After a conversation with a friend yesterday telling her how awesome Clarens in the Eastern Free State is, I decided to share my immense love of this place with everyone else as well as continue to tempt her to take a trip there to have some R&R.
If you're in Johannesburg, Clarens is a short 3 and a half hour pleasant drive away.
You'll know you're there when you see the rock formation below. This is called Titanic Rock. Doesn't it look just like the Titanic? So cool!!
The moment you get into the town of Clarens itself, you will notice how quaint and small it is. Unlike any place I've ever been to in South Africa (and I've been to quite a few places in SA), the effect of this totally different and sweet, little world is both calming and energising. It's like you've had a month's holiday after a weekend there.
The idea though is to appreciate Clarens for being so different in that you should find your accommodation, park your car and walk wherever you want to go and not use the car at all, even if it's raining.
What is there to do in this little town? Well, there are various things. The main attractions I suppose would be the amazing scenery, the art galleries and the food.
Being near the Lesotho border, the Maluti mountains are like...right there! If you're into taking hikes and walks or riding horses or taking pics of scenery...hang on, we've been called for pizza...and I'm back so anyway, if you're into the whole nature thing, this place is phenomenally beautiful!
Other than that, there are art galleries galore and restaurants that will have you dreaming of their food for years to come.
My personal recommendation is to go and have supper or lunch at Street Caffe (their burgers and fettucini alfredo are like no other that I've ever experienced) and then head to Clementines for dessert which should unmistakeably be their Lemon Meringue Ice-cream cake. It's R35 a slice (or was in December 2009) but is so worth it! Clementines also have a very good Ostrich Medallion dish! Yum! Yum!
The art galleries are not dreary and dull and you don't need to be one of those arty people to appreciate them. There's also a wine gallery if that appeals.
There are sports pubs and ice-cream shops that have decadent and interesting flavours and a few pancake shops too. Absolutely no chain stores when I was last there and I hope it stays that way.
If you're more into holidays with some sort of educational value, you can go and visit the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. It's very interesting and those pipes are so huge that it would take three of me (at 1.69 metres tall) on top of each other to touch the top of the pipe.
Clarens is the ideal place to get married if you're having under 50 guests and want somewhere beautiful and unique to have your special day.
One of the nicest wedding venues in Clarens is the Castle. It accommodates 20 guests for an intimate wedding and the decor is very 18th century and well, castle-ey.
If we didn't have so many people invited to our wedding, I'd have chosen to get married in Clarens in the one church in Main Road with food from Street Caffe and dessert from Clementines and then have the reception in the Castle.
Sigh! Clarens is my favourite place in the entire world thus far. I love everything about it. It's such an escape, the air is so clean and the water so sweet and the place filled with beauty and happiness and the chamomile tea better than any other in the country. If only there was a thriving job market there...