I was asked by Die Beeld how I would spend a weekend in my hometown, Wellington. With the help and charming translation by Carla Lewis-Balden, this is what I told them. I include the English version below.
When not globetrotting, describe a perfect weekend in your home town, Wellington.
Friday – Late afternoon.
Just before the sun sets on a working week, I like to take my dogs Tuscan, Sienna and Berlin for a walk on our 10-hectare farm in Wellington, often twice around for good measure as it’s lovely and relaxed out there, reminding of the joys of farm and small-town living. At the bottom of the land, we have a trickle of a river that runs through it, which has become a place for me to pause and reflect while the dogs swim, both ideal activities for bringing closure to a Friday.
08:00 – Where in the area is a great place to start the day.
Somewhat of an institution in Wellington is the Perdeskoon or Horseshoe, a 6km circular route that takes you to the outskirts of town, beyond the urban edge to an area with picturesque smallholdings, vineyards and contours that lay bear the valley’s beauty. A popular place for locals to exercise, there are always many out for a run, walk or cycle, on their own or in groups. It’s social and wholesome and a really good way to start a Saturday, or any day really.
10:00 – Time for breakfast.
The Perfect Place is a Wellington favourite. Situated at the bottom of Church Street opposite the Wellington Museum, here Susan Janse van Rensburg and her team offer lights meals, hearty breakfasts, excellent coffee and home-baked treats. Spread out in a renovated historic house, each room and the wide stoep welcome you to take up a table in between the antiques, gifts and clothing that’s for sale. Warm and always filled to bursting with both regular and out of town patrons, a new addition to their offering is the Stoepstoeries evenings. I always order one of their fresh salads and can rarely resist a slice of their delicious carrot cake.
12:00 – How would you spend an afternoon in the Wellington area.
Horse riding with Katrin Steytler of Fynbos Trails, which operates out of Diemersfontein Wine Estate, is highly recommended. With the right horse to match your riding ability, and outride will take you into the fynbos, past vineyards and enjoy the scenery from the foothills of the Limietberg Mountains.
Alternately, a firm favourite with families is The Stone Kitchen at Dunstone, an owner-managed family bistro offering simple home-cooked dishes to enjoy with their estate wines. A hit is the Stones Burger, although they offer an excellent variety of other dishes too. Off the beaten track and literally along a gravel road in the Bovlei valley, the restaurant has wonderful views of the Hawekwa mountains and a very popular child-friendly snacks menu and play area. In harvest season you can actually enjoy a meal in the cellar while grapes are being pressed, unique in every way.
17:00 – Time for sundowners.
There’s no need for me to leave the farm, this is a time to settle into one of the couches or the hammock on the veranda with a G&T. As craft distillers we have our own artisan gin, manufactured, bottled and labelled under the trees. With the option of our classic, hibiscus infused or fynbos liqueur gin to choose from, I stay true to the tradition of African sundowners, opting for the pink gin on ice with a slice of lime and the tiniest dash of tonic water. Our spirits are all crafted to be enjoyed neat or on ice, and this gives the perfect excuse to steer clear of sweet drinks and focus rather on the juniper and citrus flavours for which our label is known.
19:00 – Best restaurant in the area you would recommend for supper.
It can be hard to leave the house after too many G&T’s and I often prefer to stay in for a quiet home-cooked meal, although there is always room for treat. Val du Charron, a wine estate on the slopes of Groenberg in the Bovlei Valley, has a restaurant called The Local Grill that has established a reputation for the views it offers, as well as the steaks. Described as ‘nirvana for carnivores’, this is the place to get a sense of the Boland, with their selection of cuts, venison, pork and chicken locally sourced to appease the meat lover. I personally don’t eat meat but appreciate their commitment to grain and grass-fed beef.
08:00-10:00 What do you usually do on a lazy Sunday morning.
Sundays are excellent days for hiking in Bains Kloof, which forms part of the Liemietberg Nature Reserve that stretches into the 102 000 ha greater Boland Mountain range. It’s an untouched natural paradise with an impressive mountain pass from which nine clearly marked hiking trails set out to offer varying levels of difficulty, can be accessed. Depending on your interest and group dynamics, you could spend a day out with the family and take a picnic to Tweede Tol or Balgat swimming holes. Alternately, an early start and a couple of hours in the mountains will refuel you. There is no cell phone reception here, making it an off the grid nature experience, something I try to seek out fairly regularly. Important to note that no dogs are allowed and permits are needed for some of the hiking trails.
12:00 Recommendations for lunch in the area.
An absolute treat is the Blacksmith Kitchen in Paarl which has killer pizzas and endless views across the Paarl Valley. A fifth-generation, family-owned farm dating back to the 18th Century, they have perfected the art of the long slow leisurely lunch and you would do well to make no plans for the rest of the day, but rather linger here till they call the last round of their own wine.
I love Wellington because it’s probably the most authentic of all the Cape Winelands towns. Here you find tractors on the streets during harvest time, going to the grocery store should allow enough time to catch up with the neighbours that you’ll inevitably meet and there are families that have farmed their land for 8 or more generations. Rich in history and engulfed by the impressive Hawekwa mountain range, it is the perfect distance from Cape Town to offer the best of easily accessible city and relaxed country living.