July - Tides River Lodge, Breede River
I love driving on road trips. I can drive for hours and not have any problems. Maybe because it's the whole adventure that keeps me going. The anticipation on arriving somewhere new like an explorer. It makes me happy for some reason. Although what I will say is that the trip there is always better than the trip back.
Now anyone who has done a trip along the N2 from Cape Town will tell you about Peregrine Farm Stall just outside Grabouw. A cafe, bakery and a farm stall all in one with everything you could possibly need food wise for a road trip. (And I mean everything). From a play area for the kids to the beautifully renovated restaurant/cafe, to their famous pies, biltong, wine and now craft beer, cider and coffee all set in amazing surroundings. Do yourself a favour and make a plan and stop. You'll thank me later.
Once we sorted ourselves out with coffee and snacks we were on the road again. With nothing but time we decided to take a detour and visit the De Hoop Nature Reserve for a little bird watching (don't judge) and some lunch. I had never been to De Hoop so Lauren and I decided it was the perfect stop for us. I can tell you its one of the most beautiful nature reserves I've visited so far. Set along the coast, it has some of the most amazing views of the ocean and the reserve has a eerie silence that makes me feel like something is going to happen at any moment (nothing does, but the feeling stays).
After our lunch at the main hotel restaurant we headed for a drive around to see the accommodation for a future trip. We will definitely be back there, it's too beautiful not too. Although we soon found out that its a very popular place and booked up months in advance so we will have to do some planning to next year some time.
After lunch, before we left the reserve, we decided to drive to the coast to see the sea and breath in the fresh air, but more importantly to see the whales who seemed to be out in full force. (I'm guessing we were there at the right time of year, because we saw at least 10 pods of whales). As I said its one of the most stunning pieces of coast lines I have ever seen. Untouched and pristine. I loved it. To top it off on the way back down the dirt road behind the dunes I got a glimpse of a caracal or leopard of some sort (Only got a glimpse) crossing the road. Lauren wasn't convinced but anyway, I took it as a good sign that the weekend was going to amazing. And I was right.
The reason we were going to Malgas for the weekend was to join Chef Matt Manning on one of his weekend culinary adventures which he hosts at least 2/3 times a year. This weekend was called Soirée with Sijnn. The idea is that for an entire weekend you are treated to restaurant quality food and world class wine all set at in a beautiful setting for one set affordable price. Do yourself a favour and make sure you book for the next one. You won't be disappointed. (Actually don't, forget I said anything, more for us)
Our accommodation was at the Tides River Lodge, which is set on beautiful green rolling lawns overlooking the banks of the breede river. Matt and his team took care of the food and Charla and the team for Sijnn Wines made sure we never went thirsty and believe me we didn't.
From Friday evening straight through to Sunday afternoon we didn't stop eating and sampling the amazing Sijnn wine. It's a world class wine and because they try keep all their wine as natural as they can get, the hangovers are basically non-existent. (Basically) Which was why I could keep a glass of wine in my hand for 48 hours straight. (I was a very happy man)
We enjoyed a long night under the lapa meeting the other guests, drinking and enjoying the curry Matt had prepared for us. Breakfast on the Saturday morning was set in the main house on the veranda set under a massive tree with its resident Eagle Owl watching over us. Which as bird watchers (don't judge) was something pretty special for Lauren and I. (I was so bleak I couldn't get a good photo)
After breakfast and wine (perfectly acceptable) we set off for a tour of the Sijnn Wine farm about 2 min drive away. Set on the hills above the breede river, this winery had views in all directions.
We heard from David Trafford (the Owner) how the the winery started and how the entire place is a labour of love. Everything is done by hand by the Charla (winemaker) and her staff. Including using an old hand press. Only recently have they upgraded to a new hydrolic press. No wonder Charla was in such a good mood. No more back breaking work. Although hearing how they plant the vines and see how rocky the soil is its pretty crazy that anything grows at all in that soil and heat. But they have done an amazing job and I think you will be hearing a lot more about the Sijnn Wines in the future.
That evening back in the main house under tree, we started the dinner/lunch around 3pm and eventually forced down the last course around 8pm. The food didn't stop coming out the kitchen the entire time. Course after course and each paired with another glass of wine. Eventually the last course had to be delayed. We were all just too full and the braaibroodjies that we were meant to have around the fire that evening didn't happen. We could eat another thing. Although we made up for it with the wine.
The next day was a little slow and we met ip under the big tree to demolish the most delicious scrambled eggs I have ever tasted. It was insane. (No I didn't have a hangover, the wine was too good). After that we packed our bags and said goodbye to the Tides River Lodge and headed to Sijnn again for a quick Sunday wine tasting (only one glass, I was driving) and to have a quick lunch of the braaibroodjies we never got to on the night before.
All in all a great weekend and judging by the smiles and the reluctance of everyone to leave, the next Matt Manning cannot come soon enough.
As we made our way back towards the De Hoop Reserve I cant remember being as happy after a weekend. Being with friends makes all the difference and thanks to Tiffany & Jack and Jean "the winemaker" & Kate, I think we have many more weekends like this one up our sleeve.
Km Traveled: 531km (total)
Left home: Friday morning
Back home: Sunday evening
Visited: De Hoop Nature Reserve
Friday Lunch: The Fig Tree
Accommodation: Tides River Lodge
All wine supplied by: Sijnn Wine Farm
All food supplied by: Matt Manning
New birds ticked off the list:
Owl, Cape Eagle-