JUST one of the many wonderful things about travelling is the range of choice you have when it comes to picking your accommodation.
For some it is a matter of ease or the style and service offered by a five-star establishment; for others it’s about budget, or the size of the group – which can include children and/or family pets even – making self-catering options attractive.
I’ve been lucky to stay in all sorts of places, and each brings its own benefits. Who doesn’t love the luxury of a top class hotel which caters to every whim while discreetly observing your complete privacy? You cannot fail to feel glamourous when sipping champagne while wearing a large fluffy robe and toying with the room service menu.
B&Bs and guesthouses are more intimate, while self-catering allows great freedom, especially when it comes to meals and sleeping late. Tip: always put the Do Not Disturb sign on your hotel bedroom door so housekeeping doesn’t knock early in the morning. The “DND” as it’s known in hospitality circles, is sacred and will be strictly respected.
There are plenty of booking sites and apps around to help you pick what’s best for you. I spent a weekend in the Constantia Valley at two vastly different places which are on Airbnb. At the invitation of a friend, the first night was in one of his rooms at his home.
This was completely private, with a separate entrance accessed from the off-street parking. The two rooms are compact and comfortable, with a kitchenette, shower, and – bliss – high-speed fibre. An elevated deck offers a view across the lush greenery that is so abundant in this area, despite the ongoing drought. It was secluded and quiet and I didn’t need to see a soul.
From there, I went to the other end of the spectrum with a large room (pictured above) in a large family home full of children (okay, just one but he seemed like more sometimes!), dogs ranging from the size of a slipper to roughly that of a small horse, and a huge garden in which to roam. I can see the appeal of deciding to stay in such an environment, especially if you’re not familiar with the area; the input from locals on everything from where to eat to the closest ATM is priceless. Plus, a warm welcome into the bosom of the clan is most comforting, with all the fuzzy feels.
The Constantia Valley and its surrounds are in fact very family orientated, with lots of outdoor activities and restaurants catering for all ages. There’s that, and then there are wine farms, so eating and drinking is high on the To Do list.
I always begin any visit with brunch at Buitenverwachting (pictured below). I’ve been going there long enough and often enough to have shares in the farm (I wish) and know from experience to set aside a good few hours for a leisurely bottle of MCC, excellent coffee roasted right there, soft creamy scrambled eggs on a buttery croissant, and companionable conversations.
Founded in 1685, Groot Constantia is the oldest wine-producing farm in the country. It’s a huge tourist attraction, with much to offer visitors. Breakfast at Jonkershuis is a favourite, especially among those with small children, as there is loads of space for them to run around. The morning menu is vast, with plenty of gluten-free dishes along with the classics. Then there is the “breakfast beef burger” which is amazing. Apparently adding bacon and egg to something makes it “breakfast” and no argument from me.
Another must-visit is the Heritage Market at Constantia Uitsig, where you can begin at one end with sushi and continue along the row of whitewashed cottages to sample wine, chocolate and patisserie, ice cream and beer. What else do you need?
When it comes to Sunday lunch, The Brasserie in Tokai (pictured below) does an amazing roast du jour – meat, potatoes, veg and gravy – as well as lots of other hearty meals like pork belly with crispy crackling, fabulous crispy potato skins dusted with smoked paprika, pizza, pastas and salads. Besides the Sunday lunch, there is a daily family special which once again taps into the market here. We were incredibly well fed and the service was above and beyond the call of duty.
Constantia is very much about being in the know, which is why asking a local is a good idea. So I did that and can share something you might not otherwise discover: Black Box Coffeeworks.
Yorke Searra and Benn Koene own this coffee truck which is anchored at Constantia Nek circle. There, they capture all the yummy mummies going on their morning walks, handsome men on their way to dressage lessons in Hout Bay (pictured below), and anyone else who is prepared to drive a bit for a decent cup of coffee. They even have an app for your phone so you can order ahead and then just drive up and grab your beverage – and a pastry or sarmie too. Who knows, maybe you’ll even go on a little hike while you’re there.
CONSTANTIA VALLEY TOURISM
Where: Constantia Village, corner Constantia Main and Spaanschemat River roads
Telephone: 076 742 5366
- This story first appeared in Independent Traveller on May 19/20, 2018
- PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN