Meeting the ‘mense’ of Montagu

Posted by Anita Froneman on 15 June 2021

Staying at a fantastic spot when visiting Montagu was a real catch 22. As eager as I was to get out and discover this new place, the accommodation was such a treat that I wanted to spend my days reading by the pool or lounging around the room in that luxurious robe.

But, being an explorer at heart, I managed to drag myself from the plush scatter cushions on the comfy bed (a ‘reasonable’ amount of scatter cushions, I was told by someone who claims that scatter cushions are completely useless) and set out to see what’s happening in this little Western Cape town.

Credit: Monte Vista Boutique Hotel

Being a born and bred small town girl myself (Kroonstad, Free State, 27.6373° S, 27.2323° E – look it up), I felt quite at home. What a pleasant surprise it was when I realised that I could speak Afrikaans to the hostess at Monte Vista Boutique Hotel, Pauline. She welcomed me at breakfast, itinerary at the ready and phoned up a storm to arrange visits for me all around town (most places are only open by appointment after COVID-19 resulted in a detrimental plunge in visitors). Naturally, she knows everyone in town and has them on their personal cell numbers.

So, after stepping back in time at The Vault Antiques, I made my way to the weekend village market, where I encountered the same lady whom I just met at the antique store. This would continue to happen throughout the weekend, seeing the same people a few times a day around town, greeting them heartily and exchanging chit-chats about what I got up to since I last saw them. The flea market boasted freshly baked pancakes, handmade knitwear and homemade jams, pickled fruit and other artisanal goodies. Last but not least, the self-proclaimed ‘local author’ selling his books grabbed my attention. He had numerous self-printed copies stacked of a three-part omnibus, no less, about his time in the Rhodesian army.

I continued my journey – on foot, because everything is within walking distance – to Mike’s Passion for Ferrari, a showroom containing his personal collection of model Ferrari cars, books and artwork from around the world. He beamed with pride, and with good reason too. He’s accumulated over 2,000 model cars, and knows absolutely everything there is to know about the Italian car manufacturer. Here, visitors can get lost in the magnificent displays of everything Ferrari, their luxury cars, Formula 1 cars and other car-things I know not of.

Credit: A Passion for Ferrari

 

 

By then, it was time to still the hunger and so it was that I stumbled upon the Rambling Rose, where your scrumptious dish is accompanied by homemade sauces and jams you most certainly won’t find anywhere else. I was impressed with the goodness and freshness of the food I’ve been served in Montagu, everywhere I ate. Nothing is pre-made and frozen or left to go stale. Almost all meals are prepared from locally sourced ingredients and organic suppliers.

Dinner was no exception, which was a relief because a huge part of what makes or breaks a destination for me is the food scene. Picollo’s Pizzeria is a cosy little Italian restaurant, unassuming but oh-so-delicious. Here, digging into my very cheesy pizza I saw Mike from the Ferrari showroom once again. Frankly, I would have been disappointed if I didn’t see a familiar face again that evening.

Nature

Besides the town, where you can spend hours popping into this store or that, flipping through second-hand books and eating the day away, there are plenty of outdoor activities to pursue. Personally, I haven’t truly visited a place if I haven’t hiked it, so I made sure to get some steps in. There are four hiking trails in the area, five if you count the designated 500-metre ‘Lovers Walk’ along the Keisie River (which all of the pamphlets do). I opted for the Badskloof trail, a 5km route leading to Avalon Springs, a resort featuring the area’s lovely natural hot springs. Unfortunately, no day visitors are currently allowed.

 

 

Along the way, through swampy patches and stunning views of the Langeberg, I was met by various chirpy bird species and was even lucky enough to spot three duikers frolicking on a hair-raising cliffside.

Take a look at this list of all the hiking trails.

Tourist activities

Montagu offers everything you expect from any self-respecting small town. A tractor ride on Protea Farm in The KOO valley outside of town is one of the highlights all the residents will tell you about. The town itself has a myriad of art galleries and shops, museums and a golf course. Further out, you can enjoy an olive tasting at the Olijvenhof Olive Estate or view the KOO valley on horseback. Another firm favourite is the Viljoensdrift River Cruise on the Breede River between Robertson and Bonnievale.

Take a look at some other fun activities and attractions. 

Where to Stay 

Monte Vista Boutique Hotel is absolute bliss to stay at. The spacious rooms, all decorated with a modern, Afri-chic theme are inviting and the special touches made me feel extra welcome. A bottle of Van Loveren Pinotage awaits travel-weary guests and the mountains forming the backdrop don’t hurt either.

 

 

 

The property also entails a standalone villa, ideal for a large group or family. This ensures privacy as well as absolute peace of mind during COVID-19. The Airlies section is decorated in vintage Victorian style.

A standout point is the whole community’s ‘Garden to Table’ philosophy and at Monte Vista, I ate eggs from a nearby farm and fresh bread baked by the team in the kitchen. The olives are grown by the hotel owners themselves not far away and the pecan nuts are harvested from a tree right there on the property. So are the tomatoes and all the herbs.

 

In the dining room and common area, a toasty fireplace is kept going during mealtimes, a spoil during the winter months. The honesty bar has enough drinks for a rugby team, and typical small town, you just write up your drinks in a book, and settle your bill before you leave.

On hot summer days, the pool is a welcome respite from the heat – or on a fresh winter morning, if you’re as entranced by crystal clear pools as I am. I won’t lie, it was freezing, but the Nespresso in my room warmed me right up.

When I packed my bags to leave, I realised why I’ll be coming back to Montagu very soon. You don’t visit the place, you visit the people.

For more information or bookings, call Monte Vista Boutique Hotel on 023 614 2943 or 083 305 8058 or email [email protected]

Pictures: Anita Froneman

 






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