Feel virtuous and scramble up Paarl Rock
It would be a huge pity to visit Paarl and not scale the Rock which looms over this lovely town.
Paarl Rock is a 'koppie' - the Afrikaans diminutive term for a 'head' - and when you see the smooth granite domes of the Rock - polished by eons of water and wind erosion - protruding from the bulk of the mountain, you can understand the origin of the term!
The hike is not as fearsome as it looks and I did once manage to make it to the top with a 6 month old baby (although I would not recommend this to those of you at home!). Purists and people with too much energy can make the ascent from town either on foot or by mountain bike - the rest of us drive to the car park at the base of the exposed granite and scramble up the last few hundred metres!
The final ascent is accessible to anyone with reasonable fitness and mobility - our 3 year old managed it with ease, although supervising him to make sure that he didn't charge off the edge into oblivion required supreme viligance! Be warned that the granite surface is smooth, so keeping a foothold can be a bit of a mission in wet weather, and there is one section of the climb where a few toe holds have been excavated and a chain has been attached to the rock to provide a handhold.
The view from the top is spectacular - not sure whether the view is simply stupendous, or just seems so because you've expended some effort in getting up there! From the top, you get a marvellous view out over the town and the valley towards the spectacular Overberg range.
The climb is very exposed, so I would suggest making an early start, or leaving it until late afternoon so that you avoid the mid day heat. Also take particular care if the conditions are wet, as the granite (and the little round pebbles that erode off it) can be treacherous underfoot.
The adjacent koppie (which is easily accessed from the same car park) is well frequented by climbers, and I even saw a guy heading up there with a skateboard, although maybe he was taking the ***!
On the subject of basics, there is an eco-toilet by the car park, which I am delighted to report was not only odour-free, but actually equipped with toilet roll - seldom a given in Africa!!!
The surrounding nature reserve is quite extensive, with gorgeous proteas, and I imagine that the hikes could be lovely, although I have never got around to this. Whenever you go in the Western Cape, you are likely to see parts of the vegetation that have been burned, and this reserve is no exception. Bush (veld) fire - sometimes as a result of lightning strikes and sometimes due to arson - is a natural part of the Cape Floral Kingdom ecosystem and although it looks grim when it is newly charred, the affected areas usually regenerate pretty quickly.
- Family Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Het Taalmonument (The language monument)
The language monument reminds the people to the official status of the African language. This monument exist out of grained granite that is made into concrete.
The small columns remind that the Dutch, English and several African languages are the source for the African language.
Try shouting in the biggest horn (column) to hear your voice carried out over the area.
You can find much more explanation about the symbolism and the idea behind this design on their website. (This is an extract from that side)
A COLONNADE of three elements to the left or west of the approach symbolizes the languages and cultures of the enlightened West. These structures, closely juxtaposed, begin at a height and diminish in size and then descend in a curve to ascend again into the main upward sweep.
A PODIUM with three semi spheres to the right, or to the eastern side of the approach, represents magical Africa with its indigenous languages and cultures, and develops into a lesser curve which joins the main upward movement.
The confluence of these two curves forms a bridge which is the base of the main hyperbola. This, rising up into space, signifies the coming into being and the development of Afrikaans.
A language and culture neither western nor African, but Malayan, is represented by a low wall in the middle third of the main steps to add to the general scale.
Together with the main column, placed in the same life-giving pool with bubbling fountain, rises a structure symbolising our Republic: free, yet encompassed by and open to Africa; free in form and reminiscent of the west, whose cultures helped to establish it. It symbolizes two languages and two mutual enriching cultures, yet one nation, facing the future with courage and resolution, deeply conscious of the presence of an Omniscient Being, guiding us to our destiny in the turmoil of our time.
Drakenstein Lion Park
Drakenstein Lion Park was one of the most fascinating places that we visited on our trip to South Africa, and one of the few that truly deserved the name "sanctuary", whereas some other places seemed to be animal parks, rather than genuine sanctuaries for rescued animals.
Not so at Drakenstein though. The lions there have all been rescued from miserable and sometimes downright horrific conditions in circuses or in the pet trade, and will be cared for at Drakenstein for the rest of their lives by people who have a great passion for their work.
