Schoone Oordt Country House. By the Walkers in Swellendam.

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Schoone Oordt. – We can all be grateful that Richard and Alison Walker took a detour on their way home from Arniston to Cape Town, just over ten years ago.

They’d had this idea about raising their children in the country, and with the news of a first pregnancy fresh upon them, their discovery of a grand old rather run down Victorian lady in Swellendam, couldn’t have been better timed.

Putting hard work and loads of love to their dream, over some years they personally renovated this beautiful property, building it up to what it is today. A home they generously share with guests wanting to spend time in the country, away from the hustle and bustle, in a place that is a destination unto itself – Swellendam.

Four beautiful babies later, Richard’s career in advertising has coerced this special family back to Cape Town, although they remain very involved with their dream child. Alison in particular. With their move, Schoone Oordt is now under the meticulous care and management of Wander and Sonette Bester, a charming effective couple that are putting their personality into the daily detail.

Which brings me to that lucky day I connected with Alison Walker and she invited me to experience Schoone Oordt first hand.

Chasing dates and availably, we finally settled on a weekend and I headed out to immerse myself in an area that I really didn’t know much about. The initial plan had been for me to spend the time there exploring as much as possible. But as the much anticipated date drew near, both Alison and I knew that the focus needed to move towards relax and replenish. Alison’s words. Which is exactly what I needed and how it went, in the most perfect of settings.

From the moment of arrival, everybody that we met touched us with their thoughtfulness and care. Which started with the news that the Honeymoon Suite awaited. Talk about spoiling! The fire in the chiminea was lit, the large four poster king-size bed inviting and the incredible bathroom with claw-footed bath and big round shower, two vanities and enough place to set up home, a good place to start … All I had to do was run the water and add the bath salts from nearby RAIN Africa and the process of rejuvenation had begun ...

By means of introduction there are two standard rooms upstairs, six luxury rooms around the manicured shrubs, fountains and sweet smelling roses, as well as a gorgeous family cottage out back. Then the Honeymoon suite that I was well settling into. Each has it’s own patio, minibar, tea/coffee facility, satellite TV and dvd player. Handmade linen, goose-down duvets, pure wool carpets, open hearth and under-floor heating as well as heated towel rails in the bathrooms to add to the luxury. A style that matches the Victorian feel of the Manor House, yet encourages you to kick off your shoes and make yourself at home.

The main Manor house offers a lounge and bar area, reception and comfy couches for reading and relaxing next to an open hearth. There are also albums which take you through the renovation process and really offer an appreciation for all they’ve achieved.

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The brookielace front to the Victorian princess that is Schoone Oordt. 

Meals are enjoyed in the custom built Conservatory Restaurant with true Schoone Oordt flair. As Chef Wander’s says, unpretentious food that is made with love. You couldn’t ask for more. The daily menu changes as influenced by the produce he is able to source from small local suppliers, with special emphasis on organically and ethically grown goods. They pick fresh herbs and vegetables from their own garden, and frequent local markets to bring emphasis to country fair. It’s lovely and the flavours offer the intensity of real food. 

As somebody who opts for the vegetarian option, I was pleased by the choice and interesting dishes on offer. Which is unusual. A variety of roasted veggies with a sprinkling of cous cous is what I opted for, delicious!

All this as I chatted with Fidni who looked after me during my stay the loveliest man who has mastered that perfect balance between care and space in his attentive service.

In the background the rich African influence of Oliver Mtukudzi’s voice filtered through the room. A man who’s music I have now included in my collective. Soul and a sense of belonging to this continent, from the Zimbabwean born master.

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The view from the dining room with the windows opened.

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For breakfast I had everything! Freshly squeezed orange juice, homemade muesli, cheese and preserved figs, a cinnamon pancake filled with spiced fruit – and a capuccino. Heaven! 

Here’s another thing. On the first night there I posted a pic on Instagram of the fireplace saying how happy I was, how welcomed I felt. That I wished I had marshmallows to complete the mood. On night two when I got to my room after dinner, there on a silver tray next to the lit fire with a pile of marshmallows roasting.

It’s in that considerate magic! Thank you.

On the second night of our stay Alison had made a dinner reservation down the road at the renowned La Sosta Restaurant that she rightly said we HAD to try! Opting for the tasting menus, we were thrilled by the flavours and delighted by the presentation as Gianni talked us through the courses that Cristiana was preparing in the kitchen. All served in an intimate dining room, one that seats no more than about 20 lucky people.

Very proud to announce that La Sosta won the Eat Out 2014 Best Italian Restaurant. Completely understand why. Their offerings could turn me into a foodie.

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Large swimming pool adding blue to the rolling green lawns. Good spot to relax, swimming or not!

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‘Schoone Oordt was created with a vision for entertaining. This is truly an extraordinary venue for an exclusive occasion filled with laughter and love… Contact them for more details on events or weddings.’

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Do have a look at the wonderful Romancing Swellendam Special for the perfect Romantic Breakaway.  Above, the Honeymoon Suite.

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Details, art, cushion covers, colours.

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The Chef’s veggie and herb garden.

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Flowering air plants in the trees.

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And no pup shall go uncuddled … Meet Shadow, who adds a welcome lick and nudge to the perfection that is Schoone Oordt.

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After a couple of nights of deep sleep on that gorgeous bed, deeper baths in sweet smelling aromatic oils, naps, beautiful food and walks in town and the nearby Bontebok Reserve, I was indeed relaxed and replenished. Like new.

Sometimes all your soul needs is to take the advise of somebody who knows, in this case, the wonderful Alison Walker and her Schoone Oordt team.

Connect with Schoone Oordt on Facebook and follow them on Twitter and Instagram. This team is an example of how to use social media to engage and draw in an audience. And leave them wanting! So when that happens, bookings can be made by mailing: info@schooneoordt.co.za.

Here’s a list of things to do in Swellendam whilst you’re visiting. Best part about the location is that you can walk almost everywhere from home base.

Note: Some of the attractions and shops are closed on a Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Make sure that you ask for advise as to which order you should visit them in, so as not to be disappointed.

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The Walker Family. (Pic off the SO website)

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Wander and Sonette Bester with the team. (Pic off the SO website)

Thank you again for the kind invitation to experience a weekend in your lovely country home, I cherished every moment and cannot recommend it enough. I hope to return.

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Dawn Jorgensen is The Incidental Tourist

The Incidental Tourist is a Personal Travel Blog of a conscious traveller with a deep love for Africa, its people and the environment.

Here I bring you narratives, stories, video and photographs from my travels around the globe, including accounts of gorilla trekking in Uganda, tree planting in Zambia and turtle rescue in Kenya, accommodation and restaurant reviews, as well as details of the conservation efforts that I support.

A self proclaimed earth advocate and beauty seeker, I invite you to join me here and share in my love of sustainable travel.

Dawn Jorgensen
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