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An Enchanting Tea Forest, La Reunion

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En Champ Thé (Play on words: Enchante) 

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{Translated: In the Fields of Tea. And, enchanted.}

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Because, a wonderful play on words is always my cup of tea (*badooom chhhhh) And because finding ourselves in a tea plantation is certainly not an opportuni-TEA to pass up!

We visited France’s sole tea plantation, which is only 4 hours away from South Africa. Possibly 5 if you take into account the drive up Reunion Island’s Grand-Coude (which means big bend, or elbow.) Perched on a mountain 1,200m above sea level, framed on either side by deep gorges, this narrow mountain top is literally like a giant’s bent arm resting on a sofa. (A really tall sofa.)

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VISIT THE HIGHLANDS OF SAINT JOSEPH~ LA GRAND-COUDE

Besides discovering the landscape’s scenic views, here you will find the only tea plantation in the whole of France. Sunlight, moisture, cool nights and the volcanic soil are ideal conditions to harvest a quality tea.

How do you know when a tree does not know the answer to something?

It Shrubs.

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So does tea come from a tree or a bush? Strangely, it’s a tree. I know, I was also a-mazed.

The history of the village begins in the 1920s when the cultivation of geranium was launched. It was replaced from the late 1960s by the culture of tea which had a great success until pricing became too high. And then, so did its trees.

Impressive 12 meter tall teas remain of a tea plantation abandoned roughly 40 years ago. Johnny and his wife Emmanuelle have revived this forest  and a newly cultivated tea plantation. Where we spent our morning.

Lost in the labyrinth of tea trees.

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In En Champ Thé, planted trees reach maturity after four or five years. Unlike the maze, the farmer, Johnny, masters the size by keeping the trees breast height, in order to facilitate harvest. Harvest is carried out about 9 times a year. ” The task is tedious because we collect only the bud and two leaves. It is so-called fine picking,” explains Johnny.  In 2016, five tons of tea were picked.  After drying, a little more than 500 kg of tea is produced.

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From the tree to the pot, we discovered and tasted the differences between black, green, white and imperial tea. A feast of the senses is experienced in the scented garden where we get to feel and smell the famous Geranium.

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What is so great about the Geranium? Only the greatest perfumers travelled to Reunion Island to hunt down the best geranium essential oil in the world: Bourbon geranium. The perfumeries swore by geraniums grown on Reunion Island, which were known to be of exceptional quality. Back then Bourbon geranium, originally from South Africa, was one of the great treasures of the island.

We got to experience the various perfumes of rose, citronella, and pepper. Which is distilled to produce a valuable essential oil

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It can be used to perfume your food. In the kitchen geranium adds its extraordinary fragrance to an array of beverages and food such as rhum arrangé (rum of Reunion), syrup, salad, jelly, ice cream, pastry and stuffings and sauces too.

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During a detour on our drive to drink tea, a tree branch (not a tea one) shattered our windscreen. Charlotte, our tea tour guide and translator spent most of her morning before our guided tour on the phone with our car rental service.

Little is known of the village of Grand Bend (Grand-Coude) by the inhabitants of the island of Réunion. Never having  travelled to Grand-Coude, the car rental representatives were in awe. (Aha, so it wasn’t just us!) Ready to transfer all our belongings from the cracked-windscreen-car to a car with a windscreen we could actually see out of. “Why rush, the windscreen is still broken AND there is always time for tea.” Johnny said, as he poured each of the car rental representatives a hot cup of tea.

And so we realized, a cup of tea makes everything better.

A country of hospitality, genorisity and friendliness. Why wouldn’t you want to visit Reunion Island, drink tea and get lost in a maze?

Simplici-TEA made A-MAZE-ing.

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To Visit :
Guided tours for 2 or more people on weekdays and weekends at:

10am and 2pm by reservation only 24 hours in advance.
Self-guided tours from Monday to Sunday, from 9am to 12pm and 1pm to 5pm.

18 Rue Emile Mussard | Grand Coude, Saint-Joseph 97480, Reunion Island

EMAIL: info@enchampthe.com

En Champ The Website

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Accomodation

Want to stay in the heart of Cape Town? Here’s why The Cape Milner should be your go-to.

