08 April 2014

Postcards from Clarens

Hello my dear friends!  It's been awhile.  Life has been busy, but good, in a productive sort of way.  I'm finding it hard to believe that we're already well into the fourth month of the year, meaning that I'm also well into the fourth month of my internship... and that the wedding (!!!) is officially less than six months away. But, I suppose that's a topic for another post.

Today I wanted to share one of my very favorite places with you, Clarens.

Nestled right against the foothills of Lesotho, Clarens is one of the towns in South Africa that Jurgen and I find ourselves going back to the most.  When we visit, we usually don't have an agenda in mind and tend to fill our days with cafes and books and cappuccinos and art galleries and chess games and leisurely jogs along the river.  It's the perfect place to be blissfully carefree and lazy.

Despite having been to Clarens more times than I can count on one hand, prior to our most recent visit, we've had fairly mediocre experiences with accommodation in the area.  On our first trip, our bathroom lacked a door... which is a pretty big deal when one of you happens to come down with the stomach bug of the century (hint... it was me).  On another occasion our shower was the equivalent of a trickle.  And on yet another occasion we accidentally rented a house that turned out not to be in Clarens at all (oops). 

So, on our last visit we decided to play it safe and book ourselves into the Protea Hotel Clarens, a boutique hotel located along the main street as you drive into town.  And I'm so glad we did.  For starters, our bathroom had a door, our shower was blissful and we were within easy walking distance of town.  Our room was also comfy and cozy and offered amazing views of the surrounding mountains.  The staff were helpful and the lounge area had a fireplace, making it the perfect place to cuddle up with a warm drink and a good book in the evenings.  Topped off with a superb (and reasonably priced) menu, I don't think we'll be staying anywhere else in future.  If you're ever in the area, PH Clarens comes highly recommended par moi. 

 As for Clarens itself, the town has sort of evolved into an aspiring artist's haven and art galleries pervade its every nook and cranny.  There's no shortage of quaint little cafes, and micro breweries are starting to pop up here, there and everywhere.  Hiking trails line the surrounding hills and a quiet river runs through the edge of town.  The breathtakingly beautiful Golden Gate Highlands National Park is only a few kilometers away.

Just a four hour drive from the hustle and bustle of Jo'burg, over the past several years Clarens has undoubtedly become our favorite weekend getaway.  Two or three days of breathing its clean air and I feel recharged and ready to take on the madness of day to day city life again.  I think a large part of its charm comes from the fact that tourism hasn't discovered it yet.  For the time being, it remains untouched, uncrowded and authentic.

Which is just how I prefer it.  

If you happen to visit Clarens, here are a few of our favorites:

On our last visit, we stayed at the Protea Hotel Clarens for R950 ($95) per night, and loved it.
Daily breakfast and free wifi were included in the above rate.
 Our favorite eats are the Roter Hahn278 on Main, and Artist's Cafe.
{The schnitzels, meat salad, and cherry beer at the Roter Hahn are not to be missed}
For adventure seekers, the abseiling is a blast.  See here for our experience.
Our Clarens must-see? Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
And, if you happen to be looking for wedding venues, we loved The Gourmet Shed & Andes Clarens Guesthouse.

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Also, you've probably noticed that A Home Away From Home has a new look!  Melyssa from Bumble & Buzz Design has been working with me on this over the past couple of months and I couldn't be happier with the end result.  She was able to take my vague and incomplete ideas and transform them into exactly what I'd been looking for all along.  I can't recommend her enough.  She's amazing.