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Childhood Nostalgia

One is reminded  to respect history yet think modern to succeed in this day and age, yet I do believe one is allowed to indulge in nostalgia too, when the moment is right. Such was my recent experience along the Stellenbosch Kloof Road, on the hillsides to the west of the town of Stellenbosch, my birthplace. Here you will find ‘Overgaauw’, more than a century old, this fourth generation wine estate owned and developed by the Van Velden family whose ancestors were friends of my late parents. Today, David Van Velden’s youthful energy and passion along with help along the way from distinguished winemaker Chris Joubert and others, combines with the terroir to produce some fine Merlot, Cape-Bordeaux-style blends, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sylvaner and Sauvignon Blanc. The farm has been retained as it was, and not been commercialised.

With the innovation in the wine making, has come a charming addition too, in the form of talented chef Camilla Comins who has established a rustic small restaurant for Saturday and Sunday lunches, with just a few tables, well spaced, and lovely views across the vineyards and Stellenbosch Mountains. Here she serves delicious set menus, using the freshest ingredients, vegetables, free range meat, fruit and herbs and products which remind one what ‘good Sunday lunches’ should be about. Reservations are limited to a set number of diners so service is informed and personal, with a relaxed peaceful atmosphere.

One needs to book in advance, and can easily pass the sign to the restaurant as one heads along this now ‘celebrated’ road to ‘De Morgenzon’ with its beautiful gardens and fine range of wines so artfully labelled, before reaching ‘Jordan’ long time producer of quality wines and their fine dining restaurant.

03 June 2014


Connecting Cultures


British born Cape Town resident Kate Crane Briggs, operates a unique business called ‘Culture Connect SA’ facilitating art experiences, curating events and offering unique tours either on an exclusive basis for local residents and visitors to Cape Town, or other themed tours and events, open to public participation. Additionally with her extensive experience locally and abroad, she is a highly skilled fundraising consultant and mentor. Last month included a tour entitled ‘Superior Interiors’, led by attorney and senior mason John Smith, of the Provincial Grand Lodge (Lodge De Goede Hoop’) including viewing of notable Anton Anreith sculptures, coupled with a tour of the historic Gardens Shul nearby, led by chairman Solly Berger of these stunning interiors. August sees a visit to the memorable exhibition ‘Design & Making’ at The Castle of Good Hope, where the guide will be curatorial contributor and project manager Marjorie Naidoo of Cape Craft & Design Institute, with a chance too of viewing the award winning show ‘Fired’ by Iziko curator Esther Esmyol.

‘Culture Connect SA’ is a welcome addition to the Cape, a reminder of the powerful role of culture in our lives. Kate sees as her vision, that in creating enjoyable and educational cultural experiences, one encourages the support for art and education, help to build appreciation and knowledge of different cultures, often underplayed in South Africa and indeed other parts of the world. There is no doubt that even those who visit this region regularly, will ‘see it in a new light’ by aiding and assisting the cultivation of beneficial relationships and connections.

03 June 2014


Graaf Reinet

Eastern Cape Splendour

I have long wanted to go to Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape, scenically set beneath the Sneeuberg Mountains, conveniently accessed from Port Elizabeth and close to the historic town of Graaff-Reinet. My recent first visit to the reserve provided a unique game-viewing and nature experience, with breathtaking view sites, great sightings of plains game, good birding, beautiful vegetation and with cheetah on the property too.  This, coupled with clear sunny days and pleasantly cool nights, made for a delightful and relaxing few days in this pristine landscape.

The hospitable management and staff take impeccable care of their guests, and our experienced game ranger opened up Mount Camdeboo to us in a very personal way – he was knowledgeable and interesting and we left with many happy memories, longing to return.

The accommodation options are housed in three Cape Dutch styled restored former homes. Camdeboo Manor offers hugely comfortable rooms, with every amenity you could wish for whilst spacious lounge and dining areas, both indoor and outdoor, spill out on to a beautiful garden and magnificent swimming pool. Just four suites in the Manor plus one, in the garden, in a secluded setting ideal for those wanting complete peace and tranquillity. Rates which are remarkably affordable, are fully inclusive of very good dining, local drinks and two open vehicle game drives daily, with the option too of guided bush walks and other activities which for us included a stop on the property at an Anglo Boer War battle site and graves.

For those who prefer to self-cater, Mount Camdeboo offers comfortable, luxurious and exceptionally well designed options for families and friends travelling together.  The charming ‘Hillside Manor’, scenically situated against the mountain with its own swimming pool, excellently appointed kitchen and three en suite bedrooms so ideal for up to six guests. A shady verandah, comfortable lounge and dining areas, and a rate that includes a game drive or walk every day, it exceeded my expectations. Should you have a larger party, ‘Courtyard Manor’ also self-catering with absolutely everything you need will accommodate up to eight guests.

Mount Camdeboo is a rewarding destination and an added plus, is the fact that should one want to overnight in Graaff-Reinet to view its many national monuments, museums and galleries, the legendary Drostdy Hotel there, is being restored and will reopen later this year, and promises to be even more special than before.

04 April 2014



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The Green Karoo


Much is written on the Karoo, but still today many don’t actually realise what this region embraces, in spite of the many books published on South Africa’s heartland. My most recent personal experience was probably my most memorable, certainly in recent years. Sneeuberg Nature Reserve is situated in the Sneeuberg Mountains water catchment area with altitudes that vary between 1550 and 2000 meters above sea level. Here you will find green plains and mountains of spectacular beauty with abundant water. Within easy reach of the historic town of Graaff-Reinet, and close to the village of Nieuw Bethesda, made famous by Helen Martin’s Owl House, much of the reserve used to be farmed by stock farmers. ‘Gordonville’ the farm I was fortunate enough to visit, now forms part of the Compassberg Protected Environment.

This pioneering development is geared to protect environments of specific natural importance and beauty, in partnership with the owners of the land, and protects the land from excessive development, mining and drilling for oil and gas. Here I saw an assortment of indigenous game, enjoyed rewarding birding and marvelled at the sight of some 400 Nguni cattle roaming the entire area. The fortunate thing is that you too can enjoy this thanks to ‘Gordonville’ owners Derk Blaisse and Charlotte Daneel. Their home on the property is named ‘Gordonville’, an impressive Herbert Baker style house, built in 1925 and lovingly and artfully restored.

I stayed in ‘Kliphuis’ a self catering, fully serviced guest lodge, located in the most scenic and tranquil setting.  Kliphuis has been magnificently restored from the ruin it was, into an impeccably equipped and stylishly decorated and furnished option for up to 8 guests. The sheer comfort, thoughtful amenities and everything that has been embraced by the modest yet legendary Charlotte Daneel, must make this one the most desirable hideaways in the country. Happily too, there are other options at Gordonville too – ‘Karoo Cottage’, an old stone cottage which has been renovated to sleep 6 guests, also self catering and a charming option, again equipped with absolutely everything you might need to enjoy your time in the beautiful surrounds. The newest option on offer, is ‘The Poplars’, an old farmhouse, close to ‘Karoo Cottage’ (so that one can combine the two if you have a larger group of family or friends travelling), restored to accommodate up to 10 guests on a self catering basis.

Here you can relax enjoying the many books and magazines that are in each property, whilst mountain trails have been created for 4 x 4 driving, mountain biking and hiking, and horseback riding is an option too. My lasting memory will be sitting beside one of the dams on the property enjoying the beauty of flamingos in flight, in this extraordinary environment. As you might guess, I cannot wait to return!



03 April 2014