Saturday, December 01, 2012


We said goodbye to pretty Franshhoek and drove off to view Stellenbosch, then Vergelegen. Well, Stellenbosch was horrendously busy - Saturday is obviously everyone out on the streets day! So, we drove on to find Vergelegen, which was not as easy as we thought. It certainly lives up to its name and after several false moves, we eventually found ourselves on the right road, drove to the end of said road, took the correct fork at the end of this road and finally found ourselves at Vergelegen! This is the prestigious wine estate owned by Anglo-American. We really needed a coffee before we began our walk around the grounds, and when we got to the restaurant it was hopping - everyone was out to lunch, and all they could offer us was a light snack on the sofas, again. This was fine and coffee and sandwiches arrived and were very welcome.

Thus refreshed, we walked across the estate to the beautifully restored homestead with its lovely walled garden. At the back there is a row of ancient camphor trees. to quote from the website'They are the oldest living, officially documented trees on the sub-continent. Introduced to the Cape from China and Japan around 1670, they were planted at Vergelegen during the van der Stel era (1700 - 1706). The five remaining giants were proclaimed National Monuments in 1942 and are expected to live for another 150 - 200 years. The other camphor trees at Vergelegen are seedlings from these five magnificent species.' After our trip around the estate, we were treated to w small wine tasting of some great wines.
And so, we now had to get back to the main road and the airport for our flight home. This proved no mean feat, but we got there in the end.

Friday, November 30, 2012


After breakfast in the little dining room across the courtyard from our room, we set off to visit Boschendal Manor House Museum. This is a country house dating from 1812, known as an historic Cape Vernacular Manor House. It gives us an insight into how the Huguenots lived here two centuries ago, being painstakingly restored and furnished with contemporary furnishings. There are also extensive gardens, a gift shop and wine store.

We moved on to the prestigious De Graff Delaire estate, where we tasted some wonderful wine, and were also introduced to the extremely useful wine skin as we did buy a couple of bottles of wine to take home! We also saw some more sculpture by Dylan Lewis, whom we had seen on display at Kirstenbosch. Here we were alerted to a flat tyre by the parking attendant. He not only told us of our fate, but also summoned one of their mechanics, who 'helped' A fix it. What an amazing service given freely to visitors to the estate.

 Once again we drove on to another wine estate, this time Haute Cabriere, in the mountains behind Franshhoek. The owner is known for his demonstrations of sabrage - the lopping off of the tops of champagne bottles with a sword at one stroke. Needless to say, he wasn't there when we visited, but once again we tasted some fabulous wines and some to bring home.

 On the way down we stopped at the Huguenot monument and cemetery at the end of Franshhoek town. There were huge preparations underway as from tomorrow there will be a champagne festival in the town. (And we are leaving - is that what you call bad timing!)

Our restaurant tonight was Le Bon Vivant, described by the folk at Auberge Clermont as 'qwirky'. We sat with a wonderful view of chef/owner, Pierre Hendricks, cooking dinner. His food is fabulous, so artisticly arranged and full of flavour. We really enjoyed ourselves, and it was a great dinner to end our South African trip with.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wine Country

We checked out after a relatively early breakfast and headed to the wine region in the direction of Franschhoek.Our route took us along the R45 and first stop was Babylonstoren.

 This is an old Cape Dutch farm with vineyards, dating back to the 1690s. Their latest venture is the farm hotel and the amazing restaurant Babel, that uses fruit and vegetables from the beautiful kitchen garden. We came to visit the garden, and spent some time wandering the pathways between the beds of seasonal produce, negotiating tortoises on the way. At the far end of the garden are the greenhouses that also double as the café. Here we were served latte in elegant cups with the coffee on the side - such fun - and delicious cakes.

It was hard to move on, but we needed to get to our next stop, La Motte, one of the vineyards owned by the Rupert family. We arrived and began by looking at the exhibition of South African artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef's paintings  (1886 – 1957). Some of his art has been used as wine label's for the vineyards wine. Although we hadn't booked for lunch, the restaurant were happy to accommodate us on the sofas by the fireplace (no fire needed today!), for coffee and a sandwich. In the main part of the dining room there were chandeliers made from dinner services! Quite a unique touch.

On up the road, and we arrived in Franshhoek. We found a space for the car, and took a stroll around this touristic little town before driving around the corner a couple of miles or so to our lovely hotel, Auberge Clermont. We have a beautiful room to stay in for the next couple of days, and our host is happy to recommend and book dinner in the town for us, so we are well organised. Tonight we have been to French Connection, eating inside as that wind is still blowing! We had a jolly meal with good wine and we were glad of the early reservation as the restaurant really filled up as we were eating.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cape Town

 We spent our last day in Cape Town exploring the town itself, taking a bus to the town centre. We started at the Castle of Good Hope and were just in time for the tour with our guide telling us all about the history of this star-shaped fortress. It was built in the late 1600s and is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa. When we finished our tour there was the key ceremony to watch and the firing of the little signal cannon.

From here we began our walk around town taking in the old colonial style buildings from several eras. Eventually we climbed up to the picturesque Malay Quarter on Signal Hill called the Bo-Kaap. Here boxy houses with flat roofs are painted riotous colours, giving this area a jolly feel. It may only be a façade, but it certainly attracts the tourists to a mostly otherwise unremarkable suburb.

Flower market

The walk took us down to Greenmarket Square and the stalls selling articles from all over Africa - textiles, carvings, etc. On the way we passed some NOLA French Quarter style houses with wrought iron balconies. There is such a mix of styles here in Cape Town - very interesting.

Feeling in need of refreshment, we walked back up onto Bree Street to the Cape Heritage Hotel where we had a light lunch in the sunlit courtyard. Here they have completed a huge renovation project, which looks wonderful, complete with the oldest producing table grapevine in South Africa that survived near obliteration with the disrepair followed by the restoration of the hotel.

Our next stop was to see one of the old family houses that has been preserved. We had to ring the doorbell to be let in, then more or less had the place to ourselves. No photos allowed, but it was interesting to see how the old colonials lived here. And so we walked back towards the hotel, all the while watching the fantastic clouds pouring over Table Mountain. No wonder they call this the 'tablecloth', the clouds shrouded the mountain in an ever moving sheet of clouds - very impressive. We were so glad to have made our visit on such a clear day!

By the time we got back to the V&A Waterfront, there was quite a gale blowing, so tonight we opted for eating in the hotel and weren't disappointed. As we waited for a table (a large party had arrived just ahead of us and we were advised to have a drink in the bar while they got themselves organised), we were introduced to the special South African wine, Blanc de Noir. This is a delicate pale cherry coloured wine created by leaving the whole red grape in the crushed juice for some time to give it colour, then the skins are removed and the wine made. It's so good they keep it all to themselves, none going for export, apparently. We did enjoy our tasting glass before dinner! Dinner was also excellent, with beautifully prepared dishes that we relished as we watched the wind creating havoc as people walked along the quayside.