Cenacolo” or “The Last Supper” were miraculously spared. Over time, in a desperate effort to save it, the painting was repeatedly restored, consequently altered and completed in 1999.

Besides Leonardo’s painting, the complex also accommodates other artworks, including a remarkable Crucifixion by Donato Montorfano (1495), and various 16th-century fresco paintings by Gaudenzio Ferrari.

Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle)

Built as a fortress in the 14th century, currently it houses one of the best museums in the city.  The castle is an iconic landmark in Milan, an oasis of history, architecture and art.

I’m not a big shopper but I was travelling with the shopping queen who can spot a bargain a mile away. She also somehow manages to find classic pieces that the rest of us somehow miss.

Day 3

We decided to spend time at Serravalle Designer Outlet (McArthurGlen Designer Outlet). This designer outlet offers an array of shopping options from designer brands such a Gucci, Moncler, Celine,  to well know street wear shops like Diesel, Desigual and sporting brands like Nike, Adidas.

Weekend in Como

We spent the weekend in Como to wrap up our stay in Milan. The city of Como sits at the edge of the famous Lake Como (Lago di Como) – the most beautiful lake in the world.

Como has an array of historical buildings, fine restaurants, important museums and its relatively easy to navigate. We spent Friday roaming the streets and indulging in food. There was a vibe in the town as they were hosting the 38th ACI Como Rally Trophy.

On Saturday we took a boat trip and explored the majestic Lake Como. We had so many surreal moments, words simply cannot describe the sheer beauty of the lake and the breath-taking views studded with studded with charming towns, enchanting villas and unspoilt nature.

We stopped at the Pearl of Lake Como – the Bellagio. We strolled the streets, lunched, visited the famous Villa Melzi and explored its majestic gardens. A true dream destination worthy of lots more visits.

Sadly the adventure for my bestie ended on Sunday due to work commitments but for me the adventure continued.

Next stop was Florence with a layover in Portofino. This will be Part 2 – The Extended Journey. Being in Portofino was breath-taking, the town deserves a mention.

Till the next post, Stay Splendid!

La trilogia Italy (The Italy Trilogy) – Part 1 – Venice

“Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.”

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Italy is one of the most iconic places for one to travel. Its diverse natural landscapes, cultural heritage, authentic Italian food and lifestyle will always be a dream like no other.

Before the world went to lock-down, I got to wander through the streets of three iconic cities, admiring the architecture, churches, visiting museums, indulging in a meal and completing it with a Gelato. Always grateful that I get to relive, reminisce and share on my blog.

Thinking of making this Italy content a Trilogy, that way I can do justice to all three cities. Part 1 of the trilogy (La trilogia) will be a feature on Venice – a masterpiece of architectural beauty.

When we landed at Marco Polo Airport, our transfer was waiting to take us to the water taxi dock. The drive to the water taxi dock was short but I could not contain my excitement being picked up in a Tesla Model X. I LOVE Tesla’s especially the Model X.

Tesla Model X

water taxi

Venice, sometimes referred as ‘The City of Water’ relies on a series of waterways and canals. It’s quiet a unique experience watching the entire water taxi system work so effortlessly.

The city is situated on 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by more than 400 bridges, earning the city one of its nicknames – “The City of Bridges.”

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What we did?

Venice is filled with things to do, from the standard tourist attractions, to visiting a gallery or taking a water taxi to the neighbouring islands.

Our hotel was a mere 500m from St Marks Square also called Piazza San Marco. This is the city’s main public square, the heartbeat of Venice. Its a great place to start as you can explore some famous landmarks.

1.St Marks Basilica – Basilica di San Marco

  • The most famous and most recognisable of all the churches in the city of Venice. Its architecture, a mixture of Byzantine, Roman and Venetian. The exterior of the basilica is quite ornate, and one cannot help but admire its gleaming, golden byzantine mosaics.

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2.St Mark’s Campanile – The bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica

  • One of the most recognisable structure in Venice and sits across from the iconic St Marks Basilica.
  • The bell tower is the tallest structure in the city, visitors can climb to the top and enjoy panoramic views over Venice.
  • The bell tower has been restored many times due to fires caused by lightning. It collapsed in 1902 and it was decided tower had to be reconstructed exactly as it was. In 1912, it was finally inaugurated on St. Mark’s Day.

St Marks Square

3. The bridge of sighs – Ponte dei Sospiri

  • The Bridge of Sighs was built to connect the old prison in the Doges Palace with the new prison across the river. Its arched profile that suspended over the water of the Palazzo Rio, is one of the most famous scenes in Venice.

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4. Rialto Bridge – Ponte Di Rialto

  • The Rialto Bridge is the oldest and most famous of the four bridges straddling the Grand Canal.

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5. The Grand Canal

  • This monumental canal is more like a river and it passes from one side of Venice to the other meandering through the city in a zigzag way from Saint Mark’s Basilica to the Church of Santa Chiara. A ride along the Grand Canal is a must.

