Travel and a bit of shopping
First published in The Big Issue, Aug-Sept 2017
(Since this article has been published some places have closed down or changed ownership)
As the town of Napier in the Overberg states on their Facebook page the town is picturesque and surrounded by magnificent rolling green hills and characterised by a sublime country atmosphere. They continue by saying that in their village you’ll find excellent food, good times and good fun.
It’s all true. And there’s more.
Napier is the gateway to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point in Africa. The seaside town with two names, Arniston and Waenhuiskrans, and Struisbaai with an authentic fishing harbour are also both close enough to head there on a scenic drive through farmland, typical of the Overberg.
Napier is one of the only towns in South Africa where the church is situated next to the bar – in the local hotel.
This Dutch Reformed Church is one of the most striking churches in South Africa. It was built in the form of a Greek cross; it has a teak interior and the most beautiful pipe organ.
Current visitors have the church to thank that they can visit Napier today. In 1838 two neighbouring farmers couldn’t agree on where the community church should be built. Being headstrong as was typical of some plattelandse boertjies back then, neither would give in either.
Michiel van Breda wanted the church to be built on his farm, Langefontein. Pieter van der Byl wanted it built on his property, Klipdrift. It resulted in two churches being built – Breda’s church was built in Bredasdorp (the town was named after him as well) and Van der Byl’s church was built in what is now known as Napier. Napier was named after Sir George Thomas Napier, the British governor of the Cape Province at the time.
Napier is situated at the foot of the Soetmuisberg, between Caledon and Bredasdorp. A few decades along Napier was the Cinderella – before she slipped on her glass slippers – of the Overberg. Nowadays the other two bigger towns have become the two not-as-pretty sisters whereas Napier has become trendy and a popular escape for city slickers.
Napier holds an annual Sweet Potato Festival or Patatfees (www.napierpatatfees.co.za) when the town is festooned with scarecrows, each donned in a different costume, often themed to complement the business where it’s erected. Great fun is to be had on the ‘Spot the Scarecrow Discovery Trail’.
At the 2017 Patatfees a scarecrow in a crocheted skirt led visitors to a pop-up art gallery, a sprawled out mannequin-ish scarecrow appeared to have imbibed too much wine at Vindigo Wine & Decor, and an elaborate drag queen scarecrow festooned the stoep at At the Oscar’s Hair Salon. I missed the traffic policeman with his speed camera at one end of the town and the gardener kneeling amongst shrubs at the other end from previous years.
Spectators line Sarel Cellies Street when a procession of vintage tractors, classic cars and Harley Davidson motorcycles drive by slowly so that there is enough time to admire polished chrome, bulbous head lights and the rumble of engines.
Napier has its own unique hand-made sun dial. It is believed to be the only vertical sun dial in the country. It was built by Danie du Toit in 1965 after having conducted his own research on the movements of the sun and the shadows it casts.
Upon entering the main road (Sarel Celliers Street) of Napier, the first place worth stopping at is The Fox Pub and Restaurant (12 Sarel Celliers). It has beer, it has atmosphere and it has recently been renovated with folding windows to let fresh country air – literally and figuratively – in.
You might as well walk from here as there is so much to see, photograph and visit. You will probably not visit the old age home but its name, Klippe Drift, hardly ever fails to evoke a grin.
Though it has to be said that people around here – or more accurately, in Baardskeerdersbos, a village less than 40 kilometres from here and fondly known as B’Bos – prefer good ole’witblits rather than brandy. If you can lay your hands on the stuff – and if you are brave enough – don’t let the opportunity go by. Insider tip: they sell this potent drink at the annual church bazaar in Baardskeerdersbos.
It might be urban legend; it might be a tot or seven too many of the lethal white stuff but the story is told that an old omie of the district neglected to stop at a stop street leading onto the main road. A car slammed into the side of his vehicle. With utter indignation he exclaimed: “I’ve been driving over this stop street for years and I’ve never had a problem. What are you doing here now?!”
Less than a hop, skip and jump away from the pub Domino Farm – Alpine Goat Dairy (83 Sarel Celliers) sells from the farm to your table: goats’ cheese, free range eggs and meat.
At the Oscar’s Hairsalon (40 Sarel Celliers) will be relocating – to another spot in Napier – in the foreseeable future. Until then the dusky blue cottage with its white broekieslace sports a naked gold winkelpop on the stoep and a delightful interior with quirky finds inside.
Pascal’s (www.pascals.co.za) (48 Sarel Celliers) is the first choice for many to meet and eat. Pascal’s has al fresco seating in summer and fireside dining in winter. As their logo attests there is a resident cat albeit a bit grumpy at times. The owners are very hospitable though and their Sunday lunches are legendary. Other recommendations include the aubergine, lentil and chickpea curry, the lamb shank and the snails in top hats – with lots of garlic – as starter. The Fat Cat Cocktail Bar and Lounge serves Cosmopolitans and Napier’s Nightmares.
At El Gallo (46 Sarel Celliers), the home of Napier Village Market, a yellow and red tin rooster as big as a calf crows from its perch advertising their accommodation. At Gunner’s Mess (59 Sarel Celliers) a life-sized oil drum cow sports purple polka dots.
The Sun Touched Inn (www.suntouchedinn.co.za) (58 Sarel Celliers) offers accommodation and pizzas in their restaurant and lounge bar.
Napier Antiek (72 Sarel Celliers) sells vintage furniture, crockery and collectable items at prices too good to believe.
The Napier Farm Stall (106 Sarel Celliers) is a restaurant in its own right apart from selling cardamom-infused mini quiches, golden yellow milk tarts, date balls and other bakery fare.
Next door at Vindigo Wine and Decor (108 Sarel Celliers) you can stock up on wines from the district and beyond as well as on art and gifts.
A little further on on the opposite side on the road Greta’s Place (103 Sarel Celliers) has antiques, collectables, bric-a-brac, old linen and English, Afrikaans and German books piled in a delightfully haphazard way in an old rambling house.
Before the end of 2017 a Middle Eastern and Indian restaurant called I’m a Tiger will be opening in Bodorp, Napier. Dee Robinson, the resident tigress of spices, is an exceptional cook. Send a message to Dee at 072 799 2380 to ascertain when the opening date will be.
So yes, as Napier states on Facebook – it’s worth the visit. Napier is a town where you can go to relax whilst having good food ranging from a country pie to great cuisine or alternatively you can decide to go mountain biking or horse riding. Wine tasting at Strandveld Vineyards (www.strandveld.co.za) or Black Oystercatcher (www.blackoystercatcher.co.za) – the latter has an excellent restaurant as well – will inevitably convert you to Elim Wines.
Read about upcoming festivals and more to do in Napier: https://web.facebook.com/Napier.Overberg/