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Charms of a Cape Country Village

Greyton was the kind of country village that visitors stumbled across by accident, and then were grateful that they had done so. The beauty and tranquillity of the Riviersonderend Mountains, along with the bubble of the water canals that run throughout the town, provide the perfect backdrop for rest and relaxation. About a decade ago it was discovered by urbanites looking to escape the chaos of big city living for a weekend away. Since then, tourism has become one of the village’s primary sources of income. Even though the tourist trade has increased, it has retained its quaint nature and rustic charm, and has avoided falling into the mainstream commercialism that ruins so many country towns.

The peaceful atmosphere drawn from the magnificent landscape inspires artists, writers and other creative souls, who set up studios and galleries among houses that have been restored to their old structures. A great place to meet local artists and buy their art is at the Saturday Market. The Market is held every Saturday morning and gives visitors the opportunity to interact with the residents as well as sample local products such as fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, baked goods, shrubs, and various crafts.

Summer in Greyton brings with it a beauty that few mountain towns can rival. Oak trees, daunting in size and heavy with large green acorns, line the lanes and avenues. Golden beams of sunlight dance and flicker between the leaves and reflect off the water canals. Winter has its own delights, as snow powders the surrounding mountain peaks and Greyton begins to feel like an alpine wonderland. Coffee shops and restaurants serve rich, decadent hot chocolate and delicious coffee.

For active tourists seeking to experience nature on a more intimate level, there is plenty to see and do. Serious hikers can take on the 17km hike that goes through the Greyton Nature Reserve, from Boesmanskloof to McGregor. Along the hike you will find breathtaking gorges, waterfalls, bird life, and fynbos. The long hike follows the Boesmanskloof Trail and takes about six hours to reach McGregor. During the great trek you will come across the Gobos River gorge, refreshing mountain pools and nine waterfalls.

Visitors with a less active mien need not worry, as the village has many facilities able to cater to their pampering needs. Yoga studios offer classes to unify the body and soul, as well as cleanse the chakras of toxins and blockages. There are specialists in acupressure, massage and reiki to help you relax and boost your immune system. If you’re not interested in taking classes or visiting health experts, you can always pack a picnic lunch, sit on the riverbank and simply watch the world go by.

Accommodation options in Greyton range from comfortable B&Bs to self catering lodges and luxury 4-star hotels. Acorns on Oak Country House has rooms expertly decorated to replicate the styles of Tuscany, Province and Exmoor. Each room has a bathroom en-suite, a private entrance, mezzanine lounge and private patio with mountain views. The hosts provide a full Traditional English or Continental breakfast, which you can enjoy out at the 12m heated pool, on your patio, or on the dining room verandah. They also pack picnic rucksacks for guests who use their courtesy bicycles to get to know the town and surroundings.

Sunset House is a wonderful old sandstone building that offers B&B as well as self-catering facilities. There is a loft, which sleeps 2 people comfortably. It offers basic facilities such as open plan kitchen and lounge, separate toilet and shower, but its major draw card is its large deck which is ideal for admiring mountain views, especially at sunset. The second option available at Sunset House is the Cottage, which sleeps 4 people. There are two bedrooms linked by a bathroom. The lounge and kitchen are open plan. There is a private courtyard, braai facilities and a modern outside shower and toilet. The owners stipulate, however, that they don’t allow children or pets as they have an unguarded pond and swimming pool.

One of the tastiest reasons to visit Greyton is to go to the chocolatene, Le Petite, Choclat. Le Petite has professional chocolate tasters that help visitors choose delicious chocolates that suit them. Visitors are allowed to taste the wares before making a decision. The quality of Le Petite’s chocolates is known throughout South Africa and they are sold in the top delis and hotels.

Nestled within the picturesque Riviersonderend Mountains, Greyton is one of South Africa’s best-kept secrets as far as the tourism industry is concerned. A thriving arts and culture hotspot, it’s only recently been brought to the attention of harried city dwellers as a haven of relaxation and serenity. The village caters to the physically active as well as to those seeking rest and relaxation. No one who visits the village regrets his or her stay, and almost all return to satisfy a need newly awoken.

Recommended sites:

http://www.viewoverberg.com/Greyton.asp

[http://www.acorns-on-oak.co.za/greyton.htm]

http://www.seeff.com/western-cape/greyton.html

http://www.sa-venues.com/attractionswc/greyton.htm

Liberty Village – A Hidden Gem in Toronto

Liberty Village is the hottest growing neighborhood in Toronto. Located in the city’s west end, this old warehouse district, has now become an artist’s burrow.  Television production companies, music executives, trendy clothing lines and specialty boutiques have all chosen to keep their offices in this beautifully restored area. 