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6. Visiting the neighbouring island 

  • Murano, Burano and Torcello are the three most famous islands near Venice, you can tour all three in one day or choose to explore the islands in depth.
    • Murano is famous for its beautiful glass.
    • Burano for its lace.
    • Torcello for its cathedral.

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In terms of artistic expressions and influence, Venice is one of Italy’s most important cities. Art is as essential to characterising Venice and can be experienced first-hand in any of the City’s many museums. We visited three of the museums. Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum and Doge’s Palace.

1.Peggy Guggenheim Collection

“I dedicated myself to my collection. I made it my life’s work. I am not an art collector. I am a museum”

  • Peggy Guggenheim was, and still is, one of the important women who left a mark on Venice. She introduced the American modern art to the European art scene supporting the careers of some of modern art’s biggest names such as Picasso, Miro and Pollock.
  • The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, is one of Europe’s premier museum devoted to modern art is located in Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Guggenheim’s former home on the Grand Canal.
  • The museum presents Peggy Guggenheim’s personal collection, masterpieces from the Hannelore B. and Rudolph B. Schulhof collection, a sculpture garden as well as temporary exhibitions.

Peggy Guggenheim

2. Leonardo Da Vinci Museum

‘The life, the works, the secrets of the greatest genius in history. In the museum you will find Leonardo’s most important inventions.’

Da Vinci was a multifaceted man and the museum is a great place to learn and explore his world. We got to learn about his paintings and anatomical drawings, and saw working replicas of his creative machines.

  • The first floor of the museum contains several replicas of da Vinci’s most famous works of art with descriptions and information about their significance.
  • The whole second floor (or first in European terms) is full of wooden reconstructions of da Vinci’s designs.

Leonardo da Vinci Museum

3. Doges’ Palace – Palazzo Ducale

  • Once residence of the Doge and house of the political body of the State, the palace can be seen from the lagoon.
  • Its a masterpiece of Gothic architecture combining use of the Gothic lancet arch with Byzantine and Moorish influences. It’s now the most important museum in Venice.

Doge Palace

Where we ate?

Eating in Italy is a serious deal, food is an essential part of the countries culture with pasta and pizza generally being the stable food option. Turned out, pasta is not a staple in the region of Veneto. The most popular carbohydrates are polenta and rice. The places that stood out for me were:-

1. Conca D’oro

  • Lovely Italian restaurant, famous for their Pizza and we were not disappointed. Lovely restaurant with a great atmosphere.

Conca D Oro

2. Restaurant Terrazza Danieli

  • For our last supper, we had dinner at the Restaurant Terrazza Danieli, which is located on the top floor of the Hotel Danieli and has magnificent views of the Lagoon. We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner.

Hotel Daniele

Where we stayed?
Hotel Danieli dominates the Venetian lagoon with spectacular views of the Grand Canal and islands.  My room had gorgeous views of the lagoon.

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The hotel has great dining options – Restaurant Terrazza Danieli, the rooftop restaurant, Bar Dandolo, in the main hotel lobby and the Danieli Bistro an informal venue serving the finest Venetian cicchetti.

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Venice is truly remarkable, a dream destination and was a true Splendid Experience!

Fondation Louis Vuitton – Architecture + Art + Food

“I dream of designing a magnificent vessel for Paris that symbolizes France’s profound culture vocation” – Frank Gehry

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ARCHITECTURE

Commissioned in 2006 by the LVMH Group as a contemporary art and performance space, The Fondation Loius Vuitton Building is a ‘Masterpiece”. Designed to look like a sailboat, Frank Gehry took his inspiration from the lightness of late 19th-century glass and garden architecture.

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The building is constructed from 3600 glass panels that make up the sails, 19000 fibre-reinforced concrete that gives the ‘iceberg’ (wall clad in white Ductal panels) its flawless whiteness. The support structure for the glass sails is made from a network of steel and glue-laminated larch timber beams.

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The entrance with the enormous shining “LV” brooch.

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The Lobby

ART

The museum houses a permanent collection of modern and contemporary art belonging to the Foundation.
Eleven galleries provide 3,850 square meters (41,441 square feet) of exhibition space to house temporary shows and a permanent collection, which include works borrowed from Arnault’s personal collection. There’s also an auditorium that seats 350 – 1000.

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Top Left: From the series The Theater of Disappearance, 2018 by Adrián Villar Rojas
Bottom: The Octopus Eats Its Own leg, 2017 by Takashi Murakami
Top Right: L’avalanche, 2006 by François Morellet
Centre: “a.k.a Gero Tan : Noah’s Ark”, 2016 by Takashi Murakami
Bottom Right: Water Cast 6, 2015 by Matthew Barney

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Inside the horizon, 2013 – Olafur Eliasson

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Felix the Cat, 2013 by Mark Leckey

FOOD

There’s a restaurant on-site Le Frank which is noted for its sophisticated mix of French and international cuisine. The restaurant is overseen by Michelin-starred chef Jean-Louis Nomicos(had to google the guy).

