5 fabulous attractions in Darling besides pretty flowers
Darling is a typical sleepy South African town surrounded by farmland that every year around August and September explodes into multi-coloured carpets of spring flowers. The veld types in this area are a unique mix of Sandveld, Strandveld, Renosterveld and Rietveld, giving Darling a spectacular diversity and abundance of spring flowers. However, Darling holds several more interesting and exciting attractions to make a visit worthwhile during the other 10 months of the year too.
1. Evita se Perron
My personal favourite is Evita se Perron, home to Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout, Pieter-Dirk Uys’ most famous character. Pieter-Dirk created her character in the late 1970s, when during the time of the Information Scandal, it became more and more difficult to continue writing his column in the Sunday Express under his own name. It wasn’t until 1982 that Tannie Evita took to the stage and she never looked back. Many politicians, including Nelson Mandela, have requested an audience with her and she can still be found on stage at Evita se Perron on a regular basis.
She is not only funny, but shares a world of knowledge on South African recipes, and is very sharp and willing to stick her neck out by tackling political issues in a way that anybody, regardless age, gender and race, will listen to and take note off. In addition, she does amazing work raising funds for the Darling Trust. Girl, you totally rock!
2. Darling Brew
The Darling Brew’s first beer was the Slow Beer, inspired by the rare geometric tortoise that is endemic to the Western Cape. Their philosophy was to use a slow fermentation process to enhance the flavour of this golden liquid and is now used for all their beers.
What started as a micro-brewery has turned into a well-matured craft beer brewery with around ten different beers on the menu and a brand new Tasteroom, where you can try all their beers and have a lunch at the same time. The menu offers a range of tasty bar-type meals from fresh, organic and locally sources ingredients, but is rather meat orientated – not so great for vegetarians. However, the range of different beers on the menu makes the tasting a worthwhile activity in its own right. Bone Crusher, a wit beer inspired by the Spotted Hyena, is my top choice.
3. Olive Tasting
Alexanderfontein Farm comprises of 70 ha of dry land olives with a density of about 400 trees per hectare – a shed-load of olive trees. As the Atlantic Ocean is just 15 km away from the farm, the cool Atlantic wind and rain it brings, means the trees don’t need artificial irrigation. Hence, the Mission olives have a much more intense flavour.
The farm is home to Darling Olives, an all-round olive educational experience on growing, pressing, and the use of these originally Mediterranean fruits. As a non-olive eater, I was fascinated to learn about the many uses of olives, from your simple virgin olive oil, cured olives, and olive pastes, jams and chutneys, to soaps, bath salts, and even chocolate. Call me ignorant, but the biggest revelation was to learn that black olives are just ripe green ones. Always believed these were different varieties.
4. Nicolaas Maritz Gallery
Nicolaas Maritz is a well-established local artist, who decided it was time to have a proper Studio Gallery, so people can have a look ‘behind the work’ and understand it better. He created a most incredible house full to the rafters with art, mostly his own, but also some of his fellow South African artists. You roam from one room into the next, into his water-wise garden and his studio, and lose yourself in his intriguing work described by art critics as zippy, post-modern ethno-centric punk, naive, and challenging. No idea what that means, but I love his work.
5. Groote Post Vineyards
Only a short drive outside of Darling lies the beautiful historic Groote Post estate. The Manor House dates back to the early 19th Century, when Groote Post was set up as one of the stations to guard livestock in the area from the frequent cattle raids by the Hottentots.
It is now a wine farm producing award-winning wines. The Sauvignon Blanc vineyards are all planted on the south-facing upper slopes of Kapokberg. The higher altitude together with the prevailing cool south-easterly Atlantic sea breeze keeps the vineyards cool during summer. This results in a later harvest than on any of the other farms in the area. Their Kapokberg Sauvignon Blanc has therefore a unique intense flavour with great minerality, fresh cut grass and green aromas on the nose, and citrus and quince prominent on the palate – completely my kind of Sauvignon Blanc. It’s delicious!
Groote Post offers the traditional wine tasting experience, lunch at Hilda’s Kitchen restaurant, picnic platters, nature walks, farm/game drives, and on the last Sunday of every month it hosts the Groote Post Country Market with a great selection of fresh produce from the local Darling area.