HomeAway has enjoyed a really great year of support from our diverse customers from all walks of life – ranging from contractors working in the area to wedding guests and tourists (both local and international) as well as overflow from locals. The Comfort Zone is proving particularly popular with families coming out to relax and enjoy the delights of the Valley together.
We consider ourselves blessed to have been able to institute several improvements as a result:
HomeAway recently hosted a farewell braai to thank team Valley Electrical for their extended support. Together we have lived through winter (including the great storm in June!), spring and into the dry heat of summer as they laboured long and hard on the Bamco project. We have nothing but respect for these good men who work such long hours, and are willing to spend weeks away from their families in order to provide for them.
HomeAway is one of few facilities in the valley that can comfortably accommodate such a large group of people in the short to medium term. We offer daily servicing, laundry on request and, apart from each unit being fully equipped for self-catering, the group is able to socialise together around the braais and pools. The guys from Valley Electrical were delighted with the privacy, security and comfortable amenities close to all the village has to offer. Foreman Oscar Leaner commented: “We have spent more time at HomeAway than in our own homes recently, and have been very much at home here!”
Au revoir, Valley Electrical, we will miss the alarm clock of your early morning departures and the cheerful company of working men. When peace settled on HomeAway after the evening meal, we could all feel the satisfaction of a job well done!
Being recently blessed with a visitation from an old school friend who had never been to these parts before, I decided to take the day off and accompany her and her husband as ‘tour guide’. There being many options in our valley, I had to make some choices and therefore structured our day around spending the morning in Church Street and then taking a scenic drive in the afternoon to visit some of the out-of-town attractions.
I must say it was such a pleasure to see our lovely town and surrounds through the eyes of a tourist and gratifying to hear the oohs and aahs of wonderment from my guests! Since most visitors to our town have limited time to spend, you may find our little itinerary useful. And - watch this space – Timeless Tulbagh will soon launch a range of self-drive tours catering to every taste…
It being such a brilliant autumnal day - sunshine with a frisson around the edges - we set off at about 9am to explore Church Street and its museums. The whole street is in fact an open-air museum, being the only one in the country where all 32 houses are national monuments, featuring fine examples of early Cape Dutch, Victorian and even Georgian architecture. These were of course beautifully restored post the earthquake of 1969, so we kicked off by visiting the Earthquake museum which gives an understanding of the devastation - including eye-witness accounts - and the painstaking effort that went into the subsequent restoration. Personally I think the earthquake did Tulbagh a favour, for it took the buildings back to their original form (many having been modernised over the passage of time) and blessed us with a heritage asset of incalculable value.
From thence we went to the Oude Kerk Volksmuseum, fourth oldest church in SA and the only one in its original form. Annelien played us atmospheric music on an 18th century CD player as we wandered around admiring the antiques and later also peeped at the restored graveyard where so many people come to trace their ancestors. What is now the sports fields adjacent to the church was the original outspan for the farmers coming from far and wide for communion, christenings, weddings and funerals. A little further on House No 12 is one of the oldest in the street – built for the Reader of the Lesson; he being one of few literates would also naturally have been the schoolmaster. We also peeped into the Victorian museum at No 14 with its pretty rose garden behind, and the Pioneer house at No 22 for glimpses into how life was lived in the two previous centuries.
There is a placard in front of every house explaining its provenance, and the gardens are looking so charming with their lavender and iceberg roses and venerable oaks arching above. Despite the dreaded drought, Church Street has grey water for irrigation and Paddagang’s rolling lawns were lush and green with a flock of guinea and peafowl gracing it. It was also pleasing to see the master thatchers putting the final touches to two houses damaged by fire at the end of last year. As my friend remarked, it is like stepping back into a time which was much more leisurely than our frantic modern existence…
I had booked a gallery tour with the curator of the Christo Coetzee museum, Jan Barend Wolmarans, for 11h00 – what an experience! Jan weaves anecdotes involving the famous artist with history and philosophy as well as art appreciation, calling into question many of our modern shibboleths. We were also privileged to view the Judith Mason requiem exhibition in Coetzee’s old studio, an outpouring of reverence for another of South Africa’s great artists, and watched part of a documentary interview with this iconic artist, giving us much food for thought.
By that time we were starving so, after strolling to the end of the street (which is only 500m long) to see the Oude and Nuwe Pastorieë as well as the beautiful Ballotina, we were very happy to climb the stairs to Coffee & Cream at No 41. What a pleasure to sit in the sun on the leiklip stoep and enjoy old-fashioned jaffles filled with bobotie mince and cappuccinos - and then to decamp next door to the chocolatier at Het Land van Waveren for ‘pudding’!
