After a few days in Prince Albert, The Sister and I discovered that the only thing that moves quickly in this town is our 90 year old grandmother in her motorised wheelchair. Visitors to the town are advised to look out for an elegant, pearl-wearing figure, careering across the main street to make it to the post office on time. Otherwise, you are advised to check in and chill out.
A typical day in the Karoo town may start out with an English breakfast at the Lazy Lizard, where you’ll be served by one of the many members of the charming local clan who own the establishment. If you’re feeling energetic, you may decide to visit the Lazy Lizard’s gym before breakfast. I decided to do just that, one morning. My main objective was actually to check up on the Father Figure at his bi-weekly pilates class. I was given special permission to attend as it’s normally reserved for 65 to 85 year olds. The instructor is a physiotherapist who enjoys a good joke but who takes no nonsense. Slackers are immediately chastised, model students are praised and the Class Clown is indulged so long as his glutes are doing as much work as his mouth is. Cutting class is forgiven for things like medical excursions to the big city (Oudtshoorn) but I soon discovered why attendance by these old grandpas is so good: the very next class is attended by a couple of extremely attractive twenty-somethings. They apparently come in from the neighbouring farms for their daily exercise, looking super sexy in their figure-hugging spandex gear.
After pilates and breakfast, you may wish to wander down to the Swartberg Hotel & Coffee Shop to pick up a loaf of the best freshly-baked seed loaf I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. It won’t be ready before 9:45 but don’t arrive too long after the loaves leave the oven, as they soon sell out. Thereafter you may head to Gay’s Dairy for your milk, cheese, butter and yoghurt. The authentic dairy odour takes some getting used to, but it’s worth taking a deep breath and making your way into the cheese tasting room, where you can sample some black pepper gouda or the award-winning Prince Albert cheddar. Your hostess can also explain all the varying maturation times of the different cheeses.
If you went to pilates in the morning, you may have been invited to come and gather up fallen mangoes in the garden of one of the students – a retired diplomat, to be precise. You may then wish to climb into your pool which you’d only exit for a delicious lunch consisting of your locally-sourced produce. Then it’s either back to the pool or straight to your bed for a well-deserved siesta.
A late afternoon cappuccino or a glass of home-made lemonade might then be enjoyed at Prince Albert’s Country Store – a delightful coffee-shop-cum-collectibles-outlet. Here, you may need to share your chair with Fred, the resident Basset hound. If you’re in need of some reading matter, you can browse through their lovely collection of second hand books. After coffee, you might nip across to the local butchery for some biltong. On one such excursion The Sister enquired about ostrich meat. In response, the butcher pulled a face in disgust and said, “Het jy ooit daai goed geryk? Dit STINK!”
When The Sister replied that she understood that it was supposed to be significantly healthier than beef, the butcher was still having none of it.
“’n Mens moet mos dood gaan van iets. Laat dit maar vleis wees.”
Beef biltong it is, then.
By now, the guilt of English breakfasts, full cream yoghurt, bread, cheese and butter may be getting to you. If so, you could part with R20 per person to go and play some tennis at the Prince Albert Tennis Club. Or you could take advantage of the beautifully graded gravel road and head eastwards out of town for a little run. From here, you’ll get a gorgeous view of the town and its pretty church spire, as you turn around and run home.
Then you’ll settle down on your stoep to watch the sun set – a glass of wine in one hand and some locally grown olives in the other. Finally, if Meiringspoort hasn’t been closed due to flooding and if the George Airport is operational, you may make your way back to the Big Smoke at a leisurely pace.