Deep calls to deep
Jan Harmsgat Country House near Swellendam offers timeless hospitality with soul. Here you can experience an historic Cape Dutch farm together with warm and friendly hosting and gourmet local produce. As you walk into the original 1723 farmhouse, the smell of thatch, thick stone walls, heavy Yellowwood beams, polished Cape Dutch furniture and an almost three centuries old hearth will transport you back in time.
The bedrooms at Jan Harmsgat are vast enough to do justice to the dramatic beds, wardrobes and baths. There is underfloor heating, air-conditioning and every possible thoughtful item to make your stay as comfortable as it is beautiful. My extra wide King-size bed is dressed in the finest white linen, with King-size pillows and a perfectly soft mattress. An upholstered chair balances the glossy wooden wardrobe and dresser. Traditional striped linen blinds shade the room from the bright sun from two wide and high sash windows. There are modern, yet traditional, light fittings, in keeping with the Cape Dutch style which avoids overdone fussiness.
The bathroom is as spacious as the bedroom, fitted with black and white tiles, a long bath, huge shower and elegant double basin. Behind the door I discover the softest, white dressing gown ever – wearing it is like hugging a lamb.
The rooms all seem to have their own outdoor entrances and face out onto different directions, with creative water features, patios and verandahs with outdoor seating areas. This is a working farm and the fruit orchard comes right up to the homestead with the heady smell of peach blossoms and plums.
I love outbuildings, especially on an historic farm, and there are plenty to explore at Jan Harmsgat. And old wagon rests outside a shed with big painted double wooden doors. The honeymoon suite has been given pride of place above an old long barn. A long pool, almost the full length of the barn, can be found at the end of an arched row of vines.
Everything is so lovely at Jan Harmsgat that I have a gentle post-midlife-crisis moment. I believe fully in following your dreams, even if they cost you everything, which they often will demand – but you are likely to get it all back again tenfold. But what if, after all you dreamed for and more came true, and you are still left with what David Whyte calls “those tiny but frightening questions” like “what now?” What if at the end of the rainbow you are just left with shiny yellow stuff in a pot?
Now don’t be alarmed – to me these are not depressing questions – we psychologists love dwelling on complicated emotional responses. All that these call for is scary honesty and vulnerability – the kind that make you feel very alive and awake. In the words of Elizabeth Gilbert: “Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth.” And from another person I greatly admire: “And the truth shall set you free.”
And so I sit in my most beautiful bed, listening to the gentle sounds of turtle doves and these equally gentle questions, and what they have to say to me. The relief is instant, followed by blinding hope and a quiet promise: “Oh but my dear – there is so much more.”