Riebeek Kasteel Week

Riebeek Kasteel Week

What to do in Riebeek Kasteel

This trip was a “gelukkie” or – a little bit of luck – in English. Some friends were going away and they offered us the use of their home in Riebeek Kasteel. I suspect the main reason was to give their much-loved pets a bit of company. They have four dogs and three cats. Although a house-keeper feeds them daily and they get taken on regular walks, it’s not company. We could certainly help out. Plus, my other half and I welcomed a chance to have some down-time away from home and responsibilities. And to be in such a beautiful part of the world was a bonus.

View of the Riebeek valley

Riebeek Kasteel is 1/3 of a trio of small villages along with Riebeek West and Hermon nestled close together in what’s known as Riebeek Valley.  Riebeek Kasteel is named after Jan Van Riebeek the 17th century Dutch founder of the Cape. Jan Van Riebeek sent Pieter Cruythoff on an exploration into the area in 1661. Riebeek Kasteel is one of the oldest towns in South Africa. Kasteel means castle and the majestic mountains nearby are called Kasteelberg or Castle Mountain. The Riebeek Valley attracts the type residents who strive to preserve and restore the architecture, heritage and ambience of the area. It’s a place where folk retire or creative people flock in their droves to eat good food, grow great wines or olives, make beautiful things and live well – away from the stresses of big-city life. It’s a safe and open minded community. We like that.

Grapes at Pulpit Rock

Riebeek West and Riebeek Kasteel are close together and would have been one village were it not for a dispute over where to build the local church. The dispute was never resolved and two villages formed right next to each other. With two separate churches. The circumference of Riebeek Kasteel is just under 4 kilometres which means you can hear the church bells ring out the time of day and night within the town. Reminiscent of French villages. You can also hear roosters crowing in the morning. We took the dogs for a late afternoon walk every day. It’s a great way to explore this not exactly big place. We got to see beautiful Cape Dutch style homes – old and new. And the odd Tuscan “themed” home! Sigh. Tuscan homes are a bit of an obsession in South Africa with the nouveaux riche. Such a pity when we have beautiful authentic architecture to draw from. People grow olives, figs, lemons, pomegranates, prickly pears, quinces, avocados, dates and I even saw amatungulus growing in a garden. What is an amatungulus you may ask? It’s a type of plum native to South Africa that has a thick white sap.

A much loved pet

The house we stayed in is a 60’s home restored to fit the area. It’s been redecorated with an open plan kitchen and lots of access to outdoors and light. The decor is fresh and modern with a slightly Zen feel. Think stainless steel kitchen counter tops, natural stone mosaic tiles, discretely placed Buddhas and lots of votive candles scattered about. Fortunately Riebeek Kasteel is just over an hours drive from Cape Town (about 80 kilometres) on the N7 past Malmesbury. Many residents are willing to make the commute so they can live in Riebeek Kasteel. Others keep a second home in the village. Which means week-days are quieter. However come week-ends things perk up. A lot. You will be surprised at how many bars and eateries exist in Riebeek Kasteel. And how full they are. For a population of around 3000 – this town can buzz. 

In the town square

The pets made our break that much more for us. Each animal has such a distinct personality. Starting with the dogs, Dog One doesn’t just wag his tail, he wags his entire body and head in different directions like a slinky. Dog Two loves the pool. He suffers from FOMO. We had to make sure his leash went on first so he was assured of going on a walk or he would get most upset. Dog Three is a strong dog. She took me for a walks. She also thinks she is a small dog and can fit on the bed. She’s not. Dog Four is old. Not so keen on going for walks. The matriarch of the group.

Guess who slept on the bed?

And then the cats – Cat One spends most of his days in a vacant lot nearby and comes home to eat. He doesn’t like dogs. But he NEVER missed a meal. If he wasn’t on time, he would actually grab me to make sure I fed him. His carbon copy Cat Two eats, sleeps and lives on the kitchen counter. She drinks water from a glass – not a bowl. Cat Three moves about four times a day. Twice to eat brekka and supper. And maybe twice more to shift from sleeping on the dresser to sleeping on the bed and back again. Ah the life of such adored animals!

Read Part 2 of this holiday – on this link.

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