Luxury in Wine Country

LOCATION: Stellenbosch, South Africa — 30 miles outside of Capetown in the Winelands
WEATHER: Perfect (again!). Sunny. High 75

We had a very nice breakfast at our guesthouse’s restaurant. However, they don’t understand the concept of small portions. We asked for just a bit, and got this…..

South Africans seem to really like and appreciate artwork. This is a farm representation – above George’s head

As we were walking across the yard near the restaurant, we said “Good Morning” to a guy who ended up being the owner of this estate. (George talks to EVERYONE, and sometimes it pays off!) He asked about our plans for the day and we told him we planned to get Ubers to go to a couple of wineries for wine tastings. He said he had a better idea and offered us his driver for the day to take us around. He gave the driver Mkosi the recommended itinerary, and off we went….in great style!

Our first winery -Delaire Graff Estate – was the epitome of luxury. We walked around the grounds as it was too early to start tasting wine (although others were doing it – at 10:00 AM!)

The grounds, many sculptures, and buildings were all magnificent. Check it out at https://www.delaire.co.za

From there, we drove about 15 miles to another wine town, Franschhoek – meaning French Town. We learned that this area was established by the Huguenots, French Protestants seeking refuge from religious persecution. We visited the Huguenot Memorial, very well-done

Back into town, Mkosi dropped us off to explore. This town is even more touristy (in a good way) than Stellenbosch. Elegant shops, galleries, and restaurants. We are in a wine town, so where do we go??…..to a microbrewery, of course!

Back with Mkosi, we headed back to stop in a winery for tasting and lunch. There are about 250 wine estates in this region. I noticed that the wine towns don’t have hotels. Instead, almost each wine estate offers luxury accomodation and restaurants.

This winery is called Tokara, and is lovely, too. Photos at https:www.tokara.com

We enjoyed a delicious tasting – with these views

With this helicopter pad (for fly-in guests)….

Unfortunately, the restaurant was fully booked. By this time (2:00) we didn’t want a large lunch, so just bought a snack at a shop.

Mkosi brought us back home and we rested, from a hard day!

DINNER: We enjoyed a nice meal at the guesthouse restaurant. We opted for a flat bread pizza rather than a heavy meal.

Not your typical Thanksgiving!

LOCATION: Stellenbosch, South Africa
WEATHER: Much warmer, as we are inland. Sunny. High 85

We checked out of our Capetown AirB&B and caught an Uber to Stellensbosch, the main city in South Africa’s Wineland district. It was about 30 miles, but took 1.5 hours due to traffic.

We had booked our guesthouse through Hotels.com, so didn’t know exactly what to expect. We certainly didn’t expect this luxurious estate! (especially at the price we paid). Check it out at weltevredenestate.com

Several staff members greeted us and served us cucumber/mint ice water while we “sorted things out” (i.e., registered). The estate goes back to the Dutch settlers in the 1600s. All the buildings have beautiful thatched roofs. One of the staff escorted us to the manor house, where our room is upstairs.

We had to climb these stairs to the room – thank goodness we didn’t have our heavy suitcase!

The upstairs has a lovely commons area with antique furniture, and a decanter of sherry that was awaiting us….

Our room is cozy, with a slanting ceiling of the thatch. I love the smell – like fresh hay. We even have a big old-fashioned, clawfooted bathtub!


This is the view from the top of the stairs. The thatch on the right is the roof over our room.

After a restorative sip of sherry, we made our way to the restaurant, another thatched building, dating from the 1700s. We had more of their tasty water and a bottle of wine from a nearby wine estate. George had a deconstructed chicken/wild mushroom pie and I had some croquettes.

We learned that this estate is on their national list of historic places. It is used a lot for meetings, weddings, and other events. Staff outnumber guests by about 20:1, it seems.

We rested (George napped) during the afternoon heat, then took an Uber to Stellenbosch’s city center, about 3 miles away. It really reminds me of an American wine town like Napa or Walla Walla. Streets are lined with restaurants, art galleries, wine tasting rooms, and cute shops – specializing in ostrich leather goods. Tourists stroll the streets with bags of wine from wine shops.

We stopped at one outdoor cafe for a glass of wine ($2.50) and a beer (not sure how much, but more than the wine!)

