For years I had been threatening to visit Riebeek Kasteel until finally this past summer, I made my way to this countryside destination. Being stiflingly hot in the heart of summer, it is perhaps not the best time to go. As our waitress at Eve’s Eatery informed us, ‘in summer it is very hot and in winter, very cold’. So choose your time well.
The town is one of the oldest in South Africa, nestled on the slopes of the Riebeekberg, a mere 80km from Cape Town. It has fewer than 3000 residents, but boasts some of South Africa’s well known painters, justifiably attracted by the picturesque valley.
But what can you expect to find there? Well, key to a visitor’s experience of this ‘rural-flavoured’ town will be wine, olives, quaint shops, art galleries and outstanding cuisine. Not forgetting loads of open space, tranquility and good doses of fresh air. Sounds like a good mix of ingredients for a relaxing and satisfying getaway. There is certainly enough to put one on a ‘holiday high’. Our highlights were:
Pure accommodation comfort
We stayed at Bloemendal Guest Cottage. What an exquisite venue! (and there are plenty more guesthouses and bed & breakfasts with similar quality). The two bedroom cottage has absolutely everything you would want or need; it is tastefully furnished and is truly a magical place to stay. The generous veranda was perfect for the outside living we enjoy. What could be more relaxing than chilling out on the veranda, sipping wine, having long conversations and lazing the afternoons away? At night we continued on the veranda by braaing local meat and enjoying wine of the region (purchased at The Wine Kollective in town, and the nearby wineries); and also tried to do some star gazing.
Inspirational retail therapy
Riebeek Kasteel is so small that one is able to walk to the centre of town – unless you have designs on maxing out your credit card and require transport for your purchases. The shops are quaint. You can find special hand made clothing, bakeries, fresh produce, art, crafts, antiques, bric and brac, and of course, wine. Creativity abounds and can be illustrated in how the shop ‘Vintage White’ describes itself – housing a unique and unconventional blend of ‘stuff’ and ‘rough & tumble’. When your feet are tired and you need a break, pop into Beans about Coffee. The café is said to have the best coffee in town. Riebeek Kasteel offers a very manageable and inspirational shopping experience so even ‘shop-haters’ will find joy in the endeavour.
Unique deli experience
We were advised by locals to obtain our braai meat at the deli 4km out of town and we set off to find this family-owned farm. We discovered that the Deli-Co Farmstyle Butchery is situated on the farm De La Fontaine, which has been the home of the Truter family since 1893. As we journeyed on the gravel road we had the feeling of being in the middle of the Karoo, with scattered trees and sheep dotting the dry landscape. There was an openness and sense of isolation that dominated; and a feeling of freedom settled comfortably into our beings. At Deli-Co we were helped by a very friendly assistant who gave interesting information about what and how they do things, and offered her meat recommendations for a good braai. I presume it was a younger member of the Truter family.
Awesome wine-tasting experience
Kloovenburg’s cool cellar offers wines, olives and cold pressed extra virgin olive oil for tasting, not to mention the cured olives, tapenades and jams. Set in a barrel-filled wine cellar, the Kloovenburg tasting room is rather beautiful, and their range of offerings leave one with a memorable experience. We tasted our way through their award-winning wines and oils, along with all the eatables for dipping. Their natural olive oil-based beauty products are also great gifts. I was later sorry that I had not purchased more. Our time at this tasting room was so enjoyable that we had trouble dragging ourselves away. But we were comforted by the fact that our wine tasting would continue on our veranda.
There is a lot more one can do in Riebeek Kasteel – outdoor markets, fresh fruit produce, wellness and beauty therapy – but we simply enjoyed catching our breath and taking in the fresh air. We would have loved to eat at the famed Bar Bar Black Sheep restaurant but regrettably they were closed at 9pm when we arrived. It had slipped our minds that we were in a countryside location of South Africa and that it may have been a good thing to book in advance and check their closing times! Clearly we had reached a very relaxed point.
Riebeek Kasteel has several annual events. Watch out for the Riebeek Valley Olive Festival (6-7 May 2017), and Spring Festival (2 September 2017) – amongst others.