Why, Darling?

Looking for a romantic spot  near Cape Town to celebrate an anniversary?

Nope, not you, Darling.

It didn’t help that I started the trip out with having to cancel my first night because I had to have my only Big Night Out of the year the day before. The hangover was… well, deserved. I suffered.

First five points to Darling: the wonderful guest house owner allowed us to cancel the night we missed at no charge. She was a dear.

My own dear partner forgave me because I’ve endured a few hangovers coming from the other side of the table. I will be making up for it, to be sure.

Tannie Evita as Frida Kahlo (with apologies).
This is not my partner. But I did get this sort of expression when I groaned on the couch next day. –  Tannie Evita as Frida Kahlo (“With apologies” it says).

Getting there:

Darling is scary close to Cape Town. So close, it’s practically part of this place. I’m sure the residents won’t like me mentioning that. I wonder if their proximity to the Big City accounted for their inexplicable crankiness. The drive was gorgeous, though. It’s nearly mid-summer and the scenery is mostly golden brown and a fine change from the usual Garden Route sort of prettiness. Opt for the direct route through Atlantis and drive down the lovely avenue that is Dassenberg Rd where Saturday mornings see people out and about, young couples holding hands and children running about and up to no good, as children should be.

Drive.Atlantis

If you want a detour which can be, curiously, a slightly less confusing route than through Atlantis with all its confounding MyCiti bus stops, I warn you – WARN YOU – to drive slowly up Silverstream Rd. Because, it seems, that entire area is run by a tyrannous network of goats. As you mind your business at 100km per hour, they dash across the street to the apparently attractive dry brush on the other side that, to an untrained eye, looks much like the dry brush from whence they had just come. No fence appears to be able to hold the goats in, and occasionally you’ll find one of their number harassing a large dog who had the audacity to be on the wrong territory without his boys to back him up. The dogs usually solve their woes by stepping into the centre of the street and having a little lie-down, and so if you don’t want to be caught up in Bovid-Canine politics, just slow down and pretend you don’t see anything. Avoid hitting anything at all costs.

sheep
A small gang of sheep who’ve been influenced by the goats.

Hello, Darling!

The title of this paragraph was misleadingly enthusiastic. Arriving in Darling was a far less jolly experience. After the irrepressible good humour of Greyton, I found that I was treated rather as badly as I’d be treated back in Cape Town. Barring a few warm souls, of course. We started off at Chicory Cheese before dropping our bags off, and it proved a rather tricky experience trying to find out who worked there and to let them know that sitting down was something we’d be interested in doing. But we did find someone and, though she was shyly polite, I’d lost my mood for either chicory or cheese (that’s a joke, there’s no such thing as no mood for cheese) and purchased an ice-cream on a stick and went back to the car.

Chicory Cheese. Get the Ice Cream. That is all.
Chicory Cheese. Get the Ice Cream. That is all.

This ice-cream needs its own paragraph, because it was the best fucking ice cream I’ve ever eaten. For blueberry cheesecake-flavoured decadence, go to the little fridge beside the till and stock up on these things. There are other flavours too (Lindt, anyone?). This is not your R3 Chocolina or Twice as Nice. This is ice-cream on a fucking stick. Totally worth R20. But don’t give it to your kids, those little jerks wouldn’t tell the difference between the good stuff and the Gatti goop.

Where to Stay

Darling was suspiciously booked up the weekend we went. One couldn’t tell so from the activity on the streets, which was mostly a few pieces of tumbleweed blowing about after 5pm but, it seems, there was a wedding on. THE wedding, apparently. According to the person with a lovely greeting almost as warm as that of a Greytonite (Greytonian?), the bridal pair had kept the town guessing for far too long and the groom’s mother had finally got them to make decent people of one another.

It’s a very small town, but has a fair number of holiday accommodation spots. We used Booking.com for ours, and it was well-priced (something like R650 per night). I don’t think that there are many places that are not conveniently located. Booking.com shows you the map of the area and the location of the various registered guesthouses it lists. We could easily have walked from our guesthouse to the main road, but there are places even closer to the main area. I think it might be nicer to stay up nearer to the wine farms or the museum, because the area we parked ourselves in felt a little too suburban to feel like a proper ‘getaway’.

We booked into a little BnB called Elly’s Place where Elly squinted for a moment at us standing at the front door like we were asking for access to Bethlehem’s last inn. But we forgave her the confusion just as she had forgiven me my last-minute cancellation. Elly’s place is beautiful inside (if a little suburban out), and large. And Elly herself is possibly the most generous host you will find inside and outside of Darling. She offered to pick us up if we had drunk too much while out at dinner, and she cooked a mean breakfast which had me doing a little happy dance for the rest of the day. I will warn, however, that if you are looking for a proper social feel, I wouldn’t recommend this guesthouse because there is only one room available. And if you’re interested in a romantic weekend away (as we were), all thoughts of romance fly out the window owing to the thin wall separating you from Elly’s 95-year-old mother. But the room is gorgeous, you have your own entrance, and I strongly recommend an evening swim in the pool. Actually, if you want the feeling of being hosted in a friend or acquaintance’s personal residence (and a great host at that), go here. A really charming spot.

Food (FOOD!)

