McGregor Magic Continued…
Donkeys & Delicacies
McGregor Media Educational Part 2
Day 2 of our McGregor Country Getaways Media Educational started off on a chilly note. It was not going to dampen our spirits though, and after some hot coffee and a slice of toast with yummy marmalade, lovingly prepared by Linzi and Justin of Fountain Place, we were ready to go exploring again!
But first we had to book into our cute accommodation for later.
We would be spending our second night of the weekend in the very cute Plum Tree Cottage. Plum Tree Cottage is one of the gorgeous little establishments managed by Mira of McGregor Country Getaways. This whitewashed, thatched cottage is bright and airy. There is an outdoor braai for those hot summer nights. It’s also perfect for a winter getaway though, with a lovely indoor fire place in the lounge. The outdoor stoep area is private with gorgeous views of the surrounding mountainside. Definitely a lovely place for a writer or an artist to spend a little time getting the creative juices flowing!
McGregor Saturday Morning Market
What a treat to visit the McGregor market. This weekly Saturday morning market at the corner of Church and Voortrekker Streets starts at 09h00 sharp. You need to get there early though, as you may just blink and you will have missed it! Goods are sold out pretty quickly and it is not difficult to see why! Here you can find everything from delicious pastries and pancakes to homemade soaps and mohair gloves.
The market is a great place to mingle with the locals and meet some of the village’s more eccentric inhabitants. Four legged furry friends are very welcome too. How can they not be when the “Brakkie Happie” stand takes centre stage at the market! Look how well behaved they are waiting patiently for a treat! Too cute!
What an innovative idea this stall holder came up with for Mother’s Day. She specially cultivates these oversized flowers and was selling them in these glass bottles. So beautiful! And look who we bumped into – the lovely Lizelle Lotter having a weekend break and enjoying the market with her friend.
Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary
If you are even vaguely an animal lover, our next stop will definitely tug at the heart strings. Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary provides a permanent refuge for abused, neglected and elderly donkeys. At the sanctuary donkeys are given the chance to live out their lives with respect and dignity in a protective and natural environment. They are tended to by the kindest and most loving staff.
The restaurant overlooking the dam and paddocks serves scrumptious light meals. There is a little shop selling books and donkey “memorabilia” such as toys, bookmarks and notelets.
Probably one of the most fulfilling things you could do to help towards the costs of running the sanctuary is to adopt a Donkey for a Year. In return you will receive details of the donkey you decide to adopt with a photo, adoption certificate, a twice yearly report and a quarterly newsletter. Most certainly worth it!
We were met by Annemarie van Zyl founder of Eseltjesrus. She told us a bit about the work they do and divulged some of the personalities of the donkeys we would be meeting later.
We were treated to the most delicious breakfast after which we took a stroll down to the paddocks.
Donkeys are very sensitive souls. Annemarie explained how sometimes they might even “ignore” you. But they also have the ability to recognize a broken soul. They have often been known to offer consolation to those in need.
What a humbling experience being in the presence of these gentle souls. Moments that will stay with us for a long time.
The Launch of Solara Organic Wines at Tebaldis
It was such an honour to have been invited to the launch of the valleys first 100% organic wine Solara Sauvignon Blanc. In association with Rooiberg Wines, Tebaldi’s Restaurant hosted a gourmet luncheon in the beautiful settings of their garden to celebrate the event.
Entrepreneur and business woman, Pat Werdmuller, purchased Houtbaai farm in Mc Gregor just over 12 years ago. The 14 ha farm was run down and neglected. Pat immediately set about restoring the buildings, and replanting the vineyards. Her dedication to the preservation of the environment inspired her to go organic. She has struck up a partnership with Rooiberg Winery. They have provided her with the facilities necessary to produce organic wine according to the very stringent standards.
Johan du Preez, CEO of Rooiberg was there for the launch of this very special wine and to give a very heartfelt and informative talk. This was followed by a delicious lunch.
