Portfolio's custom publishing architect, Heather, finishes off a fun-filled family road trip with camera-ready views at the aptly named Karoo View Cottages.
Nieu Bethesda to Prince Albert
Roadtrips develop their own momentum and the urge to move is strong. We were onto our last leg. I had chatted to Julie at Karoo View Cottages en-route and she advised that we should not miss Meiringspoort with its awesome rock formations and waterfall on our way. Meiringspoort did not disappoint - hard to imagine ox-wagons cutting through the pass. The waterfall was not at full flow, but at least there was water! Driving into Prince Albert is like arriving in a fictional town - the fields are immaculately laid-out, the vines perfectly trellised and the buildings picture-perfect. The town itself has been brought to life with symphathetic renovations - sympathetically recognising the town's history. Boutique guest houses, chic restaurants and specialist shops make this a place to linger in.
Eager to drop the bags and explore, we headed to Karoo View Cottages, perched on a hill at the edge of town. Now, I am a sucker for farm gates - weird, I know. I love the fact that you have to jump out of your car to open them. They suggest the beginning of something good. Karoo View's farm gate goes a step further, it is on tracks and it slides open. I was thrilled!! Richard, Karoo View's owner, laughed at me when we checked in, I was clearly so excited. Actually, I could easily have saved my excitement for seeing the cottages. They are just so perfect.
You may not believe me when I say that Richard and Julie have thought of everything - but they have. Outside there is latte shade over the car parking, a hose to wash off the dust, a boma with splash pool and braai, already set up - only needing a match - lanterns with lamp oil, a quaint basin, chairs...in short, everything. They have even created breakway braai areas in case the boma is occupied by another guest.
Inside the cottages is no different - a properly equipped kitchen with ground coffee and fresh milk from the local dairy in the fridge. Jars of breakfast cereal (homemade museli) and rusks would hit the spot in the morning. The beds are beautifully made up, the furniture comfortable and practical and the bathroom has a surplus of towels - not as common a fact as you'd think! But it has to be the view that gives the cottages their name that is the icing on the cake. Tea on the verandah and the golden Swartberg Mountains in the distance. I could have sat there forever.
My kids had other plans for me though. We were booked onto the Ghost Walk with the Story Weaver, Ailsa Tudhope. We met at the Fransie Pienaar Museum, winner of the 2017 Best Museum in the Western Cape. Ailsa, dressed in a black cape, swept down the road towards us. It would not be exaggerating to say that from her first story, she swept us away. The walk took us through Prince Albert from dusk to darkness. A stop in the graveyard, the story of Charlie's house and the mystery of the bright light in the distance had us hanging on every word.
The art-deco Showroom Theatre was all lit up, awaiting the arrival of the star attraction for the night – Elvis Blue! I would go on the Ghost Walk again tomorrow and I am certain that Ailsa would not need to repeat a story. The rich history of this town is brought alive. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Slightly chilled from the night air, we popped into the Swartberg Arms for dinner, but we were spoilt for choice - there were at least 5 other restaurants we could have chosen. The Swartberg Arms had a huge log fire which sealed the deal. Dinner done, we happily headed to the cottages. The night sky was in touching distance and the silence of the Karoo echoed.
After a warm and very comfortable night, we decided to head off to the local market that Richard had suggested. We sampled curry jaffles, olives, pancakes as light as feathers and steaming hot chocolate. We bought olives by the jar, beaded windmills and some unusual jams. Suitable stocked, we popped into the museum to see Hansie Pienaar's teeth...it's a long story. I suggest you go there and find out for yourself.