When Howard and I reluctantly departed the small village of Darling in South Africa’s Western Cape Province, near the end of September 2016, we knew, after 14 months there, our first task was to answer the question everyone asked us: “Why Darling?” When we decided to live in South Africa for a year to celebrate our 50th anniversary, why did we choose Darling rather than the gorgeous, but certainly less personal, Cape Town?
We knew both Darling and Cape Town. Our first two visits to Darling occurred on two of our three earlier visits to South Africa, during which we drove more than 15,000 kilometers (say 9,000 miles) through much of the country. On these visits, we went in search for spring wildflowers and Pieter-Dirk Uys’ satire. We stayed at Darling Lodge (thanks to Beryl at the Perron!). During relaxed “what if?” chats in the lodge parlor (voorkamer in Afrikaans) with owners Oliver and Stefan, we began thinking, “what if we lived here?” When we decided to actually do it, Oliver helped us find a self-catering holiday house to rent on the Darling Tourism website.
When we weren’t just enjoying life in our house in Darling, gathering answers to “Why Darling?” we drove to Cape Town often, travelled throughout Southern Africa, and welcomed many wonderful guests.
Keep scrolling for just some of our answers to “Why Darling?” If you want to experience them yourself, come visit us the next time we are in residence.
A special note about photos in this blog: All our photos are snapshots using our iPhone 6’s (so blame Apple, good or bad.) In Darling alone, there are so many photos we wanted to show you, that we turned them into a series of slideshows. The slideshows move quite rapidly. Depending on what device you are using, you will be able to pause on a photo. You may need to refresh to move forward again. Enjoy!
Darling is hills, fields and flowers as far as you can see. And beyond is the sea.
Our neighbor, famed artist Nicolaas Maritz described the hills this way:
“...In summer the hills are barren and the vineyards green, and in winter it is the other way round. Rows of blue-gum trees planted as wind-breaks make interesting horizons, especially at dawn, or silhouetted against the orange and purple gloaming of sunset. There are still enough dust roads to make it feel like a real countryside. Spring brings astonishing mass displays of veld flowers. At night the skies are dappled with countless stars as if studded with confetti…”
Below are a few of our ”hills, fields, flowers and the sea” photos, before we gave up taking them. No photo (at least from an iPhone) can capture the “as far as you can see” vistas that are just about everywhere you look.
Darling is music!
Darling Music Experience (DME), classical music with a twist, has been fantastically and tirelessly run by founder Alfred Legner for more than 12 years. Did I hear it will become part of the new Taste of Darling?
Voorkamerfest, the performance festival in Darling living rooms, has taken a hiatus – but plans call for its return after a break – for its 18th year.
Both festivals showcase incredible musicians, even works by former resident and composer Hendrik Hofmeyr, who composed a piece for us before we left. Thank you Hendrik, and thanks to Alfred and wife Jutta for making this happen!
Last year, there were DME performances at the awesome new Darling Brewery, Evita se Perron (Pieter-Dirk Uys’ theater in the old railway station), !Khwa Ttu San Cultural Center, the wine cellar at Ormonde wine farm, local churches and even Stellenbosch. Voorkamerfest is always held in living rooms (called lounges in South Africa) throughout the village.
A favorite spot for young musicians is the Darling Focus Community Center. Saturday mornings it hosts DME’s Darling Music for All (DMA). Aden, the youngest member of saintly John Fevrier’s percussion group, often manages to show up; after percussion class, dedicated musician, composer and cheerleader Marius Vlotman leads weekly Djembe drumming, even when only dedicated star student Griffin shows up. And exciting news – Howard and I are helping DMA start a band (to evolve into an orchestra as it grows). Its first performance was a smash.
Across the road, at the Darling Trust preschool “R” classroom, tireless Judy Wood teaches 58 students of all ages after the 60 little ones go home.
Thanks to Tasha St. John-Reid of the Darling Trust and Alfred Legner of DME/Darling Music for All, and so many more – you all help make Darling such a special place.
Darling is art.
Darling will never be boring with neighbor Nicolaas Maritz in the room … He was always there when we needed him; he is never afraid to say what he thinks.
Nicolaas just happens to be one of the best artists in South Africa. If you want to be happy, look for anything he creates – a painting, graphic design, sculpture, ceramic, poetry, music, or even an essay (see excerpt from his “Darling Hills,” above). We love his paintings so much we took home six.
In Darling, there is art on all sides of town…
And of course, many out of town artists like to visit Darling, too!
Below is a painting of the Darling Hills we bought from well known Cape Town artist Tyrone Appollis. An artist of many talents, Tyrone played his penny whistle for us before the opening of his exhibit at the Irma Stern Museum in Cape Town.
Darling is writers, too!
Keeping us Americans laughing, especially when he compares South African President Zuma with Donald Trump, is Darling’s Pieter-Dirk Uys (PDU), South Africa’s legendary satirical writer/performer.
