Last week I celebrated my birthday and started the proceedings a few days earlier with a one night stay in Stellenbosch at the gorgeous Coopmanhujis Boutique Hotel in Church Street.
We dropped the kids off with my sister and hit the highway for 24 hours of life sans kids… first stop was the Winelands Chocolate Festival that was taking place at Lourensford in Somerset West. I had high hopes about indulging myself in some serious chocolate tastings but the masses of people and minimal samples meant that we only stayed about half an hour and were left rather disappointed.
Fortunately we had a wine tasting voucher for 2 for Mulderbosch so decided to head there instead to enjoy a few of their wines and a shared pizza.
We had a lovely leisurely lunch catching up with each other – yes, you may wonder why we don’t talk to each other if we live together, but the truth is we talk but we don’t TALK. Only once you spend some time alone in each other’s company (away from the countless interruptions of children) do you realise that it’s been MONTHS since we last had a proper conversation – about real stuff! It was great.
After a few hours it was time to check in to our hotel so we headed into Stellenbosch town centre – Church Street – to discover what would be our home for the night.
Coopmanhuijs is such a stunning little boutique hotel. A heritage building that was built in 1733, this is a small and intimate space with stylish, comfortable interiors and attentive staff who all welcomed us with warm smiles…. and even valeted our car! It’s no wonder it is consistently ranked as the No 1 hotel in Stellenbosch on TripAdvisor.
All we had to do was walk up the stairs to our room and relax. We spent a little bit of time enjoying our room, the view of the bare oak tree branches against the bright blue sky and the sounds of the minstrel musicians down at street level got us thinking we were somewhere in Europe – a feeling which was only heightened when we took a little stroll down the street to discover a bit more of this pretty town.
Stellenbosch is not somewhere I have spent much time – we usually head straight to the wine farms – but I was really surprised at how lovely it is. Known as a student town, which might be the reason people avoid it, we didn’t find it to be raucous or rowdy at all and it really reminded us of Northern European towns we have visited – Bruges, Delft, Lille.
My only regret is that we didn’t have too much time to wander the streets before the big rugby clash so we only really got to discover one small section – still there was a lot to see – the highlight being our first visit to Schoon de Companje – a place that I’ve heard a lot about and after popping in briefly I can see what it’s so popular.
Inside this beautiful old building (previously the Oude Bank) is a wonderful collection of artisan food suppliers – a bakery, brewery, roastery and “ice-creamery” among them!
I loved the interior – a mix of quirky, vintage finds and plenty of wood. (Now that we’re thinking of renovating our own home I’m seeing things in a whole different way – interesting floors, light fittings etc etc!)
Unfortunately we didn’t sit down to enjoy all the offerings so this is first on my list for when I next find myself in Stellenbosch – in fact I think I need to make a plan to do that pretty soon. There were so many interesting little shops that I walked past but couldn’t pop in to as they had closed for the afternoon…
After watching the rugby match at a local pub we headed back to Coopmanhuijs to enjoy dinner in their in-house restaurant – Helena’s. This gorgeously decorated restaurant has a cosy, warm atmosphere.
The menu is designed to reflect the bounty of the Boland, with specific emphasis on freshness and food provenance – the “from where” and “by whom” of locally sourced (often artisanal) ingredients.
The food was incredible – fabulous fresh flavours and ingredients all beautifully presented. After our starters of a Mezze Platter and Sweet Potato soup, I ordered the Franschhoek Smoked Trout with Prawn Aioli and my husband the Chalmar Beef Fillet with Bearnaise Sauce. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to enjoy the dessert but my husband made up for me by ordering Vanilla Pod Ice-Cream with Roasted Walnuts.
After all this delicious food it was a pleasure to only have to take a few steps to my bed!
The next morning we didn’t have much time before returning to our childminders so had a brief breakfast in the pretty breakfast room – the options were endless so I indulged in some fresh fruit, cheese and preserves and then ordered my usual favourite – Eggs Benedict too!
This was one decadent weekend filled with food, wine and quality time – the perfect way to celebrate my birthday!
Images: Kathryn Rossiter