SA Weekend Trips: Clarens & Afriski

Lets venture to the land of mountains for a perfect weekend away…

Clarens ( Free State)

Clarens, a small rustic town nestled in the Free State, is approximately 3 hours and 30 mins from Johannesburg – which makes a great weekend destination out of the bustling city life into the farm lands.

You have a choice of wonderful self catering accommodation in beautiful homes that can be booked via www.infoclarens.com and many other of the usual sites like booking.com, safarinow etc. However since Clarens is a big weekend away destination for both locals and tourists…getting a place on short notice is difficult so best to book accommodation well in advance. (We started looking about a month before, and we struggled to find places that were available for this weekend)

Accommodation – Talking Trees

We could have not found a better place…Talking Trees had that charming country feel. Beautifully decorated and homey. The lights and TV were left on by the caretakers knowing that we would be arriving after 5pm, which was very welcoming.

4 bedrooms, nice cosy lounge and dining area with gas fireplace.  Full DSTV bouquet. Fully stocked spacious kitchen with all necessary amenities (including shot glasses).  And outside patio and braai area that would be perfect for those summer months.

Rating: 10/10  House was spacious, clean, beautiful and perfect for friends/family looking for a home away from home. Towels and cleaning service (after you leave) included. Cleaner can be booked to come through during your stay at an extra cost. No hassles with picking/dropping of house keys. Mountain Odyssey (booking agent) were friendly and even let us have a later checkout time when I called that morning. Absolutely loved this place and it will be my 1st choice whenever I go back.

Contact Sarah-Jane, Lisa, Ralie and Gavin (the whole family) at Mountain Odyssey. They will be waiting with a warm and friendly welcome to assist you with your Clarens accommodation and activity needs.

Tel: 058 256 1173/1480   Email: odyssey@isat.co.za

Let the weekend begin…waiting for the boys to arrive so the party can officially begin 💃🍻

Having a few drinks and playing games

There are mainly places to eat, art galleries, artsy and home decor shops around the main square. It’s safe to walk around at night and the square is full with lively people.

Besides for a peaceful place to relax, if you’re looking for adventure there are a lot of activities that can be done around the area.  Like horse riding, white water rafting, paintball, hiking, dinosaur fossil tours etc. etc.  And off course it is a good base camp when making your way to cross the border into Lesotho and go skiing at Afriski. Which is what we did.

We left JHB around 1pm on Friday, arrived in Clarens around 5:30pm, picked up the house keys (in less than 10 minutes), ordered some take away pizza from the same place, and headed over the house to chill and have a few drinks. The rest of our group joined us later that night and we had a fun time playing games, joking, laughing and talking till about 2am. We had an early 7am start the next day to make our way to Lesotho and try our hand at skiing. This was a first time visit for me to Clarens and a first time adventure activity (for me and most of group) – so the excitement levels where high and off course it made for an unforgettable weekend experience as can be seen from the pictures below. Afriski took up the entire day and luckily when we got back to Clarens around 6pm the shops were still open so we could buy some braai stuff. Although in hindsight – braaing after a long day out was probably not the best of ideas and in the cold winter weather. Takeaways would have been easy.  We still had a pretty good time, had a lot of shooters and the “who can hold their liquor” competition between Dan and I was by then in full swing (started from Afriski). Off course I won😎💃! You can’t compete with an Indian in this game😂 …ha ha, also the fact that he was lights out by 9pm automatically made him the loser and the muse of our fun (sorry Dan you asked for make up on your face – it provided a lot of entertainment, I haven’t laughed that hard rolling on the floor in ages😁😂). The tiredness however crept in and we all were eventually in bed by 12pm. Sunday we lazed around in the house, sat out in the sun for bit chatting and then made our way up to the main square to drop of the keys, have an early brunch and walk around a bit before we set back to JHB. Another day would have been perfect to have really enjoyed the house and relaxed after the hectic day out.

Best Recommended For: chilled weekend aways with friends/family. With the option for adventure activities if you get bored.

Afriski Mountain Resort (Lesotho)

At least a 2 hour drive from Clarens, through windy endless roads around the mountains and frozen mini rivers and waterfalls,  you will eventually reach the entrance to Afriski Mountain Resort.

