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A weekend away in McGregor

July 31, 2017

Nestled in the Langeberg Valley is the quaint McGregor Village. Thanks to McGregor Country Getaways and the #ECMeetup I won a weekend away for 6 people. I ended up taking my family, my brother’s in-laws, and as McGregor is a 2-hour drive from Cape Town, I invited one of my best friends who resides in the Mother City. We ended up being 8 people going for the weekend, so my brother and his wife booked a place across the road from the cottage where the rest of us were staying.

The road to McGregor

The trip from Port Elizabeth to McGregor is roughly 6 hours. Which for me felt like a life time. The last time I travelled to the Western Cape by road was in 2011. The trip would have been quicker, but we had leisurely breaks at Storms River and Mossel Bay. Then, of course, there’s the GPS. Sometimes I think these things are traps. My dad’s one is always taking him via dodgy or rural backroads. And on this trip, it lived up to its reputation and took us on a 19km gravel road. That alone took us an hour. Once in the village, we learned that it would have been quicker and more vehicle friend to travel to the village via Robertson.

Francolin Cottage

It was early evening when we arrived in McGregor, so we all got settled in. We stayed in Francolin Cottage, which consisted of the main house and a flat. The cottage accommodates 6 people in total. The cottage had a very homely feel to it and there were a lot of small touches that made staying in the facility enjoyable. Firstly, we arrived to find preheated rooms and beds (they had electric blankets. In other news I’ve been looking the prices of them, they are the bomb). Being in the middle of winter, and in a valley, the village can get really cold, I’ve been told. But in my opinion, it was not as cold as I expected it to be.

Another nice touch was a welcome bottle of wine and that the cottage has filter coffee. Yes, proper decent coffee! Not those Ricoffy sachets most other places have.

Another unique touch was that the cottage does not have a TV or radio. And to be honest it was a great thing. This forces visitors to either A) Talk to one another or B) Explore the village. There are though a number of games in the cottage to encourage interaction. However, there was some big rugby match on the Saturday afternoon, but there is a pub a few houses down from where we stayed. It’s so quiet though, that it would be easy to miss that it was a pub. In any case, most of us went down to the pub. My family went to watch the rugby at the pub and enjoyed themselves.

Karoux

On Friday night, after we settled in and chatted for a bit, we went out to eat at Karoux restaurant. Karoux is owned and run by Ryan and Aimee Josten. Their menu is written on a black board, as it changes regularly (I think weekly, if not daily) and it is dependant on the fresh produce that they find.

The highlight of the meal for me was the salted bread that was put on the table. OMW, I think I had three pieces.  I’m not a salt lover. I cook without salt and can easily eat meals without it. But that salted bread, I loved it.

I find the restaurant to be a mix of artisanal and fine dining. I had springbok loin with pampoen tert, baby spinach, sherry and porcini sauce. The chef serves the springbok rare, but it can be well done on request. I’ve never had springbok before or eaten rare meat ( I prefer medium or medium rare depending on where I’m eating), but I thought. When in McGregor, do as the McGregorians do. The meat was very soft and tasty, but I think in future I’d stick to meat that’s done medium. I really enjoyed the pampoen tert as well. My mom had the pan roasted sea bass, ginger pickled calamari, rice noodle, Thai red curry and coconut cream broth and I tried a bit of it as well. It was also really enjoyable, and the red curry gave it a bit of a kick.

Saturday Morning Market

Nearly everyone told us that the Saturday Market is small and short and over in an hour. The market takes place at the church on Church street. It starts at 9 and it is said to only last an hour. We were running late but fortunately got there around 09:20 before everything was sold out. There aren’t many stalls, but if I remember correctly no two stalls sold the same items. We picked up some lovely finds, including a litre of olive oil for a mere R60! I picked up some herbs, treats for Bishop, olive oil and a book.

Walk down the roads of McGregor Village

After visiting the market, we walked down the main road (nearly everything is in walking distance). We popped into some of the shops on the road. We went into a shop that sold jewellery and stones, a gift shop and a few wine shops.

While walking through the town, we also stopped at Bemind, a boutique wine cellar, where we had an impromptu wine tasting. But hey, you can’t go to wine country and not taste wine. I bought a bottle of their Sauvignon Blanc. We also stopped at Rhebokskraal Olive Estate’s shop in the town. They have a variety of olive products and they offer olive and juice tastings. I picked up a delicious smokey olive pate.

Viljoensdrift River Boat Trip and Wine tasting

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to walk through the entire town, as we needed to get to Viljoensdrift Estate for a river boat trip and wine tasting. The estate is on the Robertsons wine route and is 20 to 30-minute drive from McGregor.

We tasted some of their wines and I bought a bottle of their rosé Muskapino (a muskadel and pinotage blend) to enjoy on the boat trip. The estate also has a deli where you can purchase a bunch of snacks to eat while on the ride. The 50-minute trip took us up and down the calm waters of the Breede river.

After, the trip most of us went to the pub to watch rugby. I only stayed 15 minutes, because I’m not a fan of most sports. We then prepared a braai for supper.