Darling’s Hilary Prendini Toffoli is our favorite South African culture journalist. Hilary writes about all that’s happening in style, art, music, theater, film – not only in Darling but throughout the country.
Here’s a photo of Hilary with artist Nicolaas Maritz at the opening of his recent exhibit at the fabulous new Moor Gallery in Franschhoek. Read her recent blog Tastes Like Home in the SAA inflight magazine; her Mail & Guardian interview with the lead, “A Voice I Cannot Silence,” the biographical play about Alan Paton. Or just google her for more.
Visiting us in Darling was Alex Matthews. our favorite South African travel and social issues journalist. Alex writes for some of the most prestigious publications in South Africa.
We visited Mozambique and Swaziland soon after he made some of his many visits there, and related to his stories. I’m cheating by putting him in here, hoping it will tempt him to return and dig more into what makes Darling tick.
Covering it all, Darling and beyond, is beloved Peter Hall who writes the very important “tell all” Darling Dorpskoerant (yes, Darling is indeed a rural village, or dorp). Peter holds occasional bring your own “Beer and Books” nights for the guys, which Howard says is usually more beer than books and lots of fun. Peter’s wife Cathy creates fantastic programs at the Darling Museum. Recent favorites were on San (bushman) rock art, and on security needs at diamond mines. Cathy also makes incredible pop-up meals if you ask her. Thank you, Cathy, for all you do!
Book League, our go-to bookstore, is truly the heartbeat of Darling. Owners Ann and Wendy know what you want to read before you know it yourself. They can tell you who else has read it and what they thought of it. Social directors extraordinaire, they introduce readers to writers eye-to-eye, without an internet-based Amazon style algorithm. They also know everything else you might need to know that Gil and Aleks Ferreira next door at the Flying Pig don’t.
Darling has the best treats anywhere, most within walking distance of each other.
I’m listing just a few found at the Flying Pig: Gil Ferreirra’s sauscisson sec, Darling olives, Rosemead artisanal breads, Darling Sweet toffees, dried pomegranates, fresh and dried mushrooms, freshly-baked rusks, Carla’s Udderly Delicious cheese, and locally grown organic greens. For yummy healthful everything, check out Chicory Cheese. And just outside of town, Groote Post Wine Farm holds its month-end Sunday markets, offering the farm’s wonderful rosé on special, and serving beautiful Hilde’s Kitchen lunches, indoors or out, depending on the weather.
Darling is breakfast lattes after yoga or Pilates
… too tempting to pass up.
Thank you, Lisa, for discovering those almond croissants at The Pig! … and thanks to Rosemead for delivering weekly olive sticks, baguettes and sour dough bread. (Hmm… I’m beginning to get a picture of how I gained 5 kilos in one year!)
Come to think of it, proprietors Aleks and Gil were always happy to supply us with bagels when we were homesick (yes, South Africa has bagels!), scrumptious pig products, and pirogis when Aleks’ mother was visiting. Lest I forget, their brilliant young daughter was the first in Darling to place my funny accent as “American!” I always thought that South Africans were the ones who talked funny.
Darling is lunches, outdoors when the weather allows, which is pretty much all year round.
Lunch time is a bit different for the 60 “Little Darlings” in the two classrooms run by The Darling Trust. Thank you Pieter-Dirk Uys, other donors, Tasha and the rest of The Trust’s creative, hard-working, and caring staff. Tasha says there is much need for another two preschool classrooms. I had no idea that public school doesn’t begin for South African children until age 7.
Darling is blessed to have the support of The Trust – not only for this preschool program, but for after-school art, music, athletics (I’m thinking of the pool) and more.
Darling is dinner out with friends, when there is a restaurant open!
On Tuesday nights, talented artist Omnia Grobler runs her pot luck club at Brigs Barn restaurant where town fathers and mothers regularly gather, and where Iris and Howard were made to feel so welcomed when we were in town.
Wednesdays (if you’re lucky) Charles Whittingham does one of his wine tastings. (Anesia Darné, please keep doing the Mexican you did for the wine tasting regularly at your Chicory Cheese!).
20 minutes drive to the dunes above Yzerfontein’s 16 Mile Beach is Thursday night gourmet pizza at Strandkombuis. On Sunday afternoons, they do an incredible seafood buffet.
Friday night is pizza, too, at Sandy’s always-jammed Marmalade Cat. Select from pies like Four Seasons and Banana Bacon, or design your own.
Finally, if you beg hard enough, “Herman the German” might talk his wife Antoinette into cooking you her famous schnitzel.
Darling is so many more amazing people. Push on if you can bear to keep reading, or scroll on past. We will love you anyway.
Pru Davis, what would we have done without you? You are everywhere, even when you’re not! Keep up the great work with the DMA and everything else you do for Darling. And please keep up the drumming!