As first time skiers it was a little daunting waiting in long lines.y being given boots and then told to stand in another line for skis…not knowing what to do or expect. Luckily we had a friend who had been there before. But as a vertically challenged lady at first I thought how am I going to carry these skis around…but after both boots are securely on your feet and it’s just the skis, they weren’t that heavy and quite manageable in the end.

Snapshot of our day skiing

Tips:

  1. There are only 2 sessions a day for ski school, the first being at 11am.
  2. If you are planning on getting breakfast there, like we did and which we never ended up doing, you need to leave Clarens latest 6am. So that you get there around 8/08:30am with sufficient time to spare. I would suggest you eat 1st then go collect tickets and get geared up as this process will take you at least an hour if they busy.
  3. Wear gloves…you will need it for all the falling on the snow and especially for holding onto to the pulley that takes you up the slope.
  4. You will get hot pretty quick  – skiing is hard work and if the sun is out its gonna get warm.  Wear layers that you could possibly take off and have pockets that you can stuff things like your scarf etc. in.
  5. Don’t carry a bag if you can ladies – use your jacket pockets to keep your phone, lip balm and wallet/money – it’s so much easier.
  6. Take some water with you, you can leave it one side at the bottom of the slopes or in your jacket if it has a holder. I was so parched all the time…as mentioned before, learning to ski was hard work and the strength I needed to hold onto the pulleys tired me out.
  7. Keep at it. The more you try to practice the moves and methods, the more you will get it. The trick to walking sideways is to bring your feet inwards so that the tips of the skis are going in the snow. The trick to skiing ⛷ is to lean forward – you will never fall leaning forward…the skis and tightness of the boots prevents you from falling forward (TIP courtesy from Mike👊). You will however fall sideways and backwards going up the slopes via the pulley system… but don’t be ashamed everyone falls. I fell almost every time. After the 1st few times I was no longer embarrassed just exhausted and annoyed because now I had to get myself up.
  8. Go with some great, nice and helpful guy friends who can keep u motivated, help carry your skis around and most of all help pick you up when you fall!!
  9. If you battle to get up and have no upper body strength like me and if there is no-one to help…take off the skis with your hands.  This is much safer. The chances of you popping/dislocating your knee caps are high… you fall with locked knees and in awkward positions. Sadly there is no evidence of Mike and I playing twister on the snow 😄LOL! But that memory will be etched in our minds forever. NB! Never push yourself or let someone pull you in a manner if it feels uncomfortable or sore. (The no. of knee injuries seen from skiing is pretty high and the recovery time is months  – let’s try to avoid that 😉 shall we.)
  10. Be prepared for aching sore muscles for the next few days. Shins, arms, shoulder blades etc. get a real work out. Stock up on that Voltaren and a hot someone to help massage it in😉.
  11. Finally – Have some fun!! Experience what the world has got to offer, don’t be afraid, let go of those fears and embrace the falling. Go conquer those slopes!

Travelling with awesome friends makes for awesome adventures 😊

A Day in Parys

The 1st of July is a day for trying things for the 1st time!

Ask me to wake up early on a week day and I’ll never get up… but waking up on a weekend to go on an adventure and I’m up at 05h20, 40mins before my alarm.

Once we’ve introduced everyone to each other and all had some coffee at Dan’s – we ready to set out on our road trip to Parys in the Free State. The one and half hour drive there was a breeze when you chat the whole way. Especially when 3 out of the 4 ppl are ex/current KPMGers… LOL we r the best and so it was a given right from the start that we were gonna get along like a house on fire.

And boy did we get along…with all the banter, laughter and sheer good vibes you would think we knew each other forever.

First stop O’s Restaurant for some proper vaal brekkie to get us energised. Breakfast was good and hearty. The light drizzle that began as we entered Parys has stopped and 10mins later as we arrive at Earth Adventures the sun is fully out. Yes! Theres that South African winter weather we love.

Clay Pigeon Shooting – Activity No.1

Indemnity forms filled, the bakkie is packed and we’re off for our 1st activity – Clay Pigeon Shooting.

For those who have never done this – the clay is in fact not shaped in pigeons 😁 but are just round disks…booo… bit of a disappointment for kimmy who was expecting clay pigeons.

