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Darling

A small town a mere hour's drive from Cape Town, Darling attracts its fair share of visitors, particularly in September when its annual wild flower and orchid show is on -- usually held during the third weekend in September. Another big draw is Voorkamerfest, a 3-day event held toward the beginning of the month, in which visitors go from house to house to view a musical or theatrical performance, staged in the "front room" (aka sitting rooms) of the town's local participants.

A good reason to visit at any time of the year is Pieter Dirk Uys's informal theater and restaurant, Evita se Perron (tel. 022/492-2831; closed Mon), on Arcadia Street. Famous for creating the marvelous character of Evita -- the grey-haired tannie (auntie) who held sway over the imaginary homeland of Bapetikosweti and is now the First Lady of Darling -- Uys is one of South Africa's most accomplished satirists. He has managed to make even the most conservative South Africans laugh at the country's tragic ironies (not an easy task for a man dressed in women's clothing). Evita entered the 2009 election race to help with voter education (and no doubt would have raked in votes if she'd actually registered).

Evita se Perron has cabaret shows most weekends -- check the program and don't forget to book (tel. 022/492-3930). You can also sample some of Tannie Evita's traditional fare at her Station Café after the show. Evita se Dagkombuis (literally, "Day Kitchen") serves breakfasts and light meals throughout the day: gay muffins, affirmative tarts, and koeksisters (twisted, fried dough plaits doused in syrup). To view pure Afrikaans kitsch, take a wander through her Boerassic Park, where garden gnomes keep an eye on plastic flowers and art students have created a monumental Gravy Train, filled with some of South Africa's most loved (and despised) politicians.

If you can't face the thought of driving back to Cape Town after dinner, stagger down to the Darling Lodge (tel. 022/492-3062; www.darlinglodge.co.za; from R700 double), a charming Victorian building with six en-suite rooms, local art on the walls, and a resident wolfhound.

A popular recent addition to the annual calendar is the Rocking the Daisies music festival (www.rockingthedaisies.com), a weekend of the very best local bands, usually held in October, on Cloof Wine Estate. It's billed as the country's greenest festival; organizers offset carbon emissions by planting trees. To get to Darling, take the R27 (or West Coast Rd., as it's known) and turn off toward Mamre and Atlantis. From Mamre, the road to Darling cuts through fields of wheat and vineyards, and before you know it, you've arrived in town. In Darling, the local Tourism Information office (tel. 022/492-3361; Mon-Fri 9am-1pm and 2-4pm, Sat-Sun 10am-3pm) staff will happily dispense various maps, details of nearby flower reserves (at their best from around July to early Oct -- one of the nicest is the Tienie Versveld Wild Flower Reserve), and any other information needed.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.