Taking around the tourists

January 2018

I’m beginning to feel like a tour guide! We have had parties of friends out from Joburg each weekend curious to see our new haunts. They tend to roll home replete after being introduced to some of the goodies and venues on offer.

Naturally they have also marvelled at the quiet streets and beautiful gardens, even as they melted from the heat, but then it is even worse when the sun is trapped by the buildings of the Big City.

One thing I have to admit. Henley mosquitoes are in a class of their own. I haven’t seen such mighty warriors since the Man and I were newlyweds out in the Magaliesberg and they met us, not one on one, but in squadrons. I could distinguish the different engine whines.

Today mosquito deterrents are more advanced, but I have yearned for the mosquito nets my grandmother used to drop over us in humid Natal in December, folds and folds of enveloping mozzie-blocking gauze.

Back to our guests … the one party started with a leisurely breakfast at The Hound, followed by a city tour with special attention paid to Ewelme and its heavy traffic of three cars and a bakkie. It always gets a laugh. Our main drag used to be Louis Botha Avenue, a stream of taxis, cars and buses (mostly taxis), negotiating dead traffic lights, building construction and potholes. It hasn’t changed apparently.

On that occasion we stopped at the About Time Coffee Shop for cake, coffee, ice cream floats, home-made biscuits and friendly service. Alas, I see it has “suspended trading until further notice as we are busy addressing issues surrounding the premises”. What’s going on?

Back then, we tried to take our guests to The Makery, but it was closed. Question – is Henley on Klip a holiday town, or do Henleyites all trek to the sea for Christmas? The Makery was open this weekend so we rushed our latest guest in to meet Nelson Mandela (the statue). We found the venue a shadow of its pre-Christmas self, with vehicles parked where we had coffee last time, the wedding patio, last seen being lovingly planted with seedlings, stripped, the kiddies’ area closed and the pool green.

Town planning problems, we were told, although we were assured that the new menu was amazing and there was plenty of seating in the attractive gardens on the other side. What’s going on?

To keep the balance, we popped in at Montagues Family Restaurant, new to us, to look around. I was not too taken with the dark entrance and having to trip over my feet past the bar and the TV screens, but I expect it’s more inviting at night. There were people relaxing in the garden and the menu looked good. I’ve been told that you go to The Hound for lamb shank, The Makery for steak and Montagues Family Restaurant for ribs. We shall test that.

We then made the discovery of the year – to be sure the year isn’t far advanced, but it was quite a discovery. We knew Ducks Country House and Venue existed, but were always met by a closed gate. This time there was a WE’RE OPEN sign and the gate was swung back invitingly, so we drove in looking for Sunday lunch.

We found it – and we will find it again, often. What a beautiful setting! On a hot, hot day, it was bliss to relax in the deep shade of the tall trees after a stroll down to look over a placid river with reeds, ducks and feeding fish. We were a party of showbiz people, so the Red Door Theatre and Conferences venue was an instant talking point.

Later we stopped at The Hound, always a pleasure, for decadent chocolate meringue cake and apple crumble, then dropped in to share the ambience of Twisted Realm Creations. Despite the large warehouse the air was hot, but the people were chilled, sipping wine on the sofas, getting their hair cut by Steve and a tattoo (what’s the word, pricked, inked?) by Zack. While our guest inspected the artwork, funky and otherwise, I played with the cats snoozing under the tables.

The weekend before we had escorted our guests partway to Café du Cirque for sweet and savoury pancakes in the shady garden before they hit the R59 back home. This time there was more serious shopping as we sat on our patio and checked out property websites.

“It’s so quiet here,” our guest murmured, “and you have stars!” As she drove off into the warm, still night, I wondered if there was another Henleyite in the offing.

See more on Jennifer de Klerk’s blog at www.henley-on-klip.co.za