The 4 musketeers: Daniel, Me, Jaco & Kim

Having never shot a firearm before in my life, I was a little worried about the after shock many people have told me about with shot guns. This fear was amplified especially since I’ve been suffering with a neck and shoulder spasm for the past week and my two physio sessions may just be going to waste after this. But no lil muscle pain is gonna stop me from having fun and doing something I have been wanting to try for ages. I will have to bear the consequences after. 🙂

Our instructor shows us the in’s and out of handling the shot gun, the disks are lined up, the shot gun is loaded and Daniel takes the first round. Damn!! We are totally impressed with Dan’s shooting skills – he hits all of them.  Up next was Jaco and he did pretty well too – he only missed a few. WELL DONE BOYS!!

Daniel making it look easy

Jaco showing us ladies how its done

Kimmy taking a shoot

As for us girls… did we suck big time! Ha ha… to be fair it was our 1st time, I didnt carry my glasses so my eye sight wasn’t the best for aiming 😋 and that gun was heavy to hold up! All in all though it was a great experience and with a little more practice MAYBE we will eventually shoot one. 🙄LoL!

By the way, the push back from the shot gun into your shoulder was not bad – if held correctly and pulled in firmly you dont feel much of a jolt. But boy did that first shot (and i think more the unexpected shock) knock my cheeks! Check out the video Dan graciously took and titled “Vicky suffering from PE”… ha ha ha😁!

(Note: I am however paying the price right now – 9hrs later – as I write this blog, because my right shoulder is now buggered and I am in pain again 😦 My physiotherapist is not gonna be happy with me on Thursday.)
Quad Biking – Activity No.2

Now for the real fun… quad biking. I’m pretty sure the boys didnt expect me to be as in control and kick ass out there when I couldnt start the quad. It was not my fault… I did what I was suppose to do but it just wasnt starting…off course when the instructor came over and pushed the button it started…but by then I had juiced it up a good few times!!

I’m off first, behind the instructor and the boys are told to go at the end. Am I glad I was first ’cause I put my foot down whenever I had a chance with the instructor – whilst the others were far behind us. The boys will say it was because they were behind Kim, who was slow…But I dunno, was she??

We went over some rough high bumps and I managed to do some circles with the quad …whoop whoop… which I have to admit was pretty cool. I’ll never do that with my car so when our instructor told us to try, and thanks to Jaco’s tips, I was definitely gonna give it a go.

P.S. After ending up behind Kim at one stage … she was the slow one. Sorry boys.

Even though at the end of the quad biking you are baked in dirt… I really enjoyed it and I so wanna do that again but faster!

The team after a thrilling intro to quad biking

Adventure activities done…now for some cold beers and ciders, whilst we re-live some of the days excitement and decide our wine route stop.

Vaal Wine Route Festival – Activity No.3

Stonehaven on Vaal it is – simply because they had the most wines to taste and food pairings (which were not actual pairings but just platters to nibble on). Stonehaven is a pretty location right next to the vaal river, with many different sections to laze around, eat and drink.

Me and Kimmy getting in a selfie

The entrance to Stonehaven on Vaal

The wines according to Dan, Kim and Jaco were not that good but none the less, the company definitely made it enjoyable. We at one stage was probably the loudest table there with all the laughing and banter. 😂

12 wines tasted for R30 …from sparkling to combination wines.

Hands down great company makes for a fantastically fun day!

These guys are definitely travel and adventure buddy material – look out for our next adventure story, I have a feeling that this is just the beginning.  #LifeIsGood

Xoxo, Vikki

Wroclaw and its Gnomes

Wroclaw is one place you can’t say I have nothing to do, ’cause even on a cold morning with hardly any stores open you can go gnome hunting and see the town at the same time!

Thats right gnomes. Wroclaw loves gnomes and there is approximately 495 (maybe more) gnome statues located throughout the city. 

You can simply walk around and spot them along the way OR download the App (Wroclaw Dwarfs) to see exactly where they are around you. If you spot a new one you can add it onto the App as well.  Be warned though its not as easy as you think – they are small, some are on walls and poles, and some in stores/pubs/buildings etc. We went into the University’s Law Faculty building and the post office to find these guys.

Unfortunately it was a very cold drizzly morning and we did not really see much of what Wroclaw had to offer. But the Gnome hunting provided us with something to do this early morning (whilst everything was closed) and we got to walk along the river bank and in between the streets.

So if you find yourself here with nothing to do, try out the App and make a little competition out of it should you be in a big group.  

P.s. we found 70 in 2 hours!

Patrick and Julia Show us Frankfurt

Hello Germany!

