I have a slight confession to make.
I'm a digital travel editor, but I'm terrible with directions, in-destination that is. While I can close my eyes and visualise the map of SA and its nine provinces in psychedelic splendour and nothing gets me salivating quite like a capitals or flags of the world quiz - when in unfamiliar destinations, I pretty much suck at knowing my whereabouts.
In Joburg, I almost always miss that roundabout N4 turn to Pretoria East. On the island of Reunion, which literally has one circular road running around it, my left and right were of absolutely no use to me. And while I visit the winelands sporadically, many of the towns and farms meld into a blurred area for me - and no wine-tasting has nothing to do with it.
I blame Table Mountain and Google Maps. If my phone dies on me during a road trip, I’m a sitting duck, which is why I never go anywhere without my car charger or power bank.
Once upon a winelands trip, inhaling deeply I said, “Ah, I love the sweet-smelling air of Franschhoek!”
Travel companion, “Uhmm, you’re actually in Simondium.”
Me,”Ah, Simondium, yes of course!?!”
Next winelands visit, once again, inhaling deeply, “What bliss, how beautiful is Simondium in autumn.”
Different travel companion, “Actually, dear this is Paarl.”
Continues to inhale deeply and makes yet another note to self - SA dorpies and winelands towns are sometimes short on any recognisable skylines, if people make more of an impression than the landmarks that’s quite okay.
So, if you haven’t had the opportunity to ingrain the borderlines of the winelands into your head, no matter – I strongly suggest losing yourself in this beautiful part of SA, starting with a Paarl mini-escape.
Where to Stay: Cascade Country Manor
Owned by Maika & Volker Goetze, Cascades Country Manor is a beautiful boutique hotel set along the Limietberg Nature Reserve. There is a 2km gravel road leading up to this spot, that might have you wondering where on earth you’re headed, even with the comforting map alerts playing in the background telling you to proceed 500m before turning left. Also, the dusty scent of the surrounding forest helps you to relax into getting out of the city. And once inside the hotel you feel like you’ve stepped into an enchanted forest, complete with its own waterfall.
Guests can enjoy short nature walks, they’ve even put together a sensory walk, which I tried but found it to be more aesthetically appealing and practically quite eina. Perhaps that is the point, to just let go and feel the natural earth under your feet.
They’re keenly focused on healthy living, with wellness packages offering spa detox treatments, meals healthy prepared by a professional dietician Mariza van Zyl, as well as wellness talks, adventure walks as well as olive oil tasting - the dry humour of owner, Volkner makes this quite a treat.
Cascade Manor, while only having one family room, is well-suited to bringing your little ones along. There is a beautiful garden with a kids play area and swimming pool – that calls you to pull up a lounger and dive into a good book as the kids splash about. Teens or those with a serious adventure bone as part of their DNA will dare to attempt the custom built MTB route through the forest.
They’re celebrating their 10th anniversary and often run seasonal specials – contact them directly to find out more.
Estimated pricing: From R2 300 per Room (two people sharing a double or Twin Room).
Contact: Cascades country manor
Tel: +27 (0)21 868 0227
Explore Paarl: Things to see, do and taste:
Lunch at Noble Hills Wine farm
Set along the Simonsberg Mountains is run by a delightful American family. Mother Kathleen Tillerey and son Kristopher (with a K too) were on hand to give us a tasting of their hearty, Cosecha, (co-say-cha) menu – click here to view. The name is Spanish for "harvest", reflecting its location next to the harvest area where the estates grapes are sorted and crushed. The family hails from San Diego and draws on the strong Latin-infused cultures of neighbouring Mexico.
Guacamole is made fresh at your table and is served with warm, delicious homemade tortilla chips. Some of the favourites we tasted included Fish tacos, made of Beer-battered Kingklip, cabbage slaw, & citrus salsa tortillas as well as the Lamb barbacoa, with each bite hinting at the slow-cooked goodness of this dish, served with green rice & jalapeño salsa.
A taste of their wines, produced under the motto, “pride in provenance, humility in craftsmanship”, is worth the time and effort too. I particularly enjoyed the Noble Hills blend priced at R160. There is a special key motive for each of the wine viticultures, representing the bunch of antique keys handed over when the family purchased the estate in 2008. It adds a nice touch, do check it out.
- Nobile Hills
Wine room tasting open daily: from 10:00 until 17:00
Horse-riding with Wine valley trails - Michelle Mazurkiewicz
While each of us may or may not have a spirit animal we connect with, horses tend to be animals that are good for the human spirit, as owner Michelle Mazurkiewicz put it.
Situated on Rhebokskloof Wine Estate, these guys are just about the best in town with over 200 horse, 79 onsite at Rhebokskloof and supplying horse for SA’s film industry. Don’t be surprised if as you head out and Michelle jumps up on her horse and does a few stunt antics, that’s just her business. She’s been in the industry since 1990
I connected with my horse in quite real way – before heading off, we were given strict instruction not to let them eat as they’ll want to do it throughout the trail. Me, being the city-slicker that I am, I decided I needed to Instagram the monumental barn dating back to the early 1800s. As a result Debonair, my capricious horse took full advantage, and ended up doing so all along the trail, even though it had been fed breakfast.
But in a way it touched a chord. Painful to admit, but I often let me kids do as they please while updating social media for work or whatnot – this is not a precedent to set. We can never give enough of ourselves into the here and now, especially when it comes to our families. Switch-off and connect, if not, who is to say how it will be further down the trail of life.
But beyond the philosophical, these guys offer a good party in the form of the Wellies Wagon experience too – minimum of 10 people required – although they’ve done as many as 14 wagons together in one group, I'm told. Wine-tastings all done on board.
- Horse Trails SA
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