Bedford was never part of the plan but the town wriggled its way onto my road trip itinerary…
A few months ago I looked at a map of the Eastern Cape to plan a road trip and just as I was about to get all the accommodation bookings in order, I shared the route idea with my father (also known as the Road Trip Master).
He looked at it and said, “Why don’t you add Bedford?”
A suggestion from the Road Trip Master should never be taken with a pinch of salt.
I studied the map again, consulted the calendar, added another day to the road trip and there on the map, between Somerset-East and Fort Beaufort, en route to Hogsback, the small circle indicating the town of Bedford, leaped its way onto my itinerary.
Getting a taste of Bedford
My short time in Bedford was jam-packed with insightful conversations about the town, ongoing community projects and meeting people; it was information overload to say the least and I only scratched the surface but I immediately knew that it would not be the last time Bedford would find its way onto my Eastern Cape itinerary.
I decided to wait, visit again and then write a blog post because I knew I would go back.
But a few weeks ago, just before I went on the Baviaanskloof journey, I stopped by a local farmers’ market in Patensie in the Gamtoos Valley. As I stood in the very-long-but-so-worth-it pancake line a conversation started between me and the woman in front of me that just made me realise yet again what a small serendipitous world it is…
While visiting Bedford I had the great pleasure of getting a more-than-decent cup of Americano and a delicious deli breakfast from the kitchen of The Apprentice in the Hope Street Hub. The Apprentice runs on the passion of two chefs – Marelise van Niekerk and Tanja Lötter who serves more than just food on a plate, they serve soul food and upon entering the deli, if you can take your eyes off the patisserie treats on the table, a quote welcomes you:
We cook from memories. We watched our mothers and our mother’s mothers, just as all the women in a family, had watched and listened before them. Rather than learning how to cook, we inherit the way we cook and bake, like the colour of a father’s eyes, the jut of a mother’s chin. Like the past itself, which nourishes us at least as much as the food. And the rest is instinct.
As quoted by the sensual Tomasina, from the Lady in the Palazzo by Marlena de Blasi.
Guess who the woman was in front of me in the pancake line? None other than the mother of one of the deli’s chefs…
Favourite moments from Bedford
Bedford is just too serendipitous not too share; I wish I had more time, met more people and explored more areas but I know I will be back!
Here are a few highlights – mostly photos – of some of my favourite moments in Bedford.
The Duke of Bedford Inn
Victorian architecture and period furniture will always draw me closer like a magnet to stop and stare; luckily I could do more than just stop and stare and had the opportunity to stay (and travel back in time to the Vicotrian era) in The Duke of Bedford Inn thanks to Accommodation Direct. The building stood in ruin for many years before it was beautifully restored to the elegant masterpiece that it is today.
If you are fond of the old buildings and architecture from the late 1800s and early 1900s, head to Bedford.
The Apprentice Deli
Like I mentioned before, The Apprentice Deli serves more than just food; you can taste the talent and feel the passion. They also play a strong role in uplifting the community as it provides hospitality training – hence the name: The Apprentice Deli.
If you have a few green fingers then Bedford will be right up your alley; the people of Bedford know how to garden and they do it exceptionally well, they even have an annual Garden Festival to prove it (20-22 October 2017). The Rosarium was established out of the need to preserve and perpetuate old and heritage roses; this serene garden which is filled with hundreds of different roses is open to the public for a quiet stroll and a whole lot of fresh air. Also, if you visit the garden go say hello to one who keeps the Rosarium in such a beautiful condition, Thozamile Sam.
The Sugar Shack reminded me a bit of an old school roadhouse; it offers ice cream, coffee and meals.
Eagle Hout Padstal
The Eagle Hout Padstal is known for serving food, handcrafting solid wood furniture and selling plants. But there is more. On the premises – between the sawdust, greenery and lunch tables – there is also another passion present; recycling anything from cans to plastic (for eco-bricks in their garden) to fibre optic cables and community-based projects. The short conversation with the couple, Ben and Lana Blom, is one of the reasons I would like to return to Bedford. Read more about the Thembani Eagle Hout Integrated Projects; “it developed out of a need assessment survey done by a SANPAD sponsored research project in Bedford by Dr Lana-Lorraine Blom: Psychological strengths as a point of departure: a different way of looking at unemployment and poverty in a small rural town”.
Searching for the Garden Man
The “Township Garden Route” originated from previous Garden Festivals and it shows the flourishing gardens of the community. I wanted to visit the main Garden Man but unfortunately – after driving around in circles, going into the school to ask and passing many beautiful vegetable gardens – I could not find him. But seeing this shop made up for it.
The Village Padstal
Who doesn’t like a padstal? And you can’t miss this quaint blue and white one as it sits ready and waiting when you enter Bedford from the Somerset-East’s side; they also sell fresh produce, roosterkoek, gifts and preserves.
Go to Bedford
Bedford – tucked up against the Kaggaberg mountains which forms part of the Winterberg range – is just 200 km from Port Elizabeth and perfect for a weekend getaway. Other than their hospitality, the town is also known for the annual garden festival, bird watching, hiking, The Mill Cricket Ground and a lot of talented chefs and bakers. Make no mistake, this is not a typical touristy town, you don’t visit for the attractions, you visit to experience the atmosphere, the peace and quiet and the people. For more information, visit www.bedford.co.za.
A special thank you to Kim van Niekerk and Catherine Knox for taking the time to show me around and sharing stories and also, thank you to the people of Bedford – from the Duke of Bedford Inn Hotel to The Apprentice Deli to the Eagle Hout Padstal and the Rosarium – for the heartfelt conversations and allowing me to see your home through your proud Bedford-eyes.
My accommodation was sponsored by Accommodation Direct.