Lisa Katz, you know how much we loved your Pilates classes and your tales of wrestling kudus on the farm. Now that you are back in Cape Town, please don’t forget us.
Amy Watson, Darling is blessed to have you. You do anything and everything, with grace, whether its dancing, choreographing, getting me up in the morning, leading Pilates, cooking the yummiest meals (hurry up with Supper Darling!), even packing boxes.
Karen Korte, you are the calmest yoga teacher ever (thanks for your fabulous art at the 99th Darling Wild Flower Festival!)
Simeon Watson-Stoch (mother of Amy Watson, Lesa who has gone back to Tasmania, and the cats) is Leesure Agency’s in-house insurance and investments expert – and our fairy godmother for these fourteen months. Just a reminder that some day we walk-ins might even become clients. For now, we are content to just borrow your unbeatable office services and fill up on your bolognaise.
Lee Stoch, Simeon’s husband, is Leesure’s unmatchable outside expert and our fairy godfather. After long days explaining insurance and investment opportunities to clients throughout South Africa, he still had time and energy to criticize our security, light our wood burning braai, cook our steaks, lamb chops and boerewors, change our light bulbs, and always keep us laughing.
And more people who make Darling so wonderful:
Kevin, the best butcher (except of course, for your father and brother). You knew what our guests would like to eat before we even asked – and where to find our Thanksgiving turkey. Thanks, too, for the wood… without your great meat and wood for the fire, we wouldn’t have had so many awesome braais.
Irma and Gary, how will you and Kalimera ever get along without us? 🙂
And Ian and Lynn and your fab family – we know we could count on you for anything (and did).
Michelle and Innes, honorary citizens, social media marketing partners in Social Tulips. They always know the “how to’s” and answers to social media questions – is it the product or the marketing?
Our friends at the Engen station (that hides the post office inside) – how did you always know when we needed petrol, and when our windows needed washing (more trips on unpaved back roads)?
Stefan Hurter is Darling’s sound and video expert extraordinaire, wherever needed, especially at the Perron.
Felix Magdziarz is the guy that makes that great Darling Brew. Congrats to his bosses Kevin and Phillipa Wood – what an awesome new brewery. Let my Oliver know when you think NY again.
Alfred and Jutta Legner did so much to make Darling and our experience there so awesome. We love you both and all you do. Thanks for introducing us to so many Darling treasures, including Michael and Izetta Rangasamy, who work so hard to help move Darling forward. (Michael, we look at our “honorary citizen” plaque every day in our NY apartment!)
Finally, to Beryl at the Perron, who helped get us to Darling the first time … Thanks for introducing us to Darling Lodge … and getting us all those great tables at the Perron!
Oops – time to stop. Forgive all I’ve left out – will be sure to include in “Why Darling 2.0”
Darling is historic …
I’ve included a bunch of snapshots of Darling, mostly some favorite buildings, but a few of happenings around town. The 99th Darling Wild Flower Show, for example, and the first ever Darling Collection.
For those of you who may not know – Darling is old. The Darling hills surround a small farm village first explored in 1682. Named for Charles Henry Darling, Lieutenant General of the Cape Colony, Darling was incorporated in 1853 on land down the street from us belonging to Langfontein Farm (now Ormonde Wine Farm). The village has a main street and some residential side streets, many still unpaved. A freight train runs through the middle of the village a few times a day.
Darling is not that far from wild animals. Remember, it’s Africa!
Happily, Darling is much nearer to Cape Town than most people think.
When you need a break from Darling, Cape Town is less than an hour away, depending on “stop/go’s”, South Africa’s unique and dreaded road works management system. Cape Town is so close that on a clear day, you can see Table Mountain from the Darling hills.
Here are a few more snapshots of Table Mountain and its Cape Town neighborhood, just because it’s hard not to snap them!
Finally, one of Nicolaas Maritz’s paintings that we particularly love (and bought) is “Crocodile Cloth over Table Mountain.” Leave it to Nicolaas to visualize the famed “table cloth” as a crocodile! No matter how many times we went to Cape Town (more than 100?), the mountain always looked different but I’m not sure it ever looked to me like it had a crocodile cover.
And in Grand Conclusion
We are so happy we chose to live in Darling (and not the big wonderful, but less personal, city of Cape Town!) In trying to answer “why?” I have actually written a love letter. Thanks to all for helping to make it such a great year plus. “Why Darling?” Darling is darling, as they say. We can’t wait to return.
P.S. If you want to read about some of our other adventures in and out of Darling, be sure to read my other South African blogs (all called “Roads Less Travelled”). They are right on this website.
And if you decide after reading my blogs that you want to do your own year in South Africa or anywhere elsewhere in the world, stay tuned for my next blog – Roads Less Travelled – A “How To” for a year away. It’s harder, and easier, than you think.