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For Durbanites, a trip to Cape Town is always enthralling. White-sand beaches, throngs of restaurants, and sea life sightings are just some of the things we look forward to when visiting our Mother City. Of course, the various accommodation on offer forms part of said hype – and can either make or break your experience!

Well, we’re here to tell you this: If you’re looking for a hotel that’s contemporary, comfy, central, quiet and not too costly, we’ve found the place for you. Not to mention its fascinating decor, great hospitality, and luxury charm that just wraps you up and keeps you snug throughout your entire stay.

The opulent Cape Milner building matches Cape Town’s Victorian aesthetic. But inside you’ll find a mix of art-deco, modern and African chic; much like the feel of modern Africa today.

As if wedged at the bottom of Table Mountain, the views from the rooms and lounges are spectacular. We particularly enjoyed dining out in the swanky Glass Lounge, where you can look up into the blue sky or night stars while you enjoy a hearty lamb shank below.

Our homely rooms overlooked the serene Milner Road, with its impressive avenues of trees. We were given complimentary macarons on arrival and enjoyed them with tea as we watched the rain pitter-patter on the tails of unbothered squirrels — how cute! The Milner Hotel really is a place you can enjoy come rain or shine.

The hotel was the absolute, perfect base from which to explore pretty much everything and anything. Just a few minutes drive away lies Bree and Kloof  – two favourites, Metropolitan streets for tourists and locals alike. Over the few days of our stay we visited many great spots, all within 5-10 minutes away.

We sank our teeth into cheesy pizza at the much-hyped “I love the dough” and tried out “Mochi Mochi” for dessert; we ordered fizzing and steaming cocktails from “Cause and Effect” at the V&A; and of course, we spent a fun-filled evening at the cheeky and illustrious “Beefcakes” in Green Point.

After each jam-packed day, coming home to our state-of-the-art bathtub and luxurious linen was the cherry on top. It fitted in perfectly with our diverse range of activities we had planned, and matched the entire style of our trip.

We didn’t want to leave!

And of course, we can’t wait to stay again…

To book your stay at the Cape Milner, contact

Tel: +27 11 516 4367
Email: res@extraordinary.co.za

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Accomodation

Tugela River Lodge – A must for your bucket list!

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Tugela River Lodge is a self-catering eco-lodge situated in Winterton. They are completely off the grid, using solar power and gas to run their lodge.

Being pet-friendly, Tugela is the perfect place to bring the entire family, literally! As well as for singles, couples or friends.

ACCOMMODATION

With 5 cottages to choose from, you can either book the Main Lodge which sleeps up to 14, The Hideaway which is a 6 sleeper and The Rapids, The River House and Kingfisher Cottage which are all 4 sleeper.

All of the cottages don’t have any TV sets. Tugela River Lodge wants to instead encourage visitors to experience nature – which we definitely agree with.

We stayed at the River House which was a double storey house, ensuring we each had privacy as a couple.

 

HISTORY

The Green family have been running the lodge for over 20 years. They have a passion for mountain biking, trail running and the outdoors in general. Every year, The Berg & Bush cycle ride and The Oxpecker trail run take place.

THE EXPERIENCE

Upon arrival, check in was such a breeze – we found our accommodation easily and settled in for the night.

For dinner we opted to have a braai. The boys loved catching up while us girls chilled on the comfiest couches with a glass of red.

We were joined by two of the owner’s dogs, as well as a cat, making us feel right at home.

Our double storey house had more of a modern feel than the rest of the cottages. We had a spacious lounge all to ourselves which was part of an open plan kitchen. The main bedroom had a double bed with an open plan shower and toilet, while the upstairs room had a double bed with the most gorgeous outside view.

We were fully equipped with high speed WI-FI too. A bonus if you’re needing this feature while on your trip away. The River House is the only unit to have this functionality.

The River House is also ideal for bringing your pets as the property is well fenced off – You don’t have to worry about losing your fur-babies!

WHAT TO DO NEARBY

You don’t really need to leave Tugela. With plenty of walking trails available, one can find themselves walking along the beautiful Tugela River.

If you feel like a drive however, we would recommend  Spioenkop Nature Reserve. A popular water sport destination, it also offers a serene game reserve environment. We saw rhino, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and many different species of birds.

