On my recent travels I spent some considerable time travelling through the Winelands to get a real feel for the style of the varying towns and villages that international tourists would visit. I have now visited Constantia and Stellenbosch and hopefully you will have read my blogs in earlier snippets on these two areas. My next stop was to be one of the least well known destinations, Paarl, home to the Grande Roche Hotel. Now this is the only Small Luxury Hotel in South Africa, so a real destination hotel for Paarl. This hotel is steeped in incredible history – historic buildings that were once slave quarters, an old chapel still used for weddings and of course the main house, now a Historic Monument. Slavery was abolished in South Africa in 1834, so it was incredible to be able to try and visualise these buildings when they were being used for such a different purpose.
Anya greeted us warmly but with a little concern. We had driven through rain and thunder, which had worried her immensely. Par for the course when you are English so I had not given it a second thought!
Anya joined us for lunch and she was great company. A fascinating lady who has already visited 48 African countries. The enjoyable company was matched by the wonderful lunch. I had the best crème brûlée that I have ever experienced. How could dinner beat that? Chef asked if he could prepare a special meal for us and special indeed it was. Afterwards he came out for a chat. Charming as well as talented and so enthusiastic.
By morning we thought that the thunder storm had cleared for good. It had certainly cleared to give us the opportunity to go and visit the Afrikaans Language Monument. I must say I was not really sure why this would have much appeal, but dutifully went along. Boy was I wrong. Set high, amid stunning natural scenery is the most hauntingly beautiful sculpture, as high as half the length of a football pitch and hollow when you imagine it would be solid. We took the free guided tour which was fascinating. Here the art work was explained from the three pillars representing the biggest influences to the language – Dutch, German and French, to the small domes representing the local San influence.
If time had permitted then we would have stayed for the best milk tart for 30 kms, but the chocolate tasting tour was calling and the rain was coming back!
Spice Route was just 10 minutes on from the monument, both only 15 minutes max from Grande Roche Hotel. Here you could do a variety of wine and beer tastings with biltong, cheeses etc. You can stop for an ice cream, have a gourmet pizza for lunch, or like us, head straight for the chocolate tasting tour! My excuse – the storm really hit and it was a good place to wait out the weather… We watched chocolate being made and learnt why the Ugandan chocolate bean is the best African Chocolate bean – proximity to the equator. Many purchases later and we were back off in our mighty Toyota Corolla, Serena our GPS lady, putting us on the track to Franschhoek.