And just like that, our second day of our #MagicOfWinter media stay in the Langeberg Valley was on its back. One final stretch of road until we reached our overnight destination, Jan Harmsgat Country House, for what I now know was an absolute country-chic spoil.
As we rounded the last bend, Jan Harmsgat Country House lay sprawled below us, tucked between two vales. I’ve driven past here so many times as I took the Route 62 on a long weekend, and finally I was given the opportunity to experience this country breakaway first-hand.
Once we all piled out of the car, tired from a long day on the road, we were met by Francois, the General Manager of Jan Harmsgat. My first memory of him was his outstretched arms and a smile that reached way past his eyes. The busy day forgotten, I immediately felt as if I’ve come home.
Jan Harmsgat Guest Farm has seen a renaissance that captures its rich past, in a way that fits in with the discerning traveller’s needs: space, charm and an unsurpassed opportunity to indulge in an authentic country ambience and history (https://janharmsgat.com/about-us/).
Originally granted as a ‘freehold farm’ in 1723, the farm buildings and homestead found on Jan Harmsgat are historically significant. Elegantly restored to their former glory, these buildings now house their ten thematic rooms. They have kept the rooms as authentic as possible, with the true thick walls, yellow-wood doorways, thatched roofs and exposed dark wood ceiling beams adding to the classic country farm-house feel.
A lofty experience
We had a few minutes to explore our rooms and surroundings before we were due to go on a sunset bundu-bashing wine tasting with Francois. I excitedly made my way to the thatch-roof building that used to be the original slave quarters, built in 1723. Surrounded by fruit orchards, vegetable gardens, green fields and a sparkling pool, it was a serene sight to come home to. I was booked into the loft room, and already I knew I had the best spot on the farm.
As I pushed the door open, I couldn’t help but squeal with joy. Rustic exposed wooden beams framed the neatly thatched roof. A stunningly big bed winked at me to snuggle into its plush pillows. A free-standing Victorian bath waited in the corner, whilst the window’s hatches were thrown open to the sun setting over the pecan nut orchards and surrounding mountains.
My ultimate joy lay in the details; the plush white gown hanging behind the yellow-wood door; a plate of fresh fruit next to bottles of cold water; tiny vases of sunshine yellow chrysanthemums dotted around the room; a plush carpet you can completely sink into; a luxuriously cosy throw at the foot of the bed; a delicate chandelier providing soft down-light and stunning period piece furnishings. I couldn’t wait to spend time in this little haven. But first.
Wine tasting with a view
After grabbing our cameras and a few warm jackets, we hopped onto the 4×4 vehicle and Francois took the driver’s seat. We embarked on a slow meander through the pomegranate orchards and watched the black wildebeest frolic in the late afternoon sun. Not entirely sure where we were heading, we all kept trying to peek around the next bend for clues.
Finally, as we crested the hill, we were left breathless for the umpteenth time in the short 48 hours we’ve been in the Valley. Laid out neatly on red checkered table cloths, dazzling in the setting sun, was a wine tasting spread. Francois offloaded delicious charcuterie platters from the vehicle which he must’ve snuck in with superhuman speed. Within minutes, we had an elegant pop-up wine-bar in the most beautiful spot in the whole of the country. Surrounded by layers of blue mountains, hills and vales covered in fragrant fynbos, the entirety of Jan Harmsgat spread at our feet and the sun casting the Valley in soft hues of nightfall, it was simply spectacular.
That evening, after drinks around the fire and a spontaneous interlude of piano song by our star-duo, Darren and Jared, we were invited to dine at Jan Harmsgat‘s onsite fine-dining restaurant, Just Amy. Tastefully decorated with themed artwork, chandeliers and a minimalistic approach to their furnishings, Just Amy was just beautiful to the eye. Coupled with the intimate fireplace/lounge area and the larger, brighter relaxation space by the glass doors overlooking the orchards, it was an inviting haven for any traveller, day or night.
Our group met the lovely Karin Walls (from SA Weddings) and her husband, Craig, who were also overnighting there. It made sense for us all to eat together, so Francois quickly pulled up some additional chairs to our massive dinner table and we all sat down to feast. I opted for the springbok carpaccio, the beef fillet and shared portions of the dark chocolate pecan and ganache tarts.
Paired with the beautiful range of Jan Harmsgat wines, this meal is one I’ll remember for many years to come. Filled with so much laughter and clinking glasses, we spent a few good hours tucking into the rustic-chic menu that Just Amy is known for. Friendships were forged around this table as the night unwrapped its stars and draped them from the heavens. As we put down our dessert spoons and drained the last drops of Shiraz from our glasses, it was time to rest. For tomorrow, we do this all over again.
At the risk of fiddling with my chronological story-telling, I simply have to make an honourary mention to our breakfast the next morning. Our same dinner table from the night before, previously filled with candlelight and wine glasses, was now transformed into a cheerful breakfast nook, complete with chequered linen and vases of yellow lilies. Tall pitchers of freshly squeezed orange and pomegranate juices lured us in and the smell of brewing coffee was simply overwhelming.
The early morning sun settled on our backs as we tucked into a delightful menu of warm breakfast offerings. I had, very unsurprisingly, the Eggs Benedict, followed by a slice or two of fresh farm bread with their signature pomegranate honey. A beautifully strong coffee and a few glasses of delicious pomegranate juice later, and I felt invigorated, refreshed and remarkably happy, considering how little sleep I’ve clocked over the last few days!
That night as I lay in my loft bed, tucked up to my chin in velvety percale linen, I thought about the things that make me intrinsically, unadulteratedly happy. Those include, in no specific order, great wine, quality local food and produce, stories, honest human connections, uninhibited laughter, candle light, nature and the outdoors and a space where I feel as if I truly belong. How lucky am I then to be able to say that I found all of that and so much more, somewhere between Cape Town and Swellendam, where the road bends around the Jan Harmsgat vineyards.
Editor’s note: when you visit, please do yourself a favour and invest in the following items: a couple of jars of pomegranate honey, a few boxes of pomegranate juice and a box or two of their single block wines. I would strongly recommend their Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Shiraz.
A very sincere and heartwarming thank you to Francois and his team for making us feel so incredibly at home, and for spoiling us in the pleasures that are captured in the essence of Jan Harmsgat Country House!
The Fine Print
Tel: Reservations: +27 87 012 5356 / +27 79 207 0777
Tel Property Directly: +27 23 616 3311 / +27 23 616 3407
Address: R60 District Bonnievale/Drew, P.O.Box 161, Swellendam 6740
The Little Hedonist has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, I do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, menu changes, opening times, and contact details.
Disclaimer: I was invited to this event in my personal capacity. There was no expectation for platform coverage in the form of a blog, or social media posts. This is my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.