We walked around the touristy part of town until we found a restaurant that looked good- a bit off the beaten path so was less crowded and less noisy\busy.

In addition to the nice selections on the menu, our waiter extolled the virtures of several daily specialties, including a game platter featuring a lot of African wildlife such as croccodile and ostrich. It sounded like too much food. Not being that hungry, we each just ordered an appetizer – George had tempura shrimp….

And, I had a bowl of mussels in a delicious cream sauce.

Not what you would call a typical Thanksgiving dinner, but absolutely lovely!

My mother always said I have “champagne tastes on a beer budget” and this trip to Stellenbosch fits that to a T!

Finally a Down Day in Capetown

LOCATION: Capetown, South Africa
WEATHER: Beautiful. Sunny. High 75

Today was quite quiet. I wanted to lay low to recover from yesterday’s hike (my whole body aches), and especially let my ankle heal.

So, we hung out at our AirB&B. When the housekeeper came to clean the room (nice plus for this stay), we went up to the roof to enjoy the sunshine. George enjoyed the view….several girls with skimpy bikinis.

We watched the window washers dangling precariously from the 8th floor, with just one rope attached to them. I could never do that job!

Then, off to lunch in our neighborhood. The grocery store where we have been shopping has restaurants and shops above it. We went up to the top – a courtyard full of roof-top restaurants. We found one that was a bit swanky, but with discount lunch prices. I had two glasses of wine for $2! We shared a platter of appetizers like hummus and a platter of beef carpaccio. All for less than $15. Food here is superb and inexpensive.

Back at the AirB&B (now all clean with the dishes all washed and put away -love it!), we worked on our luggage situation. Normally when we travel, it is with just a backpack each. On this trip, we also brought a small rollerbag as we had to pack some nice clothes for the cruise. We have to ditch the rollerbag now as it is not allowed on the small bush planes we will be taking during our safari. Also when we travel, we take things that we have bought at a second-hand shop, so we can donate things along the way. In addition to leaving the suitcase here (probably the housekeeper will love it), I will leave a few clothes items. The rollerbag was actually free, too – at a garage sale last year as the handle was broken, but George fixed it. So, we don’t feel bad giving it away. It looks like it will all fit. Yay!

DINNER: I made a pasta sauce from the leftover ostrich burger and all the remaining vegetables. Served over the pasta. We did pretty well. We will be leaving only a few food items for the housekeeper – bit of cereal, olive oil, pasta, and milk.

Our final view of the ferris wheel from our balcony – overlooking the Capetown waterfront area.

Hiking to the Cape of Good Hope

LOCATION: Capetown, South Africa
WEATHER: Picture perfect, again. High 75, sunny

Today’s adventure was to the southern-most tip of Africa – Cape of Good Hope. This map helps put it in perspective, I think…

We took a tour bus for an all-day tour.

It was a nice, circular route, on a highway hugging the coast. Beautiful views. We passed through cute surfer beach towns. This one had colorful boats in the harbor.

Our first stop was Cape Point. We trudged up the hill to the lighthouse

We stopped for a rest along the way.

Then, the tour guide gave us 2 options – either hike to the Cape of Good Hope, or ride the bus. Guess what we chose???!!! We might be getting a bit old for this?

The guide warned us that it is quite dangerous. About 10 of us decided to go for it. The far point is where we are heading….

The views were amazing.

The first few feet were nice wooden steps. Then……the steps ended and it was just rocks. It was one of the most difficult hikes I have made. When we have hiked on similar paths in the USA, sometimes I sit down and scoot down the steepest bits on my butt. I couldn’t do this today, as we were in a group and there were people coming from the other direction. It was really scary – no handrails. And straight down!

As the hike continued, my legs went wobbly and so I was even more unsteady. First we went down down down, then up up up, and finally down down down to the end. We were almost there, when I stepped down wrong and twisted my ankle. Thank goodness it was almost at the end.

Hooray, we made it!

Not only did my ankle hurt, but other muscles were also aching from bending over to clutch at rocks. I was also overheated with my face beet red.

Back on the bus, and after a cold water, I felt much better.

Our next and final stop was Boulder Beach at Simonstown to watch the penguins. We opted not to go into the special penguin area (entrance fee and bad smells) and instead saw the penguins from afar as we sipped wine and beer from the nice restaurant balcony!

