By Shirley Woodgate
Parys? What in hell are you doing in Parys? Is it boring? Monica Oosterbroek Zwolsman e-mailed from in Australia.
Someone in Joburg said: “Oh please, Parys! It’s sweltering hot in summer and freezing cold in winter; dry and dusty. Nobody GOES to the Free State. Everyone LEAVES the Free State.”
Chances are that the skeptics who see Parys as the ultimate no-no are the people who hit the fast pedal through the Free State on the N1 double-carriage highway linking Joburg and Cape Town.
Pity, because if they took the turnoff about 100km from Joburg, they could sleep over at one of the scores of bed and breakfasts in the village, and maybe savour the to-die-for “towering fillet” at Ruby’s legendary restaurant on Bree Street.
This two-year-old Moulin Rouge-styled eatery is the brainchild of Lesley Copeman and Theresa Habib, who opted out of the business fast lane in Joburg after visiting a friend “and falling in love with the vibey little platteland dorpie”. Now they revel in the restaurant fast lane in Parys.
Further down the road there’s Shirley’s for bacon and eggs on the deck overlooking the main road, where the giant 26-wheelers rumble through the town to escape the toll plaza on the highway. Or maybe join the buzz at olde worlde Plum Tree Kitchen, where big leather-clad bikers brush shoulders with locals in their Sunday best after church, dining out on boere breakfast and hot coffee.
These are among more than 20 Parys eateries and pubs offering anything from pap and wors on plastic tablecloths to cocktails at Ryno’s place on the river bank, or fine dining country style.
Among the tourist attractions on Bree Street are some 30 grand or grotty antique and art shops, magnets for visitors, treasure troves for bargain hunters. You want a rusted plough? Rare china? An old concrete railways guard house? A valuable piece of Africana? An antique dresser? An art work? A religious cross in any size? A wire “thingy”?
Tourists spend happy hours browsing through places like Die Blaker Maker, Dave Strydom’s amazing collection of hand-crafted steel art. Last year Mon Ami Antiques displayed a model of the Eiffel Tower. They say someone bought it and carted it away on the back of a bakkie. Maybe that’s the one that now stands outside the Parys Info office.
Petro’s yummiest cheesecake south of Johannesburg is no ordinary mouthful. At R150 it’s a huge experience at Harry’s Famous Cheesecake Company.
About 200 pairs of army boots sell at R40 a throw at Sabrina Malan’s pawn shop, Die Dot Shop. “This is where someone snapped up the broken traffic light to put in her garden,” said Sabrina. That traffic light definitely did not come from Parys, because everyone would notice if one of the town’s three traffic lights went