SA winter hideaways in the country

Lingering mists, crisp walks, bike rides, log fires, coffee, books and blankets – winter is definitely a good time to leave the city smog and hibernate in the country. Here are a couple of fabulous winter weekend getaways in the Western Cape and Gauteng.

Penhill Farm –Toontjiesrivier

IMG_3240Winters in the Cape tend to offer lashing rain and heavy skies, interspersed with mild blue-sky days, where the countryside washed clean, glows verdant green. Tucked into the beautiful Nuy Valley outside Worcester, with its views of the Riviersonderend and Langeberg mountain ranges, with its whitewashed Cape homesteads and indigenous gardens, Penhill Manor completes this picture of pastoral bliss.

The farm is a great weekend retreat for families, couples or groups of friends. Originally built as a replenishment station, the Penhill manor house and adjacent four cottages are lovingly restored for guests. Early historical elements have been preserved, including “buite-kamer” doors, “stoep kamers”, gables and sash windows. The interiors have been modernized and include wi-fi, air-conditioning and sound systems. A great deal of thought has gone into the mix of old and new in furnishings with natural fabrics and woods defining the space as carriage lamps complementing downlighters, highlight simple objects d’art.  As tempting as it might be, don’t just spend your days lazing on the stoep here. You can choose to go trail running or hiking, ride mountain bikes, play tennis, or relax at the dam. Otherwise, enjoy an olive and wine tasting, then cozy up around a fire with a book or spend the afternoon playing boardgames and toasting marshmallows. And there’s the option of your own private Jacuzzi to ease your aching muscles after all the effort.

Koningsfontein – Stilbaai

k2Overlooking the GouKou river just outside Stilbaai, the cape thatch Koningsfontein homestead blends into a countryside of small farms, fynbos and sheep pastures.

Bring your friends and family because the house sleeps 12. Make use of the private river frontage to kayak, boat. Or simply go fishing. Head downstream, to visit the local fynbos gin distillery. Winters are best spent lazing in front of the fire on one of the deep leather sofas or cooking up a foodie fest in the well-fitted out kitchen.

Bloomsbury Cottage – Stanford

Situated in heart of the charming village of Stanford, Bloomsbury Cottage, with its vintage shabby chic decor offers a treasure trove of quirky collectibles.

IMG_9337Stroll down to the river or through the town, or simply relax on the vine covered veranda.  The house sleeps six and has a gorgeous kitchen, perfect for family meals. And if you don’t feel like cooking there are lovely restaurants and cafes within walking distance of the house.

 

Greens Camp – Dinokeng (Bobbejaansberg Valley)

Only 100km from Johannesburg, Greens Camp is a bushveld retreat that will make you feel as though you’ve been far far away for a very long time, and will rejuvenate you for weeks.

The rolling burnt umber and raw ochre veld, big winter skies, clean air and total stillness, except for the birdsong, will charm you. Enjoy the services of the property caretaker, Amon, who specializes in making bread and biscuits, and will fire up the pizza oven for an al fresco lunch on the patio, or light a fire for a braai as you watch the sun sink red between the Acacias. Otherwise, take a sundowner drive to one of the viewing spots to spot Giraffe, Wildebeest and Zebra from the hilltops. Greens offers colonial meets Africa luxury, with big sofas and lamps for relaxed reading and an open thatch boma with 360 views over the countryside. The perfect weekend chill space for friends to gather and retreat around wine, stories, games and books.

for more information contact Perfect Hideaways: www.perfecthideaways.co.za

Finding Synergy in Scarborough

Synergy Treehouse, a beach house high on the hillside of Scarborough, Cape Town, fuses nature and design perfectly.

IMG_0954Kitesurfers fly over foam-flecked breaks, surfers bob like seals waiting for waves in the storm surf. Hippie houses and contemporary designer homes sit side by side watching from the hillside.

Synergy Treehouse welcomes us in – a glass, wood, stone, inside-out house that wants to play. A waterfall splashes through the house and down into an indigo blue swimming pool, glass steps spiral up from the bedroom into the living area; magically managed downlights, uplights and blinds, switch on and slide back to open the house onto Balau decks. Smeg appliances brew coffee exactly-as-you-like-it. Fires crackle in the bedroom and the lounge, inviting us to enjoy the cold weather in comfort.

Owner Craig, who is passionate about the house he’s created, shares details of solid cypress walls, rain showers, smart house technology, his love of building and his vision for ‘Scandi’ houses designed around living and being.

The beach is cold and invigorating, windswept unspoilt, decorated with kelp, oyster catchers and gulls. The village is quiet, dreamcatchers and driftwood sculptures peer out of hidden gardens and dogs race the wind down the shore.

The house is a warm sanctuary, the glass walls keeping the weather out and inviting the view in. Yellowtail, herbed and buttered sizzles in the fire pit. In the evening, the house and decks glow with subtle lighting, looking out towards an invisible roaring rushing sea. It feels wild and far away.

For more information about Synergy Treehouse in Scarborough or to book, contact Perfect Hideaways www.perfecthideaways.co.za

Relax and replenish at Penhill Farm

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Penhill Farm

On a dirt road, deep into the Nuy Valley, outside Worcester in the Western Cape, lies a farm between the Langeberg Mountains and the open scrub of the Klein Karoo. Once a replenishment station for weary travellers into the hinterland, Penhill Farm has been restored into a luxurious getaway.

