From farm stays to luxurious hotels and guesthouses, travel writer Brian Berkman doesn’t want to explore without doggie-daughter Julie coming along.
Ella’s Country House
“Ella’s really does provide all the comforts you need. A king-sized and very comfortable bed, writing desk, and two sleeper couches for additional accommodations in the open-plan space.”
In her continuing plans for an on-going jetset lifestyle, Julie chastises Brian Berkman each time they return home from a fabulous pet-friendly stay.
I’ve created a monster. Ever since Julie has become a travel dog, she punishes me when we return to our daily life. It is not that she is a snob – you see – but rather she likes to be out so much, that being home no longer makes the grade.
The first time I felt the sting of her indignation, I thought I was imagining things. But now, after eight different pet-friendly stays, I see the trend as clear as day. When we return, like we did recently from a wonderful farm stay at Kleindoorn Guesthouse, near Barrydale, she makes a point, when we get home, of pooing onto thorny spikes that almost slash my fingers when I pick it up. I even upgraded poo bags to those extra thick biodegradable ones. She seeks out the prickliest of fynbos on the mountain and, carefully takes aim to land just between the leaves making scratches and pricks all but unavoidable. And, when we returned from Ella’s in the wonderfully rural village of Greyton, she did the same thing. Julie has become a Hitchcockian villain.
Greyton was a particular highlight for her. It was her first close encounter with horses and cattle on foot. Greyton is like that. We did the Gifkloof Trail, which is a seven kilometer round trip with some steep climbs, but nothing tricky. There are wonderful views over the village from the peak, 330 meters up. Ella’s, in Greyton, is at 88 Main Road and about one kilometer away from the centre of the village and its charming restaurants. Ella’s is hosted by a wonderful chef, Jonathan, who, by prior arrangement, will cook for you. Although billed as self-catering accommodation, it isn’t really intended to be used to cook a feast, with only a microwave, Nespresso machine, toaster and bar fridge in the kitchenette. As Greyton accommodations go, Ella’s is among the most affordable at around R1000 a night. We loved the large-raised viewing deck and timber table, chairs and large canvas umbrella, which was for our exclusive use outside the entrance to our loft, from which we gazed at the mountain.
“ I’ve created a monster. Ever since Julie has become a travel dog, she punishes me when we return to our daily life.”
There is a chicken coop and Julie was preternaturally fascinated by them, so we kept her on her leash and made sure we weren’t in the acre large garden when the chickens were. There is an eco pool at Ella’s that uses plants and stones as a natural filtration, and we were very impressed to see their special, composting fence, which acts as a bug hotel so that the bugs keep away from the kitchen garden and the rest of us. Ella’s really does provide all the comforts you need. A king-sized and very comfortable bed, writing desk and two sleeper couches for additional accommodations in the open-plan space. Note that while the loo and shower are behind a wall and door that provides visual privacy, there is a significant gap between the top of the walls and the thatched ceiling.
There is a very large, shared fireplace as well as a Weber in a covered lapa, with comfy couches off the garden to enjoy the outdoors, but under cover.
See ellas.co.za for booking details.
Kleindoorn Guest House
To take full advantage of life off the lead consider a farm stay where you and your dogs are treasured guests. The Kleindoorn Guesthouse near Barrydale in the Little Karoo is a working farm with a classic farmhouse available to rent. Built in 1900, the thick walls and high ceilings mean that even in the Karoo heat, the house is always a comfortable temperature. While this is a no-frills option, it is supremely comfortable and wonderful to luxuriate in the vast open spaces.
While the house has a gate and a low slate wall, both Julie and the farm’s resident, Vizsla, a caramel-coloured beauty named Lucy, could easily jump over it. Although there is very poor mobile phone reception on the farm, there is excellent free wi-fi. The farmhouse, built in the original style with a large covered verandah in the front, has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, but many other beds in public areas that do double duty as divans for reading and lounging.
Our favourite spot was the sunroom, looking onto the hill behind the house. With large windows, the room is bathed in natural light, and is the perfect place to write or to paint, which the previous occupant, the celebrated Afrikaans writer, poet and painter, Christine Barkhuizen-le Roux did. Do make a point of ordering meat and their very special farm sausage – boerewors – made only with beef mince from the farm’s Wagyu cattle.
What’s important to know is that, while there is a small toaster oven with two hot plates on top and an electric frying pan, your best bet is to braai (bbq) in the large indoor fireplace in the kitchen or in one of two equally large fireplaces outside. We loved the one directly outside the front door for the vast views over vineyards, groves of apricot trees, poplars in the distance, and the blue-tinged mountains.
There is a mountain walking route to a waterfall behind the house and you can walk forever along the farm roads. Here you have space, space and space. Be sure to have solid walking shoes as there are many thorns in the veld and, on more than one occasion, we had to take a thorn out of Julie’s paw. Although when Lucy came to visit us in the house, Julie barked aggressively at her, but when they met up outside the house, they became firm friends. As overprotective parents, we very rarely let Julie truly run free, but we are so pleased that we did, as we witnessed an unbridled joy in her that we don’t often see. On one walk, along the farm roads, she and Lucy were darting amongst the fynbos and Karoo bush and even though we were worried about her encountering a snake, we decided to let her enjoy freedom.
Of course, back on the lead at home, she used the first opportunity to remind me how much more she likes being away than being home by selecting the pointiest and finger-cutting bush to discharge her duty.