Very excitedly 11 of us set out “on-the-road-again” – this time to Prince Albert in the Karoo. Our route followed the N1 through the Du Toits Kloof Tunnel through Worcester, De Doorns, Touws River and then by lunchtime we arrived at the Lord Milner Hotel in Matjiesfontein. This is always a good place to stop, however, we were disappointed with the lunch this time around! The hotel was buzzing with people, many of whom were on their way to do the Cape Argus cycle race on Sunday . Pity that despite the interest in Matjiesfontei, one comes away disillusioned with the food!
After lunch and a short re-fuel stop in Laingsburg we were, once again on the N1 headed to Prince Albert Road where we turned off to Prince Albert! Chris, our coach driver is an expert on many aspects of this road (he is an astronomer and travels this road to Sutherland very often). He made the long, boring road very interesting for us all!
On arrival we checked everyone into their accommodation. Two establishments were used – Saxe Coburg Guest House in town and Karoo View Cottages up on the hill overlooking Prince Albert. Both 4* and very comfortable!
Seven of us met Aylsa the local ‘story teller’ at the Museum for our Ghost Walk. Aylsa is certainly such an interesting person regaling so many of the history stories of inhabitants of long ago…….and even a few modern ghosts which locals still believe inhabit Prince Albert. It was such a fun 90 minute stroll through town. The walk ended at Karoo Kombuis by 8.00 pm where we met the rest of our party and dinner was served.
Karoo Kombuis is almost like being in someone’s home. They serve dinner 6 nights a week AND are fully booked most nights. Also, they have served the same menu for the past 17 years. That ought to tell you something! They serve, of course, Roast Karoo Lamb, Bobotie and Chicken Pie, either individually or you can have a combination of all three. There is always a vegetable soup to start and Malva pudding or lemon pudding to complete the experience!
Saturday morning saw us all at Lazy Lizard for breakfast – their service is very good and pretty soon everyone was tucking into their breakfast. After this some went to the local farmers market; some just enjoyed exploring the many shops that were open ; some went to Soet Karoo for wine tasting (and buying). At 11.00 am five of us headed to yet another attraction in Prince Albert – The new ‘red’ bus – not actually a ‘red’ bus (apart from the steps which allow you to get onto the open ‘game’ vehicle!). It was explained that it is called a “Red Bus” as tourists recognize this type of vehicle on a sight seeing tour! We were presented with a complimentary stainless steel water bottle filled with delicious iced cold water – what a pleasant gift – and very welcome! With temperatures at 37 degrees (with very high humidity) we needed plenty of refreshment!
Ellen takes you on an hour and 15 minute drive around Prince Albert showing you the highlights and filling you in with so many of the fabulous history of this town. An added highlight is when you approach the Saturday morning market and some teenagers from the local high school who make ice cream for funds, came running out and presented us with a delicious lemon ice cream! This tour is very interesting a MUST DO in Prince Albert !
After the tour we headed for the Swartberg Hotel for lunch in their air conditioned dining room – what a relief. All restaurants seem to have lovely on-tap glass water containers with refreshing iced lemon water! It is such a super touch.
An afternoon drive through Meiringspoort pass was next on our program (since our trip up Swartberg pass was cancelled due to the pass being closed). This trip had a few added highlights – going through a little bit of rain ; helping an ‘old-boy’ tortoise across the road (no we didn’t physically help him) but Fritz (helped by Chris) just stood behind him and ‘pointed’ him in the right direction so that he would be safe off the road! Meiringspoort is fantastic……such amazing rock cliff formations! Chris amazed us with his knowlede of the ‘geology’ of the area and our time spent there was great! Charmaine was the only one who walked up to the waterfall and pretty soon we headed back to our accommodation getting back to Prince Albert by late afternoon – time to put our feet up in the cool air conditioned rooms!
At 6.00 pm we headed into town and to Jeremy Freemantle (an extremely talented chef in town) who has just opened the Real Food Company on the main road. A central counter takes up most of the restaurant with a handful of tables on the side, where one can sample the amazing food that Jeremy prepares in his kitchen. Most had the Hake Togarashi with pickled vegetables (which was pronounced “amazing”!) His crème brulee was to-die-for! Such a wonderful (albeit very hot) meal in the centre of Prince Albert.
Next stop was the Showroom Theatre – such a wonderful attraction in Prince Albert. The theatre is world class and we were so very privileged to listen to saxophonist Andrew Young (with his pianist, a Dutch man who lives in George – he was equally amazing!). Andrew, from the UK gives one an amazing insight into his world with stories that relate to each of the music pieces he presents with his saxophone! It was an evening to remember.
Sunday dawned with most of us feeling that we definitely needed a good few hours more of sleep!! (Power failures gave us a bit of a headache last night). Oh – no chance for that – touring is all about seeing and doing as much as you can in a day.
Breakfast and some more gathering at Lah-di-Dah, an amazing restaurant in Prince Albert. (One of our favourites). First class service and delicious breakfasts were served.
After breakfast we met Gay at her dairy, – it must be one of the few towns in South Africa where they have a full dairy on their doorstep! Gay did a cheese tasting for us and many purchases later we boarded the coach with our little fridge overflowing with cheese and headed back to the N1 after saying Au Revoir to Prince Albert.
As the organizer of the tour I thoroughly enjoyed having spent time in town and I have many extra things up-my-sleeve for future tours to this fascinating little town.
A lunch stop at the Veldskoen Padstal outside De Doorns was our last meal together. What a meal it turned out to be. They had roast lamb with vegetables ; an amazing menu with light salads (I can vouch for their ½ portion of Chicken salad served with baby beetroot ; Danish Feta and a balsamic dressing – absolutely so very tasty and delicious)
On arrival back in Cape Town we had 2 combi’s waiting to transfer Southern Suburbs passengers back home whilst the 15eater coach headed to the Northern Suburbs.
Some parting comments:
“An amazing time – the best Traveltime tour I’ve been on”
“A fabulous time spent with such happy people – so good for the soul”