Have yourself a staycation
Times are tight, the fuel price is up and spare cash is at a premium. So instead of hitting the road for a long-distance holiday, many people are opting to stay at home this festive season. But being a homebody doesn’t have to boring and you shouldn’t spend all your time doing household chores. One of the hidden benefits of tough economy is that there are more specials around, and people are eager to have your business. So why not give it a try, and have a staycation.
Here are 20 budget-busting ideas from Andrea Weiss, managing editor of go!
Break your fast
Breakfast is easily the best meal of the day and there are no shortages of places to tuck into something special, like Eggs Benedict, that delectable concoction of poached eggs on a muffin topped with salmon, ham or spinach and a good dollop of Hollandaise sauce. Rich, wicked and washed down with a good cup of coffee, nothing could be better. Breakfast is also a relatively inexpensive way of entertaining visitors from upcountry, and if you pick your venue, you can wow them completely with the view.
Where? At the Roundhouse above Camps Bay you can order a breakfast basket of pastries and coffee (starting around R16 a piece) and enjoy the killer view from the wooden trestle tables arranged on the lawn overlooking the bay. Bookings compulsory.
Use your legs
Getting around on your own two legs is for free which is why going for short walks or hikes are a great way to clear the head and stretch your budget. Pack a flask and a sarmie and be sure to stop for a snack.
Where? Cape Town is surrounded with beautiful botanical gardens which all have short hiking trails, like Kirstenbosch in Newlands, Harold Porter in Betty’s Bay, the Helderberg Nature Reserve on the edge of Somerset West. Many run special programmes and have hiking clubs, so it’s worth signing up for their local newsletter.
Book a theatre ticket
When last did you attend a live theatre show? You can dress up or simply go in jeans and a t-shirt, but there’s still a sense of occasion when you’re ushered into the air-conditioned surrounds of a theatre hall and you can dim the lights on the real world for a couple of hours. Gather a group of friends, meet for a drink beforehand, and have a fabulous night out.
Where? Put your hands in your pocket for a big show like the Phantom of the Opera at Artscape, or check in your local newspaper to see what your local Am Dram theatre is up to.
Dust off the bike
You don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to ride a bike. People of all ages do it. What’s guaranteed is that you will feel like a kid again once you get those pedals moving and you’re whizzing down a dirt track with the wind in your hair and a song in your heart.
Where? If traffic bothers you, head for an exclusive mountain bike zone, like the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve outside Stellenbosch. Best to get your bike fitted with puncture-proof tyres take along drinking water, a snack and your cell phone in case of any mishaps.
To market, to market...
A great way to kick off your weekend is to visit one of the many flea/food markets which seem to have sprung up all over the place. It’s social, it’s fun and you don’t have to spend a cent if you don’t feel like it. But be sure to visit the auto teller for some spare cash and take along a recyclable shopping bag in case the mood takes you.
Where? The Milnerton Market next to the West Coast road in Cape Town is unpretentious and you can find a real bargain if you know what you’re looking for
Sniff, swill and spit
Wine farms have become entertainment hubs in their own right. Many have restaurants, farm shops, outdoor activities like 4x4 routes and hiking trails, picnics, markets and the inevitable wine-tasting (although nowadays you will probably have to pay extra for the tasting). OK, this is a Cape specific activity but one that is so often left to the foreigners to enjoy. So why not play at being an overseas visitor?
Where? Vergelegen in Somerset West with its historic homestead, beautiful gardens and impressive camphor trees is always worth a visit.
Beaches sans bikinis
Nobody needs to avoid the beach because they’re afraid of exposing too much flesh. There are many beaches that are wonderful places for a one-piece swim, a good long walk or a boisterous game of beach cricket. Even the Atlantic seaboard tones down its “beautiful people” vibe in the evenings when ordinary families come out to play at sunset.
Where? Clifton 4th of a warm summer’s evening can be positively festive, especially when the fire dancers put in an appearance. Just remember, though, the no booze rule that applies.
Picnic to the music
Generally limited to the summer months, but extending into autumn, the outdoor concert is a great way to spend a balmy evening in the company of friends. Pack a picnic basket, something cold to drink and blanket to sit on. Usually the entry fee is a nominal amount and you get to hear some really good music at a fraction of the price you would ordinarily pay. Could life be any better?
Where? Kirstenbosch started the tradition which has now been extended to parks and gardens around the country. Check out your local press for listings.
Watch the full moon rise
Like the outdoor concert, the rising of the full moon is another great excuse to head outdoors – often with a short hike as a warm up to the big event. It is a magical, romantic thing to do, so choose your fellow moon walkers carefully.