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I settled for a starter salad as the main menu had no vegetarian option. A bit of a disappointment if you have to ask me. The highlight was definitely the dessert, it tasted as good as it looked.

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Romaine lettuce and lightly smoked corn, pomegranate and avocado starter

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“Avalanche” dessert (My highlight) 

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“Avalanche” – intense vanilla velvet, strawberries and pistachio

A splendid way to end an enlighting afternoon at the museum.

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The museum is unfortunately still closed as the world still navigates the Global Pandemic, they are scheduled to open on the 23rd September.

Location:
Fondation Louis Vuitton
8, Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi
Bois de Boulogne
75116 – Paris

Weekend in Paris – ‘Joie de vivre’ (The joy of living)

If there’s one thing that I’m going to miss this year, is the ability to travel overseas. The impact of the Global Pandemic on how we travel will be life-changing. Some European countries have started welcoming tourism but the reality (and I speak for myself) it’s going to take some time for us to travel. Covid-19 is still such a reality, the world is now just learning to navigate around it.

I continue to be grateful that my curious nature afforded me the opportunity to travel before the world went on lock-down and in the process created memories that last a lifetime, which I now get to share on my blog.

Today’s throwback, I get to reminisce about a weekend I spent in Paris celebrating my milestone birthday. I have never been big on having birthday parties but I have always been big on experiences and the simple joy of living for the moments that take your breath away. 

I went with Paris because I saw in the news that the Eiffel Tower had re-opened and the Musée du Louvre will be opening on the 6th July and I had a sudden sense of Nostalgia.

Whether it’s your first, second or third visit, Paris never fails to amaze – the mixture of architecture, art, cafés, fashion and rich history, there’s a never-ending list of things to do, see and eat.

I have fond memories from our first girls trip to Europe, Paris was one of the cities we visited (besides dragging our luggage through the subway, getting lost for half the morning in the rain trying to find our hotel and quickly learning the basic phrase ‘salut, parlez vous anglaise?’ just so we can get help) the trip was such an epic adventure. We did all the typical touristy things, shopped and ate a LOT of bread. I have a weakness for bread but Paris takes it to a whole nother level. By day 2 of the trip, I was not interested in eating any type of bread. 

Friday

I landed in the City of Lights, well prepared and with a bit of travel experience this time around. Getting to the hotel did not take the entire morning, I had a semi-planned weekend itinerary and wanted to just immerse myself in Parisian culture. 

Eiffel Tower Summit

I decided to re-visit the Eiffel Tower the first attempt was a complete disaster. We had bought tickets to reach the summit but the lines were so long. At some point while we were being ushered, it felt like we were cattle being herded into a kraal. What made it even worse was the weather, it just got soooo windy (Cape Town type wind). By the time we reached the 2nd floor, we had lost interest, called it quits and never reached the top floor. 

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This time around, I went with a guided pre-booked tour. The experience was great, from the meet and greet to the actual summit, the tour worked so well. There was a bit of history on how the tower was built. We went up starting on the 1st floor, then 2nd and eventually the Summit. The views of the city are simply spectacular. 

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Views of Paris from the Eiffel Tower
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Views of Paris from the Eiffel Tower
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Views of Paris from the Eiffel Tower

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Views of Paris from the Eiffel Tower

Dinner at L’Artisan du Burger

On my walk back to the hotel, I stumbled upon L’Artisan du Burger – The art of the great chef’s burger. (In South Africa, we would call it a place that sells “Burgers that went to Private School”) What attracted me to this place was the interior, the furniture is made of wood, stone and slate.

I had what they call the Floral Park – a vegetarian burger. It was good, the fries were even better. It’s a lovely place for food on the go. It’s a Meat-eaters paradise. 

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Saturday

My morning ritual when I travel is getting up early and going for a morning walk or run. You get to genuinely appreciate a place in its empty state. 

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After my run, I kicked off the day with a typical French breakfast – freshly squeezed juice, strong coffee, pain au chocolate (chocolate bread) or croissant. The one thing that Paris has an abundance off, is street cafes.

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I walked along the banks of the river Seine, I found that the Seine is a great way to explore the city. If walking is a challenge, they have river cruises which are a great way to see Paris. Along the banks, you will find what they call Les Bouquinistes – booksellers of used, antiquarian books and art. Great place to buy a souvenir.

Along the walk, I passed Notre-Dame, the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Its currently closed for restorations after it caught fire some time back. 

 

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@ParisAMDParis
Les Bouquinistes                    Image Cred: @ParisAMDParis (Twitter)

“Everywhere is a walking distance, if you have time” – Steven Wright

When you walk, you really do get to experience Paris. Some of the sights that I saw while walking –  Ponte Neuf (Oldest bridge in Paris) and Ponte de Arts (was once famous for the Love padlocks that were later banned and removed as they started to damage the bridge) Musee de Louvre, Place de la Concorde and Grand Palais.

