I’m back! I didn’t even tell you I was going but I’m sure you would have guessed. How was your break? Some of you may not have returned yet, and some of you may be back at your desks on Monday – but wherever you are, I hope 2018 brings you more laughter, adventure, friendship, solitude, peace, excitement or whatever you are seeking. Write down what you want from this year, even if you’re not a writer – it’s incredible how verbalising it can actually make it happen.
I had a wonderful holiday, although we travelled around quite a bit – so I wouldn’t exactly call it restful. I actually find being out of routine quite stressful in a different kind of way, and all that socialising is mentally demanding on me – so although it was an amazing trip, I feel like I need a few days to rest and re-centre myself again.
I’ll write more about the Eastern Cape soon, but on our way home we took two days to stop in Oudtshoorn and Prince Albert – and what a treat it was! I highly recommend it if you’re looking to break the journey up on your way anywhere, or just to go on an adventure for a few days.
I was last in Oudtshoorn when I was about 7 or 8, and I clearly remember how amazing the Cango Caves were at the time. And they’re still pretty incredible – the kids were in awe. The whole tourist attraction could do with a spruce up (i.e bathrooms, displays, restaurant etc) , as it looks like it’s seen better days, but the caves themselves and the experience more than make up for it.
We also visited the Cango Wildlife Ranch, not usually something I’d go for, but an acquaintance had raved about it so we put it on our list – and I’m glad we did. Many of the animals in it have been rehabilitated and all are in excellent condition, in beautiful, clean, and spacious surroundings. The kids had the best time seeing snakes, crocodiles, lions, bats, fish, leopards, lemurs, birds and other creatures and observing their behaviour. The interactive exhibits are fun and you get the chance to feed fish and birds, which was a treat for the little ones. This is a tourist attraction all about conservation and education and the guided tours are hugely informative.
We also trawled through antique shops in Oudtshoorn and went out for an amazing meal at The Black Swan . We happened to discover that there was a distillery nearby who made a Black Mountain gin – seeing as this is the same name as our company, we had to visit and buy a few bottles. We haven’t tasted it yet, but it’s been winning some amazing awards (even though it’s only about a year old!), so my next G&T looks very promising.
The next day we had decided to do the Swartberg Pass – wow, what a spectacular experience! It’s one of the most exhilarating, beautiful passes I’ve ever driven on, and there were times when it seemed like we were about half a metre from tumbling down a huge cliff (probably not really though). I can see why it’s considered one of the most dramatic mountain passes in the world. Here’s a picture taken from the Swartberg Hotel’s website, which we were lucky enough to stay at:
Once you’ve driven through the pass, you wind down to the charming village of Prince Albert, which was such a pleasant surprise. The main road is chock full of charming art galleries and restaurants and antique shops, and according to their local paper, there are around 100 different places you can stay in the village! (BnBs, hotels etc).
Friends had stayed at the Swartberg Hotel and I loved the look of it from their website, so we booked a chalet/family room for the night. From the delicious food in their various restaurants (they have a brand new gin bar), to the gorgeous items for sale in their deli, to the beautifully comfortable rooms and old world charm, staying here was a complete treat.
We lazed by the pool (and skipped a session at their gym), and then roamed the streets, buying an antique walking stick at one shop and olive oil and a white hat in another. The kids got homemade ice cream and then we visited Gay’s Guernsey Dairy where we bought some beautiful cheese with cumin, cherry + vanilla drinking yoghurt, and farm fresh meals to enjoy back in Cape Town (the chicken & three cheese lasagna was delish!).
The next day we headed home and I’m now on my fourth load of washing, making copious to-do lists for this year, buying back to school items and eating lots of vegetables. I’ve just been to a Switch class and it feels so good to exercise properly again. It’s going to be an exciting year for us, as we’ve bought a new house! We move in at the end of February, so lots to plan and do before then.
Lastly, big congrats to Thandie Phakati – who has won the Sodastream machine in my latest comp.
Wishing you a gentle start to the year,
P.S. the dude behind me in this pic is wondering what the hell I’m doing, and Ben is petting the shop’s resident basset hound;)