Visiting the countryside as winter getaway opens one’s eyes to a unique and rewarding experience that is different from the usual warm-summer holidays. I have chosen to elaborate on a small and picturesque town 80km from Cape Town called Riebeek Kasteel.
Firstly, the scenic beauty in the winter is very picturesque and colourful in the Riebeek Valley. There you will find wild flowers, nestled amongst the striking yellow canola fields that transcend the impression of a patchwork tapestry over the lush green surrounding mountains, which are often dusted a hands reach away in snow. If you rise or retire early, nothing beats the colours of the morning sunrise as it greets the day, or the good night sunset from your guesthouse patio and garden.
There is something incredibly special about being a part of this landscape, without the distractions and the bustle of the city lights. Here there is rather the sparkle while stargazing into the clear night sky, and being rewarded by a large and bright full moon which you can track as it moves across a brightly lit sky. With a hot chocolate in hand, or a glass of local wine or two, you cannot ask for more. Then, move indoors to a warm fire and plan what your next day has to offer.
Most of the guesthouses and boutique style accommodation is geared towards making your stay in winter cosy and warm. The locations of the guest houses are important and depend on your expectations. So, if you are looking for the country remote feel amongst the vineyards and nature, yet a few minutes’ walk to the town of Riebeek Kasteel is in your plans, you can definitely have your “cake and eat it”.
Your guest house should be able to provide you with a list of eateries that will impress your needs as well as sites and cultural points to visit. Don’t forget to ask about the freshest, free range and organic produce that is available only a stone throw away from the local farmers. Also request information about where you can explore tasting experiences from local suppliers who pride themselves in anything from olive preserves and jams, to the best free range chicken pies.
I mention these two examples as they are always on my mind as something that I can eat anytime of the day and would miss if I was out of the valley for too long a period of time. I have been fortunate to have travelled and tasted the “foods’ of many parts of the world, and let me not brag, but rather state that what Riebeek Valley has to offer is top of my list.
The Riebeek valley has a mix of cross cultural and interesting combinations of talents and experiences to share. There are families that are the descendants of Malan and Smuts, the two South African ex-Presidents. Then on the other hand, there are the “arty bunch”, from the “Art of food” to literature, to ceramicists and painters and photographers alike with a wealth of international claim, willing to share their stories with you. Speaking of the locals… an example of country life in the winter is the large bags of organic fruit such as juicy naartjies that are sold on every corner for next to nothing, definitely beats any supermarket or deli.
Taking all this to heart, one of the most important parts of the getaway is that it provides a time for bonding, something that we all need to do in times like this. Clear the head, breath and take in nature, as it is a time for rejuvenation. I have no words to describe the after feeling to the relaxation and the positive energy you can take in during your getaway.
For those looking for something more festive and cultured, Riebeek Kasteel is no stranger as a leading curator to events in the valley… keep your eyes and ears peeled in the winter to ensure you book for something that meets your fancy.