I ended up on The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, one of the world’s most famous commercial streets that connect the Arc de Triomphe with the Place de la Concorde.    Arc de Triomphe is the most monumental of all triumphal arches.

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Champs-Élysées
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Arc de Triompe

The street is a shoppers paradise, from French brands, to Luxury brands and affordable ready to wear brands. I’m not much of a shopper but I particularly liked the Abercrombie & Fitch store, felt like I was entering a Palace. 

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If you are foodie, you are spoilt for choice from fast-food to French bistros to Michelin-starred restaurants there’s something for everyone. They say a trip to Paris is not complete without having a genuine Macaroon – the quintessential French cookie. Stopped at Le 86 Champs which brings together three things for which France is most revered: food, fragrance and the pleasure principle.

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Sunday

Sundays are for Art + Architecture + Food.

Firsts stop was Musée du Louvre – the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument. We all know that the highlight for ‘us’ tourist is the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. If time allows, I highly recommend spending time exploring the museum, there are so many other great works of art.

The Carters (Beyonce and Jay-Z) music video “APES**T was shot at the Louvre and shows some of the popular artworks. 

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Top left : The Winged Victory of Samothrace. Bottom left: Venus de Milo (Image cred @TheLouvre) Top right: The Mona Lisa. Centre: 12-ton Great Sphinx of Tanis, with a lion’s body and a human head (Image cred @TheLouvre). Bottom Right: The Raft of the Medusa

The Louis Vuitton Foundation Museum

One word sums up this building  ‘Masterpiece’ if you love architect, this place is a must see. The museum houses a permanent collection of modern and contemporary art belonging to the Foundation.

My next blog post will be dedicated to my experience at the museum. Including it on this post will not do it justice. I spent a couple of hours here and got to experience Architecture + Art + Food all in one place. Truly a Splendid Experience!!

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The Natal Midlands – FlashBack Friday

Woke up with a feeling of nostalgia to travel. Today, I particularly missed being able to travel to the Natal Midlands for a weekend recharge.

I miss the picturesque landscape characterised by rolling hills, valleys, farmland, forests, winding country roads, dams and rivers. The Midlands is far removed from the frantic pace of the modern world, it was our great escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

IMG-20200301-WA0004Our base was always in Nottingham Road which has ample guests houses and hotels.   IMG_20180830_172707_417IMG_20190430_095517_370Today has been particularly hard, another long-weekend and we are unable to travel due to the Global Pandemic (Covid-19) that has affected all our lives. For now, it will be Flash-Back Friday and grateful that I have all these memories that I get to relive and share. Below are some of my favourite spots in the Midlands, I look forward to visiting when we can travel again.

 

 

  1. Flamme Rouge Café – They have the best coffee😊 Service, food and experience is great. Their cake display is the devil…I usually indulge on Sundays. (I like to say Sunday are for Good Coffee and Cake). PhotoGrid_1588339709478
  2. The Blueberry Café – Has great views of the Drakensberg mountain range, even the loos have views. The famous Blueberry Cheesecake is a must.PhotoGrid_1588339823248
  3. Café Bloom – This is our lunch spot, we love their harvest table. The food overall is good.

 

From a sightseeing perspective, you can meander on the scenic routes and explore the craft markets and art studios, a visit to the Country Market Shop is a must. You can go cheese tasting at the Swissland Cheese Farm, picnic at the Midmar Dam and visit the Howick Falls.

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Country Market

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Howick Falls

 

For first-timers in the area or people who have not done the touristy activities, a visit to the Mandela Capture Site is a must.

PhotoGrid_1588340032285The Natal Midlands is easy to get to for a quick weekend recharge. From Johannesburg, it’s a 4 and a half hours drive. Another option is to fly into Pietermaritzburg Airport and drive to your designed location.

We will travel again, for now all we have is our memories.

#SAWillTravelAgain #WeWillTravelAgain

Zuma Abu Dhabi – ‘The story continues…’  

My very 1st dining experience at Zuma was in 2103, I had travelled to London with one of my besties to celebrate a milestone birthday. My travelling squad (they know who they are) happened to be in town at the same time and invited us to join them for lunch. We had one of the best dining experience.

Having had the opportunity to eat at the Zuma in New York and Hong Kong, what resonates with me the most about Zuma Restaurants is the consistency in the food prep, service and overall dining experience.

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Zuma New York

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Zuma Hong Kong

Zuma offers a chic twist on the traditional Japanese Izakaya style – dishes are brought to the table continuously throughout the meal. The menu is comprehensive and appealing even to vegetarians, I was spoilt for choice.

Fast-forward to 2019, Zuma Abu Dhabi, was really a continuation of an amazing culinary experience – “the story continues…”

Located at The Galleria, on al Maryah island, representing the core of Abu Dhabi’s central business district; the Manhattan of Abu Dhabi, Zuma still captures the style and elegant ambience of the Zuma restaurants we have dined at.

