This weekend was pure bliss. I had my Tom, an 18th century Victorian cottage, a claw-foot bath, the sound of the rain, a snaggletooth black cat and a Daniel Kahneman book all to myself.
We retreated into the rural, mountainous splendour of Swellendam and immediately breathed in the slower pace of the sleepy historic town; a welcome relief from the hustle of the Cape Town CBD. I found an entrancing little Edwardian cottage on the web and it didn’t disappoint, charming us with its heavy wooden doors, oak shaded patio, converted 200 year-old stables, quixotic antiques, and intricate pressed ceilings illuminated by elaborate chandeliers.
On Saturday, we spent the day exploring, undeterred by the rain which fell in soft pitter-patters at our feet. We started our wanderings at the Drostdy Museum – a historic collection of buildings housing antique furnishings, Dutch East India memorabilia, a history of slavery and various examples of wagons in differing stages of rusty decay. There was also a very busy pigeon preoccupied with constructing a nest for his fussy lady love. My favourite object was a tiny engraved snuff box, with an accompanying vinaigrette bottle, miniature silver stamp holder and pencil grip.
From there, we meandered up the street in search of lunch, stopping to peruse various shops en-route, including a very tempting but expensive Belgian chocolate boutique. We first popped into the Old Gaol for lunch, but upon finding the service slow to non-existent, we retreated back to La Belle Alliance which sits upon the riverbank under ancient trees. There we indulged in delicious fish and chips and a refreshing beer (or two) before returning to our stroll.
The rest of the day was spent reading our books, admiring the soft, puffy yellow flowers of the ‘belly button fluff’ tree next to the imposing steeple of the church, and tiptoeing down a secret garden path lined with roses and sweet-smelling honeysuckle. Supper that night was a tasty pizza from Fire@10 which also makes a mean malva pudding enhanced by a healthy kick of Kahlua.
Sunday was spent sunbathing on the deck by the pool at Cypress Cottage, although the snaggletooth kitty kept trying to eat my Kindle. Having checked out, we started our road trip back to Cape Town, taking a detour through the mountains to Barrydale. I made Tom stop multiple times as we ascended the Tradouw Mountain Pass – I took lots of photos but none of them did justice to the sheer scale and beauty of the peaks with their creased rock formations and patchwork colours framed by a blue sky and candyfloss clouds.
On the outskirts of Barrydale we found Diesel and Creme, a wonderfully kooky hot spot on Route 62 for bikers and milkshake lovers alike. From the antique toy collection, to the rather strange life-size dummies, dolls and diesel pumps, this is a pit-stop for dreamers, hoarders and collectors of the bizarre. I tucked into a honey and Crunchie milkshake, which came in a massive jar and was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had.
From there, we drifted on to Montagu which I think may just be our next weekend getaway spot of choice. I’m a self-confessed padstal enthusiast, so having encountered four different farm stalls on the main street alone, I was convinced I’d found my mecca. We stopped for crumbed brie and rye bread at the Rambling Rose, accompanied by honey figs and homemade mustard and preserves, and then bought delicious homemade fudge and apricots from Die Kloof Padstal at the end of the street.
Happy, full and now rather sleepy, it was time to continue our journey home. We’ll be back soon though I’m sure.