Usually two or three lions share a large enclosure, and there are plaques on the fences with the lions' names and how they ended up in Drakenstein. It is very good to see them back in good health and having found a safe haven for the rest of their lives.
Feeding times are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 4pm, and you can see them getting restless as soon as they hear the quadbike with a cart full of chicken carcasses approaching. There's great excitement then as the food is thrown over the fence, until each lion wanders off with their quarry to munch their way through their chicken dinner.
We stayed there overnight in the park (also see accommodation tip), so were able to spend some more time with the lions in the evening and early morning without the hustle and bustle of the day visitors, which was fantastic. Especially the two white lion cubs were very playful first thing in the morning, and provided endless entertainment with their antics.
Finally I should probably point out that it is not possible to interact with or pet the lions, as the welfare of the lions is the first priority at Drakenstein. In fact, there is a very interesting section on their website warning people to beware of parks where you can pet lion cubs, as these cubs would have been taken away from their mothers, and it begs the question of where the mother is and what is going to happen to the cubs once they have grown up:
As the traditional wedding vows caution, marriage is "not to be entered into lightly", so upfront I should state that I'm not suggesting that you should get married just to fill a free afternoon in your holiday itinerary! However, if this is a commitment that you had been contemplating, but couldn't afford the wedding you wanted in your home country, then perhaps South Africa - and the Cape in particular - may offer you exactly what you're looking for a fraction of the price.
Wedding tourism has become big business in South Africa over the last few years, and the benefits are pretty persuasive. Relatively cheap labour gives the hospitality industry and associated service sector a big cost advantage over first world competitors, but a demanding domestic market and a long track record in high end tourism means that the standards remain high (provided that you use a reputable company). Couple that (excuse the pun!) with stunning scenery, wonderful weather (counter season to the Northern Hemisphere), beautiful food, cheap but excellent wine (and the added bonus that you can limit numbers without offending people as only the people who really care about you tend to be willing to cough up the cost of attending overseas weddings) and the advantages start to stack up!
To give you an idea of the size of this niche market, research published in October 2009 by a company specialising in coordinating luxury weddings in South Africa reported over R90 million worth of expenditure by its wedding parties over the past two years. This company alone brings between 3 000 and 4 000 wedding guests a year to South Africa and saw a 40% growth in the 2008/ 2009 financial year. Even the strong rand over the past year doesn't seem to have dampened enthusiasm, as the same company reported that it had 50% more weddings booked for the 2010/ 2011 wedding season - I have given the reference to their website below just for guidance on the extensive range of options and services that are available, but there are several similar service providers (and no, I don't have any link to them!).
The Cape winelands are the favourite destination for wedding tourists, for obvious reasons. If we decided to get married again - maybe to justify another honeymoon as wonderful as the first? - I think that we'd probably choose the exquisite Pontac Manor in Paarl (see my travel tip). Private game reserves also do a brisk trade in bush weddings - we got married at a small game reserve in the bush (Glen Afric close to Johannesburg - see forthcoming travel tip). It was exactly the small, low key, casual wedding that we'd been hoping for, and by getting married in the on site chapel and then staying over, the party could continue unabated!
In addition to the direct tourism income from wedding tourism (flights, accommodation, venue hire), spin off benefits are also experienced by other service providers such as transport companies, florists, caterers, cake makers, hiring and staffing companies, marquee companies, musicians, hairdressers and beauticians. It's really up to you how much of the package you choose to outsource to local service providers: I for one believe that it would take bridal nerves of steel to wait until you arrived to see your dress for the first time, but there is at least one designer I know of who flies to London every few weeks to do fittings for dresses that will be worn by brides getting married in South Africa! Talk about organised!
Unlike any monument you've seen elsewhere!
I adore the Taal monument, which is one of the quirkiest and most outlandish looking monuments you'll find anywhere in the world!
Fashioned from concrete and clinging to one of the side slopes of beautiful Paarl mountain, this eccentric confection reflects Afrikaaner pride in their language. The write up about the significance of the various shapes of the component structures (which appears on one of the information boards which Antonela quotes) frankly had me baffled and left me speculating on what illicit substances architects must consume to spout such pretentious verbiage. To be blunt, whatever angle you view the Taal Monument from, it looks like a collection of gigantic willies! Up close, the sweeping concrete structures never fail to remind me of an upmarket skateboard park, although this would be (correctly) viewed as a hugely disrespectful thing to do!
