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I leave my house for work and get called over by two village women awaiting their chance to do business with the chief. The first smiles...

Friday, May 06, 2016

Adventures in Mabita: Clarens Weekend

While Botha Bothe is limited in its tourist attractions, it is only a short drive (especially in a private car) to many other places. One of these is the South African town of Clarens.

I recently went to Clarens for the first time with fellow PCV Nick. Clarens was, for us, an three-night adventure in walking, eating, and drinking. As a top tourist spot in Orange Free State, the small town has a number of locally owned restaurants, a brewery, small shops, and over a dozen art galleries.

Nick and me on the hills overlooking Clarens. 
Walking: Although it started as just walking around town and checking out the shops and galleries, we soon learned that the town has a conservancy that made and maintains a number of walking and hiking trails on the outskirts of town. Although there are town maps with the trails noted, we splurged on the inexpensive detailed map. We spent half of each day walking the trails.

While walking is a normal part of life in Lesotho, these trails were well designed and free from the animal dung that must be dodged on the paths I usually walk.

Eating: On my other vacations in South Africa, dining has been a small part of the experience with destinations, adventures, and wild animals being a bigger priority. In Clarens, however, it was all about food...so much food! We ate out every meal but one...and that meal comprised bread, cheese, sausage, and fig jelly from a nearby bakery.

All this and dessert??
Highlights of the eating included a  giant burger, a cheese plate, a sausage plate at a German place, waffles covered in mince, eggs, and cheese, and salmon blue cheese pasta. The clear winner, though, was everything from the Courtyard Cafe. We first went for their renowned Sunday lunch buffet, which was perhaps the most I have eaten in one sitting in a decade. It was absolutely amazing.

Our one at home dinner was purchased at their bakery. Monday morning the town becomes a sleepy shell of its weekend activity and a number of places were closed, so we returned and I drooled over salmon eggs benedict. Before we left town, we grabbed two muffins from their bakery, making four consecutive meals from the same place!
Yummy stout

Drinking: Normally, I get more excited about wine than beer. In Clarens, however, my excitement lay with delicious locally brewed stout from the Clarens Brewery. It was exactly what this dark beer loving lady needed after going through a dark beer drought since departing America. Seriously, I think I had more good dark beer in Clarens than in the previous 21 months despite having a porter in America in October and a porter in Cape Town in August.

My other favorite beverage, of course, will always be coffee. Nearly every restaurant in Clarens had great coffee options-particularly espresso based treats like cappuccinos. In case that was not enough to keep me caffeinated and moving, daily deliciousness from Highland Coffee filled each morning topped off with free Wi-Fi (something not often experienced reliably in Lesotho). Happy Beth!

Sleeping: We stayed at the Clarens Inn & Backpackers. This place is a large rambling estate with significantly more space than meets the eye. It has a lot of personality, each room and separate building has its own style and name. Eccentricity meets relaxation. Although it is a ten minute walk from the town square, it sits directly off the local trails.

Spoiling Oneself: Clarens also allowed me to get my favorite rare treat: a pedicure. Just before we left, I visited the Wellness Day Spa, where I had the best pedicure of my entire life. My toes are now a beautiful teal and looking much happier than they have in ages. The relaxing on a massage table with a lavender compress on my eyes was not too difficult either!

Other Adventures in Mabita:
     Ts'ehlanyane National Park
     Liphofung Caves

1 comment:

Linda said...

Such a wonderful post, and your photos are beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. :)