Things to do in Cape Town

Cape Town completely took me by surprise, a city full of culture and vibrancy. This dynamic destination is surrounded by lush green vineyards and impressive mountains, while in the urban districts you can find exceptional food, cool independent boutiques and specialists coffee shops and cocktail bars. The nearby wine regions, Stellenbosch and Constantia, boast beautiful views and fine cuisine, alongside the award-winning wines. It didn’t take me long to realise that Cape Town has everything and more, and after a week exploring this brilliant city I felt there was still so much more to see, eat and do.

The Silo Hotel

To Stay

The Silo – The Silo opened in May 2017 and already has a reputation as Cape Town’s most stylish and luxurious hotel. The spacious rooms are designed in an eclectic and fashionable way and offer impressive views of the city down below. For those not staying it is worth visiting the Silo for an evening cocktail or spa treatment.

Capetown

To Eat

The Test Kitchen – If you can get a table at The Test Kitchen you won’t be disappointed. The flagship restaurant from Luke Dale-Roberts is a triumph of flavour, innovation and excitement. Diners start the evening in the bar tasting snacks and cocktails inspired by a culinary journey round the world, followed by a ten-course tasting menu in the main dining room. The food, service and atmosphere are all unforgettable.

Hallelujah – Found on the corner of Kloof Neck Road with a bright neon pink sign, this fun Asian eatery is the perfect quick and cheap dinner spot. Chef Emma Hofmans creates addictively tasty and satisfying dishes.

Foxcroft – This fun and informal eatery in Constantia works hard to offer the finest plates of food using the best local and seasonal produce. The menu changes regularly, when we visited the Springbok dish was particularly memorable.

The Pot Luck Club – The sister restaurant of the Test Kitchen, and located in the same Old Biscuit Mill complex, Pot Luck has panoramic views from its incredible 6th floor location. Order by marking your choices on the checklist menu (which is split into salty, umami, bitter, sweet and sour sections), we loved it all, but can especially vouch for the Smoked Beef Fillet, Fish sliders and Chickpea fries.

La Tête – La Tête was opened in 2016 by two Cape Town brothers, Giles and James Edwards who worked together at St John restaurant in London. This charming French bistro serves wholesome and comforting food. I loved the Roast Quail, fresh season Asparagus, and hot madeleines straight from the oven at the end our meal.

La Colombe – This celebrated restaurant in Constantia overlooks the picturesque wine valleys of the region. Named the 73rd best restaurant in the world, among other accolades, the food at La Colombe will delight and surprise in equal measure.

Chefs Warehouse & Canteen – There are three locations of this foodie restaurant. We visited the original branch in central Cape Town, which doesn’t take any bookings. Irish-born chef Liam Tomlin has created a concise menu which is particularly popular with the city’s best chefs.

The Kitchen – The ultimate destination for lunch in Woodstock. The delicious deli lunches are created by Karen Dudley, who has also written cookbooks. I loved the quirky and busy interiors.

Capetown

To Shop

The Proper Store x Real + Simple – Paul van der Spuy, owner of the Proper Store, has teamed up with Real + Simple, a sustainable denim lifestyle brand, to create this effortlessly chic menswear store.

Afraid of Mice – This immaculately organised vintage emporium offers an incredible selection of carefully sourced designer treasures. Owner sisters Bianca and Simone Brandi have done all the hard work so you can just try on a few rare gems and hope they fit.

Clementina Ceramics – This store, based in the Old Biscuit Mill, showcases the ceramic work of Clementina van der Walt and other South African ceramicists. Pick up some gorgeous plates and bowls to take home.

Chapel Goods – Chapel Goods was launched in 2009, a Woodstock studio from Caleb Pedersen producing leather bags and canvas products. The bags are of an extremely high quality and look grown up and special. Visitors can have a tour of the Chapel Goods factory, and the brand have stockists across Europe and the US.

Kin Culture – These are products with a cause. This is a non-profit organisation where orphans and vulnerable children are supported by the profits of the beautiful Kin Culture ceramics and homemade South African products.

Capetown

To Drink

Truth Coffee Roasting – This was my favourite coffee shop in the city. Located in the centre of town, this dark and moody industrial style cafe is filled with vintage machinery and exposed metal piping. The coffee was delicious and the brunch menu looked pretty good too.

