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Places to stay in South Africa

23 May 2011

On a recent holiday trip to the Free State, Eastern Cape and Western Cape we discovered that several of our cousins are involved in the hospitality industry, and are operating bed and breakfast or self-catering accommodation, or planning to. At the risk of engaging in rank nepotism, we’d like to describe some of these places — but though there may be an element of nepotism, its more than that, and these places are among the best we stayed at in our travels.

Villa Reinet in Graaff Reinet

Villa Reinet is run by my second cousin Ailsa Grobler (nee Hannan) and her husband Nick and is in a beautiful old house in Graaff Reinet.

Villa Reinet, run by Nick and Ailsa Grobler

There is a large lounge for the use of guests, very pleasant for sitting and reading on sunny winter afternoons.

The sitting room at Villa Reinet

The bedrooms and self-catering apartments are arranged around a pleasant courtyard behind the main house.

Villa Reinet courtyard

We had never been to Graaff Reinet before, and Val had always wanted to see the Valley of Desolation (in a nature reserve 13 km from the town), so we stayed a couple of nights. If we had had more time we’d like to have stayed longer. The breakfasts were magnificent.

The Shire, Stutterheim

The Shire Eco-Lodge is something quite different. It is out in the country 6 km from the village of Stutterheim, and is very much rural. It has four self-catering wooden cabins of a unique design, overlooking a stream and indigenous forest. It’s run by Rob Scott, my second cousin twice removed.

The cabins are solidly constructed, and very roomy inside, with a veranda for looking at the stream and the forest on warm days, and a corner for sitting in cool or rainy weather.

Views from the cabins at The Shire

One problem I have often found at bed and breakfast places is that there is nowhere to sit and write, whether by hand, or using a laptop computer. One often has to sit awkwardly on the bed with paper or computer perched precariously on a bedside pedestal. The Shire solves that problem by providing a table at the right height, though an upright chair would be a nice addition. So if you are a writer and looking for a quiet place to work on your book uninterrupted, The Shire is the ideal place.

The cabins are roomy, and there is even a place for writing

The cabins have a kitchenette, loo and shower.

The other end of the cabins, with kitchenette and shower

And for hot sunny days, after a long walk in the mountains and forests, there is even an outdoor shower (with hot and cold water).

The Shire open-air shower (you don't have to use it, there's an indoor one for rainy days)

And you can also eat outdoors if it’s not raining.

Forest cabin at The Shire, Stutterheim

 Clarens, Free State

Another second cousin, Peter Badcock Walters, and his wife Toni, have bought an old sheep shed at Clarens in the Free State, and are busy converting part of it into self-catering apartments. It isn’t finished yet, and it has no name. But it will be a good place to stay for a weekend away, for people living in Gauteng, or as a place to stay on a trip to somewhere else.

Peter & Toni Badcock Walters's place in Clarens, Free State

It would be nice to have time and money to spend more time travelling around, but many  people lack the means to live adequately right where they are. But I still sometimes have a yearning to be one of Allen Ginsberg’s “angel-headed hipsters  burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night… who drove crosscounty seventytwo hours to find out if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had a vision to find out Eternity.”

The road goes ever on and on

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