Friday, October 29, 2010

The Sharks in Cape Town may not be in the water

It is that time of the year when it seems that all the rest of South Africa is looking for affordable holiday accommodation in Cape Town. We at Horizon Holiday Cottages have been booked since June for the middle of December to the end of the first week in January. In spite of this we receive dozens of enquiries every week for people searching for accommodation between the peak period from about 20 December to 5 January. I notice that the search terms often include “cheap holiday accommodation “ “family holiday accommodation” and the like. Most of us in the accommodation business do not exploit the peak Christmas season of about two weeks, preferring to maintain seasonal rates over the summer period and those visitors who have the foresight to book early are able to take advantage of our competitive rates.

Quite why everyone wants to be in Cape Town over Christmas and New Year for their annual holiday, I have difficulty in understanding. At this time our city is frenetic. The traffic at any time of the day is heavy, the malls crowded, and most visitors intending to holiday over the Christmas period may not be aware that construction is still in progress on the main road between Muizenberg and Fish Hoek, and you can be sure that they will not enjoy travelling along the beautiful coastal road with the traffic stalled for long periods of time. It will be difficult to get into most of the popular attractions of Cape Town and one will have to wait in a long line just to get a seat at many of the popular restaurants while the prices of almost everything, including eating out are raised for this holiday period. The beaches will all be crowded and parking impossible to find.
The 2011 school holidays extend right until the middle of January and prospective visitors to Cape Town with families should consider planning their holiday after the New Year period when they will enjoy Cape Town in a more relaxed state. For those who do not have children at school, consider that the months of February and March are the two most beautiful months in Cape Town. It is the middle of summer, but is often less troubled by the south-east wind and the city and its attractions is not so busy.

I read an article in Times Live titled "Holiday sharks on the prowl", subtitled “Con man collects deposits, then goes missing”.
 It reported that two Cape Town families were conned out of thousands of rands after booking a luxurious home on the Internet for their Christmas holiday. It seems that scammers use free advertising websites to post pictures of a luxurious beach cottage, collect what seems to be a reasonably small deposit, and go missing resulting in these families losing their deposits. We hate to hear of such incidents and advise visitors when booking to ensure that they are dealing with an established and reputable accommodation provider. Cape Town tourism of which we are a member inspects the accommodation of all of their members who are registered as providers of tourist services. We are proud to display the AA Travel “quality assured “ sign on our accommodation because that, too, was preceded by a comprehensive and thorough inspection which is renewed annually . The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa has very stringent requirements of its members before awarding a grading. If you are looking for luxury accommodation you require 4 or 5 star accommodation or, if it is affordable accommodation that you are looking for, this is usually graded, like ours, as 3 star. Almost every year during the peak Christmas/New Year period we receive telephonic enquiries from guests looking for last minute accommodation after finding that what they booked was of such poor quality that they were prepared to forfeit what they had paid just to find suitable accommodation. This misfortune can be avoided if you deal with accommodation establishments that are quality assured.

Fortunately for those of us in the Cape Town accommodation business, our city has more than one peak season, in addition to the Christmas and New Year period. Accommodation at Easter time is sought after because of the school holidays and the Easter long weekend. Looking at the calendar there is a great opportunity to take advantage of off-season rates at the end of April. Then of course we are fortunate to have major events that bring visitors including the Argus Cycle tour 13 march, and the Two Oceans Marathon which will be held on 23 April. Because these times are so sought after there will be a high demand for accommodation and those intending to holiday in Cape Town should be careful not to be deceived by advertisements for cheap accommodation at these times.

By  Affordable Cape Town self-catering accommodation - Fully equipped self catering family Cottages and chalets on Noordhoek beach.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Be captivated by Bohemian Kalk Bay

Cape Town’s equivalent of the Riviera is reputed to be Camps Bay; because it is fronted by one of the most beautiful of the beaches of Cape Town and the main road is lined with trendy, upmarket restaurants and entertainment venues, where the beautiful people go to be seen. Life is very different on the False Bay coast; much more relaxed; where people walk barefoot in the street in their baggies with total disregard for the fashions of Gucci and Tommy Hilfiger. Amongst the coastal gems in the southern end of the Cape peninsula is an interesting and eclectic alternative dining and shopping destination which is the fishing village of Kalk Bay; always bustling on weekends throughout the year, and extremely crowded every day during the holiday seasons. Here people go to sea and to see.

