Wrapping up 2020 with a road trip to Barrydale


DEAR Eat Play Drink Cape Town fans, family and friends – this is going to be my last post for the year, and the last newsletter until January. I’m not committing to a date yet because who knows what the future holds…like a good book and a bottle of wine in the garden…

I’m not one for banging on about the obvious; we all went through 2020 and its nonsense. Nor am I one who believes things magically improve from one random calendar date to another. What I will say though, is a heartfelt thank you to all the wonderful people in the hospitality, wine and food industries who gave so generously of their time, products, insight and expertise to help me keep working. I could go on with this speech for much longer but look, the orchestra is beginning to play…

There were a few little road trips in my life this year, and the most recent – and last one until next month – was to one of my favourite haunts, the Karoo Art Hotel in Barrydale. It’s been the scene of many a crime (subjectively speaking) over the past 10 years or so, as well as live music gigs, parties, milestone birthday celebrations, midnight skinny dipping (NOT me) festivals and general all-round shenanigans. I think I’ve only stayed in the same room twice, and I’ve nursed hangovers with Bloody Marys on the balcony overlooking the drankwinkel.

A couple of visits ago, with my dear friends Anton and Rachel McAwsome-Marshall, we were delighted to find two turntables and a mixer in the bar, along with a box of records, and an open invitation to play. Whoop! We had such a fun night. When I shared the memory on Facebook in November, hotel owner Theo Nel invited us to come back and do it again. What a champ. He even had the turntables serviced and new needles put in. Anton aka Cookeh and I trawled through my personal vinyl collection to fill a crate with popular favourites, and we loaded the car.

The drive from Cape Town is nicely manageable (aside from idiot motorists who slow down to look at a long-past accident and cannot merge on the freeway) when you break it up into sections: Huguenot Tunnel, Worcester, Robertson, Montagu…Barrydale. There are still stop/go roadworks outside Montagu; we could’t agree on how long they’ve been there but the general consensus was “forever”. The ridiculous bridge in Ashton is now operational though, but you’d think for what it cost, it would be better paved.

We arrived at a hotel that had been open for barely two weeks. Some of the faces were familiar, others have moved on. The pool had been drained but we made the most of it anyway. We did a wine and chocolate pairing in the garden, courtesy of Creation Wines and Von Geusau Chocolates; we laughed a LOT.

And I finally ventured outside the hotel to House Of Books, which is exactly that: a house full of books.

Anton Fourie in his House Of Books…this is just the entrance hall

Sexy Deborah put it perfectly: “Imagine a library where everything is for sale.” Owner Anton Fourie trustingly let me go, laden with two carrier bags of books I hadn’t paid for, because the internet was broken and there were no newfangled Snapscan gadgetry or card machines. What an amazing place, with fabulous bargains. Books are piled from floor to ceiling, in room after room. I barely touched the tip of the iceberg and I was a bit overwhelmed to tell the truth. Not sorry though, oh not at all.

We played our records, and had even more fun than the first time, because we’re clearly getting good at it now, and have full-on DJ battles. Cookeh and I are taking bookings for small, private events if anyone’s interested. With the reality of curfew it all wrapped up at a civilised hour and I could go to bed with one of my new books. Life has a way of being marvellously balanced.

Photo by Sexy Deborah

A weekend at the Karoo Art Hotel wouldn’t be complete with at least one oopsie, and that’s all on me when I tried to make toast on Sunday morning. Gershwin (who was in charge at the time), bless his cotton socks, took it admirably in his stride and I’m happy to report I did not burn the hotel to the ground. It would be very poor form after Theo’s magnanimity. I just wish I had the four mill to buy the place…


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