The trip was way too short. I wish we had more time to explore the village and surrounds. I really wanted to go on one of the hikes, but no one else was keen. I’ll do a haul post with all of the goods that I bought in McGregor soon.

Overall, we had a lovely time and hopefully, I will see McGregor soon again.

Travel

Affordable accommodation in East London

January 17, 2017
affordable accommodation in East London

I’ve only been to East London a few times and haven’t really thought much of visiting the area even though I’ve never gone deep into the city before. A few days ago, I had an impromptu visit to East London and realised how big the city actually is. I was in awe at the size of the Buffalo river as we drove over it. There are also a number of buildings in the city with beautiful Victorian architecture. Due to a family member getting married in the city, I’ve had to search for affordable accommodation in East London. Everyone who travels knows that accommodation can easily be one of the most expensive parts of travelling, which is why it’s important to look for inexpensive options.

Tips on finding affordable accommodation in East London

Compare prices online

Check out AccommoDirect and take advantage of their different filters. The site allows you to narrow down your budget. The site also has a nifty “Must Have” feature, which allows you to only filter in facilities that have the services and add-ons that you want. This helps keep costs low, as you’ll only be paying for what you want and need.

AccommoDirect also allows users to filter which type of facility they’d like to stay in. From hostels to hotels, bed and breakfasts to self-catering, this site has it all. They have over 50 listings in East London, which can be seen here, and a number of them have been rated and reviewed by users. You’d be able to select a facility that meets your comfort standard and your budget.

Choose self-catering

Choosing a self-catering facility keeps costs low. You pay less for the accommodation and it’s much cheaper to make your own meals. If you don’t have the time or willpower to make your own meals, chat to some locals, they’ll be able to direct you to delicious and affordable eateries.

Choose your season carefully

In most cities, most if not all accommodation facilities rates are based on the seasons. East London is pretty busy during summer and the festive season, so expect to pay premium prices during these periods. Visit the city from mid-‘s February and March when the weather is generally still quite good as it’s before winter sets in. You’re sure to find some good deals and still be able to enjoy good weather but without high prices or the crowds.

More about AccommoDirect

AccomoDirect can help you find affordable accommodation in East London that will fit your budget and your comfort needs. They have over 50 listings in various areas in the city. The site is one of South Africa’s largest accommodation portals and has over 20 000 accommodation listings across 2 000 destinations and has 10 000 reviews on it. Browse through their easy to navigate the site to find accommodation for your next trip.

Click here to find out more about AccommoDirect’s listings in East London.

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by AccommoDirect. All of the views expressed in this post are my own.
Featured image: by BfluffOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link; Queens Park By BfluffOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Travel

Fun activities and accommodation in Port Alfred

January 10, 2017
Accommodation in Port Alfred

Like many people, I really want to travel abroad. I’ve been toying with the idea of visiting Thailand for my birthday in March, but I’ve decided against it. For me, it’s not so much due to cost, but due to opportunity cost. So I’ve decided to keep my birthday travels local. I haven’t yet decided where I want to go, but I do know that I want it to be a road trip. As much as I love the ease and convenience of flying, there are a lot of small town gems that I’m missing out on. I’ve begun looking around at places and one of the places that I’m considering is Port Alfred. My brother lived in the town for a while, but I haven’t been there since he left. This is why I’m looking into fun activities and accommodation in Port Alfred for a trip away.

Port Alfred is a coastal town, which is about an hour and a half’s drive from Port Elizabeth. I like to think of it as a holiday town. It has great weather and a lot of activities for holidaymakers. Whether your idea of a fun holiday is action packed with water sports or lying on a beach with a good book, this town caters for individual and family getaways.

There is a wide range of options for accommodation in Port Alfred.  This town boasts accommodation in the form of guest houses, backpackers self-catering, guest farms and game lodges. All of these options and more can be found on the AccommoDirect website, which has over 20 listings in Port Alfred.

Looking for accommodation in Port Alfred

It is a small town, so distance is not a big issue when looking for accommodation in Port Alfred.  From my time in the town, I experienced that it never takes more than 10 minutes to get from one point to another. So there’s no need to stay in a central location. Staying nearby the beach or the river mouth would be the best bet for me.

AccommoDirect lists a number of options that suits every budget. If you’re looking for a luxurious getaway, a resort or hotel on the beach or river bank is a must. Waking up to the waves breaking is amazing. There are however, more affordable options for individuals on a budget. The site also makes it easy to book, due to the instant confirmation feature.

Port Alfred Canal

Activities in Port Alfred

As a holiday town, Port Alfred has many fun activities. The town has great weather for most of the year and idyllic beaches.

Canoeing on the river

The Kowie River runs through the centre of the town. There’s a canoe trail that can be done, but if you’re not keen on an adventure you can leisurely float on the river.

River Cruise

If canoeing seems like too much exercise, there’s always option of going on one of the river cruises. This seems a bit more like in my line, especially considering that I threw away every swimsuit I own (I need to get new ones).

Sandboarding

I’ve never been sandboarding before and there are a number of beaches in Port Alfred where you can try it out.

AccommoDirect makes booking your accommodation in Port Alfred so easy, you’ll have more time to focus on having fun.