Feeling sufficiently restored, we then ventured out along the Twee Jongegezellen Road, following it to its apex in the foothills of the Winterberg, where we visited Oakhurst Olives. What a delight to taste their premium oils, olives and tapenade, beautifully served and demonstrated in the most sublime surrounds… From thence we rolled back down the hill to TJ estate, home of Krone Borealis bubbly. My friends could not believe they were being served vintage MCC on an elevated terrace overlooking the oak grove and historic buildings – for free!
Another unquestionable highlight was our short visit to Saronsberg, surely the premier wine estate in the valley. An unexpected bonus was to find resident winemaker Dewald Heyns (the Sheik of Shiraz himself!) holding forth to a large group on the patio, so we were able to tune into his wisdom too. We agreed that it was a very fine thing to watch the sun sink behind the mountains beyond the dam presided over serenely by the Lady of the Lake… also that the world viewed through a wineglass is a much pleasanter place, especially if the glass contains Saronsberg’s Full Circle…
A very brief detour to Montpellier de Tulbagh followed, where we admired in short order the iconic chapel in the vineyards, the beautiful blue gum-lined approach, possibly the finest manor house in the valley and slave bell with its 1714 date, plus a glimpse of the glorious gardens. Our afternoon concluded with a leisurely drive into the cul de sac of the Winterhoek. Returning, we paused to admire the lovely proportions of De Oude Drostdy, designed by French architect Thibault, and were further blessed with the view of the long Witzenberg range to the east turning resplendently pink in refracted sunset light.
What a day to savour again and again in memory! #DiscoverTulbagh
Montpellier de Tulbagh is surely the most beautiful manor house in our valley. Set amongst sumptuous gardens in a lush vale with a stream running through it, the date on the gable reads 1714. Recent loss of several historic homesteads just over the mountains in the Wellington/Paarl valley due to runaway veld fires, plus two historic houses having burnt in our very own Church Street, sharpens appreciation of these grande dames in their venerable and vulnerable glory.
Friends and I decided to visit of a Thursday, as we had heard via the grapevine that lunch was now being offered in amongst last mentioned lushness during the week. Upon arrival, we were most warmly welcomed by Manny and informed that we may sit anywhere we wished – inside, by the poolside looking west over the vineyards towards the Saronsberg or under the ancient oaks casting their generous shade around the manor house. Once the spot was selected, a table and chairs were promptly carried thence. We chose a bottle of the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc – a favourite – and an organic vegetarian pizza off the simple menu, which also features lasagne and salads (picnic baskets and cheese platters may be pre-ordered). Unasked, ever-courteous Manny brought ice, glasses, and a bottle of the estate’s own water to the table. The pizza arrived when the wine bottle was at half-mast - perfect timing and everything a pizza should be – thin crispy base loaded with luscious toppings. What a joy to sit in the dappled shade on a lazy summer’s afternoon, listening to the sound of birdsong, running water and a faraway mower – those rolling lawns surely need a lot of loving care!
We bought several bottles of wine afterwards as a memento, noting that the awards are rolling in. Owner Lucas van Tonder has blessed us with his own blend named Spyseniersberg, sheer heaven in a bottle - AND tastings are free!
Montpellier de Tulbagh is very popular for weddings. You have only to gaze upon their website and Facebook page to see the magic wrought either in the glass house in the forest, the vaulted functions venue or even in the gorgeous gardens themselves. And the estate also boasts the most-photographed iconic chapel, set upon a hill in the midst of the vineyards with awe inspiring mountains for backdrop…
Another thing worth knowing is that, in addition to luncheons and functions served from the manor house kitchen, Montpellier has recently adapted an historic old barn into another rustic venue, aptly named Die Bouval, where well-known chef Jan Bester conjures up the very best of traditional fare prepared on the open hearth with the freshest of ingredients. One dines by candlelight at long tables with eclectic crockery and cutlery. This unique and quirky ‘restaurant’ pops up on a Wednesday evening and also for ad hoc group bookings.
Just in time for the holiday season, HomeAway has started rolling out the Timeless Tulbagh programme. This is a new initiative aimed at promoting brand Tulbagh – which is, of course, very special! Since most of our visitors have limited time to spend with us, we wish to direct them towards quality, authentic experiences – in other words, the very best Tulbagh has to offer.
What this means is that every visitor to HomeAway will now receive a fact sheet describing the Top 10 attractions in our Valley of Abundance. The reverse side details five quintessentially Tulbaghian things to do in the village and a further five things to do in the countryside immediately surrounding – ten in all. It will depend on your interest field and the time you have available which you choose, your host can help you do so. In addition, all our visitors will receive a voucher entitling them to really worthwhile discounts at several of last mentioned attractions.
