Anyone for a Gin and Tonic on the stoep?
For a long time I have wanted to discover the secret of Riebeek-Kasteel. The day, or weekend destination in the heart of the Swartland in the Western Cape. Curiosity peaked, we left early to find out what it was about this little ‘dorp’ that makes her so special.
The drought in the area is harsh, sad and seemingly hopeless until the rains arrive, but this did not mean the drive did not deliver some of the most beautiful landscapes of the area. Colours of ochre and yellow everywhere, cloudless skies, but empty dams and sad cattle.
Arid but still beautiful landscape
The small park in the centre of the town is little more than dry grass, crisp and lifeless. It’s still early in the morning, time for a coffee and we found a great little spot at Beans about Coffee in Fontein Street – the perfect pit stop, ducking under the grapevine covered veranda, or ‘stoep’ as the Afrikaners call it. This is a local for sure, lots of catching up with friends both human and canine takes place here – it was lovely just to listen to the banter about us.
Belly full, coffeed-up and time to explore. Riebeek-Kasteel has been popular for quite some time, some even say it’s the ‘other Franschoek’ although I think it may have a while to go on that score. Charming it is, and I could see old, residential houses being altered to accommodate the bustling entrepreneurship going on. The small shops sell everything from curios, leather, ‘french’ gifts and local produce. Many are coffee shops and gift shops rolled into one, the idea is to dally, to linger, to find out more about everything. One such find was Bulbinella, said to cure a multitude of ailments, skin problems, digestive problems and aid weight loss. We bought some cream and back home slathered this on our faces (not so sure about results and still waiting for the miracle!)
Love the Boepensbroodjie!
Many South African artists show their creations here in Riebeek-Kasteel. Beautiful bags, tables made from Kiaat, sourced in Angola, caught the eye. An hour or so went by before more replishment was needed and we abled up to The Royal Hotel.
Ideal for those wanting more than a day trip, this is where you chill for the weekend. One of the oldest hotels in the history of South Africa, it’s easy to be transported back to the days of yore when life was slow and the country young. Perfect place for that Gin and Tonic as the sun sets before a grand dinner.
One of the reasons I wanted to visit Riebeek-Kasteel was to find out more about Still Pure, a company that manufactures essential oils and related products in the heart of the town. The small shop was being refurbished, so we drove out to the factory, to be met by Sue Pugh, who with her partner, started the company. Sue was more than generous in showing us around the factory floor, explaining the method of extraction and one can see just how much this business has grown, now exporting to other countries. A beautiful story, and of course, more purchases – I particularly loved the Frankincence essential oil, the face creams and a great apricot and shea butter soap.
Happy and enlightened by this dusty, but engaging place, it was time to leave. And one day return for Riebeek-Kasteel is the beat of the heartland – wonderful, friendly people, interesting shops, great places to eat and many options if an overnight stay is an option.
You owe it to yourself to visit Riebeek-Kasteel. She will stay with you. Think I found her secret, and now it is your turn.