And on that farm he had some… well, artistically converted trailers, a swimming pool and apples. Plenty of apples.
I know I’m not the first person to do a blog post on the Old Mac Daddy glamping experience. In fact, when they launched they invited a bunch of bloggers to head out to Elgin and experience it. But nevertheless, only about a year and a half later I finally grabbed an opportunity (read: their daily deals site Daddy’s Deals ran a deal) to see what all the fuss was about.
You know (well, actually you probably don’t know) – I’m from Elgin (I pronounce it with a hard ‘G’ as I’m English and according to Mom-vdg only Afrikaans people say Eljin). I spent the first three years on a farm amongst the apples. In my memories (which I actually have none of) – it was an incredibly free-spirited and happy time. So I always enjoy heading over the pass and into Elgin (hard ‘g’).
We lost cell phone reception as we turned into the path between rows of apple trees – the true mark of a good city break (the cellphone reception.. and the apples I guess), and pulled up at the reception to be greeted, rather, well… awkwardly. They couldn’t find the key to our trailer, but still I signed the R100 key deposit form and we were ‘shown’ to our room. Literally. They dropped our bag off and left. Look, I know it’s just a trailer – and there’s probably not much need to be ‘shown around’ but sometimes it’s nice to have a little bit of an intro to your new surroundings.
Anyway, we had chosen DIG’IT as our designer trailer for the night. Probably the most difficult part of booking a stay at the Old Mac Daddy is choosing your trailer (and that’s not only because its next to impossible to find out what trailers are available). It’s because, and yes I admit I am stating the obvious here, each trailer is so unique. The rationale for choosing Dig’it (pronounced digit) was this. It had a lounge area and a built on bathroom (that included a shower). It also had a deck (although they all do we discovered). It was between this and Mills & Boon, which admittedly is the more adult and romantic of the two but from the pictures it looked dripping in dark colours and velvet textures and not what the January heat wave was calling for. Instead Dig’it had fresh white cotton linen, grass (the fake kind) as the flooring and lining the cupboards and was filled with numbers and puzzles. Even our SMEG fridge was designed as a giant bar-code. A refreshing and fun change from my normal choice.
Unfortunately the lounge area lacked any personality, all the fun was in the trailer and the living room extensions of all the trailers are bland steel and wood areas. I’m all for minimalistic. I like it. But perhaps a pot plant would’ve helped this along a little. The same can be said for the ‘deck’. While I had imagined and afternoon siesta on a lounger on my deck, it was only decorated with a hard table and bunk chairs. No relaxing here then!
Getting on past two, it was most definitely lunch time and we headed down to the Barn restaurant and pool area. Dead quiet, we were greeted by the ultra enthusiastic Restaurant Manager who gave Mark a sampling of the beer on tap while I ordered a huge glass of water (yep, still not drinking for the month.) The Barn is beautiful. This is where that minimalistic approach works. Au Natural wooden with pot plants in buckets, vista views and plenty of natural light. We ordered a wood fired pizza and slipped out to the pool to soak up a bit of the sun and read our books (what holidays are made for after all).
The pool is great. It’s a black pool that is solar-heated (not necessarily needed in the middle of summer) but it’s perfect for a dip. Its chilled and quiet with a beautiful view of the valley. Even when other guests joined us with their children it amazed me how the silence wasn’t destroyed by a wailer. Funky (albeit not the most comfortable) wooden deck loungers with matching tables and chairs surround the pool. Towels were also (eventually) brought out to us. The pool remained quiet. Oh so quiet.
You see, the thing with being at a resort, and let’s be honest – Old Mac Daddy may be glamping, but it offers the facilities of a resort – is that ambiance and service make it. And this is where Old Mac Daddy falls seriously short. That and the restaurant, but one thing at a time. Besides the deck chairs around the pool there’s a big open space in front of what would be a bar and braai area. Neither of which were put to use while we were there. There is nothing inviting about this area. Its bland and boring. There is no where comfortable to sit, no couches and no one to ask if you need anything. While we lay there for hours on end on day 2, we were asked once if we were ok for drinks and then the waiter disappeared. It was desolate. No people. No music. Emptiness. Its beautiful and peaceful and quiet. Which are all great things, but it just lacked… something. Down at the lake (and near to the lakeside trailers) – there is a beautiful deck almost hidden away. A perfect spot for a sundowner, this is adorned with umbrellas and comfortable couch chairs. However, the staff don’t know you’re down there (how do other resorts always know?) and so we had to go up to the main restaurant to ask for our own drinks and bring them back down ourselves.
Now, I hate to just bitch and moan. Really I do. But something has got to be said about the food. The pizza, that was great. Really great and so we were excited for dinner that evening. Dressed and ready we headed down and were again hit by a rather desperately sterile (yawn) environment. This had nothing to do with the decor (as I said, the decor is amazing) – the atmosphere was dismal. As was the food. A warm grapetiser, a ‘gourmet’ burger that was ordered medium rare and served well-done on a stale roll and accompanied by stale chips. We complained and received a 30% discount on the meal. Hardly worth the R80 price tag on each burger. Breakfast was equally disappointing. A buffet of bread (no croissant or muffin in sight), fruit salad and some cereals. A queue of guests waiting for clean forks (that you also collected from the buffet table) and unfortunately you couldn’t even order coffee at your table. Self-service much?
Old Mac Daddy had a farm… and on that farm were some incredibly designed trailers that are fun to ooh and aah at. Unfortunately even with all the apple trees in the world, atmosphere was missing from this city break. It was relaxing and quiet but the restaurant’s food and service let it down. I wanted to relax and breathe in and indulge in drink after drink (even if they were appletisers). I wanted to say ‘Isn’t this just awesome?’. Instead I say, “It is beautiful… but it wasn’t awesome.”
Ps. Please excuse how slow the Old Mac Daddy website is. Umm… not sure why I excuse it. But it’s slow. Painfully slow.
Pps. I have photos and thoughts on a lot of the trailers. The highlight and reason to still visit Old Mac Daddy. I’ll post them all soon. Also a lunch at Paul Cluver’s Fresh.. which quite simply, made the drive over the pass very worth it!