We arrived back in Capetown at 5:30 – a wonderful day. George went to the pharmacy to buy me some Ibuprofen and a wrap for my ankle. I can’t afford to not be mobile, as we have lots to do in the upcoming days.

DINNER: Grilled ostrich burgers. (The package had 4 burgers, so plenty for 3 meals). Sides were arugula salad and hashbrowns. And…..some nice South African wine!

George’s Plan….Find a brewery!

LOCATION: Capetown, South Africa
WEATHER: We have been so lucky here. Just perfect every day – high 70; sunny

For the last 3 days, I have been planning a busy schedule and we have criss-crossed the city. George said he wanted to plan today as a down day. So, guess where we went??….. a brewery of course!

We found one online called Devil’s Peak, named after the mountain next to Table Mountain that looms over the city. We splurged and took an Uber – $4.75 for a 20-minute ride! The beer was excellent. A huge bacon and blue cheese hamburger and two pints of craft beer set us back only $8. What a deal!

We decided to walk the 4 miles back home. It was through an industrial section, and a fairly run-down area, but we felt safe enough. Mini-vans drove up and down the street honking their horns, with a guy hanging out the side yelling the name of the township where they were going. People jump on and off these vans like a bus system. They were going out to the townships, and then back into Capetown. We were tempted to get on one, but we needed the exercise to walk off those burgers and beer.

Back home, we were really tired and George napped. I did computer work – mostly looking for flights back home. Most are 40 hours or so and really expensive. The $149 fare on Norwegian Airline we took from Austin to London to get to the cruise ship is not available in the winter. Bummer.

A note about our apartment. An AirB&B, it is a fraction of what we would have paid at a hotel in the tourist area. It is very modern and chic. Almost too modern…..we have had a hard time figuring out all the gadgets. First was the front door keyless key. We could open the door, but had to ask a neighbor to help us figure out how to lock the door. Then there was the induction stove top. Google to the rescue to figure out how to turn it on. Then there was the bathroom light. We looked and looked and could not find the switch. Finally it dawned on us that it is a motion-sensitive light. Yesterday we decided to do some laundry in the machine that is both a washer and dryer. It worked fine, but the clothes did not completely dry. Every time we tried a new cycle, thinking that is was a dry- only option, it started to wash again. Oh well, we can hang things up to dry..

We are located in a perfect area – walkable to the waterfront, near a grocery store, and with views of Table Mountain. This is the view of the mountain from our deck…

When the clouds roll in, they call it the Table Cloth, and this is what the mountain looks like….

On the deck there is a set of BBQ grills and an infinity swimming pool. Nice

The apartment building is an old warehouse. This Cape Quarter area of town is being gentrified – turning old factories and other buildings into lofts and apartments.

A few blocks away is a charming neighborhood with colorful houses. These, too, are being fixed up.

The neighborhood also has a large variety of ethnic restaurants – Turkish, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, African, etc. Lots of outdoor coffee shops.

We spotted a piano bar, which we love, and decided to go back tonight.

DINNER: We had salads at home, then ate at the piano bar. George had grilled hake. I just had an appetizer of arancini – Italian rice balls.

George did a good job planning the day. Now my turn tomorrow!

Time for South African wine!

LOCATION: Capetown, South Africa
WEATHER: Gorgeous again. Sunny. High 69

Today was #3 of our 3-day Hop-on-Hop-off bus, so away we went again. No time for slackers!

We picked up the bus at a different spot today. As we were waiting for the bus, some guys (black) came up and started hassling us a bit. A white local guy came over to make sure we were ok. It is not just a black/white thing. Later in the day a white street guy followed us endlessly pestering us until a black security guy helped us out. We don’t see a lot of this, but statistically Capetown has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Security, though, is very prevalent.

In any case, off we went on the bus. Whee!!!!!!

Today’s destination was the wine area near Capetown (as opposed to the Wineland Hills where we will be going later). The first stop on the bus was at this winery restaurant. Since it was time to eat, we checked it out. Good idea!

A lady came around and said they were giving free samples of a new Tanqueray gin and wondered if we would like to sample it. Sure. Free! To our happy surprise, the samples were full tasty drinks, not just a little taste. It was a G&T made with a fruity gin, with cinnamon sticks and orange slices. Very good!