Kalk Bay has a deserved reputation for being bohemian in character, but it has something interesting to offer the visitor on each occasion that one returns. This is why it is so popular with the people of Cape Town, and not only visitors. For a start; the main road of the village is lined with Victorian shopfronts housing antique shops , art galleries, crafts and simply collectable bric-a brac, as well as some outstanding restaurants. Look a little further and you will find quaint shops, boutiques coffee houses and restaurants up almost every one of the little cobbled lanes that lead from the main road up toward the mountainside. Who can resist browsing for an hour or two amongst the collectables in “The Trading Post “ which is located in the old Post Office building next to the railway station. On the third Sunday of the month, you will find the Fresh Etc market located in the community hall, making it the market with the best views in Cape Town . For more info see our Gourmet Markets post.
Fancy having a crepe in an old railway dining carriage? If not, there are many interesting restaurants along the main road; up the narrow alleys and in the harbor. Perhaps the most well-known is the “Brass Bell” situated between the railway platform and the sea; where you can enjoy good fish and seafood with the waves splashing alongside, as well as lovely views of the bay. Others include the harbour house and Polana restaurant in the harbour itself. Another old favourite is the Olympia café and deli where just to get a seat and a table is considered an achievement. Here you will find interesting and outstanding meals, making use of seasonal produce, as well as a bakery whose fame has spread far into the Cape countryside where they supply many restaurants on the wine farms.

Our current favourite is the truly Bohemian “Cape to Cairo” - situated on the beach. Be prepared for a total sensory overload- from the time that you walk up the twisted boardwalk wards what looks like a large beach shack, and enter the bar which serves great mojitos or the dining areas which are crammed with religious icons, myriad chandeliers, bric-a brac, and a variety of cottage and antique furniture where everything in the restaurant is reputed to be on sale. Whether you sit inside or on the small outside dining area you will be sure to have a ringside seat for the activities in the fishing harbour.

Ah … the fishing harbour; beloved of artists and photographers and those who just enjoy living next to the sea, the picturesque fishing harbour as well as the interesting and amusing fishermen and local characters gives so much colour to the village. The little fishing harbor is home to a collection of wooden fishing boats many of which are pained in bright colours and have evocative names like "Star of the Sea". There is a small fish market where you can be lucky enough to get fresh fish off the boat, but the prosperity of the fishermen has suffered because of the dwindling catches in False Bay over the years. During the season one can find good catches of the prized local “yellowtail” and the plentiful barracuda type “snoek” that is the staple of the coloured people; it is also a magnificent fish to be enjoyed on the braai as the South African BBQ is known. Kalky’s is an informal fish and chip sit down restaurant in the harbour which is reputed to offer the best fish and chips in the Cape. Judging by the long line of people at almost any time of the day the locals must agree. If you want to get a flavour of the local folk join the queue for an inexpensive but delicious meal.

Kalk Bay has an interesting history which began with the Dutch East India company who used nearby Simon's Bay as a winter anchorage for their ships to escape the storms experienced at Cape Town. Kalk Bay was used as a staging point from which to carry supplies by barge to Simonstown as there was no passable road from there on until the British occupation. The name “Kalk” bay comes from the Dutch for lime; the local community established lime kilns here to supply building needs in Cape Town. For a while it was the centre of the whaling industry which was a major income earner for the Cape Colony, but which ended due to almost total extinction of the southern right whale off the shores of False Bay. The fishing community of Kalk Bay comprises mostly mixed-race people known as “Cape Coloureds” who have a wonderful turn of phrase and great sense of humour. Their ancestors include people from the Philippines as well as many freed slaves who originated from Batavia, Java and Malaysia who brought their fishing skills and became influential in the community. Kalk Bay has become one of the trendiest villages on the False Bay coast and recent developments of the two magnificent old hotels and the area behind have seen property prices soar to the kind of levels usually only paid for properties on the Atlantic seaboard.

Although running a self-catering Cape Town accommodation establishment may not be as onerous as running a B&B, we often find our weekends fully occupied attending to the business, and to the needs of our guests. Fortunately we do not get many Sunday check- ins and once the guests have departed we have the Sunday afternoon to relax. One of my wife’s favourite treats is to have me drive her in one of our old classic sports cars to Kalk Bay for the simple pleasure of enjoying an ice cream cone, with 2 mixed scoops, at the Ice Café in Kalk Bay main road. Although we have travelled to many parts of the world, my wife emphatically states that there is no better ice cream available anywhere. Not only is there a great choice of flavours, but it is always packed and even boasts pictures of the famous Jamie Oliver delighting in a cone. After that we usually spend an hour or two browsing the shops before returning home relaxed to face the business again.

