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Barrydale: Somehow it all comes together

Published Feb 5, 2018


At a time when we are

increasingly plugged

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into technology, from

social media to

streaming television platforms, from keeping up with the seemingly endless barrage of emails to “noisy” Whatsapp groups - never mind the persistent demands of human interaction - learning the art of doing nothing is a true 21st century challenge.

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We are all so busy, all the time, to the point it has become something of a status symbol,

the perception being the less free time we have, the more impressive we are.

“How are you? Have you been busy?” are standard questions at the beginning of most conversations these days, and if the other person has neglected to ask the second one (gasp!), the information will be offered anyway: “Hi, I’m fine, just busy.”

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The reaction is invariably approval.

Doing nothing is an oxymoron; even when you’re staring into space, or daydreaming, or navel-gazing, you’re doing something.

The Italians - you got to love them - have a name for it: la dolce far niente, which means the sweetness of doing nothing.

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The pursuit of this is in itself an action, but if you can let the technical details slide and get your head around it, it’s a wonderfully desirable state of being and essential for your sanity.

Getting away from your hectic life for a weekend, or better yet a few days, is an excellent way to begin your training.

First, locate a suitable small town or village within an acceptable road trip radius. From Cape Town heading inland, Barrydale is a good choice.

A gentle and mostly scenic drive of about two-and-a-half to three hours. depending on your pit stops (there are wine farms on the way, just saying), it lies on the border of the Overberg and Klein Karoo at the northern end of the Tradouw Pass, which winds its way through the mountains to Swellendam.

From the city, Barrydale can be reached from either of the national roads, but we prefer the N1 which takes you through the Huguenot Tunnel to Worcester, then Robertson and Montagu and onto the famous Route 62 which continues all the way to Port Elizabeth.

We have done this trip many, many times - the car packed to the roof with musicians and their paraphernalia on our way to gigs, three-day private birthday parties which take on the identity of a festival, or, most recently, to simply relax and do nothing. The destination is always the same: Karoo Art Hotel.

It lives up to its name with artworks everywhere you look - in the 15 eclectic rooms, the restaurant, the lounge,

the corridors, the bar, the bathrooms

Both exhibition space and showcase for the artists of the Karoo and beyond, it’s like one giant gallery.

Accommodation options range from the gorgeous Garden Suite with its own private courtyard and a little nook for reading, an outside shower for the adventurous, and a fireplace, to large and small rooms with various features. For example, either bath or shower, with or without television, filter coffee-making devices, and so on.

After flinging down our bags, the first point of order is usually the pool, via the bar. Alongside said pool there is a room with a pool table, and a casual lounge with a television.

There are all sorts of areas to explore, from the garden at the back to the long front stoep in front which is so typical of country hotels in South Africa.

Meals can be taken in the Gallery Restaurant, which is a member of the international gastronomic guild Chaîne des Rtisseurs and winner of a Klein Karoo Gourmand Restaurant Award. The lamb from the Karoo is legendary - and the wine list represents several farms close by. If you fancy stepping out a bit, Bistro Blues just across the road for ridiculously reasonable steaks with a side of nostalgia.

In many ways, it’s as if it is stuck in a 1980s time warp.

Back at the hotel, we were thrilled to discover the bar now has a double-turntable-and-mixer set-up where guests can play records from the small collection there. Being vinyl fanatics, I wish we had known to take our own but we entertained the locals nonetheless, ourselves much more so.

While staying at Karoo Art Hotel, there is ample opportunity to indulge in that wonderful nothingness, but if you still find it difficult to achieve, there are activities like hiking and cycling (the hotel offers its guests the free use of bicycles) to be undertaken if you must.

Ronnie’s Sex Shop  is about a 20-minute drive and a must-do. It’s not what you think but it’s definitely something for the bucket list.

Also within walking distance of the hotel is Diesel & Crème, which is renowned for its milkshakes.

For more information, go to or email [email protected]

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