The Cape Winelands: A MUST!
South Africa is a country of stunning diversity. See the Big Five on Safari and the Big Six in Cape Town. I have recently returned from a fabulous trip to the Cape and wanted to share with you a few of my experiences. Cape Town and the entire area has so much to offer. The ‘big six’ that visitors like to visit are Table Mountain, Robben Island, the V&A waterfront, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Cape Point and the oldest vineyard in the Cape Groot Constantia. However The Cape Winelands have so much to offer as well. I have had the privilege of staying there may times and never tire of it.
The Cape Winelands are an hour from the main City of Cape Town and only 45 minutes from Cape Town International airport. This area has spectacular mountain backdrops, gracious Dutch architecture and a plethora of Vineyards to visit and sample their wines. Boasting also some of the country’s top restaurants Franschhoek is the definitive food and wine heartland of South Africa. Here it’s all about long leisurely lunches, wine tasting and soaking up a sun-drenched Mediterranean-like climate with an African twist. If you’ve a penchant for some two-wheeled exercise, the region is well known for being cyclist-friendly. There are some easy off-road trails along with plenty of leisurely, traffic-free back roads for ambling between vineyards.
Our first stop was Jordan’s Vineyard. A drive down a dirt track and you wonder where you are going. It is a small winery with a big punch. We had lunch there on the veranda with breath taking views of the Valley and mountains in the background. Excellent wine tasting – so much so we came back with a case of their wine!
Onto Franschhoek. Le Quartier Francais and its sister small boutique hotel Leeu House (where we stayed) are both located right on the main street of the pretty village of Franschhoek with its attractive Cape Dutch architecture. It’s the sort of place that entices one into the outdoors to poke along meandering paths and smell the roses so to speak. But not for too long as lunch beckons on the food and wine trail and that’s the real reason to visit this region. With almost 50 vineyards across the valley, we spent leisurely hours on various verandas bathed in sunshine enjoying exquisite lunches. Accompanied by lashings of crisp rose blend seasoned in oak, it’s easy to see the attraction of the Cape Wine lands. Try Protégé at LQF and have a sublime tapas tasting menu or if you want something really wow go to La Petite Colombe for an award winning dining experience. Booking is essential.
The next day we had the immense pleasure of staying at La Residence. Recently aired on BBC as one of the iconic hotels in the world and deservedly so. Six* rating in all categories. The setting, the service, the food, the friendly atmosphere, the hospitality are exceptional. There was no detail left undone or unattended. If you need to burn off some of those calories there is a good pool for doing lengths!
Leaving Franschhoek we drove out to the Boschendal Wine Estates. You are hard pressed to find a better place to base yourself in the winelands. Half way between the key towns of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, it’s in the Drakenstein valley with stunning mountain views. As one of the oldest working farms in South Africa (founded in 1685) it has oodles of heritage, and is renowned for its wonderful picnic scene enjoyed on their beautiful lawns with a glass of something cool. Boschendal has been revitalised, making it a go-to location for its farm-to-table cooking and beautifully revamped cottages. We were fortunate to stay down in the “Werf” (farmstead) close to the deli shop, wine tasting and restaurant Each of the cottages have been well designed to give all you need to chill and unwind. It’s great for families, foodies, hikers and even fly-fishers, thanks to its own dams. You have it all: history, nature, wine and a pretty darn comfortable place to hang your hat.
Our final stay was at Angala. This lovely little boutique guest house is tucked away in the foothills of the Hottentot-Hollands mountains which surround the Franschhoek /Paarl valley. Conveniently, it is situated almost equidistant between Franschhoek, Paarl and Stellenbosch so it is ideally placed for sightseeing. This is a truly peaceful, rural setting and the guest house itself is absolutely first class. The whole place exudes quality, from state of the art bathroom fittings and fluffy white bath towels to the local basket provided to carry your swimming gear to one of the two swimming pools at the property – either the normally aspirated small spa pool next to the sauna and steam room or the natural eco pond/pool which is kept fresh and filtered by the water reeds. You don’t come across many of those!
With a heavy heart we left the Winelands and set off to the Cedarburg in the Western Cape – watch this space!