Click here to find out more about AccommoDirect.

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by AccommoDirect. All of the views expressed in this post are my own. Photographs are attributed to their respective owners.

Featured image: A3albOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link; Port Alfred Canals by NJR ZAOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Travel

A day in Franschhoek with Vintage Local Tours

May 4, 2015
Franshoek Valley, Western Cape, South Africa What happens in Franshoek

On Saturday 28 March 2015, during my short vacation in Cape Town  I went on a one day wine tour with Vintage Local Tours. The start up is based in Cape Town, and it focuses on providing affordable wine tours to the surrounding areas.

The trip started early, if my memory serves me correct, at 7 and ended probably around 3. I could be wrong about what time it ended, it was a wine tour after all. The tour included a trip to 3 farms, a buffet brunch, wine tasting and chocolate tasting.

Departure

The tour bus departed from Vanguard Estate. This is where most of the people boarded and then we headed onto Stellenbosch, where the rest of the day trippers were picked up. We were a fun mix people, all South African but from different parts of the country. Once everyone was on board, we road through some parts of Stellies, while the conductor and owner of Vintage Local Tours, Wynoma Michaels, explained the history of the town and various buildings. We then headed onto Franschhoek, where we first done some sightseeing and took some photographs. We were then taken to the Organic Market, which was held in the grounds of a church.

Market and Breakfast

The market was small, but enjoyable as no two stalls were the same. Nearly everything on sale was either handmade, organic or artisanal. Once everyone was done shopping, we headed to the Protea Hotel for a buffet  breakfast. As a food lover, I love anything with a buffet breakfast. Buffet breakfasts beat buffet lunches and dinners any day.

After eating, everybody loosened up and we headed headed to quaint wine shop (I forgot its name). The shop had a cellar which contained bottles that probably haven’t been dusted in touched in the last 300 years. It also had a number of interesting wine memorabilia.

Chocolate tasting

We then headed to Huguenot Chocolates to do some chocolate tasting and of course I couldn’t whip my card out fast enough to purchase one of nearly every chocolate on display. I will shamelessly admit that once I returned to PE, I ate every single one of them by myself. Those 2kgs I picked up, yes I’m blaming these chocolates deliciousness for every single gram I gained. Once the chocoholics in the group finished cleaning out the shop, we headed over to our first farm, the world renown, La Motte. On La Motte, we learnt about the history of the farm, its owners and view the museum, which houses artwork by JH Pienaar and other contemporary artwork.

The Franschhoek Motor Museum

Once we where done on La Motte, we went to L’Ormarins, which houses the Franschhoek Motor Museum. Despite not having much of an interest in cars, I took photographs of nearly every vehicle on display, cause most of them were stunning. By this time, a lot of us were getting anxious to get to the farm where we’ll be doing our wine tasting. We’ve done a lot of walking. The day was blazing hot and we were thirsty for something other than the water and snacks were were given on the trip so far.

Franshoek Motor Museum Vintage Cars Franshoek Motor Museum Shelby

Solms Delta Wine Estate

After trotting through the motor museum, we headed to the event that everyone was looking forward to, the wine tasting at Solms Delta Wine Estate. When we got there, we first visited their museum, which displayed the history of the people in the Franschhoek area. The wine tasting was held on the porch of the restaurant.We also had some sweet and savoury treats to pair with the wines.

The wine tasting was hosted by Leon and he was a hoot and a half. We were howling in laughter with the endless jokes he made.  I think we tasted all their wines they had on offer and nobody went home with less than 2 bottles of wine. Some of us bought 11 bottles of wine, others 5, but hey no judgement. They had a special with their Rose, Chenin Blanc and Shiraz in a kit. I picked up a kit, a bottle of Amalie and a bottle of Perry for a friend. I didn’t pick up a bottle of the wine that I thought tasted the best, a shiraz called Africana. Unfortunately, Africana was also the most expensive wine they had on offer. I told myself I will try and find a bottle some other time when I’m back in PE.

Looking back, tipsy Odette was not the brightest. I should have probably just bought Africana instead of the kit or Amalie, because if I can find it in PE, I’m going to pay a lot more for it that what I would have at the farm. Actually I should I have taken all of the wines I wanted, which was basically everything with the exception of one.

I had a great time on the tour and at R320 per person, it was definitely value for money. No two tours are the same, so if the opportunity arises I will go on another one again. For more info about Vintage Local Tours, check out their Facebook page. Excuse the terrible pics. I managed to forget to take my camera the morning of the tour.

Accommodation in Franschhoek

Franschhoek has so many things to do, great food to taste and wine farms to visit. This tour makes me want to visit the area again. I yearn to relax under an oak tree providing shade over the cobbled stone floor of a restaurant on a wine farm. AccommoDirect.com has over 70 accommodation listings in and around Franschhoek. The listings contain a number of luxurious living options. There are also budget options, but it’s Franschhoek and as the saying goes “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. The great thing about the listings on AccomoDirect, is that some of the listings are wine farms. So it’s possible to go wine tasting without leaving the facility. That’s a win-win situation for me.