A second long weekend. Bad for business. Good for overall sanity. The eastern Free State was calling, it had been for a while. Clarens… Three hours in a car with another person. This was either going to be the best weekend or a very awkward drive back for one of us – in a bus. I’m going to skip a ton of sentences & just say that Nic the Leb & I survived the weekend – we survived. We also drove back happily – in the same car. Winning. But back to Clarens…
We required navigation assistance as neither of us had actually been to Clarens before. I was there for 7 hours on a media bus for the beer festival the previous year. As I mentioned, none of us had *really* been to Clarens before. Nic the Leb insisted (INSISTED) on using some app called Waze because “Waze never gets me lost. Except for that one time”. Oh. Well I mean OK then. Waze it would be. https://www.waze.com/
We arrived in Clarens, in one piece, despite a fierce strip of potholes for 60kms. Or was it potholes drive 60kms? Anyway. We survived. Mielie fields everywhere, everywhere. There were large mountainous hills (I’m from Cape Town, any other mass of rock is but a hill in my eyes). Clarens, where the air is clean & fresh & good for your lungs.
This is what you could get up to in the tiny Free State town:
- In Clarens, the people love windmills. This was great for me, as I love [LOVE] a windmill(s). They also place their store signage on windmills. The arty people of the town make windmills that you can hang on your walls or place in your garden. Windmills – everywhere. Glorious.
- You can walk. You can walk all about. From your hotel or B&B, to a restaurant. From the restaurant you can walk to the farm stall or the pub or the park. Accessibility – I like this. Almost like being in Cape Town – but not.
- In my mind, I can best describe Clarens as the Franschoek of the Free State – replace vineyards with mielies, of course. But yes, definitely a Franschoek vibe. Minus all things French with touches of all things Swiss. A tourist town where the stores are filled with tourist nik naks that tourists would want to take home. Postcard pretty – as it should be.
- There is a park in the centre of the town. We sat & spoke about our feelings in the sunshine. We didn’t. But we did mingle in the rays, until it got too warm. Then we moved to the shade of a nearby tree & sat watching people (tourists) walk on by. We noticed that Clarens is a town that attracts loads of pregnant women. Loads. Every third lady had a bun in the oven. Peaceful & relaxing & the air was still just so fresh. We could also get up a lot faster than the pregnants & I was grateful for this.
- Waffles. There is a restaurant dedicated to waffles where you can stroll (I said stroll because it sounds romantic & suits the mood) from the park to said restaurant. And you can order waffles or pancakes – they are also dedicated to pancakes. You can sit & watch the tourists walk by & play the “They’re definitely from Joburg. They’re definitely from Pretoria” game – all while eating your waffle. Brilliant. It was delicious. They were chocolate waffles, smeared with Nutella. Because a single dose of chocolate simply won’t do. No. Tourists want double the chocolate everything. They were delicious though. Bloody waffles.
- After waffle time you can browse. Because browsing is BIG in Clarens. Big. Nic the Leb & I realised that Clarens decor probably wasn’t our vibe but I was convinced we would find something to buy. Convinced. I would have taken a windmill but you know – Big. A little shop called Mooi Nooi changed all this. I became the owner of a vintage bread bin & serving platter. Spoilt by Nic the Leb. If I think about it. Nic the Leb didn’t win at all in this game. He got nothing. Apart from my tourist love. Which counts for everything. Shame, poor guy.
- Clarens plays host to some of the finest “T Things” around – Tin Cans & Truffles to be exact. Tin Cans are rusty, turquoise cars that stand outside the Purple Onion Deli (I want it. The Tin Can I mean). Purple Onion Deli is clearly The Business in this little town. They’re name appears on a windmill. They’re sign sits above a bench. And. They house chocolate truffles – loads & loads of truffles. You aren’t supposed to take pictures inside Purple Onion Deli but Nic the Leb was bold & snapped one for me – *rebel*.
- What to do in a small town on a Saturday night? Go & watch some live, folksy music, in a strange pub called The Grouse & Claret, with the friendliest barman & the saddest dog in the world. There was a man with dreadlocks playing the fiddle & a grey haired man with a ponytail on the guitar, whose name either started with a K or had a K in it. There were also ageing bikers, in their ill-fitting leathers, taking up all the bar stools. People drank Glühwein because it gets chilly in the evenings in such a small town. I just had an Appletiser – because I like apple drinks . I wouldn’t have had my Saturday night in Clarens any other way.
- A town filled with artists & one can see why – it is pretty, oh so pretty. The colours. The trees. I won’t say anything else, the picture says it all.
- A few kms outside of Clarens – there’s a little roadhouse that serves Farm style Breakfasts. There’s also an old bus parked on the road. There are enamel cups & coffeepots just sitting on fences. There’s nothing else to say about this. It lured us in.
- If you fancy a drive, head to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. My word. Natural beauty is beautiful, breathtaking in fact & you’ll want to take loads of pictures. I wanted to & I did. You can also stop at the Basotho Cultural Village, situated within the park. It was decided that our next stay would be in the actual Park – because – I’m with a Leb & he’s hardcore like that. http://www.sanparks.co.za/parks/golden_gate/
All in all, Clarens was a delight. I survived a weekend with the guy & wasn’t banned from driving back with him. Waze was allowed to navigate our journey home. Clarens made me want to be all touristy & eat waffles. My cheeks even got a little pink from the fresh air & sunshine. I’ll happily return to mielie land soon- happily.