After a small delay with my flight I finally get out of arrivals to met my Spanish beauty of a friend Helena at Terminal 1 and we head off to the Regional Train Station to take the train to Frankfurt Main Station – Our holiday officially begins! Wahoo!

It’s been 9 months since I last saw Helena and 3 years since Julia and Patrick where in South Africa on secondment. I cannot wait to see them. As with any holiday…your friends and travel companions truly make it even more memorable.

Hotel – 24 Hours by Levi’s     

Our hotel was a mere 5 min walk from the station and as we walk in we are impressed with the funky feel and vibe. The building is painted to look like it is a cardboard box. The front desk looks like its made from washing machines and the guy at reception is really cute 🙂 ha ha…plus our room is a pretty good size.  The hotel has a vibey bar and restaurant down stairs during the evening/night – with a nice cocktail selection and food menu.

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Warning for non-couples sharing: There is no door separating the shower/bathroom from the main bedroom room (the toilet is however separate). Luckily the room is big enough for you to sit in a section out of view of the shower to provide some privacy – so we managed.

Rating: 8/10 I would definitely stay there again and would choose the 24 Hour range of hotels in the future at other locations. You get all the comfort, style and amenities of a top hotel for a fraction of the price. Plus!!! Did I mention the hotel has 1 or 2 Mini Coopers and few bicycles available for guests to use for free!!! Now that’s service.

Let the adventures begin… Day 1 in Frankfurt

Our 1st day in Frankfurt was planned by Patrick, who showed us some great local spots and some of his favorite places which he often spoke off during his time in Johannesburg. What an absolutely fantastic way to start of my holiday…Helena and I were truly spoilt by Pat and Julz. We not only got to experience some beautiful countryside (which I love more than the city) but we also got to see some of the lovely places my friends love to go to and which they hold dear (like the venue Pat had his wedding reception at) – this made the visits a tad more special. Best of all we got to spend some quality time together catching up over good food and drinks. What more could you ask for!

If your looking for something different to do to which provides you with a wide taste of what Frankfurt has to offer (i.e. mix of some typical and off the beaten track places) – here’s my suggestion on what to do with 24 hours in Frankfurt:

1. Kleinmarkthalle (Old Town Market Hall)

Start your day with a early visit to the old town market hall to experience the hustle and bustle in the heart of Frankfurt city centre. The hall is filled with stalls selling fruit, vegetables, cheese, breads, sweets, flowers and yummy food to try.  It has a meat section too were you can see the various sausages and meat selections on display. A true market feel filled with local people doing their morning shopping. The queues are especially long since shops are closed on Sundays.

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Klienmarkthalle, Frankfurt City Centre

After taking in the scenery, grab something savoury or sweet (whatever your preference) from the Huck Bäckerei & Konditorie stall (which both Patrick & Julz swears is one of the best bakeries in town) and head over for a cup of coffee (which was really cheap with 3 cappuccinos and a cafe mocha costing less than 10 Euros in total) at the Frankfurter Kaffeerösterie stall to enjoy with your tasty treat (which is Patrick’s favourite place to get a good coffee).

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Julia, Patrick, Me & Helena enjoying some coffee and baked goods at the Klienmarkthalle

2. Walk through Römerberg Square and City Skyline

Once your tummies are full, talk a slow stroll throw the beautiful Römberberg Square which is surrounded by old century houses, cafes/restaurants and local musicians (No. 1 on the map below) . This is a very touristy area so you will find lots of tourists and many souvenir shops.  I think this is the most beautiful part of the city to explore.

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Next head towards the river bank and enjoy a photographic and panoramic view of the city skyline as you walk across the bridge filled with love locks.

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On this particular Saturday, the was a mini flea market on the other side of the embankment (turn right at the end of the bridge when you reach No.8 on the map), so we took a stroll through and along the river bank lined with trees (that looked similar to Baobab trees to me as result of their pruning) as we made a loop to come back across the next bridge.  We then decided to walk a little further down to the Opera house before we headed back to the car to take our main trip into the country side.

Frankfurt City Map

3. Wiesbaden Town

A small historical town with beautiful buildings and parks (architect lovers would like the place). For a Saturday, the town was pretty quite. We made it just in time to catch the next sightseeing tram/train – which took us around the area, showings us some historical buildings and funny stories behind some of the houses. The audio tour is in German but they do have a book with English, Spanish and other translations. With some hot coffee’s in our hands, we headed off on our little tour. Patrick has been waiting for visitors so that he can do this tram tour 🙂 – I am glad he got to experience it with us.