Rhebokskraal Olive Kitchen and Villagers Farm Stall
Annalien and Corrie van der Colff are city folk who lost their hearts to the little village of McGregor whilst holidaying there one year. They bought the farm Rhebokskraal and started farming organically with olives. Annalien has created the most exotic and interesting olive concoctions you can imagine. Not only this, she creates wonderful products from her fruit orchards and vineyards too.
We met up with Annalien in town at the Rhebokskraal Olive Kitchen. What absolutely delicious delicacies we got to taste along with freshly baked farm bread. Annalien sums it up perfectly: “An Afro-Italian love song to the taste buds!” And this it certainly was! It was hard to decide on a favourite, but the marinated dried olives in honey and garlic and the olive and ginger marmalade came out tops. Annalien also told us about the wonderful healing properties of olive leaf extract, something that they have also enjoyed experimenting with.
Annalien is a very talented lady. Not only does she work magic in her kitchen, she is also both and artist and musician. What an honour when she took out her guitar and sang so lovingly and nostalgically about their farm.
We travelled out of McGregor along the so called “Road to Nowhere” to Lords Winery. Winding our way along the dirt road flanked by beautiful hills and mountain ranges, we had time to take in the magnificent scenery of the valley. On arrival at Lords, what better welcome could we have asked for than each being handed a glass of ice cold MCC? Absolute bliss! We listened attentively as owner Jacie Oosthuuizen and daughter Melané shared their combined passion for the winemaking process.
At 500m above sea level, the vineyards at Lords are the highest in the Robertson valley enjoying a climate which is cooler than most and making them suitable for producing award winning wines from specially selected cultivars.
In our books, nothing beats an oak matured chardonnay. Needless to say we could not resist a couple of bottles along with a bottle of the heavenly MCC.
Lords Guest Lodge
The magnificent Lords Guest Lodge is situated atop the Koningsrivier hills between Robertson and McGregor. It is an elegant venue that takes one back in time to an era of extravagant luxury and refinement. The establishment is made up of a number of thatched roofed living spaces and cottages all masterfully crafted from local stone. They are tastefully decorated with antique furniture and memorabilia. Perched atop a hillock is a romantic stained glass chapel, which makes the venue ideal for weddings.
The views are spectacular. We arrived just in time for sunset when the stone was glowing orange against the dramatic sky. It is literally breathtaking! Close your eyes, and for a second you could really imagine that you were in the Scottish Highlands.
Before heading inside to indulge in the most delicious pizza for dinner, we were entertained by the lovely young ladies of The Next Step Dance Company. They are headed up by Mary Corpe who has more than 30 years of experience teaching dance to children. Their vision is to raise sufficient funds to enable the girls in The Next Step Dance Company to reach their full potential, both in dance and academic field.
Other than their fantastic dance moves, these girls managed to move a couple of us to tears with their beautiful rendition of Eku McGred’s “I am an African Child.”
These 2 verses are probably the most powerful:
Often the target of pity
My future is not confined to charity
Give me the gift of a lifetime;
Give me a dream, a door of opportunity;
I will thrive
I am an African child
We are the new generation
Not afraid to be us
Uniquely gifted, black and talented
Shining like the stars we are
We are the children of Africa
Making the best of us
Yes! I am an African child
Day 3 of our McGregor Media Educational started off with a breakfast at The Frangipani.
Frangipani is situated on Voortrekker Street in a converted house with a large frangipani tree outside. Glynn and Marlene whip up the most delicious treats and offer vegetarian and gluten free meals too. It was a little chilly for the Italian Gelato, but we believe it’s rather yummy!There is a quirky collection of bric and brac spread throughout the different rooms of the house. There is also a little book shop selling second hand books in aid of the needy animals in McGregor.
Our next stop was simply fabulous. Who would have thought that a sleepy little village could have such an innovative movie theatre.
Wahnfried is a home in McGregor purchased by locals Michael and Freddie with the intention of it being used for the benefit of the Village, now and in the future. Their vision is that the house will act as a venue for cultural events such as live music, recorded music, films and documentaries.
