I’d heard of it. People got married there, mostly people from Natal, but some natalians married Stormers, I mean people from Cape Town and so their friends (also from Cape Town) travelled there for said weddings. But I really didn’t know too much about the Midlands, or the Meander until dinner with (Natalian) friends when they were visiting Cape Town. They sold me on the idea of quaint decor shops, antiques, the outdoors and coffee stops. I really love a coffee stop.
Funny, they never mentioned the freezing cold nor mist. But anyway.
Dinner, talk of the Drakensberg and coffee shops, an obessession with visiting a 5 star (but malaria free) game reserve found us spontaneously booking a trip to KZN.
After a night in Umhlanga visiting the beautiful Oyster Box for a drink, the Shark tank for the necessary rugby and kuier (except they wouldn’t call it that there… as Afrikaans isn’t a language understood by many) we were off to do the Midlands Meander. Our first stop, Piggly Wiggly. Like a child in a candy store, I was an adult in a farmstall/deli… too many delights too oooh and aah at, but first a much-needed spot of (no, not coffee) lunch rather.
Being a Saturday it was full with kids and oldies. Being April (which makes it completely unexpected) it wasn’t long after we finished lunch that the skies opened up and the rain came down. Rain isn’t really something worth mentioning at the best of times, but the lightning storm that accompanied it was! Cracks of bright light filled the sky as we took cover at Sterlings Wrought Iron. After a good old chat with the owner, we drifted between dry spells to the linen, book, clothing and decor shops. Possibly everything you could wish for in one stop on the Meander. Naturally, I spent a fair few warm moments marvelling the wines on offer at Meander Fine Wines (a surprisingly good selection – glad to see the Natalians choose good wine) before visiting Hides of Africa, Mark’s stepbrother’s shop and deciding that yep, a hide will be purchased in our near future (it still hasn’t been bought.)
After a look around the antique store filled with old Ouma Rusks tins and similar goodies that look great in a shop, but would probably look more like junk and not as cool in my kitchen, the temperature started to dip and we got back into that whole meandering vibe. Swissland Cheese was our next stop. A long, wet and muddy road took us straight into deepest Switzerland, well – you know what I mean. Welcomed by a queue of goats about to be milked, and an electricity cut we were in for a cosy cheese tasting. Our very own Heidi cheese assistant spoke with a soft German accent and treated us to all that was available. Cheese, cheese and more cheese as the generator kicked in to milk the goats and we craved a glass of red.
Somewhere between Swissland Cheese and Nottingham Road, I actually thought we had stepped into Wales. Green lush fields surrounded us. Stately homes (ok, more Surrey than Wales). Grey skies. And let’s not forget that 7 degree temperature. I was starting to freeze and it was time to get to the first of our five-star establishments that would make up our 5 star holiday!
Mark and I often talk about ‘that grand entrance’ – the term first used when we were looking for a wedding venue and obsessed that the entrance to the venue needed to be spectacular (not sure for what?). Well, Fordoun Hotel & Spa has that Grand Entrance. Autumn colours lined the drive with a hazy mist setting in. Spectacular! And as we were warmly greeted by smiling staff, we knew our stay would be a comfortable one. Our suite was divine, with underfloor heating throughout. I only mention the heating because by now I’m pretty sure it was about 4 degrees and the coldest I had been in years. A view out of the lawn, and down to a dam far beyond. Just gorgeous really. Gorgeous, fresh and just a little chilly.
Cozying up next to the fireplace in the lounge we settled in to our books with a cup of coffee to relax. Ok, let’s be honest. I was just trying to defrost. The mist settled in as well and when it came to pop out for dinner, we couldn’t see our hand in front of our eyes. A pizza at the first spot we could find and back to the coziness of our room for our first night in the Midlands.