We trust this line-up will enhance your experience of #DiscoverTulbagh!
(NB: Timeless Tulbagh’s website will go live in the New Year)
Genial Andrew Jaeger, new owner of the historic farm Oudekloof, has recently instituted tractor-drawn rides which can take 25 people in relative comfort up the mountain using the Telkom servitude road - infinitely more civilised and much quicker than by ox waggon! There are even four seats right in front of the tractor, offering unimpeded views of the journey…
Oudekloof is the original pass through the mountans into the Tulbagh valley, first called Roodezandt after the sandstone cliffs on the northwestern face. It was later superseded by the Nuwekloof , made by the pioneer farmers seeking a shorter route to market, through which there is now road and rail access. Although the pass has long fallen into disuse, ox waggon tracks are still visible in the rocks and on a promontory above is one of the original canon – part of a system used to alert farmers in the interior when ships were spotted approaching the Cape of Good Hope. Andrew stops half-way up, so that his passengers can walk 70m down to the mountain spring and taste the heavenly fresh water, and again on the way down to view the commemorative monument in the nek of the pass.
The two-hour trip continues all the way to the top of the mountain, where one disembarks for a delightful al fresco picnic (lovingly made by Andrew’s wife, Christine – home-made lemonade and the most scrummy munchies!) The views of the Valley of Abundance are simply superlative, prompting many oohs and aahs from the passengers – especially as one crests the mountain. From that high vantage point one can see not only the whole of the magnificent Tulbagh valley but also sweeping vistas of the Swartland, looking down over Voelvlei dam. On a clear day one can see as far as Table Mountain in the distance and all the way to the West Coast – it is truly breathtaking!
Andrew generously shares knowledge of the ecology, geology and history of the area, making for a rich and fascinating experience; he is also something of a philosopher, with some innovative ideas on making the world a better place. Possibly best of all is returning to the historic farmstead to find the lovely Christine on hand yet again with her wonderful fresh home-bakes and preserves. Being a man of many parts, Andrew is moreover a garagiste winemaker – you may also get to taste the four Oudekloof wines and a port produced under the amusing label of “Serious wine by not so serious people”…
Do yourself a favour and make this amazingly authentic and family friendly tractor trip part of your own #DiscoverTulbagh experience!
If you enjoy live music, then Tulbagh is definitely the place to spend a weekend… HomeAway is offering a SUMMER-LONG SPECIAL of free tickets to our Saronsberg Theatre every Friday night with every two-night weekend booking. AND, if you extend your stay to Sunday night, you get a hefty discount plus a bottle of our local (fabulous) wine!!
Do you know beautiful Tulbagh with all its attractions is only 90 mins drive from Cape Town? It is thus entirely possible to spend a three-night weekend (given HomeAway’s reasonable rates) and still get back in time for work on Monday morning. That means an honest-to-goodness break and a rest from the grind… happy memories without breaking the bank.
The joy of staying in a little country village is that all its delights are within easy walking distance. Can you believe little Tulbagh offers a dozen restaurants – you could actually eat out somewhere different every night for almost two weeks and no worries about drink-and-drive or calling Uber! And, if you feel like eating in, it’s super easy to cater for yourselves at HomeAway – plus lekker braai facilities and a pool to cool off in!
One of the greatest delights in our little town is the marvellous Saronsberg Theatre. The proprietor Chris Kreef is so well connected in the South African music industry that he consistently offers two and sometimes three quality acts every weekend – bringing us jazz, blues, rock ‘n roll, comedy and often new talent. It is such a pleasure to stroll down of a summer’s eve for a wonderful evening’s entertainment; one can also eat a good meal there at very reasonable prices. Sundays there’s a great brunch vibe going too.
HomeAway also supports Chris’ efforts to bring us the best in local talent by giving the artists accommodation when we can. Recently the Blue Jets came to stay – five young men who gave us such a wonderful evening. The lead vocalist rejoices in the name of Tony Shine – and boy, does he ever! They describe their music genre as foot stompin’ ass kickin’ rhythm n blues – what a blast!
Check the theatre’s line up and make a booking with us accordingly – Tulbagh rocks!
HomeAway was recently honoured as a finalist in the ungraded self-catering category at the 2nd annual Sanlam Top Destination Awards, a platform created to honour the unsung heroes behind South Africa’s flourishing tourism industry, held earlier this month.
From an estimated 8000 establishments, only 120 finalists were invited to attend the awards ceremony. Wendy was thrilled to walk down the red carpet at a prestigious gala dinner at The Bay Hotel in Camps Bay to collect our certificate and advertising voucher for Discount Traveler’s digital travel magazine (www.thetravelermag.com).
Thanks to the nominees and everyone who voted for us!