The white gabled accommodation includes the Manor, the East and West Granges, the Fruit Barn and Peppertree Cottage, all beautifully renovated and comfortably fitted out with top quality furnishings, technology and appliances.

On hot days, the different houses offer various options of private swimming pools or Jacuzzis for a dip, or the farm dam complete with ducks for the more adventurous.

In winter, the fireplaces are stacked with wood, thick walls and thatch insulate you from the cold. The farm is often misty on cooler mornings, birds thronging in the manicured gardens, and clearing to brilliant blue skies over the Karoo. So sleep in, and emerge with coffee as the sun warms the valley.

Although the houses can be rented separately, the farm sleeps 24 in total, making it a perfect venue for groups.

The Cellars is a wonderful inside-outside living and dining area with a full chef’s kitchen, that can be used for celebratory dinners and group socializing.

Sporty types can choose between hiking, trail running, mountain biking or tennis. Bikes and raquets are supplied. Otherwise, lie back under a tree, read a book and snooze away the afternoon.

Venture down the road, and you can sample Penhill and Conradie wines or visit Saggy Stone Brewery, which offers spring water based craft beer on tap.

Mostly, Penhill is about slowing down, breathing the crisp clean air, indulging in good food, watching the stars and sitting back and relaxing completely with family and friends.

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To find out more contact: Perfect Hideaways www.perfecthideaways.co.za

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Uncovering the secret season in Plett

Overlooking pristine beaches and nature reserves, Plettenberg Bay is the playground of South Africa’s wealthy. It’s also a town of contrasts that has somehow retained a village feel in the face of burgeoning informal settlements and luxury property developments.

Come winter, the town hibernates – boarded up, awaiting the summer migration of upcountry lemmings and international swallows.

It’s the secret green season in the Cape – moody and wet, but with mild weather between the cold fronts. Drive the N2 between Cape Town and Plett and you’ll see a spectacle of wheat and Canola fields, blue cranes, herds and aloes against misty mountains.

But the beaches are deserted, bar intrepid retirees who walk their dogs every day … long invigorating walks.  And the nearby forests are magical –  dripping green and mossy, brackish water rushing over dank earth.

We stayed at Gemini in Plett – a turquoise shuttered, Cape Cod style house right on Robberg Beach, booked through Perfect Hideaways.

Gemini is the perfect holiday house – beautifully designed and decorated, with great entertainment areas, stylish bedrooms and lots of little luxuries – relaxed and welcoming.

The house is well thought through, from the landscaped indigenous garden with its wooden walkways and hidden boma, to the open plan living area and kitchen with its top of the range appliances, it oozes comfort.

We loved the detail, Philippe Starck taps, the enormous Gaggenau stove,  an espresso machine and juicer, a great selection of books, deep comfy sofas and Lloyd Loom chairs.  The owners are clearly travellers and avid collectors, and they’ve shared their collection of beautiful artifacts around the house.

If you can raise yourself off the lounger, the beach is a close walk across the road and down a boardwalk through the beach vegetation, and you’ll have miles of sea and sand to explore. For the more adventurous, there’s a hike on the Robberg Peninsula – the views are worth the effort.

The Plett area has endless entertainment, exercise and foodie options. Try walking or biking Harkerville forest, visiting Natures Valley, taking a boat or canoe up the Keurbooms River, or just relaxing over a long lunch at Bramon wine estate or at the Lookout Deck.

For more info about Gemini contact www.perfecthideaways.co.za. Tel: 021 790 0972, or email: stay@perfecthideaways.co.za

Two Angels in Knysna

The Knysna Festival is around the corner, and for anyone entered into the fun, there is always a mad scramble for accommodation. Last year, as a festival virgin, I entered the 21km run, gathered a motley crew of faithful supporters and planned the pilgrimage.

By a stroke of luck, we found accommodation at the Two Angels (previously Rockery Nook) on Leisure Isle, in full view of the Knysna Heads.

We rented ‘Lovers’ Nook’ cottage,  the ‘Oyster Nook’ studio, and a small loft room upstairs.  The ‘Nooks’ were both stunning – stylishly decorated and very comfortable with en-suites, kitchenettes and incredible views, but the loft room was a tad basic – no frills but fine for overflow accommodation that you could put your kids into.

Best part of our stay? Hard to choose between the incredible sunsets on the lagoon, waking up to the lapping, rushing sounds of the incoming tide, or early swims and lazy bike rides around Leisure Isle.

Best places to eat? If you’ve had enough of relaxed mojito’s and braai’s at the house,  venture out and try champagne and oysters at Sirocco on Thesen Island or breakfast at East Head Café http://www.eastheadcafe.co.za/

And yes, we also ran a race that required us to get up in the middle of the night, queue to catch a thumping taxi into a dark, muddy, freezing forest, just to run all the way back – and it was fabulous fun.

Book accommodation at Two Angels through www.perfecthideaways.co.za. Tel: 021 790 0972, or email: stay@perfecthideaways.co.za