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Zuma Abu Dhabi

1554636540282Again, I cannot fault the food, sumptuous flavours and beautifully presented.

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Izakaya style meal

Zuma is truly a unique dining experience, great atmosphere, lovely food and top-notch service.

Another Splendid Experience.

Cannes Film Festival – #ThrowBackTuesday #TravelTuesday

“So much of who we are, is where we have been”

When I look back at this year and reminisce on some of my travel adventures, I’m reminded of how incredible it is to travel – the world is full of magical things to do, see and experience.

Early this year, I was afforded an opportunity to travel to the Cannes Film Festival. Honestly, attending the Festival was never high on my bucket list of travel adventures. However, when the opportunity presented itself, I welcomed it with open arms. (Who would refuse a working trip to the French Riviera.)

I landed at the Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport, the airport was swarming with paparazzi, waiting to catch a glimpse of celebrities. Took a transfer from the airport to Cannes – a 30m ride. I checked in at our hotel and went to the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès to collect our access for the film festival.

Walking along the La Croisette, there was definitely a buzz in the air – people basking in the sun enjoying the French Riviera, others patiently waiting at hotels to catch a glimpse of the A-listers and boats out at sea.

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The Film Festival attracts film makers, producers, directors, actors and celebrities from all over the world. The festival is overwhelming but filled with tremendous opportunity.

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By day, the festival is all business, meetings, networking and an opportunity to catch a film, attend a masterclass.

An overview on how the film festival is structured and works, its divided into 5 Section:

  1. In Competition
  • These are films that are up for the films Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) – the most prestigious award, awarded by the competition jury to the best picture of the festival.
  1. Out of Competition
  • These are films not competing for the top prize, but there for the publicity.
  1. Un Certain Regard
  • Focusses on films from newer directors with creative storytelling techniques. Films that are usually challenging art films that aren’t quite up to competing in the mainstream.
  1. Cinéfondation
  • Film by students at film schools around the world.
  1. The Marché du Film (The Market)
  • The meeting place for buyers, distributors, producers and industry professionals.
    • This area is very impressive, I was blown away by the sheer volumes of films being made and produced all over the world.

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Having an espresso at the NFVF stand!!

Over and above these sections, there are Special Screenings, Midnight Screenings and Masterclasses – given in public by world-renowned filmmakers. A must attend for anyone in film and tv.

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By night this resort town become a party haven, it’s all about attending the ‘right’ events and parties.  Thank goodness the people I was travelling with were not FOMO type people. Our evenings were spent having dinners and great conversations.

We did however have one amazing dinner experience at La Palme d’Or  at Hotel Martinez. Where we were taken on a culinary journey, the chef creates a wonderful cuisine focusing on local Mediterranean foods. From the entrée to the dessert, everything was quite good.

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The Film Festival is truly a unique but daunting experience, it requires proper planning and preparation. There’s a lot I took away from the festival, from just getting a sense of what it entails to put together an event of that magnitude. Every element has its own unique experience, there’s definitely something for everyone.

It truly was an extraordinary opportunity and a privilege to travel to the Cannes Film Festival and experience a bit of the French Riviera.

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Sprout Cafe and Salad Bar

We discovered Sprout Cafe by chance, we happened to be in the area for Karting and were looking for a place to grab lunch and found this gem.

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What I like about Sprout Cafe is the fact that the menu caters more for vegans, one is really spoilt for choice.

We ordered the Sprockets (Tofu) and the Vegan Buddah Bowl. My husband is not a fan of tofu but he was ranting and raving about the Sprockets. The buddah bowl was tasty but definitely not memorable. Overall the food looked clean, tasted good and well prepared.

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Top Image: Tofu Sprocket and Bottom Image: Vegan Buddah Bowl 

We also decided to indulge in some dessert and ordered the Vegan Pancake Stack and the Vegan Doughnut Holes.

 

 

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The vegan pancake stack were delectable, very large portion but i really enjoyed eating what I could. Tried my husbands donught holes, I was not blown away. These tasted slightly overcooked.

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Overall, our vegan lunching experience was superb. Another place to add to my splendid dining experiences.

Address: Sprout Cafe and Salad Bar, Stoneridge Centre, Greenstone, 1609 Edenvale, Gauteng, South Africa

TS!

Vegetarian Culinary Experience at the Luke Dale Roberts x The Saxon

Last night we were treated to a Vegetarian Culinary Experience at the Luke Dale Roberts x The Saxon, celebrating 10 years of families uniting (Traditionally) with my husband bae, my ride or die, homie, lover & friend:-)

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Views from our seat of the open kitchen

We received a warm welcome from the hostess who took us to our seats. Our waiters then explained the tasting menu options. There are 6 menu offering, a standard 5-course tasting menu with Pescatarian or Vegetarian options and an 8-course menu with Pescatarian or Vegetarian options.