Visitors on a holiday in Cape Town should not be seduced into spending the whole time in the bright city lights and its environs, or rushing past in a tour bus to Cape Point– come and see how people really enjoy life on the False Bay coast.

By : affordable Cape Town holiday accommodation

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Summer tourists seek affordable Cape Town accommodation

Visitors seeking  holiday accommodation in Cape Town,  whether local or international, are spoilt for choice when looking for affordable accommodation because there is such an extensive choice of guesthouse, B&B’s and self catering cottages and apartments available as an affordable option to the many luxury hotels. Thanks to intense competition, the efforts of Cape Town Tourism and the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa, most of these are professionally run establishments offering a high standard of accommodation and who market extensively on the Internet; either directly or through one of the many accommodation websites and portals.

Our self catering beach cottages and chalets have long been fully booked for the Christmas and New Year period. From the number of enquiries that we still receive and the referrals that we get from other networks it is apparent that larger numbers than ever before of local tourists are looking where to stay in Cape Town for the summer holidays. We are receiving many enquiries for the Easter holidays as well as the popular Argus Cycle tour and Two Oceans Marathon. From the pickup in our business, I had good reason to think that the tourist business can look forward to a bumper season . It was with some surprise, then, that I read an article headlined: “SA hunts for summer holiday deals”, on the informative Fin24 website which states that travel groups are seeing a huge decline in business.

The article gives the pessimistic views of some stakeholders in the travel industry :

DEBT-ridden South African households are choosing solvency ahead of the sun and sea this year.Travel and accommodation bookings groups are worried about December, with some reporting that sales are up to 20% slower than last year.

"The travel demand is picking up but is not as busy as it used to be," says Sandy Pretorius, a manager at travel group Harvey World Travel. "Travel packages are fewer and we are mainly selling flights only, with the clients doing their own accommodation arrangements online or staying with family."
Business has taken a huge knock during the recession and is still very slow, …………. says John Ridler of Thompsons Holidays. ……. there is a definite change in the behaviour of travelling South Africans; they are much more concerned about price.
Lindy Wattrus, owner of the Nelspruit branch of Harvey, says the effect of the recession is still seen in the middle-income market in particular. "We find that we are competing for the same spend against indirect competition, such as the ever rising cost of consumables in the form of electricity bills, groceries and fuel.

The phenomenon of a long South African summer holiday may also be in for a makeover.
It looks like shorter but more frequent weekend breaks closer to home are challenging the traditional longer holiday, says Barnie Louw, editor of outdoor and travel magazine Weg!/go!

Recently a travel agent glumly informed me that the Internet has changed their business fundamentally because clients are now able to make informed choices for flights, tours and accommodation on the Internet without having to rely upon an agent. Travel agents are no longer receiving the good commissions that they did in the past and the traveller can usually get the same price direct from the service provider who markets on the Internet. The travel agent stated that the majority of their clients are now those who do not have access to the Internet, or who do not have a credit card. This shift enables the Guest House business to capitalise on many opportunities.

I have no doubt that the strength of the Rand is going to have some effect on tourism from our traditional overseas markets such as the UK, Holland and Germany, because price is important for many of these tourists. South African families are also struggling with high inflation rates and interest rates but those from Gauteng and mining area still want to get away for their annual and school holidays. There is a great opportunity for those of us in the non-hotel accommodation sector to capitalise on this price consciousness by improving our Internet marketing and even networking with competitors in our areas. In spite of the seeming efforts of the Tourism Grading Council to make it difficult for the small business to comply with their grading requirements, we can capitalise on the price consciousness of those seeking holiday accommodation in Cape Town without breaking the family budget.

by : affordable Cape Town holiday accommodation

Friday, October 1, 2010

Gourmet Markets of Cape Town

One of the most enjoyable Cape Town attractions is to spend a lazy Saturday or Sunday paying a visit to one of the many markets that are to be found in the various suburbs of our city. Although we have some very old markets; the modern trend is for lifestyle and food markets which attract many visitors seeking good quality fresh home produce.

