Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Hidden away in a valley in the Klein Karoo lies a luxurious homestead overlooking rolling green lawns, a large swimming pool and surrounded by mountains. Wind your way out of the little town of Calitzdorp for 9km past vineyards, orchards and ostriches and discover the Daniels Kraal Farm, encased by rambling vineyards, olive trees and the Karoo bush.

Built in 1836, the historical building features a thatched roof, thick walls and an expansive veranda. Charming bedrooms, chic bathrooms and spacious living areas make for a comfortable, relaxing and restful living space that has been stylishly decorated with antique furniture and collected trinkets from the owner’s extensive travels. Just what Explorers Club is all about….

Spend the days playing boules, relaxing under the shade of the Silver Oak by the pool or flop on the deep sofas on the open stoep, playing board games or reading. The space provides the perfect setting for G&Ts by the pool in summer and hearty red wine by the crackling wood fire in winter.

This peaceful and private haven sits on 2300 hectares of pristine wilderness and is home to a variety of fauna and flora as well as many fossils. Spot over 100 species of birds and small game such as giant leopard tortoises, klipspringers, hares and caracal. If you are the active type, there is walking and mountain biking.

The Old Caledonskloof wagon route went through the farm, it was a treacherous route for Ox wagons to get through to Cape Town and was the only way through until 1898. At that time a wagon-wheel maker lived on the farm, called Daniels Kraal. Rates are R5,000.00 per night, excluding Christmas, New Year and Easter.

For more information CLICK HERE



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Having seen close to fifteen years of innovation in our valley it is surprising we see the bar still being lifted each year. A few years ago, during the World Cup hosted in South Africa, a new visitor fell in love with Franschhoek. Since then he has been busy, quietly amassing a hospitality portfolio that he has transformed into a step above the rest. That man is Analjit Singh.

Not only has he and his team created two outstanding new hotels, but he has acquired, and is revamping, the iconic Le Quartier Francais and Tasting Room. He has opened a Micro-Brewery called Tuk-Tuk and is introducing North Indian cuisine into the valley through a new restaurant called Marigold in November of this year. If that is not enough he has formed a partnership with Mullineux, the 2016 Winery of the Year. With an impressive team of architects, landscape and interior designers, they have launched the Leeu Collection, with an extensive collection of art.

We had the fortune of spending a night recently and decided to sample an informative wine tasting at The Wine Studio followed by a massage in the dreamy Spa, and dinner at The Dining Room…. it was my birthday of course… thanks Sarah! We slept like hibernating bears and dropped downstairs reluctantly to say goodbye, but not after a sumptuous breakfast on the terrace on a sunny day in winter.

We should do this more often. It was very spoiling. If you want to stay… let Sarah know….www.sarahjamestravel.com


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Now that she is in the thick of the race, only now do you realise what an immense effort this is.

Here are her postings from her departure from the UK, via my brother Nick:

8 April: Ash left Mells yesterday afternoon and spent the evening with her tent buddies, a chicken burger and a Diet coke at a Gatwick hotel. After a 7am flight full of MdS athletes she made it to Morocco in one piece this morning – there’s a pic attached of her with the guy who started it all – Patrick Bauer. He founded the MdS and has co-ordinated every race since – a helpful person to meet!

As you can see she looks stress-free, happy and relaxed, which is brilliant news for the next week. She definitely left us in good spirits – all your well-wishes have helped hugely so thank you for those.

After a 6 hour bus journey she will be in camp this evening. Tomorrow is an admin and medical check day. Any news from her and I will update you tomorrow.

9 April: I heard from Ash last night. ..‘Very windy night and very cold I had to really layer up. Packed weighed in at 7.5kg which is ok. The first day is the massive chebbi dunes which is quite scary. Tent mates are great.’