Outrage of Modesty – This 24-seat Japanese inspired cocktail bar is sleek and modern. The welcoming staff make unusual but tasty concoctions using ingredients like bee pollen and fermented milk.

Deluxe Coffeeworks – One of Cape Town’s leading coffee roasters, Deluxe have a few locations around the city. Try the tiny Bo Kaap location for a great flat white to enjoy while you wander the colourful streets.

Publik Wine – Wine lovers should head to Publik for natural and sustainable wines. The bar is housed within Ash restaurant, but is definitely a destination in its own right.

Espresso Lab Microroasters – Found in the lively Old Biscuit Mill complex this speciality coffee roastery sources the best beans from small growers around the world. The modern minimalist cafe focusses on espresso pours but also serves up other delicious drinks.

Honest Chocolate Cafe – A charming chocolate shop with several outposts. Stop by for a Rooibos tea and a slice of chocolate cake, or visit in the evening for the secret gin bar in the Honest courtyard.

Field Office – An ideal venue for coffee and cycling enthusiasts. Stop by this cool Woodstock cafe for a caffeine break and a look round their Pedersen + Lennard design store.

Capetown

To Do

Hike up Table Mountain –  This prominent landmark is visible from everywhere in Cape Town. A cable car runs up and down (and takes just 5 minutes) or you can hike up the rocky path, the more exhilarating route. We journeyed through Platteklip Gorge and it took 2 hours, at a medium pace. Take plenty of water and wear sensible shoes!

Robben Island – Robben Island is best known for its prison which held political prisoners during the Apartheid era. Tours of the prison and the island run daily and include a personal insight from a former inmate. You will see Nelson Mandela’s cell and the limestone quarry which is now recognised as an important symbolic site.

Zeitz MOCAA – The Museum of Contemporary Art Africa opened in September 2017 on the V&A Waterfront. The spectacular building was designed by Thomas Heatherwick and attracts just as many visitors as the large modern art collection.

Bo-Kaap – Formerly known as the Malay quarter this colourful neighbourhood of painted houses and cobbled streets is popular with the instagramming community. There is also a museum which explains more about the history of the area.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden – Nestled at the foot of Table Mountain, this UNESO World Heritage site is a wondrous garden to explore. Walk over the Boomslang Canopy Walkway for impressive 360° views.

Boulders Beach – Boulders Beach is home to Cape Town largest penguin colony. They have settled here thanks to the protection given by the granite boulders. In warmer weather many choose to swim in the sea with the aquatic birds. Nearby, St James beach is famous for its cute colourful beach huts.

Chapman’s Peak Drive – One of the world’s most scenic drives, this road runs from Hout Bay to the Cape Peninsula. There is a small toll road fee, but it’s worth it for the views.

Babylonstoren

To Escape

Babylonstoren – It is easy to spend a whole day at the beautiful Babylonstoren, there is a farm, restaurants, spa and hotel. Start the day with the free garden tour before a colourful and vibrant meal at Babel restaurant, where everything is freshly picked from the gardens. Don’t miss the healthy and photogenic red, green and yellow salads… I also loved the Chargrilled lamb cutlets served with a punchy coriander and coconut gremolata.

Maison Estate – A design-focussed winery and restaurant in the Franschhoek countryside. Visit for a wine tasting and a meal at the newly opened Chefs Warehouse eatery.

Delaire Graff Estate – This lavish winery is definitely worth a visit for wine tasting with a view. Located on the crest of the panoramic Helshoogte Mountain Pass these vineyards create world-class clarets and fresh wine wines. We sat on the terrace and tasted three of the classic wines from the collection.

More information and advice about Cape Town here.

Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland

On the most special day of the year it seems fitting to put up a post about one of the most special hotels I visited in 2017.

It is difficult to know where to begin when talking about Gleneagles, one of Scotland’s most prestigious hotels. This luxury accommodation is found near Auchterarder, between the towns of Perth and Kinross, among the rich Scottish countryside. The hotel was first opened in 1924, when the former Caledonian Railway Company built it and the nearby dedicated train station. The large estate is known best for its spectacular golf course, with three championship courses at the heart of the grounds.

