Growing up in the Midwest, vacations entailed visiting far-flung relatives, or perhaps a weekend at a family friends’ lake house, but in my child-like mind vacation meant staying in a hotel (with a swimming pool, of course) and eating all of our meals at restaurants. No making your bed, no picking up after yourself, no chores, and no cooking. And then there were the restaurants, usually chain restaurants where the food was less than stellar, but that hardly mattered. I could choose whatever I wanted to eat. It was all so glamorous. Since graduating to adulthood and planning my own vacations, I have eschewed Airbnb and hostels with communal kitchens in favor of small boutique hotels near the best restaurants or all inclusive lodges where every whim is catered for. For me, holidays are about eating incredible food, sampling local delicacies from specialty food shops or markets, and being pampered.
Yet, I have a partner who loves nothing more than a private self-catering chalet with a place to braai (BBQ) where he can unwind. Since Callum managed to get a weekend off from Londolozi, I let go of my type-A planning instincts and turned the arrangements over to him to organize the type of escape he prefers. When I boarded the plane for Nelspruit, I didn’t even know where we were staying and it took every ounce of self-control not to ask. Our first stop was the grocery store to pick-up sufficient foodstuffs for our weekend stay. Then we drove 50 minutes to the Ashbourne Country Escape a lovely spot in the lush hills outside of Hazyview. For those wanting to explore Blyde Canyon or Kruger National Park, Hazyview is a convenient base.
The Ashbourne Country Escape’s website does not do the place justice. In fact, had I visited the website prior to our arrival, I would have dismissed it in favor of another location, but luckily Callum was doing the planning. There are five B&B rooms overlooking a courtyard with access to a pool. In addition, there are two self-catering cottages on the property. We were booked into the adorable Honeymoon cottage. It had everything a couple looking for a quiet, private weekend away could want, including an incredibly well-equipped kitchen, plunge pool, and lovely outdoor patio overlooking the rolling hills. Callum and I love cooking and braaing together, but for those who prefer to eat out, the Summerfields Kitchen (arguably the best restaurant in town) as well as is Perry’s Bridge Trading Post which has several dining options is ten minutes away. The neighboring self-catering cottage took advantage of being in Hazyview’s delivery radius and ordered a pizza. Since Ashbourne Country Escape is also a B&B you can add breakfast for ZAR 130 per person making this a convenient place to stay for those who don’t enjoy cooking. With a stocked kitchen, we elected to whip up several feasts and simply enjoyed spending time together after having not seen one another for a month.
The weather derailed our planes to explore the Panorama Route so despite making the drive to Graskop we turned around and head back to our inviting, stone cottage. We lit the braai, poured wine, played some tunes, and danced like no one was watching because they weren’t. It was a perfect weekend away and perhaps that is the charm of a self-catering cottage or any place where you have a miniature home to yourself. They made the bed, did the dishes, but we had the freedom to inhabit the space as if we were in our own home. While I won’t totally give up boutique hotels, fine dining, and being pampered, I am a self-catering convert. I am even willing to turn over the planning to Callum to find these hidden gems.