Art is all around at Karoo hotel


LAST week on Daily Maverick, I wrote about my eating and drinking experiences in Barrydale, which briefly recaps my history with the Karoo Art Hotel. Last time I was there was in 2017; the story appeared in print and here in January 2018.

For my birthday – ja, ja i know, it wasn’t the usual month-long production this time so it’s okay if you forgot – we spent the weekend in Barrydale and Montagu (last week’s #traveltuesday story which you can read here), so there was lots of nostalgia lurking in those corridors. Oh, if those walls could talk…

The drive up was chilled, with a stop at the Pampoen farm stall between Worcester and Robertson (to get some long matches which are great for lighting braai fires because I don’t have one of those gas thingies), and another at Robertson Winery to get some low-alcohol wine. The theory was I wouldn’t get plastered while day drinking, long before dinner time. Turns out, I may as well been drinking water. A most unsatisfying experience. So much for good intentions.

Walking into the hotel felt like two days had passed, not two years. I was offered my choice of three rooms; two I’ve stayed in before, so I picked door number 3 (literally, if memory serves – look, 10 days ago is a long time to remember). It’s one of the six spacious Groot Karoo rooms, which have extra comforts like flat screen TVs with selected DStv channels, and furnished with king size-beds that can be made up as twins. Two have a Victorian bath plus shower; ours was shower only. Some have private balconies with lovely views over Barrydale – ours, and the one next door, in which I stayed for the legendary Antfest40. Those who know…

Balcony envy…the one next door

The room has large mirrors, deep armchairs, plush carpeting, heavy red velvet drapes, and LOTS of plug points for charging stuff. From the balcony we could watch the comings and goings of the locals, mainly into and out of the bottle store across the road. There’s a very social vibe on a Friday afternoon.

The hotel is really one giant art gallery. It’s everywhere you look, from the walls to the lobbies, to the passages, to the gardens, and much of it is for sale. It’s a sprawling property to get to know, with some cute little nooks and crannies for assignations and liaisons.

There’s a pool in which I have personally witnessed midnight skinny dips, and a pool table too. The bar off the lobby is typical of small-town Karoo hotels, where the locals like to hang out as they’ve been doing since 1888. Drink wines, MCCs and ports (including those produced in the Klein Karoo region), or dip into  single malt whiskeys, brandies and cognacs. There might be live entertainment (there was definitely rugby on the TV being World Cup and all), but if not, there’s a piano and turntable – plus a collection of vinyl – to keep you amused. Last time there were two turntables which meant my friend and I could inflict our DJing skills on the good patrons who had done nothing to deserve it.

Always find the flamingo…

For bigger events, the Belanti Theatre and Bioscope is the hotel’s main venue. This space is used for private functions such as weddings, anniversary and birthday parties, and leads out into the hotel’s gardens. Intimate film screenings and advertising launches, lectures and small conferences can be hosted in the 40-seater private cinema in the gallery.

Not everything is as it seems

It was a whistle-stop visit this time, just long enough to bank some more fond memories.

For more information, click here.



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