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The vegetarian taste menu options: 8-course meal or 5-course meal

After long debates on what would be a great dining experience, we went with the 8-course vegetarian option.

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The chosen 8-menu option

The meal started with a cleanser, amuse-bouche course and bread for the table. We were then transcended on an extraordinary fine dining journey completed with tea pairing from Yswara.

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About to break bread and drink tea

The food portion sizes were perfect, neatly presented and cooked to perfection. Unconventional combination of flavours and textures to tantalize the taste buds. Every meal that was served had some unique taste to it and made it difficult to select a favourite. The tea pairing worked well, we drank some really gorgeous teas.

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SMOKED MOZZARELLA (Pickled shimeji mushrooms, lovage pesto, garlic catalan)

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CARROT (Curried carrots, compressed apple, honecomb, lime) 

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Dessert

The restaurant is well run, great ambience and not too noisy. The service was impeccable with eloquent waiters attending to us at all time, from explaining the dishes presented to the teas paired with our meals.

Overall the dining experience was lovely, we did feel that the 8-course meal was beyond substantial. By the time we got to the dessert we were tired of eating. We both concluded that the 5-course would have been enough of an experience.

An amazing way to start our year of milestone celebrations. Thanks to ‘our people’ (you know who you are) for this incredible celebratory dinner experience. It was a splendid Saturday out.

Address

  • 36 Saxon Road, Sandhurst, Johannesburg, Gauteng (The Saxon Hotel), 011 292 6000
  • Email: tablereservations@saxon.co.za
  • Website: http://www.saxon.co.za/lukedalerobertssaxon.htm
    • The restaurant is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 18:30 in the evening. Booking is essential.

TS!

‘From farm to table food’ – Leafy Greens Cafe

I’m on a quest to explore and blog more on splendid vegetarian dining experiences. It was great treat to finally eat at Leafy Greens Cafe, a lovely place tucked away on an farm just outside Johannesburg in the Muldersdrift area.

I have listed my Top 5 reasons why its a lovely restaurant:-

  1. Its location – Lovely setting in the garden on a farm away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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2. The menu is TOTALLY vegetarian/vegan with an array of fresh options.

3. The food is all freshly prepared and sourced from their own organic garden.

4. The buffet selection which is available Friday – Sunday looked extensive and very fulfilling. We opted to order from the menu, I had the Beetroot Burger – Homemade beetroot and bean patty, with vegan BBQ sauce, greens, sprouts, avocado, salsa and artisan mustard. One of the best burgers I have tasted in while.

My husband had the Baked Pizza – Gluten-free base with toppings of your choice. spinach, olives, garlic, fresh tomato, rocket, avocado, eggplant, onion, artichokes, peppers.

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Beetroot Burger

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Dessert Platter for 2

5. There’s a shop that sells organic vegetables, a selection of vegetarian food items and skin care products.

The cafe has a relaxed natural feel in beautiful surrounding. Our timing was perfect as the restaurant was not that busy, which apparently gets, especially on weekends.

A Friday afternoon well spent.

TS!

Why Singapore is a must see destination? #FlashBackFriday

Singapore is one of the most visited tourist destinations of South East Asia and I totally see why. This island city-state is architectural marvel with a diverse range of exciting activities and attractions to suit different visitors interest.

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There are many reasons why one should visit Singapore, I have taken the liberty of listing my top reasons.

  1. Visa free travel
  • Coming from South Africa this is awesome, there’s nothing that I dread more than applying for a VISA. The process can sometimes be lengthy and cumbersome. It’s great to know that one can visit Singapore at anytime (should the travel budget allow for it).
  1. The city landscape, architectural marvel and cleansines
  • Singapore’s gorgeous skyline will take your breath away. As you wander around Singapore, you’ll notice a mixture of modern skyscrapers with heritage buildings all around.
  • Another thing that you will notice is how clean the city is, it’s simply refreshing.

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  1. The Marina Bay
  • A great starting point to marvel at the architectural icons and attraction that Singapore has to offer. From the Marina Bay Sands to the Merlion Park to the Art Science Museum, the helix bridge the list is endless.

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Views of the Marina Bay 

Merlion Park
The Merlion Park

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The helix bridge

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  • In the mornings, we ran at the bay, we walked around the bay to get to places of interest and the kids managed to ride bikes. It’s the simple things that make this place a splendid experience by day or by night.

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By night

  1. Gardens by the Bay
  • The gardens by the bay is Singapores top attraction, a truly unique experience – it blends nature and cutting-edge architecture and features the following: –
    • The Flower Dome, the world’s largest glass greenhouse – an impressive 1.28 hectares of flowers under glass.
    • The Supertrees which can be found around the garden, they are man-made trees of up to 16 storeys tall, with 12 at the Supertree Grove.

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View of the Garden by the bay from the 57th floor of the SkyPark

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At night one feels like they are in Pandora with the way the trees light up. It’s a just simply majestic.