10 April: I haven’t had news from Ash overnight but she managed to get a text away just before the race started:

‘It’s me the morning of the race massive sand storm last night but slept through it and was warm we are about to head into the biggest dunes in Morocco! Feeling excited and emotional!’
10 April:‘sorry so late to email, today was a difficult first day with miles and miles of massive dunes and very very hot… I felt ok but savage wind and bar-simm said the hardest first day he has ever experienced. I am hoping tomorrow will be better but I got through it….. thanks so much for all those who sent emails they have been great going to bed love you all very much.. hope you saw the web cam xxxxxxx

Barr-Sim is a chap from Frome who has done 3 MDS before

11 April: ‘day 2 done…41km today of hot slog… It took me 8hrs 45 and was as toughas yesterday but in a different way. No sandstorms and less wind but still quitewindy. I walked abit with an oldman fromZim called Ash and also with agirl inthetnt next to me. Tentmates verykind and lovley to me. I have heat rash and a few blisters but feet inok state. Ihvehad somanylovley messges tonight… 3 pages!!! amazing and really greatmotivaion.Tell the kids I went to doc trotters! they fixed up my feet. Love my play lists they mad e mecry yesterday….Thought aboutyou alot today…xxxxxxxxxxx PS sorry the spellingso shotthe key board is cvered in sand and does not work properly xxxx’

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Ash has just completed the 2nd stage of the Marathon des Sables (Marathon of the Sands) today. She has been training for two years.

It is a six-day, 251 km (156 mi) ultramarathon, which is the equivalent of six regular marathons. The longest single stage (2009) is 91 km (57 mi) long. This multiday race is held every year in southern Morocco, in the Sahara Desert, close to the Algerian border. It is considered the toughest foot race on Earth. Some would consider her tough as nuts, others just plain nuts!

Message from Ash before first stage ..‘Very windy night and very cold I had to really layer up. Packed weighed in at 7.5kg which is ok. The first day is the massive chebbi dunes which is quite scary. Tent mates are great.’

Here’s a pic of those dunes they all faced yesterday, on the first stage, and the founder, on arrival in Morocco, Patrick Bauer and a pic of her reaching end of stage 2 a few minutes ago.….

You can see James Cracknells’ Documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0Qak8e4vYA

If you would like to donate, here is a message from Ash below photos.

Dear All,

I wanted to give you all un update on fundraising… incredibly I have now managed to smash my target of £3275.00… with 75 donations…. TODAY I tipped over the £5,000 mark (with gift aid) I am honestly speechless and so blown away by the incredible generosity and kindness. THANKYOU everyone…. for all your messages as well it is just the best motivation…


So, with only 2 days to go until I leave home… I thought I would send you all some race info incase you want to track me… I the leave the UK on the 8th April to travel to the race start deep in the desert. The race begins on Sunday 10th And there are a number of ways you can track me if you are interested during the following 7 days.

The important info is that my race bib number is 1149 and full name Ashley Sinfield (GBR)

Website : Each day on our website we publish everything you need to know about MDS: details of each stage, overall and stage rankings, portraits, interviews, live streaming of competitors passing the finish line. 
→ http://marathondessables.com
For friends and family keen to get a taste of the MARATHON DES SABLES adventure from the inside, nothing could be easier: tell them to sign up at the address below. They will then be able to follow the race live starting from 10 April, in two different, complementary ways:
[if !supportLists]§  [endif]Live tracking: simply select the runners you want to follow and get information on the fly;
[if !supportLists]§  [endif]Geolocalization: in real time, your supporters can follow your progress on the field, as if they were at your side. Or follow my dot on the screen to make sure it is still moving!!!! I will also try to wave at the camera at the end of each stage if I can.
→ To follow MDS 2016: http://live.marathondessables.com
The course will be long on the 31st MARATHON DES SABLES: 257 km to be exact. That is, if you don’t wander off the most direct route. To keep up your spirits, each evening you can receive encouragement from your loved ones. How does it work? Once again, it’s very simple: from 09 to 15 April (i.e. from the technical control day to the penultimate day of the race), they can go on the MDS website and the section “Write to a competitor”, then just follow the instructions, indicating the first and last names and bib number of the person they want to follow. No file attachments possible. Their messages will be given to you on the bivouac every evening, on paper.
→ To send a message to a loved-one:

Thanks you all again.