Where? It all started off with Lion’s Head on the city’s doorstep but now you can also watch the full moon rise at Delvera, near Klapmuts, or the Taal Monument in Paarl, both of which have spectacular views over the winelands.
When? The 10th of December 2011 is full moon and a Saturday night!
Learn to appreciate art
Every town has its art gallery and a clutch of local artists and in some cases there are some real treasures to be found. Next time you see a sign for an art gallery, duck inside and see what’s on offer. If nothing else, it will get you out of the heat of the day.
Where? The Rupert Museum in Stellenbosch charges only R20 for a viewing of its great South African art collection. In Mowbray, Cape Town, you can visit the former home of eccentric folk artist Irma Stern whose painting are now valued in the millions.
Get into the Christmas spirit
Noddy parties, carols by candlelight, a visit from Father Christmas. Yes, it can all get a bit cheesy, but why fight it? The kids will enjoy the magic of a candle lit evening while you croak along to Silent Night. Get into the festive spirit and find a local event to attend, fork out a little bit of money for charity and let the warm glow of goodwill wash over you.
Where? Vergelegen wine estate has a Carols by Candlelight event in aid of the local hospice on 16 December (entry fee R30).
Pop over to the neighbours
OK, so you might not be driving halfway across the country, but there’s nothing stopping you from spending a day in a neighbouring town to see what’s on offer, particularly if it has a lively cultural life. Go online to see what the local tourism information office has to say and then plan a visit to coincide with a local market day or some other event.
Where? Take your pick. Popular tourist towns in the Cape include Franschhoek, Riebeek Kasteel, Greyton and Hermanus.
Take part in a fun run/walk
These are on-going throughout the year and are often a nice little target to set yourself, especially with all the excess food going around at this time of the year.
Where? You could go for a full half marathon, but why not start out with something more modest, like the Community Chest 5km Twilight Run which takes place on 6 December. The idea is to do it as a team and to dress the part.
Take your dog out somewhere different
Dogs also enjoy a change of scenery so instead of heading to your usual dog park, spoil your pooch with a special outing to a dog-friendly beach or a forest.
Where? In summer, there are often rules about when you are allowed to take your dog on the beach but there are also many special events, like the Wine, Dine and Dog Day being held at Nelson’s Creek near Paarl on Sunday 4 December. It’s a fundraiser for the SPCA and you’ll be allowed to walk your dog on laid out routes on the farm. Just remember to take along a plastic bag for scooping the poop.
Learn to paint (or something similar)
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as learning a new skill. If it’s not painting, it could be learning to tango, rock climb or any other activity you might think of.
Where? In Villiersdorp, Dale Elliot offers painting courses for around R880 a day.
Be a lady who lunches
Next to breakfast, splashing out on a fancy lunch is a great way of passing the time of day. Also, you can generally eat at a really classy restaurant at a more affordable price and enjoy the view. Just go easy on the tipple.
Where? Jordan, on the Stellenbosch Kloof Road, offers daily specials for two or three courses with really beautifully presented dishes.
Eat fish & chips next to the sea
Researchers tell us that fish and chips taste better when you can smell the sea. I’m not sure that we needed a scientist to tell us this but there are some good spots to indulge in this greasy pastime.
Where? One of our favourites is Kalkies at Kalk Bay, but there are equally good fish & chip shops in Gordon’s Bay and Hout Bay.
OK, this one does involve leaving your home, but you don’t have to go far and usually a camping outing doesn’t break the bank. Read our January issue for a list of all the best campsites in the country, as voted by our readers.
Where? Close to Cape Town, is Beaverlac in the mountains above Porterville, complete with mountain pools to swim in, and you can take your dog too.
Meet strange animals
This is a bit out there, but about 10km from Villiersdorp there’s a place called Helderstroom Alpacas which is home to those camel-like creatures which, like llamas, come from the high plains of South America. They are famous for delivering a fine wool in a range of natural colours (and for spitting if you get too close). You can visit this farm but look out for their open days which coincide with a local market day.
When? The next open day is on 4 December, from 9 to 3pm (no dogs allowed, so leave Buster at home).
Try out a new form of transport
Let’s face it, public transport has never been our big thing, but we are beginning to catch on. In Joburg, there’s the Gautrain and in Cape Town, the My Citi bus. Or you could play tourist-tourist and hop on the red Citi Hopper bus that does a tour of all Cape Town’s best loved tourist spots from the cableway to Camps Bay. For the more adventurous, you could go on one of the new Segway tours that Spier wine estate is offering. It’s not quite Switzerland, but it’s worth a try.