We had a small tour up the West Coast from Monday 31st August to Friday 4th September. Due to Covid-19 many people are still afraid to travel, which is why numbers are down.. Generally, flower tours are fully booked by Feb/March of a particular year – but this year, things were different.
MONDAY 31st AUGUST
So, we started off with 7 people in the coach on a wet day out of Cape Town. We headed up the N7 and our first stop was Hopefield, where we stopped at the Commercial Hotel and met up with Jacques. He has a wealth of knowledge and even does flower tours where you can walk in the flower fields. Jacques had set up specimens of different flowers that show up in Spring, as the annual Hopefield show had been cancelled (as had the Clanwilliam/Darling shows due to Covid-19). We enjoyed coffee which was very welcome!
We then headed to Simply Bee, where some retail therapy was enjoyed. They have such an awesome range of honey based product in their two stores!
Jacques had recommended that we look at two local flower fields. Even though it was still a grey day, we could only imagine what these fields must look like in full sun. Lachenalias in abundance – and many other species made this time worthwhile.
Lunch was at HELLO – a lovely little restaurant where most of us had the open chicken/bacon rolls with hot coffee or tea. Always a great stop in Hopefield.
After this it was time to check into our accommodation in Port Owen – Russels on the Port Guest House. Fabulously comfortable accommodation and a little rest before we ventured out to St Helena Bay & Slipper Bay where ALEGRIA – a favourite restaurant with us when we are in the area- served us all a fabulous dinner.
TUESDAY 1ST SEPTEMBER
SPRING DAY, wow the weather is not due to go above 15 degrees at the very most & still overcast and cool!
Breakfast was at Charlies Brewhouse as due to Covid-1, the Russels on the Port Hotel is not yet open! Charlies Brewhouse brew their own beer and their beer master spoke to us giving us the background to beer brewing.
After breakfast we took a drive down to Bokkom Laan and then we found ourselves on the road to Aurora where we found patches of flowers. Eagle eyes of our Driver (Petrus) & Brian had us sharing some time with flamingos! A fabulous sight and sound.
We stopped at Khoisan Salt – rather disappointing as their factory shop has not changed at all in many years and as a result not many purchased the salt. What a pity business, this is not pro-active as tastings of salt and clean shelves will result in sales and interest in the product!
We returned toPort Owen Marine where we met TOLLIE and his daughter RIANA who took us on a private boat cruise up the Berg River. Tollie has a wealth of information at his fingertips and it was such an honour to spend time with him as he had many stories to tell about fishermen / visitors to his boats / and even when we went down Admirals island some stories about the residents – many of them who are part-time only coming to their homes on the Island, in season. (We had a moment of ‘fun & laughter when the roof above Siptje and John collapsed and wet them – making for a chilly trip until their clothing dried!) – overnight rain collected in two pockets which was not spotted by Tollie prior to the start of the cruise.
Dinner tonight was at CHARLIES BREWHOUSE and after this a pretty early night had everyone refreshed for the next day of tour.
WEDNESDAY 2ND SEPTEMBER
A rainy day greeted us and our planned trip into the West Coast National Park had to be postponed to Thursday!
After breakfast we headed to Darling and EVITA SE PERRON where our tour group browsed the book shop and the very interesting artefacts – interesting to hear Izak say he had shaken hands with General Smuts in his youth! No-one should visit Darling without stopping in at DARLING SWEETS – tasting is limited owing to Covid-19 but they do still have toffees and soft caramels available behind-the-counter if you wish. We then went to the DARLING MUSEUM where a veritable treasure of different rooms displayed how life was in early days!
Everyone by now was getting peckish – and MARMALADE CAT beckoned us to lunch – they have maintained a consistent high standard and food is always good here. We then checked into our accommodation for the next two nights – the DARLING LODGE GUEST HOUSE, where Stephan and Oliver are particularly good hosts.
Dinner was at the home of Willem where with Lynette’s help, they served us such a fabulous dinner. Dinner @ home is always special when on tour and much appreciated and was such a great evening! Willem had the outside braai going and he served us Darling boerewors cut into small pieces & skilpaadjies! When we went inside the table was set beautifully and we had the choice of delicious, deboned lamb / pork belly with crackling to ‘die-for’ / delicious roast vegetables / potato and rice. To round the dinner off we had a delicious caramel cheesecake which went down-ever-so-well!
THURSDAY 3RD SEPTEMBER
Wow we awoke to a lovely day ahead of us with clear sunny skies – perfect for a day in the West Coast National Park and off we went to the local SPAR to stock up on lunch items and then headed straight into the Park. WHAT A DAY!! The flowers are the BEST up the WEST COAST that we have seen in years and thoroughly enjoyable to look at. We all enjoyed a picnic lunch on the rocks at the Langebaan viewpoint (in Postberg)– lovely fresh air and to forget Covid-19 for a while is SO special!
We got back to Darling at about 3.30pm and a few of us went to a newly opened DARLING WALK IN – WALK OUT FOOD MARKET held in the grounds of someone’s home in Fontein Street next to the stream. My best buy was a bunch of Arum Lilies @ R20 for 20 stems! A good coffee and chat with Siptje and John and we headed back to the guest house.
Dinner tonight was at CIAO RESTAURANT where Danielle copes well with front of the house – I believe her husband and father help with the cooking – good service and as most had chosen the same pasta it came out of the kitchen promptly. Thank you Ciao!
FRIDAY 4TH SEPTEMBER
Checked out of Darling Lodge Guest House after a lovely stay – their breakfasts are good – who eats fruit cake with breakfast? Well if it is there, enjoy it!
A treat today was a private tour of DUCKITT ORCHIDS – Well, well, oh my goodness beauty personified – their orchids are unbelievable and the two hot houses we visited were fantastic!
Marita Rossouw you are a fabulous ambassador to the Orchid Farm and the tour was awesome! A few orchids had, of course, to be brought home! Hopefully, they are well looked after and bloom for many years to come.
After this we drove out to DARLING CELLARS only to find out that being a Friday (NO WINE SALES OR TASTING) – oh my goodness what silly rules!! Several photo opportunities after this with the fields of Canola and Arum Lilies – and a drive around the Duckitt flower fields and we were all ready for lunch.
ORMONDE WINES here we come, for your wine tasting and platters. What a treat the platters are – filled with exotic foods and worthy of what you pay for them! The staff are very attentive at this estate and we can highly recommend this to end your days in Darling!
Our tour comes to an end with elation / a bit of sadness at saying good-bye / but at the end of this small tour we all felt we had made new friends (Izak and Jeanette) and cemented friendship with others (Siptje and John)
CHEERS TO THE NEXT TOUR WHICH IS
HOPEFULLY NOT TOO FAR AWAY!