Town worth exploring

Amanda Ngudle

Amanda Ngudle

Our own South African Bethlehem, though obviously not quite as famous as its Israeli namesake, has always resonated with the divine birth of Jesus Christ and the shepherds guided by a bright star.

It was in that spirit that we ventured into the unknown to finally discover this relatively obscure town situated in the south-eastern side of the Free State.

And even if your own bright star is only in the form of a map pointing you towards this klein dorpie, you might just find yourself doing what we ended up doing - twice we made a U-turn after losing all hope that we had taken the right off-ramp from Frankfort.

Instead of travelling the recommended two and a half hours, our journey became a tale straight out of a holiday magazine, with my sister cheering me on and our little ones grinding my nerves with every driver's most dreaded question: are we there yet?

Also, don't expect to be dazzled by any great tourist sights en route to Bethlehem.

She keeps her gems very close to her chest and only once you have made it into her heart can you start smelling the fresh air, feel the soft grass under your shoes and marvel at the mountains separating Lesotho from this quaint town.

The Frontier Inn and Casino lies on the eastern wing of Bethlehem. We arrived at the elegant Victorian come Frontier three-star hotel and our rooms exuded a theme of luxury and comfort.

And the fact that the Frontier Inn was only in its sixth week of operation was distinctly to our comfort advantage.

The beds are firm, the staff is eager to help and all appliances are brand new and top-of-the-range.

The creche, which operates until the wee hours if you negotiate well, became our toddlers' home base as we disappeared back into the town.

On the second street from the main road lies a restaurant with food that I wanted to savour for a lifetime. Hennie Steenkamp and Winston Lawrence, our hosts, had dinner with us and we all kept exchanging plates of food to verify that our taste buds were not deceiving us.

The food at Milano's is a culinary experience of its own once you get past the stares from locals, who have clearly never seen blacks dine with whites before.