With much love Ash xxx

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Easter is available at La Cotte…. in 22 out 31 March (dates 12-19 March are also available)

There won’t be any arguments about who should get the room with the view at La Cotte. Wherever you choose to lay your suitcase, you’ll enjoy its 360-degree views of Franschhoek’s vineyard-studded valley and mountains.

But it’s not until you’re relaxing al fresco on the terraces of either La Cotte House (sleeps 6) or the cottage (sleeps 4), gazing out over your very own lakeside version of one of Monet’s famous ‘Water Lilies’ paintings, that you’ll fully appreciate the true magic of this unique setting.

In prime position, deceptively far from distractions, on one of the oldest Huguenot estates in Franschhoek, (granted in 1694) these houses were built for ultimate privacy. Surrounded by indigenous gardens and natural beauty as far as the eye can see, you’re actually only a short walk from the town hidden away below.IMG_0002

But La Cotte doesn’t just rely on its awe-inspiring setting to take your breath away. Its classic contemporary-Cape vernacular, thatched roofs, lime-washed gables and antique-style French shutters are all part of the enchantment. Inside, a perfect marriage of eclectic colonial and relaxed farmhouse-chic serves up a gorgeously laid-back home from home, with a soupçon of grandeur and more than enough style to help remind you that you’ve journeyed somewhere a little bit special. There are prints and paintings aplenty, showcasing contemporary South African artists including Alice Goldin, Olive Scholnick, Patricia Frazer and Philip Briel, with a carefully curated selection of colonial antique posters and prints thrown in for good measure.

It is one of a kind and for the remainder of the summer season the rates are half-price at R9500 per night (GBP435, USD605, EUR605) to sleep up to 12. Six bedrooms, either all king or three of bedrooms can be split into twins. It comes fully serviced and we can arrange a private chef. More details below. email explorersclub@me.com

La Cotte House

Sleeping six, the farm’s 400m2 manor house is the largest of the three properties. Arranged over one floor, its never-ending ceilings, lofty French doors and traditional sash windows ensure that Franschhoek’s panoramas pour in with the sun the moment you open the blinds.

Step over the threshold, and it’s clear this is a home that was designed for entertaining. The vast open-plan living space with oak floorboards flows from the large farmhouse kitchen, past the majestic fireplace in a light-flooded sitting room with large linen-covered sofas, and out to the vine-dappled wrap-around terraces. The Colonial English, French and traditional Cape antiques, combined with an intriguing mix of international and African curios and Persian, Afghan and Turkish rugs and kilims add a distinctly cosmopolitan air.

In the bedrooms, tribal and antique ikat and suzani textiles add splashes of color to the relaxingly neutral sun-bleached palette. But it’s the master bedroom that really steals the show with its elegant modern four-poster, antique chattels, woven-grass flooring and show-home bathroom.

Two of the three en-suite bedrooms can be used as twins or king bedrooms. All the bedrooms and living areas have air-conditioning. Each en-suite bathroom comes with a freestanding bath, supersize shower, double vanity, marble tops, heated towel rail and under-floor heating, while monochrome tiles, antique prints and modern mirrors add an air of elegance.

You’ll find TVs and iPad docking stations in the main sitting rooms and the large, fully equipped kitchen (with scullery, laundry and mud room) has two fridges, three electric Miele ovens, a Miele steamer, ice machine and a Nespresso machine. Add the pizza oven and wood-burning barbeque out on the terrace and you’ve got every cook’s dream home.
The Cottage

Smaller, but perfectly formed, the property’s thatched cottage boasts the same blend of contemporary elegance and Cape Colonial flair, playing host to two expansive, sun-drenched blue and white en-suite (twin or king) bedrooms and no shortage of luxurious accoutrements.

In winter, curl up on the living-room sofa by the wood-burning stove, or relax on one of the built-in day beds on the porch in summer, watching the sun set slowly over the magnificent lake of lilies.

You’ll find Wi-Fi and air-conditioning throughout, a TV in the main living area, a hairdryer in each bedroom and luxury products in the bathrooms. With its own refrigerator and tea and coffee station there’s no need to feel feel reliant on the main house – you can interact as little or as much as you like.