You can also take a drive through the Tugela game reserve with a cooler box and watch the sun go down with views of the Drakensberg on one side and the Freestate on the other.

ACTIVITIES AT TUGELA:

Other activities at Tugela include trails for walking/running, kayaking along the river, daily animal feeding and use of their farmstall for any fresh produce.

BOOK YOUR STAY AT TUGELA RIVER LODGE:

Email: info@tugelariverlodge.co.za
Cellphone/Whatsapp: +27 82 823 4746

Website: www.tugelariverlodge.co.za

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Reviews

Workationing In Style At The 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa, Cape Town

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Desperate to travel? Need a break from the same four walls of your home office? Why not have yourselves a workcation right here in South Africa…

In current times, working remotely has fast become the norm. But this has brought with it a new approach to utilising time more wisely. Enter the concept of “workation” – with great prices on weekday accommodation, and little to no tourists competing for your planned activities, there really is no better time to travel while you work.

Durbanite was fortunate enough to have ourselves a little workation in Cape Town, where we stayed at The 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa for one glorious night.

With an extraordinary view of the Atlantic ocean and the mountains wrapped around you, it’s difficult to find a more beautiful place to work. The experience began with a friendly greeting from the porter and doorman while they guided us to the check-in counter. After a quick and easy check-in, we followed Patience around for our tour, champagne in hand. After contemplating which view – or work facility to utilise first, we opted for within the comfort of our spectacular sea-facing suite.

The room was characterised by elegance, class, comfort like no other, and a balcony located a good stone throw away from the beach. It goes without saying, but there was free wifi and an opulent desk to work at, as well as a variety of other comfy furniture to plonk down in. I could write beautiful descriptive paragraphs on the room, the view, the service and the interior of the hotel, but I honestly fear I won’t do it justice. What I will say is, there sure is a reason why celebrities like Lady Gaga and Rihanna choose to stay here!

Other work environments on offer include the conference room, a slow lounge, the foyer, and the tables and chairs out by the pool or outside of the restaurant. All of which were quiet, accompanied by dreamy views and without a hint of discomfort.

Whether you’re traveling solo, with your partner, or your whole family,  the 12 Apostles makes sure it caters for everyone. It’s both pet- and kid-friendly, so the opportunity to bring your life with you – or escape it – is entirely up to you.

From a COVID-19 perspective, masks were worn by everyone around the hotel and in any public spaces. Their world famous breakfast buffet was adapted to be more COVID-friendly, with snacks and condiments displayed in their own packaging and glassware. And although all the wonderful hot food wasn’t showcased around the room, it was still readily available by simply ordering it through your waiter.

The hotel offers a free shuttle to Camps Bay Beach or the V&A Waterfront every hour, so you have the opportunity to venture back and forth between these bustling hubs as you wish. Making use of the shuttle allowed us to experience our beautiful mother city when we clocked off from work, until we decided we were ready to sink back into our engulfing and irresistible King-size Bed.

With no household chores or trips to the shops needed, the best part – or perhaps the toughest part of the experience was deciding which first-class services and utilities to indulge in during our breaks. Whether it be a spa treatment, effortlessly demolishing the delicious High Tea confectionaries while you stare out to sea, a quick trip to the little movie theatre down the hall, or a swim in either the rock pool or the heated pool, it certainly beat checking the fridge multiple times or twiddling your thumbs between Zoom calls.

Although there have been numerous perks to working from home and not having to go into the office, like those dreaded meetings finally being summed up in one email, or not having to wait idly in lunchtime traffic, there have definitely been some bad parts – the lack of in-person social interactions and the same scenery every day has definitely had detrimental mental effects on working people everywhere. The mental rejuvenation that we received from our workation was just what we needed to refresh our mindsets and click us back into gear. And the best part of the workation, we didn’t even have to use up a day’s leave. So if you’re thinking of trying the workation concept, all we can say is “go for it!” and if you’re gonna do it, why not do it in style?

To book your stay at the 12 Apostles, visit:
https://12apostleshotel.com

Telephone: +27 21 4379000
Email: reservations1@12apostles.co.za
Address: Victoria Road, Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

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