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I was lucky to visit for one night last month and managed to tick off a number of the best facilities on site. My mum and I arrived late afternoon at Gleneagles train station, to a smiling driver who picked up our bags and whisked us away to the fairytale hotel.

The Christmas tree at the entrance illuminated the facade of the grand main building, while inside a roaring fire was giving off a cosy warmth. We were quickly checked-in and taken up to our newly refurbished Estate Twin room. Under the new ownership much of the hotel has had a makeover and it is a great time to visit… there is something lovely about staying somewhere historic and traditional but with fresh modern facilities.

The rooms are elegant and classic with a touch of vintage glamour. I particularly loved the Royal Lochnagar Suite, which is spacious and regal and decorated in shades of dusty pink and forest green. All the bathrooms are designed with comfort in mind… huge free-standing baths and indulgent walk-in showers with ‘Purple Rain’ toiletries by Asprey.

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When it comes to relaxing, the ESPA Life spa at Gleneagles is the place to go. The only dedicated ESPA spa in Scotland, this wellness and relaxation retreat is just as popular with outside guests as with those staying at the hotel. My mum experienced a personalised treatment with Anna Smilowska, a wonderful therapist who seemed to truly understand the body and the way it works. She offered a comprehensive consultation before giving a tailored massage to remedy my mum’s aches and pains.

For a last minute blow-dry or hair cut, Bob & Cloche, the new hair salon on site, is the place to go. The little cabin is welcoming and stylish, once inside you’ll want to stay all day!

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Keen to get out in the Scottish countryside, despite the cold weather, we opted for a 1 hour clay pigeon shooting class. It was great fun to go to the Gleneagles Shooting and Fishing School, and we had a brilliant beginners’ lesson with one of the instructors, learning to use the gun and catch the target… it is definitely easier than it looks!

There are numerous food choices at Gleneagles, and I would have loved to try them all. For a fine dining experience the hotel has Andrew Fairlie’s restaurant on site, the only two-michelin star eatery in Scotland at the moment. But for something more casual, I can highly recommend the beautifully redecorated Birham Brasserie, offering high quality French-American brasserie dishes. The service here was efficient but discreet, the Steak Frites and Lemon Sole we tried showcased the best produce and tasted delicious.

With so much to see and do at the hotel you’d need a week to experience it all, but I loved the 24 hours I spent here, getting a glimpse into life at Scotland’s most refined luxury hotel.

More information and book a stay at Gleneagles here.

A Day in Jerusalem

Jerusalem

To Stay

Mamilla Hotel – This luxurious five star hotel is conveniently located in the middle of the historic old town. Mamilla Hotel is part of Leading Hotels of the World for good reason, this beautiful accommodation offers stylish bedrooms, exceptional restaurants and a renowned spa & holistic wellbeing.

Jerusalem

To Eat

Adom – Adom restaurant is known for its fine cuisine, elegant wine menu and wonderful atmosphere. In 2013 Adom moved to the First Train Station compound, a new centre for culture, fairs, music and food. It was built on the foundations of the historical Jerusalem old train station, and is a lovely place to wander round before or after eating.

Machneyuda – The original restaurant from the Palomar and Barbary team in London, Machneyuda is a culinary institution in Jerusalem. The open kitchen ensures the venue is always lively and fun. Guests are treated to a constantly changing market-to-table menu of seasonal treats, I loved everything I tasted, from creamy polenta with rustic mushroom ragout, to the utterly indulgent Chamshuka (hummus topped with grilled meat).

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To See

There are so many important historic and religious sights to see in Jerusalem, but you can tick most of them off just wandering round the maze of streets in the old town.

Mount Scopus –  These mountains offer a spectacular view of old city. It is best to head up here first to get an overview of the city before heading down to explore.

Jerusalem

To Do

Machne Yehuda Market – Whilst in Jerusalem keen foodies should visit the Machne Yehuda Market, a fragrant and busy market place filled with Israeli food specialities. Snack on freshly made herby falafel, a glass of fresh juice, or some sweet halva.

Thanks to the Israel Tourist Board for their help with this day trip, more information here.