The restaurant was a tapas bar, and we shared some cheese toasties and grilled calamari. All excellent with superb service – and inexpensive! Capetown is known for its international cuisine. We have eaten all our dinners at home, but have eaten some meals out for lunch – French crepes, Portuguese sausage, and today these Spanish tapas.

One of the wine route bus stops was at South Africa’s oldest winery. Wine was first made here in 1635. Notice the thatched roof…

The wine tasting was about the best we have ever experienced – nice-sized tastes, reasonable prices, and friendly staff.

We toured the estate and the wine cellar. The grounds are beautiful, too

This protea is South Africa’s national flower and is everywhere

We had heard that baboons are a problem, and spotted this sign where people were picnicking. Oops!

Back on the bus through the fancy beach area again. At the end of the route, we hopped on one of the bus company’s canal boats (included in our pass). There is a whole different world along the city’s canals – full of beautiful condos.

By the time we got home, it was 7:30 – another long day.

DINNER: Japanese udon noodles with stir-fried vegetables and leftover pork, diced. Very tasty. We learned the hard way that liquor is not sold on Sundays after 6:00, so it was a meal without beer or wine. A sad way to end a nice day day of wine. There is always tomorrow….

Capetown – a city of contrasts

LOCATION: Capetown, South Africa
WEATHER: Mostly cloudy. Light rain most of the day. High 68

Day #2 using the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus – have to get our money’s worth!

We walked to a neighborhood near the waterfront to go to their Saturday Farmers’ Market. Wow! It was full of stalls selling baskets, flowers, and interesting food

In addition to the regular market, there are food truck-like stalls selling yummy looking food. It was not time for a meal, so we didn’t eat, but lots of locals did at the outside patio – must be a Saturday morning ritual…

Then we hopped on our bus and went on a different route, this time to the outskirts of the city. We hopped off at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, named the most beautiful gardens in Africa. It is called a floral kingdom as it packs in thousands of varieties of plants.

Since today is Saturday, it seemed that most of the visitors were local. Many came loaded down with picnic hampers and coolers. They set up on the lawns…

We ducked into a thatched roof tea house for a bit to wait out the rain. Then, we had our own picnic on a bench, starting with this ostrich billtong (jerky)

We realized that we were really lucky that we went to Table Mountain yesterday, as this photo shows how cloudy and overcast it is today – probably no visibility from up top at all.

We walked and walked……and walked. The place is huge. It would take days to see it all. This was our final walk, through a canopy of hugh camphor trees

We hopped on the bus again, and hopped off after a few stops at one of Capetown’s townships (slums). What a contrast! One of the residents met us at the bus stop and took us for a walking tour of the town. The neighborhood holds about 6000 families.

Our first glimpse of the community….

This is the grocery store….

Most of the houses are small lean-to huts built out of tin or wood pieces

The guide took us into one typical house. Tiny – one bedroom and one area that serves as living room, kitchen, and dining area. They have running water and electricity, but share toilets with 20 other households. They bathe in a big washtub that was hanging on the wall. Here is our guide in front of the toilet block.

We learned that a wealthy Irishman has donated a lot of money and the community is using it to build regular houses with the donations. We went into one of those houses. These girls were working on their hair inside….

There were several beauty shops around

There were some takeaway shops,too, this one featuring chicken feet….

I was proud to see that Rotary (I am a former member) has done a lot for the community – a clinic and a community center.

At the center, some residents make crafts out of cardboard boxes and plastic shopping bags. They are trying to deal with 50% unemployment.

There was a meeting going on at the center. Our guide told us that it was community leaders discussing how to deal with some recently-arrived refugees. They have 15 African countries represented in the community, and try very hard to keep discrimination at bay

Back on the bus, passing beautiful beaches, luxurious homes, and beach-front bars and restaurants. Again, just a mile or so away from one of the slums. We stopped at one of the beach stops, and found a great seafood restaurant where we had some really tasty oysters for an appetizer…

DINNER: We were very tired after a full day sight-seeing, so it was nice that we had enough food at home to toss together for a meal. I boned the rest of the chicken wings and added onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers and served in a yogurt/wine sauce over pasta. Salad on the side. Since we are here only a week, it is a bit challenging to buy just the right amount of food, without having a lot of leftovers when we leave.