A few weeks ago we were invited to stay at the Drostdy Hotel by Newmark in Graaff-Reinet, so we hopped on  a plane to Port Elizabeth International Airport (some serious irony in the name, if you’ve been there, you’ll know why).

Graaff-Reinet is roughly a 3 hour drive from the “PE PlaneStation”. The scenery is pretty mesmerizing, watching the plant life change as we entered the Karoo, as well as seeing the occasional monkey, or springbok.

As you approach Graaff-Reinet, you start to realize almost everything has “Camdeboo” in its title, from the Camdeboo National Park, Mount Camdeboo, and Camdeboo Conservatory, all of which obviously falls within the Camdeboo Municipality. Camdeboo means “green hollow” in Xhosa, and you could imagine why with the green patches in the area as a stark contrast the dryness of the rest of the Karoo.

Which brings me to the next point – this is an ancient place. People have been living here for thousands of years, with the colonial buildings and street plans being a blip at the pointy end of history.  And that’s not mentioning the incredibly rich fossil record of the area. Almost every thing that you look at in Graaff-Reinet has a story, and probably a long one.

All of this was only a fragment of the information our driver gave us on the 3 hour journey. It felt much quicker than it was.

The Sunday River zig-zags a bit before arriving in the town, and judging by the dry bed, it doesn’t flow often. You can insert your own joke about what day of the week it flows here:____

As you can imagine, lawn maintenance isn’t a huge priority in the Karoo, so most things get a bit dusty, and drab.

That was, until we arrived at the Drostdy Hotel (Graaff-Reinet’s only 5 star hotel). There is an instant contrast that you have to adjust to as you clamor out of the taxi. Everything is clean, polished, and purposeful. It’s brilliant, and just what you need after an early morning plane ride, followed by a 3 hour drive.

Once we’d checked in, and wiped the dust from our faces, we were led to our rooms, down a path lined with brightly coloured shutters and doors, called “Stretch’s Court” which obviously contain more than a few lifetime’s worth of history, and were apparently the residences of the children of slaves. It’s so easy to bump into relatively “recent history” when you’re in a town that has more heritage sites than any other town in South Africa – there are at least 220 of them!

signs

shutters

spa horns 2
There are a lot of these in the town.

From one of the most comfortable beds I’ve let gravity push me into, I dazed for a moment looking out the window. It was seriously hard not to doze.bedfrom_windowSo I thought I’d be more “productive” and stay awake, and instead of watching TV from the bed, I’d watch it in the lounge couch. That’s where I fell asleep. I can imagine the person tasked with buying the hotel’s furniture, mentally questioning if they’d fall asleep on each stick of furniture before procuring them. Barring the coffee machine, I think I may have “tested” each with the doze test – they have ridiculously high rate doziness-quotient.loungechairI often find bathrooms the test of a hotel, because obviously the first priority is the bedroom, and entertainment, and the bathroom normally feels like it’s fitted with whatever would fit in the space left over from the rest of the suite.
taps

This shower was confusing as hell and twice as fun to figure out - there is a temperature setting, a pressure setting, and a shower head switch depending of which shower head you want to use.
This shower was confusing as hell and twice as fun to figure out – there is a temperature setting, a pressure setting, and a shower head switch depending of which shower head you want to use.

Taking a stroll around the Drostdy, you find lots of little alcoves and areas to sit and read/hold meetings/have a drink with friends.

If the water wasn't 14 Degrees Celsius, this is where I would have spend most of my time.
If the water wasn’t 14 Degrees Celsius, this is where I would have spend most of my time.

I wish I had a reason to use this boardroom. Maybe when I have plans to take over the world more finely tuned?

J.R. Ewing would love this boardroom.
J.R. Ewing would love this boardroom.
camdeboo bar
The Camdeboo Bar – Old-world charm with almost anything you could want.
hubbly bubble
Including old adverts from days gone by. Hubbly Bubbly anyone?

 

There are quite a few accidents where Kudu jump in from of cars at night. The theory is that they jump away from their darkening shadows. Poor beasts.
There are quite a few accidents where Kudu jump in from of cars at night. The theory is that they jump away from their darkening shadows. Poor beasts.

couch

Everything in the hotel is somehow firstly incredibly comfortable and still stylish. It’s the Scarlett Johansson of hotels, if she was around in the 1920’s.

leopard
Just a R1 200 000 piece of art to look at while eating a light lunch.

Heading to lunch at their restaurant in comfort and classic style, the food was delicious. I may have enjoyed it more than I should have, and left no evidence of it, not even photographic. Bad blogger! Bad!

Everything I love I call Camdeboo.
Everything I love I call Camdeboo.

David Livingston once said that “Graaff-Reinet is the prettiest town in all Africa”, and although it can be dusty and dry, it does have sense of tranquility. Find a sunbeam to sit in and take in the Karoo.

camdeboo restaurant

wine wrack
I need to get myself one of these. This is obviously only for show – they have a very nice cellar/vault/panic room filled with amazing wine.

Being well connected means that for people living in Graaff-Reinet, or visiting the hotel, you can buy such gems as the Culinaria Collection from Leopard’s Leap (one of my all time favourite ranges), that you can only normally get at the farm. I would have brought a lot more home had I the bag space, and honestly the bottle I did bring home I thought might get confiscated by airport security.

wine store
Being very well connected they have a wine shop where you can buy some incredible gems.

At the wine shop, I was introduced to the best droewors (dry sausage that’s delicious) I’ve ever had. It was made from Kudu, and the fat from sheep tails. What made this droewors so special is that the fat melts at a low temperature so you don’t get left with any fat residue, giving off as much flavour as possible.

From the hotel we ventured out to rest of the town, the Valley of Desolation (it’s as epic as it sounds), the Cactus Farm, tasted some of the town’s own “Wit Hond” spirit, saw some wild animals being wild, and visited an Officer’s Club where the bar had bullet holes and was a pivotal part of World Pool History, but more of that other posts.

Thank you Graaff-Reinet, and the Drostdy Hotel – Stay classy!

LukeBresler

 

{Note: I visited the Drostdy hotel and surrounds as a guest. All thoughts are my own.}