Kick off your shoes at Kasteelberg

2012-05-15 11:14

We drove into the picturesque Swartland town of Riebeek Kasteel on a Friday evening just as the sky was changing its salmon pink cocktail dress for an evening gown of Swarovski-encrusted black. Despite the beauty of the nighttime countryside unfolding all around, the weight of the long week suddenly came to rest rather heavily on my shoulders. Was it not supposed to lift? Well, if nothing else, this was a sure sign that it was time to sit back, relax, have a glass of wine and just breathe.

Luckily we were scheduled to spend the night at Kasteelberg Inn, a prominent and pretty building in the center of town, which I had visited once before for a delicious bowl of ripe Summer strawberries and a brimming glass of red wine. On this previous occassion my mom and I had been spoiled to an evening at the close-by Bartholomeus Klip Farmhouse and decided to make the most of our time in the Swartland by spending the next day exploring Riebeek Kasteel.

So, while I sort of knew what to expect, I was nevertheless quite curious to see what happened on the other side of that door I had spotted the last time. The one with the sign that read: "Only resident guests beyond this point" or something along those lines.

Well, while it was most certainly not Narnia, it was almost as magical. Bougainvillea blossoms that had been shaken from their stems in the earlier breeze, now lay strewn along the paved path which led to a large green lawn. Weaving our way through the pretty garden furniture dotted here and there, we decided to explore by moonlight, finding a sunken, cozy-looking braai area and an aqua marine pool. Sadly I didn't deem the evening warm enough for a splash, besides our tummies had started growling, and our nerves needed dousing with something deliciously cold. So, we quickly put our bags down in the room - one of six cozy, tastefully decorated suites - freshened up and followed the enticing aromas.

Back on the other side of the door, we found ourselves in the bistro section, settled into a table with a good street view, and, to our apron-clad waiter's utter dismay, ordered a long, cold beer each. "Not wine? Well, you can always have wine later," he said. Indeed!

Fortunately our food choices seemed to carry his approval: a delicate fig and cheese dish for starters, and a juicy steak and pork pot pie for mains. Somewhere in the middle of our main course, the owner came over to check on us and stayed for a friendly chat. Spotting our half-finished beers, he shook his head and said he hoped we were going to order some wine next. So, right, wine really is a big deal in the Swartland.

As he walked away my cousin, who had accompanied me, commented: "What a nice man. And what a nice voice. Wish he could read us a bed time story!" Firstly, no. It was not meant in a dodgy manner at all... it was all about the voice. Secondly, yes, he had a particularly pleasant voice - and a somewhat familiar one at that. However, not having researched the place in-depth beforehand I was totally unaware of the fact that the velvet-voiced man was, in fact, radio personality Allan Barnard. Aaah! It all becomes clear.

A little further investigation reveals that Allan has been running the show here, along with Parisian, Julien Debray, for the best part of 10 years. The Kasteelberg website states: "After almost a decade of hosting literally thousands of guests, they are still genuinely delighted when familiar faces return for lunch or dinner or to stay another night or two at their enchanting establishment." A fact I can attest to, as a genuine smile spread across his face as I told him that I had visited once before for a bowl of strawberries and cream.

Apart from the comfort, friendly welcome, beautiful garden and all round sense of wholesome well-being, Kasteelberg also has a wonderfully central location in Riebeek Kasteel. Once you've indulged in a delicious breakfast - the Salmon croissant comes highly recommended - you can stroll off the stoep and be off exploring the charming little shops and old buildings within seconds.

Located a mere 87 km from Cape Town, Riebeek Kasteel is quickly becoming a choice escape for city slickers, so makes sure you get there while it's still as fresh and reasonably pristine as it is now. And when you go, make sure Kasteelberg Inn is on your itinerary - whether for overnight, or just for a delicious supper.


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