Bistro 7
Bistro 7

I don’t know much about the food in Darling, because we were foiled at every (well, just two) turn(s). You see, we made the mistake of taking our lunch at the only restaurant that seems to open for dinner as well. This is the Bistro 7, and it has a decent menu and a curious vibe that had me a little charmed. A white-mustached gentleman serves you in the painfully polite fashion that gives the sensation of being in a British comedy skit. He bends low, speaks in hushed tones and cracks dry jokes with a napkin over his arm while you ponder the menu and the dated decor. The latter includes a significant number of ship-themed pictures on the wall, wobbling ceiling fans and peach-coloured wall paint. Nothing fit, and everything fit. Especially the waiter – he was wonderful. His charm sort of completed the cosy sensation, and made up for its quiet. It was curious that there were only two other patrons there – also tourists – and we sussed one another out from opposite ends of the room. A strange rendition of ‘Dream a little Dream’ played as we tried not to make eye contact, and I felt certain that at one point, the male guest farted, making his date go pink and stifle a laugh. Thank god, I suppose, that he was far away from me.

Highlights: good selection vegetarian food.

I wished I had gone there for dinner as well. The food was quite lovely, but that’s as much as I can ever say, because I have the ruined tastebuds of Homer Simpson.

The only other dinner option (Cafe Mosaic) closes at 9pm. Don’t go there. The staff, in general, were polite. You know, but not even Cape Town polite (and we can be rude little fuckers). The owner/manager was very unfriendly & the rugby volume got turned up high soon after we arrived. The food was ‘meh’, the prices were ‘eh’, and the family who arrived after us ignored their obedient children who sat in silence while the adults glued their eyes to the big screen. The young boy had a cell phone to stare at, and the little girl made a mess on her plate in tomato sauce, which I presumed served as her only entertainment.

But there’s more!

evita.se.perron1
Inside at Evita se Perron

Of course there is. Because: wine! Evita Bezuidenhout! The end of the Crank.

I will be the first to admit that we didn’t give this little town enough time to win us over. We were there such a short time! The thing is, it’s just the first impression that was bad – I won’t write it off just yet. I’d love to try one of the other great places to eat, stay, visit. Perhaps harass more people and try to get them to talk to me. We even checked out the museum briefly, and afterward had a long conversation with a British expat about the poor job opportunities her white sons have here in South Africa. Erhem. For those of you beside yourself with worry for them, they’re safely in the UK, dreaming of one day being able to return to SA and have a home with their very own maid & gardener.

But the highlights certainly were the wine tasting and visiting Evita se Perron. I mean, this IS why people go there, no? You can walk to the wine farm Ormonde (a short stroll along a gravel road from the museum) and you’ll be greeted by the bright face and sunny disposition of the young man who’s job title I forgot after a few glasses of wine. Let’s call him a sommelier. And the wine is delicious. You should try their selection of Ondine whites, particularly the semillon which they claim is an acquired taste, but had me seeing love-hearts after one sip. Their red selection is lovely, too, and he opened a bottle of one of their signature wines for us to try, the Theodore Eksteen which was a little too tart, but I’m nobody so go try it and tell me what you think. We drank, had fabulous chocolates, and I heard the latest on the Darling social scene. OK, he told me very little but I filled in the gaps with my own details. He threw me a bone here and there by painting a picture of a lot of people of differing ages having fabulous dinners together every night and it all seemed very E.M. Vorster. But without the social commentary and mostly in white Afrikaans.

Hi, Ormonde.
Hi, Ormonde.

Evita Se Perron

Before we left, we swung by Evita Se Perron at around 10am. The place was so lovely, we stayed until the 2pm show. Yes, Evita Bezuidenhout is on show every weekend. It’s fantastic! And funny. You’ve all seen her in action, so I needn’t go on about how quick her wit is and how hilarious it was to watch my partner get teased in front of a bunch of strangers. The show was called Tannie Evita Praat Kaktus, and I do recommend it.

The outdoor restaurant is a great place to relax in the shade & we hung around there drinking wine & coffee for a few hours. It’s surrounded by “Boerassic Park” – a small collection of humourous sculptures of SA politicians, and some old apartheid memorabilia to be made fun of. It’s also railway adjacent, and we were lucky to see the longest fucking train I’ve ever seen.

Try: The lentil bobotie (spicy but sweet) and the koeksisters (VERY sweet, but lovely).

You can also get a rather decent little bottle of plonk for just R27 for 500ml (WHAT still costs R27 these days? If I hadn’t been driving, I’d have ploughed through more of these).

One of many Cats With Attitude.
One of many Cats With Attitude.

I had the happy experience of bumping into Pieter Dirk Uys after the show, getting a little awestruck and waving at him like a fool when he was certainly within handshaking distance (though he leapt deftly out of my reach, I feel sure). But I left giddy, and ready to give this cranky place one more try.

So, Darling, we may yet meet again. Or at least I’ll give you a courtesy wave if I pass by on my way to Yzerfontein (which, by the way, I expect great things from because I’ve so far heard nothing whatsoever about it).

Enjoy!

Darling Tourism: http://www.darlingtourism.co.za/

Evita Se Perron: http://www.evita.co.za/

Darling Map

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