‘Cold, misty, crispy days. Blanket, fire and red wine days.’
I grew up in the heart of the Eastern Free State. Agricultural heartland. Bitter cold winters, especially when you had to play hockey first thing on a Saturday morning, the grass still frosted, water still frozen in the taps. My hands were so frozen I could barely hold my hockey stick.
Yet the most wonderful memories of life in Winter, lies in South Africa. Despite the cold, the days are still light for so much longer than in England. A full day.
The landscape in the Free State, particularly in the winter, is mesmerising. Vast tracks of open land, blue skies, the horizon goes on forever. Snug little villages, like Clarens, are perfect to nestle up and enjoy the local restaurants and craft shops. Long walks before fireside relaxation.
Summer like weather still lingers on the Kwa Zulu Coast. Many South Africans travel down to spend a beach holiday there in July. The Midlands offers many beautiful destinations surrounded by hills and verdant forests, and is also home to some of the most prestigious boarding schools in the country. Why not try the Midlands Meander and discover the many talents presented by the locals, proud inhabitants of this part of the country.
Winter in the Cape Winelands heralds the rainy season. She is transformed by the gentle cloud cover, cool temperatures and drizzle on vines. Restaurants entice with the smells of hearty cooking, foraged delights and large pots of bredie, home made artisan breads. This is the time for Red wine. Dark, purple bruised grapes that have years of history in their nectar. Full bodied, bold flavours to compliment the richness of food. For some, winter in the Cape is preferred to the hot, dry season. Cape Town and the surrounding towns are still open for business. Life just seems a little slower, a little lingered, the pace settling to a comfortable rhythm. Which should be what a holiday is all about.
Experiencing South Africa in the winter would not be complete without a safari. This is when the bush comes to life – the grass is shorter, game more visible, the days cool. Early morning game drives, with the standard coffee and rusks (South Africa biscuits) held between gloved hands whilst sighting buck, elephant and perhaps even lion is an experience not to be missed.
There is more to see here in winter, in this grand and great country, than anywhere else in the world. Beach, berg, bush or wine lands, each place offers you havens of luxury, first world cuisine, excellent wines and people who take pride in who they are, what they create and what they can offer you.
Winter in South Africa is a must.
Images: food24, cavern, winerist, Madikwe