Friday, July 8, 2016

Franschhoek and Swellendam, SA

Franschhoek and Swellendam

Our stay in Stellenbosch was superb and certainly was enhanced by the owner of our B&B, Mathilda. She one of these rare people who makes you feel totally at home and looks after your every need.

Mathilda (above with Diane) was the quintessential hostess. Should you ever find yourself in Stellenbosch, there's nowhere else you should stay, but at the the Batavia Guesthouse

This memorable sign was posted at Uva Mira - I should have known Salvador Dali was into the grape!

These wooden statues of extra tall and lean dressed up Africans appear to be ubiquoteaus and extremely popular. 

                            The grounds of the very old Boschendal Winery in Franschhoek.

We visited an interesting church in Franschhoek of the Dutch Reformed Church - beautiful woodwork and a classic style pipe organ. 

The Protea wines as well as several other label were part of the Anthonij Rupert Winery in Franschhoek. These are recyclable bottles that can be cut and upcycled to be used as glasses or vases. The Protea label is easily pealed off. The Rupert Winery wines were very good.

After Franschhoek we drove to Swellendam, where we stayed at a comfortable B&B - the Marula Guesthouse. Run by a German couple, Marion was very helpful in telling us about the surrounding area. We stopped at the Wildebraam Berry Estate, where we sampled liqueurs made of a hybrid berry they had developed and at the nearby Marloth Nature Reserve. The reserve has a waterfall that can be hiked to in an hour's time. But with possible rain impending, we opted not to do it.

The berry farm also had some inquisitive horses on their property who we stopped to greet. 

In the downtown part of Swellendam, we stopped in to see the huge, white Dutch Reformed Church, originally built in 1802. The windows are Gothic, the gables are Baroque, the cupola Eastern and the steeple is supposed to be a copy of a famous steeple in Belgium. Impressive, but we never did get into the church since it was closed on both days we stopped by. 

Some tasting notes: My favorite winery of the areas we visited was Neethlinghof - excellent wines and reasonable prices. My second all around favorite winery was Uva Mira (with Ernie Els running closely behind). But of the whole bunch, there wasn't one I disliked. I went to Asara, Kleine Zalza, Lovane, Jordan, Anthonij Rupert (who had the only Sangiovese), Ernie Els (apparently a South African golfer, had the most spectacular tasting room and dining facility) and Boschendal, one of the oldest in the region.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Stellenbosch, South Africa - 2016

Wine Tasting in Stellenbosch

We took Linda took the Cape Town International Airport and said our good-byes. It had been a tremendous experience to share with her - Amsterdam, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. But now it was time for her to return home.

Diane and I spent the night in the city of Somerset West, a sort of suburb to Cape Town. For us a served as a stop over to Stellenbosch. We left the following morning, after breakfast.
We arrived in Stellenbosch by mid-morning and checked into our B&B, the Batavia Guesthouse. We then proceeded to do what the area is known for - wine tasting. There are over 350 wineries to choose from. The first one we visited was Neethlingshof Estates. The grounds were spectacular as were their wines. 

Next door to Neethlingshof was Asara - The meeting point of African Gods. How could we go wrong with a name like that! Indeed, it too proved to be a producer of fine wines (both white and red).

The Bell Tower proved to be my favorite - a Bordeaux blend of dark berries with just a hint of oak.

Back at the B&B, the weather being cool, the proprietor came knocking on our door to provide us with a "kruik" for our bed, a rubberized container filled with hot water to stuff in the bed to keep us warm during the night. This is typical Dutch and it's something I hadn't seen since I was a child. 

In the morning, our B&B provided us with a healthy breakfast of fruits, cereals and eggs. The odd looking fruit on the top left is passion fruit - a delicious, tangy fruit found all throughout the region.

In the morning we visited Kleine Zalze Estate. These folks not only had a winery but their property included a restaurant, a golf course, a hotel and a housing development. 

The coup de grâce of the wineries visited, was the winery of the well known South African golfer Ernie Els - a beautiful winery situated atop a hill overlooking Stellenbosch. Good wines too.

Our last winery we visited was Jordan Winery. With beautiful scenery and very decent wines.

After a full day of wine tasting, it was nice to come home to our pied-á-terre in town. Yet the comforts it offers in our little room have a contrasting wall just feet away, that warns of lurking dangers. We're walled in by electrified wires and warning signs to potential intruders. Keep out!!! 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Cape Town, SA 2016

Cape Town

We've been enjoying the sights of Cape Town. The highlight was going up to Table Mountain. But we also ventured through the city, Hout Bay, Camps and the Waterfront district. Unfortunately, the day we had reserved for Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life, trips to the island were totally booked.  

                                  The cable car ride up Table Mountain starts here.

                                   Looking at Lion's Head from atop Table Mountain.

By cable car, it only takes about ten minutes to reach the top. Others take one of the many circuitous and steep trails that takes about two hours to walk. Yet others choose to climb its sheer cliffs.

                                  Downtown area of Cape Town.

              Waterfront district of Cape Town.

                             Hout Bay (note the sea lion next to vessel looking for a handout).

          I'd love to take home one of these giraffes, but they're hard to stuff in a suitcase.

                                                       Lovely Camps Bay

              Hermanus - a place where whales congregate but not when we were there.

                          This was Linda's last day in SA before heading home.

The visit to Hermanus was very nice. We then headed to our next stop, Sommerset West and Stellenbosch - part of South Africa's wine country.