A weekend break to the Midlands is the perfect pick-me-up for Durbanites.
In summer it offers a welcome breather from the humidity at the coast, while in winter it affords the opportunity to snuggle in front of a roaring fire – and hopefully the chance to see snow. But, with the vast range of accommodation on offer to suit all tastes and budgets, it’s difficult to know where to start looking.
Pleasant Places is a small, select guesthouse that is ideal if you’re wanting to enjoy the peace and quiet, take in picturesque views, and simply chill out. Recently refurbished by well-known Durban interior decorator/owner Philippa Courtenay and her soon-to-be husband Phillip Dreyer, the couple have made sure the most important aspects have been met: comfort, good food, and the opportunity to enjoy private spaces dotted around the 16-hectare property.
Saturday morning started for us just after 6am as our body clocks were still in city mode. Not wanting to miss the early morning freshness, we enjoyed a coffee on our deck as we watched the cows in the distance venturing out for a day of grazing. Other than the gushing sound of the Lions River far below us and the odd cow mooing, the peace and tranquillity was pure bliss.
Breakfast was standard and filling, but the evening meals – which are available on request and not included in the rate – were full of flavour, classically presented and perfectly proportioned. All three courses were certainly worth leaving home for and the ideal end to the day. Philippa and Phillip do all the cooking themselves, and don’t follow a set menu, but rather serve what’s fresh, available and in season. And of course, they tailor the menu to your needs, so any special dietary requirements can be met – just remember to tell them in advance. A nice touch which is not common these days is an honesty bar, fully stocked with beer, local wines and cool drinks.
Even though Pleasant Places is a four-star guesthouse, the accommodation is not flashy and pretentious, but rather comfortable, homely, tastefully decorated, and a perfect match for the country surrounds. There are five suites available and one family suite, plus two of the rooms have a fold-out bed settee for little ones if required.
The grounds are vast, offering visitors plenty of quiet areas to sit, relax and reflect on life – or simply just stare out into the distance enjoying the views. There is also a rambling walk on the property which takes you down to the Lions River and stables where horses roam freely. For children, this is the perfect place to ride bicycles and enjoy the adventure.
A trip to the Midlands would not be complete without a lazy drive on the Midlands Meander stopping where the fancy takes you. My top three must-visits were Piggly Wiggly where we quenched our thirst with wickedly delicious freshly squeezed juices from The Greenery; a browse around The Platform admiring art, sculptures and all things beautiful by local artists; and chilling out with a taster G&T paddle at Nottingham Road Brewing Company. What a way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Pleasant Places is more than pleasant, but just the sort of place you feel comfortable kicking off your shoes, chilling out with a glass of wine and watching the world go by – just the place to go to when you need to recharge your battery. And best of all, it’s reasonably priced and good value for money.