Ah, the joys of having my husband back to myself! After months of keeping myself busy, weekend after weekend, I can now finally enjoy some quality time my darling husband. We were both keen to capitalize on some time together – outside of Jo’burg – so we booked two local weekend getaways during June; the first being in the KZN Midlands.
The Midlands is one of my favourite places to visit in South Africa – we got engaged here nearly five (five!!) years ago so the area holds fond memories for us. Moreover, it is easily reachable from Jo’burg (budget for 5 hours to get there, including stops and traffic) with a distinct, romantic country-air that pairs excellently with burning fire places and red wine – in other words: the perfect winter getaway!
Instead of merely recounting what we got up to that weekend, I have put together a mini guide to the area to give a better sense of what to expect in this beautiful part of our country:
There are many a quaint guest house around these parts – and some at very reasonable rates – but I cannot recommend Hartford House enough! This beautiful old farmstead is located just beyond Mooi River, and is actually home to a massive stud farm (Summerhill Stud), with the hotel located towards the back of the property.
We booked one of the garden suites for the weekend, complete with a small lounge and wood-burning fire place. Although I typically prefer modern hotel rooms, the room was so beautifully decorated and welcoming, I quite easily slipped into relaxation mode from the minute I stepped into the suite.
The grounds around Hartford House are absolutely gorgeous; large, rolling hills shrouded by mist in the early mornings. On the Sunday morning we took a walk around part of the estate and were greeted by some breathtaking views and clean, crisp air.
What sticks out most in my mind about the weekend was the sense of hospitality in everything we experienced; we asked for our fire in the bedroom to be lit (after struggling to get it going ourselves) – we returned to crackling fire, we were late for our check-in – the manager, Emma, kindly arranged a small dinner for us to be ready upon our arrival (despite the 7.30pm seating time), the fact that not one bill needed to be signed as the restaurant staff knew exactly which room we stayed in…
It was an absolute delight of a hotel – and definitely one of the best hotels I have experienced not only in SA, but anywhere I have travelled in the world, complete with an incredible breakfast spread.
Even if you make the (unwise) decision to not stay at Hartford House, then you have to make a reservation for dinner, or lunch. As mentioned above, on Friday evening we were lucky enough to sample three of the courses for that evening’s meal, and based on that we decided to give the five course wine and food paring a go on Saturday evening.
It was an unbelievable experience! As my husband put it – one almost can’t believe the quality of the food produced from a small hotel in a small town in South Africa. Each evening the chef does a presentation of the courses, informing guests of the origin of each product used in the dish. It is about seasonal produce, local producers and the smaller suppliers, with a new menu every night. I am not sure if the photos of the courses will do enough justice to that meal – one needs to experience it!
The Midlands Meander was established as an artisanal route in the countryside, which has now grown to include not only the founding artists, potters and weavers but also a variety of restaurants and activities embracing the farming nature of the area.
A colleague of Sean’s recommended Terobodore Coffee Roasters for the ‘best cappuccino’ he had tasted. So off we drove to Curry’s Post for a cup of coffee… Thankfully, we managed to get a spot on the couch and sat back to a seriously delicious coffee. To our delight, we also picked up some coffee beans for our machine at home – taking one of each of the seven beans varietals to try. So far we are loving the dark roast of the Great Dane!
As we made our way back along the route that afternoon, I remembered the delicious beer tasting we had done years ago at Rawdon’s Hotel and pulled into Bierfassel for a craft beer. The Nottingham Brewing company has been making delicious craft beer for years (before the word craft beer was even mainstream) so if you are beer-mad it is definitely worth the stop. Even for a non-beer drinker like me, my cold (cherry) beer was the perfect accompaniment to the lazy winter sun.
Last year, Sean and I drove down to Zimbali to escape the Highveld winter for a weekend, taking in the scenic route through the Midlands. After lunch, as we headed back onto the N3, we spotted the Nelson Mandela Capture Site, just outside of Howick. In this not-very descriptive country road, Mandela was captured in 1962, and in honour of this fact, a sculpture has been erected on one the farms along the road.
The sculpture is impressive, to say the least. What looks like a gathering of long sticks, is actually 50 steel columns which recreates a portrait of Mandela’s face. As one approaches the sculpture along the path (representing a ‘long to walk to freedom’) the portrait comes into view. There is also a temporary exhibition at the site, depicting the life of our greatest Statesman.
As South Africans, we perhaps undervalue our own history (I’m almost certain more of us have been to the Lourve than the Apartheid museum), so a visit to the capture site is something you should do. And even if it is a “should do” it’s a great thing to do!
After a somewhat busy week at Spruce HQ (check out our feature on Inspired Living SA), from both us, Happy Weekend!
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