Sometimes the world closes in around you no matter how much you try to avoid it – and all you need is to be somewhere else. The air feels heavier, the world seems a shade less bright and your shoulders tense with everything that settles there day after day. It’s times like these when you need to pack your bags, get in your car and drive someplace you’ve never been.
People often think travel needs to be far away to have some profound effect on our being. That unless you jump on a flight you won’t be far enough away to feel like you’re truly ‘free’. I couldn’t disagree more. During the course of my short time on this here earth I’ve come to discover that there is no distance big enough to separate yourself from your fears and worries. But sometimes a new place, no matter how near that place may be, is all you need for a much needed shift in your mindset to occur. One that makes you feel a little lighter again. I’ve also been lucky to meet a handful of friends who share my love to explore and the subtle art of doing nothing but listen to the world and take it all in.
René and Matt are two such friends. I met them three years ago when they moved to South Africa from Australia. They are the kind of people who you feel instantly at home with. The kind of at home where you can arrive at their house, dressed in your pjs with messy hair and no face and they’ll invite you in and share a meal with you, no questions asked. That meal turns into shared banter that fills your heart while Anthony Bourdain plays on the telly in the background. They’re the kind of friends who just get it.
It was on such a Sunday that we decided that we’re all in dire need of a break away. We instantly booked a weekend away. Destination: McGregor.
We left early on the Friday after stocking the car with food and copious amounts of wine (Thanks to their ability to find damn good deals). McGregor is a tiny burrow of a town about 2 and a bit hours drive from Cape Town. As we pulled up outside this beautiful home we found on Airbnb I could instantly feel my brain slow down. The wide dust covered streets and fynbos that creeps quietly through low fences pulled at my mind. As if to tell me that time is of no consequence here.
I could breathe.
Now, there’s one big thing that Rene, Matt and I have in common — our love for wholesome food. So it’s no surprise that we thoroughly searched restaurants in McGregor before we even arrived. One such spot that we stumbled upon was a small restaurant called 51. A mere walk around the block away from the house we were staying at.
At first when you walk into 51 you’re overwhelmed by how beautifully curated this small space is. There’s a fire slowing smouldering away keeping the cool air at bay. There’s interesting trinkets and beautiful art arranged in just the right places. And then you’re greeted by Philip, Gerard and their beautiful dog Lola. As we sat down and made ourselves comfortable Philip came over, he offered us coffee and took our orders. Who knew how happy the simplest plate of delicious homemade bread, snoek pate, greens and pickles could make me. It was uncomplicated delicious food, made with love — something that’s unbeatable.
We went back for breakfast the next day. (Even though we brought enough breakfast food along to feed a small army.) Again we were blown away by not just the food, but the atmosphere of 51. They have managed to create something that even to us ‘non-locals’ felt like a kind of home away from home. A beautiful place where everyone greeted each other. Where people felt love and kindness and shared it all over a meal. To create a place like that takes more than knowing how to cook. It takes having such a passion and love for what you do that others can’t help but feel it too. We never went anywhere else. By the end of the long weekend they even gave me a jar of incredible pickled beetroot (which I tried to savour but I ended up devouring it in about 2 days flat once I got back to Cape Town). Hospitality like that is a rarity in today’s fast paced world. I couldn’t be happier to have discovered their beautiful restaurant. Thank you, Philip and Gerard.
The time that we didn’t spend eating, we spent reading on the patio in the afternoon sun. Making a fire and cooking dinner. Drinking wine and cracking open bubbles all while talking about life, love and how strange it all is sometimes. And often, not even talking at all. It was everything that I desperately needed.
I know that I struggle to switch off from work and life, and sometimes (actually pretty much always) I need to force myself to get away from my usual environment in an attempt to let go. Often I end up pushing this process out as much as possible. Always justifying that right now isn’t a good time, that there’s just too much going on and I can’t afford to take a break. The thing is that it ends up working against you. The more I push through my mental warning bells the more my output declines. I let the ball drop a bit, and slowly become uninspired due to exhaustion. Truth be told, it would have been better for all if I had taken the time to focus on my own mental well-being when it first started nagging at me. I’m basically preaching to the choir (me) because I seem to never learn. But I’m going to consciously make a point to listen to my soul when it needs a little time off. Even if it’s just a long weekend away.
Don’t forget to sometimes follow the road, instead of the constant rumblings of your mind.