Right on Joburg’s doorstep, just before heading deep into Pretoria, lies Irene. It’s more of a village than a suburb, and is brimming with wide open space, dairy cows and beautiful sunsets. It’s also where Alessio and I recently spent a weekend away hiding from the world and loved it!
We often spend quite a lot of time in Pretoria since that’s where A is from, but we hardly ever stay over anymore and haven’t done any proper exploring in recent months because we’ve both been so busy. When we got invited to a weekend away at Irene Country Lodge, we jumped at the chance to get out of our city!
The enormous room (and bed) in our forest suite!
Is there anything to do in Irene?
The answer is yes! Of course it is! Irene is known mostly for two things – the dairy farm and the Irene Village Market held each Saturday morning. In addition to those too, there’s a chance to do a little shopping at Irene Village Mall, and naturally unwind, chill, relax and basically stare off into the distance, on repeat.
It is also known for being cow befok i.e. a community so obsessed with cows, you will find pictures, silhouettes, illustrations and mentions of them on just about anything there was space to print them on.
Aless and I were invited to spend the weekend at Irene Country Lodge. We checked in late on Friday afternoon to an enormous suite and then headed straight to the Camdeboo Day Spa on the property. The spa is partly housed in what were the original farm kitchens, and the treatments rooms are enveloped by thick, hand-laid rock walls that have of course been spruced up to suit the spa’s clean, calm atmosphere.
The Camdeboo Day Spa by night, the treatment rooms housed in the century-old kitchens are on the right. Image supplied by the hotel.
This is definitely one of the best spas I’ve been to in Gauteng and even if just for the day, I’d highly recommend a visit. The heated plunge pool, swimming pool, steam and sauna facilities are all complimentary for guests of the hotel during their stay. In fact, it’s so good that we booked a second massage for the Saturday afternoon!
We ate Irene
What I can confirm with no hesitation about our weekend in Irene is that we did not starve. In fact, we had the chance to try out pretty much the breadth of the Irene Country Lodge’s Meadow Green Restaurant menu. Both the breakfast and dinner buffets are great, and I am not usually a fan of buffet meals if I’m honest. There was tons of variety and influence on both, but the breakfast buffet was the winner for me.
There were a couple of surprises such as gammon and quails eggs on offer that I’ve never seen on a breakfast buffet, but now they make all the sense in the world. I also love a buffet with bubbles available…
The central buffet area inside Meadow Green Restaurant. Image supplied.
The hotel’s dinner buffet is incredibly popular, with both resident and outside guests. We experienced the Around the World in 80 Bites buffet, which had Mediterranean, Asian, South Africa, British, Indian and even Italian dishes.
An orange and cream cheese icing naked cake on the dinner buffet, totally worth the calories!
Loved this idea: make your own Caesar Salad.
Too beautiful to eat right?
Exploring the surrounds
We had heard horror stories of traffic towards the direction of the Irene Village Market from various people and made sure to be up pretty early on Saturday morning to make sure we’d get ahead of it. Maybe we were lucky because the weather was quite chilly, or maybe the stories are just tall in nature, but we made our way to the parking and subsequently the market, very easily.
There are some incredible food vendors at the market, and we had the most fun working our way through these, but I was a bit disappointed by the remaining vendors. A lot of the wares being peddled at the market are rather outdated and frankly kitsch. We did end up taking home some lovely finger puppets for my niece, fudge, nougat and curry that will make even the strongest’s eyes water though, so not a total loss in the end.
Fudge of every variety.
This market stall smelt incredible, and that’s the reason we brought so many spices home with us!
The small nursery at the entrance to Irene Village Market.
After the market, we popped in at the Irene Dairy Farm, while the concept seems so wonderful – buy your own fresh dairy – I also felt this was a little disappointing as most of the produce in the shop was either imported or something that had been made elsewhere. We walked in and walked out again a few minutes later to leave.
Our last stop before heading back to the hotel was at Irene Village Mall. We were really just looking for somewhere to kill some time and get a coffee, and other than this being a mall, I can’t report much, other than… the most incredible cow statue to trump all cow statues ever:
Is this not one of the most incredible things you’ve ever seen?
Spending time at Irene Country Lodge
Most of our time over our weekend away was spent at the hotel, and it’s not hard to see why from the pics below. We loved spending time by the small lake that is directly in front of the hotel. It’s actually a small bird sanctuary that residents can wander through.
Irene has some pretty spectacular winter sunsets
There were black swans living in the sanctuary that glided right up to us (probably expecting food). Photo by Alessio.
More sunset magic.
Some rather shy Egrets in flight, we couldn’t get closer. Aless’s pic.
Me by Aless.
Aless by me…