The Neighbourgoods market is situated in the Old biscuit Mill in Woodstock, just outside Cape Town city. This market is the undoubted leader, and by far the largest, in Cape Town, and features over 100 traders offering artisan bakes, fresh produce, plants and herbs, handmade cheeses, preserved meats and a wide variety of fine food and produce with the emphasis on fresh organic foods and locally produced specialities. You will also find offerings from small wine estates and micro-breweries to enjoy with your choice of things to eat. Some fashion, jewellery, designer furniture and clothing stalls are also available. It is always popular, vibrant and crowded. The downside of this very popular market is that parking is very difficult to find, unless you go very early, and it has become a little pricey. When/Where : The Old biscuit mill 373-375 Albert Street Woodstock, Saturdays 9 am to 2 pm

The Earth Fair Market, Tokai seems to have recognised the opportunity to offer similar fine quality comestibles to the southern part of the Cape Peninsula and has been successful since being established just over a year ago. This market is much smaller, but more welcoming. As you enter you will be faced with the choice of fresh vegetable or fruit juices as well as a choice speciality beers and wine. The number and variety of stalls has been carefully limited and the centre of the hall is dominated by convenient tables and chairs as well as bales of hay where one can sit and enjoy a meal or a snack. Here you will find a delectable range of home produced delicacies including a selection of tasty pies, farm cheeses, bbq meat and kebabs (sosaties) speciality sausages and meat, fresh and smoked fish, organic and farm fresh produce artisan breads and cakes and bakes, olives and preserves, gourmet pizza and crepes, curries and delightful take home meals. It seems that friends and families have discovered that this is a great place to gather and enjoy a different meal each time in an informal environment. Spoil yourself on a Saturday morning with a breakfast pizza or crepe with great coffee ! Plus factor- no parking problems, and not too crowded. When/Where : South Palms (next to Builders Warehouse in Steenberg Main Rd, and is open on Wednesdays 3-8 pm, and Saturdays 9am-2pm

Triangle Square market : Noordhoek/Sun Valley. This food market has moved from its original location in sleepy Fish Hoek to the Sun Valley mall. On offer are a range of fresh and organic produce, freshly baked pies, cakes and cookies, artisan breads, delicious homemade filled pastas (think Portabello mushroom tortellini, Spinach and Ricotta panzeroti), olives and olive products including delicious Tapenade, smoked fish and pates, relishes and chutneys. One stall holder claims to be the great granddaughter of the famous Mrs. Balls, whose chutney fame has spread all over the globe with the South African diaspora, who also claims the mass produced product is no longer true to the original and she offers the “real” stuff. Finish your visit with a platter of meze, inspired by the Levant; delicious and healthy. This market is within strolling distance of our self-catering cottages, and we encourage our guests to enjoy the fine food and produce on offer. When/Where : Saturdays from 9 am to 2 pm. Sun Valley Mall, Noordhoek. The stall holders also operate in the Long Beach Mall on a Wednesday morning

Kalk Bay Fresh Etc Market is situated opposite the sea in a pretty 1906 double storey building. With only 20-25 stalls and its enviable position overlooking the sea and a large parking lot, the market is promoted as being small and personal and a great opportunity to hang out with friends or make a few new ones. On a recent Spring day visit, we found very little of interest on offer, not much choice and not many customers, in spite of the offered great opportunity to hang out on the centre’s balcony while savouring the food and watch out for whales in the bay opposite. We did enjoy the vegetarian Biryani, along with Samosas which was the best food on offer. Perhaps the summer weather and influx of tourists to this popular coastal village will improve the market’s fortunes. If you go and don’t find too much, be consoled by the wide range of restaurants and shops that line the main Road of Kalk Bay which can beguile you to spend the day. Where/When: Community Centre, Kalk Bay, Cape Town; 3rd Sunday of every month from 10am to 3 pm

Simonstown Lifestyle Market at Southern Right hotel : This new market is billed as offering arts, crafts, home bakes, produce, preserves and clothing, and has only recently opened. In spite of the signage and newspaper ads and our knowing the Southern Right hotel so well, it was difficult to even find the market, which we finally located in the back of the hotel. Our visit took just 10 minutes as there was little of interest on offer. The available space is limited for growth and perhaps the best thing to do, is sit on the hotel deck with a cold beer enjoying the view with a plate of local seafood- which is perhaps what the promoters intended, along with their fibreglass Southern Right whale tail that has been planted in the sea opposite. Where/When : Southern Right hotel and restaurant, Glencairn Simonstown, Saturdays 9:30 am to 3 pm

Solole Reserve Market : The Southern peninsula boasts its own Game Reserve at Solole, and is now promoting a new market for local producers of food and crafts as well as wine producers. To encourage families they will have a range of activities for kids. This market will commence on 3 October from 11 am to 4 pm. Where : Kommetjie Road, Capri.

All of these markets can be found within a short drive from our self catering Cape Town accommodation and add to the enjoyment of your Cape Town holiday

By : affordable Cape Town accommodation