There is no questioning that it is a lovely site. It commands a beautiful vista over the valley in which Paarl is located, and is landscaped with indigenous vegetation in between boulders and well established trees. In summer, the winelands can get hellish hot, and the Taal Monument is the perfect place to take refuge in the shady gardens with a picnic. There is a water feature inside the largest of the phallic structures, and the gently tinkling water (sorry, this metaphor has probably gone as far as I can decently take it!) echoed by the hollow structure is immensely soothing.
The Taal Monument is well set up for kids with a nice playground area by the small restaurant and several well designed picnic tables in shady spots - there has also been an effort made to try and plant trees to create shade in the parking area, which is much appreciated. I see that once a month they host a Moonlit Picnic - not quite sure what that entails, but sitting up on the mountain under the stars, looking down on the lights of the town below would be a gloriously romantic thing to do on a hot summer night!
I would suggest doing the energetic bit first and climb Paarl Rock (it's not a hard climb, but rather than energetic scramble from the car park) before retiring to the Taal Monument to enjoy a well earned rest!
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
When in Paarl..
One of the things to visit is obviously a striking monument in Paarl . Albeit also controversial.
The The design of the architect Jan van Wijk represents the growth
and development of Afrikaans and gives recognition to the
language’s roots that are spread over the three continents
Africa, Europe and Asia. Van Wijk was also inspiredby
the words of two prominent Afrikaans writers,
NP van Wyk Louw and CJ Langenhoven.
It was unveiled.
10 October 1975.
Languages from three continents influenced the
development of Afrikaans:
A Dutch, German, French and
B Malay and Malay-Portuguese (Asia)
C The Khoi languages, isiXhosa, isiZulu
and isiSotho (Africa)
D “The bridge” - NP van Wyk Louw
described Afrikaans as “a bridge
between the languages of
Europe and Africa”.
E “The growth of Afrikaans –
CJ Langenhoven described
Afrikaans as a “rapidly
ascending curve”, to indicate
that Afrikaans is continually
growing at a faster tempo.
F The Republic of South Africa –
the birth-place and home of
language monument set high up on Paarl mountain.
- Mountain Climbing
- Food and Dining
- Budget Travel
Butterfly World, the largest free flying park for butterflies in Southern Africa, opened its doors to the public in November 1996. The concept originated in the UK and such enclosed parks can be found in countries throughout the world. Each year these parks are visited by thousands of visitors and now thanks to the initiative taken by two Capetonian women, South Africans have the opportunity to experience nature at its best.
Butterfly World has a craft shop and the Schmetterling Coffee Garden. Come and see the informative dis- plays and enjoy an experience of a lifetime. Groups are welcome. But- terfly World is open every day of the week from 09:00 till 17:00.
Great care was taken with landscaping the stunning indoor garden, which gives as much pleasure, with all its water features and exotic plants., as the beautiful butterflies flying freely around you. Colourful butterfly-friendly birds complete the lovely tropical garden picture.
The location of Butterfly World on the Route 44 near Klapmuts, just off the N1, is perfect as it lies at the junction of the main Wine Routes of Stellenbosch and Paarl.
There is no time limits on a visit to Butterfly World, and visitors are welcome to take photographs or videos of these beauties. Refreshments and light meals are available from our restaurant, and our craft shop stocks butterfly related goods.
Inside the flight display house, displays depict the life cycle of the butterfly, and if visitors are lucky, they might see a butterfly emerging from its pupa.
The park is open every day of the year except 25 December, and trading hours are 9 to 5, except June, July and August, when the opening hours are 10 to 4.
There are no formal guides, but if a request for a guide is made at ticket sales, we will provide a personnel member who can show the group around. Bookings are not essential, but preferable when a large group is visiting, to ensure personal attention.