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By night – Supertrees

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  • The Dragonfly Lake and Kingfisher Lake are a rich source of aquatic life and also act as an eco-filter to cleanse water pumped in from the Marina reservoir.

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  1. The family-friendly attractions
  • Singapore offers a number of family-friendly activities, making it ideal for travellers looking for an exotic vacation spot with options for children.
    • Sentosa Island – is Singapore’s premier island resort getaway, a man made island that was built for fun and recreation. It includes Resorts World, Universal Studios Singapore, Tiger Sky Tower, Singapore Butterfly & Insect Kingdom, and one of the largest collections of aquatic animals in the world, SEA Aquarium.

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Image cred: Make My Trip (makemytrip.com)

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  • The night safari is another great experience for the little people, coming from South Africa, we were impressed by the animals in the park. Its home to over 2,500 animals across 130 species –– of which 38% are threatened.

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  1. Food Paradise & Shopping Mecca
  • The food culture is big in Singapore with an array of  different culinary experience, from your local to international cuisine. I might just have to arrange a separate trip to this city-state just to explore the different culinary experiences. On our visit, food was something that we did when we remembered we were hungry, we did manage to eat at some lovely child friendly places.

A. Bread Street Kitchen, Singapore

A modern industrial restaurant and bar, located at the Marina Bay Sands, was a perfect late lunch/early dinner place for the family. Its family friendly and I really liked the kiddie’s menu, very creating.

The food all round was a hit, I enjoyed my Quinoa salad with cucumber, avocado, baby spinach, dried cranberries, toasted almond. The dessert was lovely, I also had the Chocolate Fondant with salted caramel, mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Attention to detail, friendly staff and great food is what makes the Bread Street Kitchen a must eat place.

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B. 63 Espresso http://www.63espresso.com/

A cosy coffee shop and cafe with great ambience. We had a light lunch at the one located at Orchard Paragon.

I had the Siam Tofu and the Truffle fries. I usually enjoy tofu but I was not blown away by the way they cooked it. The truffle fries were ok, just found the truffle oil slightly overpowering.

I did enjoy my Matcha Latte, its a place I would frequent if I lived in Singapore.

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C. DC Comics Super Heroes Cafe 

This was the little people’s choice, at 1st glance you have your doubts about this place but surprisingly enough, it was a magnificent experience.

This café-retail experience is home to the DC comic universe and the one we ate at is  located at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.

The menu has everything from your salads, to burgers, to sandwiches, a patisserie and ice-cream station. They cater to vegetarian which is great. The meat eaters enjoyed their meal, I found my Quesadilla (Hals source of green energy) a bit blend.

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  • I’m not a big shopper but I appreciate seeing the local clothing brands whenever I travel. Singapore is paradise for shoppers, from high-end to affordable fashion brands there’s something for everyone. There’s the Shoppes at the Marina. the famous Orchard Road, theres’ Vivo City, Suntech City, Marina Square…the list is endless.

Places to Stay

  • It seems that the place to stay is the Marina Bay Sands Hotel (should the budget allow) the resort boasts luxury accommodations, upscale shopping and an infinity pool with unparalleled views of the city.

In my personal opinion, we found the hotel overwhelming and we were not even staying there. Its very busy with guests checking in and out, people walking around from Tower to Tower and going to eat, people going to the casino and the SkyPark. If you like big hotels and a hectic vibe, then this place can work for you.

  • There’s ample accommodation for every type of traveller.

Where we stayed?

  • We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental – a great business and leisure hotel on Raffle Street, opposite the Marina Bay. The hotel is linked to the Marina Square Mall and near Suntech City.

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The hotel features: –

  • The hotel has rooms and suites – Our room was comfortable and had great views of the Marina Bay.

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  • 6 restaurants and bars – The hotel offers a range of food choices from Japanese to Cantonese to Italian. The melt café has by far the best international buffet selection. A great way to sample local cuisine and explore an array of food choices.

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  • Gym – A decent size gym with great equipment. I had every intention of working out at the gym but it’s not everyday that one has the opportunity to run in such perfect environment.
  • Spa – A tranquil sanctuary with talented therapist.

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  • Pool is surrounded by lush green gardens with spectacular views in all directions.

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The service at the hotel was great and staff were friendly and extremely helpful. It was a lovely, comfortable stay.

Singapore is a true gem, it does cater for everyone. It can be a perfect girlfriend / boys getaway, a couples retreat, family holiday and shopping paradise.

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Singapore Flyer

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 Singapore Flyer – By night

A truly Splendid Experience!

‘Vibe Dining’ experience – LAVO Singapore

LAVO Singapore is an Italian Restaurant and Rooftop Bar that was officially opened to the public on the 8th January and we were lucky enough to be part of the 1st dinner sitting at the restaurant. Located on the 57th floor of Tower 1 of Sands SkyPark at the Marina Bay Sands, this Italian American Bistro offers a ‘vibe dining’ experience with breathtaking views of Singapore.