Quaint cafes and coffee shops are dotted throughout its few square blocks.  Eateries from greasy spoons to pubs and Vietnamese pho or slick urban lounges will satisfy all palettes. The Liberty village CafĂ© has been around the longest in the area and it has a market selling fresh fruit, vegan cookies and fresh homemade soups. The dining area has a full menu and patio but it is the Academy of Spherical Arts that takes top honors.  Matt Damon has been spotted in this hidden gem of a dining experience. Its sophisticated pool hall offers Cuban cigars and an extensive selection of scotches in an elegant setting. Warning, it will not remain a secret for long. 

Music nightclub is just around the corner and you can enjoy a stylish night out at this new and hot club located right on the grounds of the historic CNE.  But nightlife and dining are not the only things to do in Liberty Village.

The exhibition grounds are close by and maybe you will catch a game at the Kodak Center to see the hottest sporting event in town, the Toronto FC.  Soccer isn’t just for Europeans anymore.  Torontonians have embraced this sport and its giving hockey a run for its money.

Sunnyside pavilion is just down the street and it houses a giant public pool waiting for residents to cool down in the hot summer months. Sit outside on the beach patio facing Lake Ontario and watch the day unfold as you sip a cold Canadian and munch on calamari.

Situated next to the Argonaut club, boaters are a plenty. Maybe you will take a course this year and learn how to sail or join the ever-growing number of dragon boaters that practice along this route.

Running along the boardwalk is a little piece of serenity in a large urban centre.  Teams of rowers slice silently through the calm water sheltered from the lake by a break wall.  Snow-white swans have endured the harsh winter and now bask in the sun as they bob close to shore.  Cyclists whiz by but stay to their designated path and dogs run on the grass enjoying their hours of freedom.

One can go for weeks without having to step foot in downtown. Everything you need is right there in the West End.

The Benefits Of Staying At A French Residence De Tourisme For Your Ski Holiday

France is unique in having the Residence de Tourisme concept – this is self catered chalets and apartments yet with hotel/chalet services optionally being available on site – such as breakfast, someone for help and advise, etc.

Many of us are now choosing self catering accommodation in these times when we are all trying to reduce our costs. Many also prefer self catering for groups and families, as you have your own personal space. However, there are also many disadvantages of self catered accommodation:- you usually collect your keys from an estate agents office and you are on your own for the week, no one is on hand to help with advice about the local area, if there are power or water cuts (which do happen quite often in mountain villages) there is no one on hand to help, and if you find at 8.00 in the evening – that you don’t have enough dishes for everyone at the dinner table – you just have to manage. A Residence de Tourisme addresses the down sides of self catering accommodation, whilst retaining the benefits of both having your own personal space and lower cost than a hotel or fully catered chalet.

When going on a family ski holiday, you often want to have help from someone who knows the local area well or help with various aspects of your holiday, for example: collecting ski passes, arranging ski/boot fitting, arranging lifts to ski school, advice on mountain restaurants, help with organising child care, etc, this help is often available at a Residence de Tourisme – whereas in self catering you would be on your own.

The French created the Residence de Tourisme category to provide good holiday accommodation yet with all the services you would normally only get in a hotel. The cost is usually a little more than basic self catering, but the benefits are considerable. The French government encourage this by giving tax relief to people buying chalets and apartments under this scheme – this effectively saves them almost 20% of purchase price, the accommodation has to be operated by a management company and there is a requirement for the accommodation to be marketed for holiday use and it is not allowed to be used as a permanent dwelling.

The French regulations require that, as a minimum, three of four of the following services must be provided by the operator: at least one person available on site 24 hours a day, a breakfast service, linen and the option for cleaning more than once a week. The large operations will comply with these requirements by having a massive apartment block and minimal staff. The smaller Residence de Tourisme operations, by their nature will typically provide many other additional services, for example: lifts to ski school, grocery/shopping service, ski/boot fitting services, chef services, etc. They will also provide a high level of personal service that you normally only get from a private chalet holiday.

By choosing the right residence de Tourisme for your ski holiday, you can have the benefits of a private chalet yet at a much lower cost – paying only for those services which are really important to you.

So how do you find a Residence de Tourisme – the large ones are easy to find, however, the small ones not so easy – also – as the English don’t generally understand the benefits, they often don’s market these benefits in the UK – this means that searching using Google may well not produce the results you are looking for – unfortunately. The best way is to ask at the tourist bureau of the resort you are planning to stay at – they usually actively support the Residence de Tourisme’s – as the French understand the benefits. There is usually a section on the resort web site for Residence de Tourisme accommodation.