Tel: +27 21 875 5628
Fax: +27 21 875 5230
Rates (subject to change)
R28 / adult, R15 / child and R70 / family of 2 adults plus 2 children
TAALMONUMENT RESTAURANT & CURIO SHOPPE
Visit the restaurant with a beautiful view over Table Mountain,see the beautiful green valleys and vineyards. They sell local wines that you can enjoy with your meal, good traditional food and friendly service. A la Carte, Sunday buffet, Picnic baskets, Functions up to 50 persons. Mon 08:30 - 17:00 Tue - Sun 08:30 - 22:00
- Family Travel
PAARL MOUNTAIN NATURE RESERVE
Enjoy the beautiful landscape of fynbos and massive rounded granite rock formations set among wild olives, and various trees. Take a hike, follow one of the many hiking trails, visit Millwater Wild Flower Garden where 15 species of protea may be viewed, catch trout or bass for dinner or enjoy mountain biking or picnics. Fishing permits available at Paarl Municipality. Hours: Summer: 07h00-19h00; Winter: 07h00-18h00
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
Daytrip Wellington, Tulbach and Ceres
Paarl, about 38 km from Stellenbosch, lies in the Berg River Valley. It is renowned for its natural beauty, flourishing wine and fruit industry and beautiful architecture. The Main Street is dotted with historic buildings, shops, restaurants and places of accommodation, and is where the head office of the wine industry, the KWV, is situated. Drive on to the village of Wellington (11 km) and over the Bainskloof Pass, that used to be the only gateway northwards to Tulbagh (57 km) and Ceres (63 km). Tulbagh is a beautiful town that was restored following the great earthquake of 1969. Ceres is essentially a fruit-growing area.
- Road Trip
- Study Abroad
- Family Travel
Paarl Bird Sanctuary
This bird sanctuary is a sewage works and like many other sewage works in southern Africa, the Paarl Bird Sanctuary, managed by the Municipality, attracts a wide variety of waterfowl. As well as the waterfowl the reserve is also has a number of species associated with the plants growing on the northern and western sides .A good gravel road allows access to all parts of the Sanctuary.
Paarl Bird Sanctuary is located on the northern side of the town of Paarl
From Cape Town, take the first turn off into Paarl, follow Main Rd, and then turn right into Berg River Blvrd. Follow the road through 2 traffic circles past Paarl Hospital. At a T-junction with Optenhorst Street, turn right. Over the bridge the road becomes Oosbosch. Turn Left into Drommedaris and follow the signs to the sanctuary.
Just a word of caution: when we were there we found people roaming around from a nearby location that seemed to be there for (no good) just keep your eyes open as far as safety is concerned, the park is NOT security closed in!
Or from N1 from Cape Town take 3rd off ramp onto Jan van Riebeeck Drive (R303). Continue through the traffic circle, and then turn left into Oosbosch Street, and right into Drommedaris Street (almost opposite a BP Garage). From here follow the signs to the sanctuary.
- Family Travel
Sante Wellness Spa
Wellness is a holistic approach to health that combines all aspects of physical, mental and spiritual well-being to realign mind, body and soul.
It is a place where the noise of our busy lives is drowned out by the whispers of tranquillity - a place where we can draw upon the strength of a healthy body and the sanctuary of our inner calm.
Take this journey to wellness. Succumb to the unsurpassed luxury of Santé Wellness Centres and rediscover your innate healing power
- Spa and Resort
- Luxury Travel
The Afrikaanse Taalmonument
The Afrikaanse Taalmonument (monument for the Afrikaans language) is open daily from 9 to 5. Tel 021-8723441. The access turns off Main Street at the town entrance and is sign-posted. Around the monument there are very nice waliking trails and a stunning view of the Paarl valley. The Afrikaans Language Museum in the Gideon Malherbe House in Main Street belongs to the monument.
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
- Hiking and Walking
The Paarl Museum
The Paarl Museum (formerly the "Oude Pastorie") offers a near-comprehensive collection of antique furniture, historical documents and photographs from the history of Paarl. The museum lies in Main Street (No. 303) and is open weekdays from 10 to 5 and saturdays from 9 to 1 o'clock. Tel 021-8722651.
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve
Enjoy the picturesque landscape of fynbos vegetation dominated by massive rounded granite rock formations set among wild olives, rock candlewoods and wagon trees. Take a vigorous hike, or climb Bretagne Rock, follow one of the many hiking trails, visit Millwater Wild Flower Garden where 15 species of protea may be viewed, catch trout or bass for dinner or enjoy mountain biking or picnics. Fishing permits available at Paarl Municipality. Hours: Summer: 07h00-19h00; Winter: 07h00-18h00
- Hiking and Walking