This was a nice stop en route to our final destination and it was an opportunity to see more of the surrounding areas. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea – but I saw some nice little shops, places to eat and opportunities to be outdoors in a beautiful park. We had a fun time, but this is largely thanks to the company I was with.

4. Schloss Freudenberg (“Castle Joy Mountain) & Cafe, Wiesbaden

We passed though the cherry blossom trees on our way for a quick pit stop to Château de Freudenberg for some coffee and cake. This was the place Patrick had his wedding reception and it was fantastic to hear him talk us through the event and settings.

Tip: Cherry Blossom season is around April/May and cherry picking season around June/July depending on the weather. Both are beautiful times to visit the area.

The place houses varies exhibitions and would be fun if you have kids. The unusual games located across the garden and within are centered around using your senses. On certain days they have a cocktail night with a live band playing. Our visit took us to the mini restaurant situated inside the left corner of the house. On the menu was a rooibos and orange tea – I was surprised to see rooibos on the menu 🙂  so off course I had to try it. It wasn’t the same as the real rooibos we get at home.

The decor of the restaurant is quite interesting, on the one corner there is hole with insects/ants coming out onto the ceiling. Not as creepy as it sounds, in fact it was very cool and interesting.

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This isn’t a must stop visit, but if you in the area and would like to stop for a nice cup of coffee and a bite to eat it makes for an unusual and interesting stop especially if you have kids with you.

5. Elt Ville – Baiken Restaurant

Imagine a beautiful country vineyard with fields of grape vines, a old country house, wine barrels and scenery that makes you feel like you have just been transported to another country when compared to the concrete jungle you’ve just escaped – almost feels like your at one of the Cape Town wine farms. The country side, the places only known by the locals, where menus and signs don’t have English translations is the true German experience. These are the places I love visiting most when on holiday because here you get to really interact with local people and experience their hospitality and culture.

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The restaurant is cosy and rustic, the menu small – since its based on seasonal produce – which means you getting good quality food. At the time it was asparagus season so everywhere you went all menus featured asparagus. I am no wine connoisseur and I like Rosè/sweet wines which some may say do not qualify as wine – but they had what seemed to me quite a range of wines to choose from. I tried the sweetest possible white wine on the menu and although not sweet to my liking,  it was enjoyable and not too heavy for me. For mains I ordered the chicken dish with asparagus risotto and boy was it delicious! I finished the everything on that plate.

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This is a stop you do not want to miss!

Tip: Make sure you make a reservation to avoid disappointment. The place is small and in winter mainly the inside is used so space is limited.

Our last stop was to visit Sandra (Pat’s wife, since she couldn’t make supper due to an unforeseen delay) and to see their newly built home. We spent the rest of late evening here having a few drinks and a few laughs with their two cats. Their home is beautiful – its built with “black” timber which is so unusual but inside its so bright and airy, the unique finishes make it homey with Sandra’s paintings hanging on the wall, a bright vintage locker (the kind you would find in a locker/change room at the gym) at the entrance to keep your coats and a metal filling cabinet for your shoes. Love the idea! Unfortunately, I can’t share their address with you and you will have to find your own local German family to visit along the way 🙂

After a long day out, Helena and I decided to try out the cocktails at the bar downstairs of our Hotel. The restaurant was busy and the drinks were strong which meant we stayed and chatted for far longer than we planned. But when you live in two different countries and don’t see each other often, you can never have enough girly chat sessions 🙂

Day 2 in Frankfurt

After a good nights sleep, we were fresh and ready to hit the town. Julia took us out for breakfast to a really cool restaurant next to the river bank and we had a lazy Sunday morning chatting and eating lots of food!

After brekkie, Helena and I wondered around central town.

NB Note:  Shops are closed on a Sunday! Except for a few tourist shops, places to eat and the main station. So best you find something else to do out of town on a Sunday and if you a are shopaholic don’t plan to do this on a Sunday.  This was found to be common in many European cities visited – so best check beforehand the shopping hours of your location.

It being a bitterly cold day and with no shops open, there was not much for us to do after we walked around the main area. The freezing windy weather eventually drove us back to the Hotel were we were warm, had WiFi and could order a hot drink.

Beware of the dodge massage places

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