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Destination Tulbagh PDF Print E-mail

Barely an hour and a half's drive from Cape Town lies the historic country town of Tulbagh, nestling in an exceptionally beautiful valley surrounded by majestic mountains.

Spending the night at one of Tulbagh's finest establishments, Manley's Wine Lodge, Jacques and I discovered there's more to this little town than just a 1969 earthquake....

Arriving after a breath-taking drive through the countryside, we wandered into ‘Things I Love' - an utterly delicious restaurant that looks good enough to eat. Tucking into macaroni cheese (an all-time favourite) and gourmet burger while soaking up the mid-afternoon rays, we paged through an issue of Country Life which coincidently featured the town as its September cover story.

Like us, the magazine's journalist was enchanted by this geographical gem. Surrounded by the Witzenberg and Winterhoek mountains, the early spring hedgerows showed signs of uncurling after their winter siesta. This, teamed with crisp blue skies heavy with birdsong and Cape Dutch architecture, is certain to have been inspiration for many a landscape painter over the years.

But, while its looks are drop-dead gorgeous, Tulbagh's personality is also one of its best features and comprises bubbly hosts, quirky emerald-jewelled fowls and master chocalatiers, making it a natural beauty.

Let's start with the fowls. Found roaming in popular restaurant Paddagang's grounds, magnificent peacocks, skittish guinea fowls and gobbling turkeys put on an exquisite show of nature's best-dressed, flashing their purple eyes at us while joining in a chorus of songbird symphony.

Then, there's the heritage. Originally known as ‘Land van Waveren', Tulbagh has both Germanic and Romanic influence. However, after much settling of pioneers looking for fertile ground to produce wine, the name was changed and gained its contemporary namesake after the Cape Governor, Ryk Tulbagh. Today the town has nothing short of 32 listed buildings in Church Street alone and is as good as any architectural museum.

Of course, no town is complete without some culinary talent - although few have their very own master chocalatier. Moniki's is ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' heaven and open for chocolate-tasting tours seven days a week. Start with a lick or two from a teaspoon laden with rich, sweet mud and sample a trio of handcrafted chocolates over steaming filter coffee, port or wine. With a menu of aniseed, amarula, Pinotage and Dutch caramel, among others to choose from, a trip to Moniki's is nothing short of a chocoholic's ultimate fantasy.

And of course there's the hospitality. Staying in one of two luxurious Manley's Wine Lodge garden cottages, we relaxed in style, warming to a crackling fire in our suite while watching the last of the day's rays disappear below the mountain's skyline. Upon nightfall, a delicious meal was devoured at the establishment's restaurant before turning in for the night, a platter of biscuits and chocolate brownies in-hand.

A popular wedding venue, Manley's has its own 100-seater chapel and reception centre. And while it's an idyllic venue for exchanging nuptials, it is also the ultimate getaway for those who enjoy a little elegance, good hospitality and breathtaking scenery. With 13 luxury double/twin rooms, in addition to the cottages, to choose from, Manley's offers plenty of room at the inn.

Following a breakfast feast on Sunday morning, we concluded our trip with a visit to the cellar for a round of wine-tasting. Featuring a spicy Pinotage blend, rounded Merlot and full-bodied Shiraz, our host's wine tasted as good as its setting looks - picture perfect.