The Moroccan inspired house with its double volume ‘salon’ and excellent acoustics is furnished with a Bechstein grand piano, comfortable chairs and a quality film projector system which shows films in high definition and the latest surround sound.
It’s also fitted with a cosy fire place, and we believe you can also enjoy your glass of wine during the screenings. Another place we will definitely have to visit again!
Temenos Retreat & Gardens
The Temenos Retreat fills an entire block. It’s a sacred space of tranquil gardens, secret pathways and intimate places of worship.
There are 14 cottages on the property offering a variety of accommodation types as well as a wonderful restaurant Tibaldis serving delicious fare. It is a place of healing and relaxation and number of therapies are offered on the premises.
Billy Kennedy tells us that when he purchased the property in 1996 it was in a total state of disrepair. There was no garden barring 6 trees. Today the lush gardens and introspective energies are testament to the powers unseen.
Billy took us on a short tour of the garden and its sacred spaces and we ended our visit by walking the labyrinth.
The Noddy Bus
Feeling rather chilled after this outing, it was great that our next activity involved sitting in the fresh air on the back of a very unique mode of transport. We were collected outside Temenos by Mr Awie Page in his Noddy Bus. Awie converted an old bakkie into this unique taxi. He took us on a lovely tour of the village pointing out some of the historic sites and places of interest. It was so much fun!
We had a quick pit stop at the Deli Girls. This fabulous little bistro housed in a straw bale house serves breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas. They specialize in home cooking.
The Deli Girls
There is a little shop selling a variety of items such as exotic cheeses, cold meets and imported deli products. There is an interesting array of goodies for sale, and here you will find anything ranging from beauty products to kitchen gadgets. There is a small nursery at the back and a shop selling garden accessories
Tanagra Boutique Winery and Guest Farm
Our second last stop for the day was at Tanagra Boutique Winery. Robert and Anette Rosenbach took over Tanagra in March 2009, when they came here with their 3 cats (all the way from Germany) to make their dream of owning a farm in South Africa a reality.
And this dream has become a reality indeed. Not only do they produce uniquely handcrafted wines and a variety of stylish Grappas, they also offer farm accommodation in various self-catering cottages, hiking trails and bird walks.
Here is Robert working the 200 litre still which he brought out from Germany when they relocated in 2009. As he says, ‘we use German technology combined with the freshest and best local products to distill fine spirits of distinction.’
An old wild fig tree gave the farm its name, ‘Tanagra’ – it echoes the Khoisan expression for a well-shaded place. This giant tree canopies the historic homestead and winery, providing welcoming shade during the hot days of summer.
We were feeling a little bit down as this would be our last stop after a wonderful 3 days spent together. Our spirits were soon lifted by the friendly face of talented winemaker Lourens van der Westhuizen who met us for a private tasting at Arendsig Wines. A delicious spread of bread, cheese and cold meats was awaiting us to complement our tasting whilst overlooking the beautiful vineyards.
Says Lourens: “All my Single Vineyard Wines are made with minimal interference throughout the vinification. During fermentation natural yeast is used with no enzymes. Maturation takes place in neutral vessels to bring through the unique vineyard characteristics, that’s specific to the site.”
And sadly, so it was time to say goodbye to new friends. A thousand thank you’s to Mira, and McGregor Country Getaways for organizing this wonderful Media Educational.
Mira is doing so much to keep tourism alive in McGregor and the surrounding valley. We are sure with her dynamic outlook and positive energy that more and more people will discover the magic of the region.
In closing I’d like to share the following anecdote.
I once had a friend who said: “Life is like a house. It is filled with moments. These moments can be compared to different rooms in the house depending on how you experience them.” At the time we were walking in an olive grove above the little town of Assisi in Italy. As the warm evening breeze brushed our cheeks and the olive trees glistened silver in the setting sun, she said: “This is an attic moment.” I knew what she meant.
Mira Weiner, there are no words to thank you enough. The entire weekend was one MASSIVE “attic moment.”
A few random shots…