The Pool House

Doubling as either pool house or an additional guest cottage, this one bedroom (twin or king) comes complete with sauna, shower-room, toilet and facilities including a fridge and a tea and coffee making station.

Kick back with a novel on the king-size day bed on the large verandah or relax poolside enjoying the epic view of the property’s cypress trees and Franschhoek’s mountains.

Go native and cook up a traditional braai complete with South African boerewors (sausage) with biltong (dried meat) to start, just like the locals. Or if you’d rather leave the cooking to someone else, you can take advantage of our excellent in-house chef.

But with South Africa’s premier gourmet destination on your doorstep, it would be a crime not to get out and enjoy what Franschhoek is famous for – you’ll find some of the country’s finest dining and wine-tasting within walking distance.

Book ahead for the world-class tasting menu at Le Quartier Français’s Tasting Room, linger over a lunch to remember (and views to match) at La Petite Ferme, try the locally foraged fodder at Foliage or join the locals for some informal family fare at Café des Arts.


Dive in early morning or float the afternoon away in Maison La Cotte’s stunning 12mx6m heated pool. Just steps from the house, surrounded by lush greenery and stunning views of the property’s olive grove and mountains beyond, this is the perfect place to cool down or spend quality family time.

Back in the main house you’ll find all sorts of entertainment to keep you amused –Wi-Fi throughout and a TV and iPad docking station in the main living area (and an additional TV in the cottage).  The daily maid service, including laundry and ironing, means you don’t have to lift a finger. There’s even a chef available on request.


Home to one of the few surviving Cape Dutch Water Mills, the farm was also the birthplace of one of the oldest Oak trees in the region. It was this very tree that gave up its acorns in 1920 to be planted in honor of the Battle of Delville Wood in France – and the reason La Cotte got its acorn logo.


While most of Franschhoek’s first-time visitors come to sample the area’s world famous wines, there are no end of other activities that keep guests coming back time and time again. For vineyard tours, Franschhoek’s wine tram leaves from the centre of town and is a great way to visit some of the region’s best wine farms without having to drive. Hiking, cycling or horseback riding are also available (on or off the wine trail). There’s fly-fishing a few minutes drive from Franschhoek and six golf clubs less than an hour away.

If you’re looking to add a little culture to your trip, there are plenty of museums and galleries to visit in the area including the Franschhoek motor museum, which has one of the largest collections of vintage cars in the Southern Hemisphere. The Huguenot museum will give you an overview of the region’s history and early settlers while Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens offers insight into the local flora and fauna.

For an aerial view, take a scenic helicopter ride over the wine lands. Or if you’re looking for a little pampering, visit one of the world-class spas including L’ermitage, The Treatment Room at Le Quartier Français, or for a real treat let us arrange for a masseuse to visit you in-room at La Cotte.

Keeping the children entertained couldn’t be easier with a wealth of options in the area including riding lessons, Butterfly World or the car museum. Children can’t fail to love the half-hour chocolate-making demonstration at Franschhoek’s Huguenot chocolate store.

At home, children naturally alternate between pool time and playing in the bunk room where a big screen TV, array of games and pool table will have them occupied for hours. Cots can be sourced on request.

Insider Tips

Stay in Franschhoek a minimum of five nights to experience it at its best.

Make dinner and lunch reservations as far ahead as you can. Some of the most popular places are booked up two months in advance.

With temperate year-round weather, sunscreen is advisable at all times – if you come between December and March it’s a must.

Don’t forget to bring sensible shoes for walking and hiking and your glad rags for Franschhoek’s dressier dinner destinations.

When arriving in Franschhoek village from Cape Town, take a left turn on Uitkyk Street. Maison La Cotte is around 1km up Uitkyk Street on the right hand side. You will be given a gate code to enter.

Bookings are subject to a two-night minimum through explorersclub@me.com

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Please find details on how to book tickets on the link below:

Tim Butcher talk Sept 11, 2014

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For details on obtaining tickets please click on the link below:

Rob Caskie talk Aug 12, 2014

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