Johannesburg - Lovers of nature will tell you there is no time in the year quite like autumn, a season full of colour and warmth.
Although we are privileged to live in one of the biggest natural forests in the world – here in Jozi – and can experience the vast colours the changing of the seasons bring, it is not like heading into the country.
The Magaliesberg is less than an hour’s drive away. It is the closest we Gautengers will come to experiencing the English countryside, even if the two regions are vastly different.
But in autumn, when the maples turn from a rich green into colours from brown to orange to red, there is no better place during the warm sunny days than the Magaliesberg.
Just getting there is an experience… the roadside is lined with a plethora of the beautiful pinks and whites of cosmos bush, and the rays of the sun turn everything into a kaleidoscope of colour.
If you are wanting a quiet get-away, the five-star country hotel De Hoek is the place for you. It might be a little pricey, but for that special occasion, such as the milestone wedding anniversary I recently celebrated, you can’t go wrong.
When you enter the gates, through a canopy of trees and with monkeys keeping watch from the branches above, you know something special awaits around the turn in the road… and then it opens up and, wow, what a place.
Behind the wide open lawns and nestled among the trees stands the original house, built from sandstone and decorated in beautiful fabrics and wood, taking one back to days of yore. It is the centrepiece of De Hoek, where you can lounge around, read a book, enjoy drinks under the trees and, later, enjoy a scrumptious five-course dinner.
The newly built suites – overlooking the Magalies River, which runs through the property – may not have the deep, rich feel as the rooms in the main hotel, but they are stylish, comfortable and modern. They are the perfect “hideaway” to kick off your shoes and get into a good book. The personal attention is flattering and the views from the balconies beautiful and everlasting. Many of the rooms have fireplaces and all have air-conditioners.
Sitting on the balcony with a glass of red and your loved one beside you, you really do forget about the world. There is silence – something few of us experience in the city – and how wonderful it is. Every now and again you hear a monkey laugh or a bird chirp to remind you that this is what life is supposed to be like.
But De Hoek is far more than a “close-the-door-and-leave-me-alone” hotel.
What really sets it apart from dozens of other getaway spots in the area is the gourmet dining – and the superb, friendly staff.
Co-owner and head chef Michael Holenstein oversees his kitchen with aplomb and finesse – and it shows.
The food is French continental and a new five-course menu is designed every day, according to the freshest produce available.
It is fine dining at its best. Just a word of caution: Don’t climb into the bar snacks, like I did, before dinner because you may battle to get through the canapés, starters, mains and dessert.
Holenstein is Swiss-born and trained, and has worked in some of Joburg’s finest restaurants, in Gleneagles in Scotland, and in Switzerland.
And then Magaliesberg offers a wide variety of the finest wine estates. It’s not surprising De Hoek and Holenstein have won numerous hotel and dining awards.
Even if you are not keen to go away for the weekend, consider a day trip to the Magaliesberg. There are many interesting places to visit and the scenery is beautiful.
You can pop in at De Hoek and enjoy a Sunday lunch,walk along the Magalies River, mountain-bike, or join a canopy tour, something we did on a clear Saturday afternoon.
De Hoek caters for weddings and conferences so, if you have the money, consider hosting a special birthday party at a venue few will forget.
Autumn in the country is special; the crisp clean air and wide open spaces make one want to return again and again, but it’s special at any time of the year. - Jacques van der Westhuyzen, Saturday Star
If You Go...
De Hoek is an hour’s drive from Joburg and Pretoria. For reservations and information call the Reservations Office at 011 958 0457, or De Hoek Country Hotel at 014 577 9600, visit dehoek.com, or e-mail email@example.com.
De Hoek regularly offers special packages, so keep checking its website for details.
The best time to visit: any time of year.