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Welcome Reception Desk 

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Views from terrace

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Views from terrace

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Views from the terrace 

We were impressed by the restaurant design, its contemporary with an eclectic feel to it. As you enter the restaurant there’s elegant lounge pockets setup, the main dining area has wooden tables and round leather seating booths. We liked the use of old subway tiles for the wall finishes and the exposed wooden bricks look.

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Restaurant Entrance

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Lounge seating at the entrance

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Old subway tiles used as wall finishes

The outdoor terrace has lounge pocket seats, an outdoor bar and a gelato cart.

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Terrace with lounge pockets

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Terrace bar

The food was cooked to perfection, the garlic bread served to the table was made to perfection – slightly hard on the outside but warm and soft on the inside. For a vegetarian dining experience, the menu has some option.

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Top Image-Garlic Bread and Bottom Image-Eggplant parmigiano starter

For the starter I had the eggplant parmigiano, which was delicious and well cooked. The meat eaters at the table had the famous LAVO one-pound meatball. Thank goodness our waiter recommended it to share, it’s a lot of meatball.

 

For the main, we had the Rigatoni Melanzana to share – the pasta was al dente and exquisite. The meat eaters had Roasted Black Cod, Chicken Parmigiano, Spaghetti and Meatballs. The food went down well.

I was the only person keen to try the dessert, I ordered the 20 Layer Chocolate Cake (which is literally 20 layers). I love chocolate cake but this was a bit of an overkill. We ended up sharing the cake. The cake was moist, I’m not a big peanut butter eater but the Peanut Butter Mascarpone was light and worked well with the cake.

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20 Layer chocolate cake

From a food presentation, it was well presented however we did feel that some of the portion sizes were a bit much. I could have eaten the eggplant parmigiano starter as a main. As for the 20 layer cake, a table of 8 people can easily share that cake.

By night the restaurants transforms to a nightclub, I like the design of the DJ booth and the positioning is perfect. When next in Singapore, it will be a must do activity at night.

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DJ Booth

Our overall dining experience was lovely, we were looked after by  an overzealous team – from the waiter to the bar staff to the floor managers. The service was great and we enjoyed our dinner.

Another splendid experience!

TS!

Pont De Val Riverside Escape

We finally made it to Pont De Val River Escape which is located inside the Cote de Val River Lifestyle Estate, set on the banks of the Vaal River – 91.8km (1h7m) from Johannesburg via the N1.  This riverside escape is a perfect getaway from the city life.

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We had booked lunch at the restaurant and an overnight stay at the newly built hotel on the estate.

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The Restaurant

This bistro specializes in French cuisine and serves lunch and dinner. They have lounge style dining area outside and proper tables and chairs to accommodate different type of diners.

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We had booked lunch and it was great to see a selection of vegetarian option. I had the Spinach, Feta and Sundried Tomato Baguette. The baguette was eatable but there was an overpowering taste in the spinach. My +1 had the Halloumi burger which he raved about and said it tasted really good. (It was so good he actually refused to share it)

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The dessert was the best part of the food, we had the Petit Fours Platter – an assortment of mini dessert that serves 2 people. As full as I was, I just had to try everything and glad I did. It was devilishly good.

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The food was beautifully presented, a tad on the duur (expensive) side. For the wine connoisseur, they offer wine tasting on Saturday & Sundays at R40pp and have a 30m River Cruise at R275pp.

20171220_125244.jpgThe overall experience at the riverside bistro was astounding, its a place we will visit again.

The Hotel

The Boutique hotel is a new addition to the Pont de Val accommodation offerings, they also have Self-Catering holiday homes.  The French countryside-style with a unique, timeless, modern feel is carried through the hotel.

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Hotel Pool with views of the vineyard towards the river

We were booked in the Luxe Room which has its own balcony with views over the vineyard towards the river.

The rooms have uncapped WI-FI, DSTV, air-conditioning, safe, Illy coffee machine, tea station, bath, shower, king size bed (or two singles), work desk with USB charging point as well as inside and outside sitting spaces.

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View from our hotel room overlooking the vineyard towards the river

The hotel accommodation rates start from R2590 – R2790 per room and that comes with breakfast.  For guest that love a big breakfast, you will not be disappointed. The breakfast is substantial.

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Breakfast that’s included in the BnB Rate

The muesli and fruit were delicious however when it came to our egg order, there were a few minor glitches.Even though our breakfast was presented well and you could see that they made a real effort, we were left underwhelmed mainly because of the egg order. Its one thing to get one order wrong but both orders not very good.

Pont de Val has a spa that is located in the hotel building, they also have venues where they host weddings, functions and conferences.

The Cote de Val River Lifestyle Estate is positioned to make for the ideal weekend escape, a great escape from busy city life and for us a perfect mid-week recharge.

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River view from my morning run

Don’t believe that you have to travel far to discover hidden gems in your country, hidden gems can be found in your own backyard and not halfway around the world.

Stay Splendid:-)

TS!