The Wine Country

Friday, June 13

Wayne:  Today starts our winelands tour!  Pick up at 8:30 and (!!) we were with the same group as yesterday, except Em is now with us.  This time we drove inland to the wine country - it looks a lot like Napa except the valley is much wider and the mountains are much higher. 

First we went to the brandy 9 am!  Just taking the tour of the place was enough to make us drunk. The best part was seeing how they still make the barrels by hand.

Wendy:  We had a tasting at the brandy company.  The brandy cream was good and warmed my throat.  Em took a sip, but I was on my own for the rest of the tastings.  The face I made when I tasted the 5 year old brandy made everyone laugh.  The scenery on the way there was absolutely lovely; prettier than Napa.  But it still doesn't look like "Africa" (except for all the Africans walking around!).  Relating to that: in Cape Town there are lots of "coloureds" (mixed race - not at all meant to be derogatory here), and whites and blacks.  It seemed that the farther north the fewer couloureds there were.

Wayne:  On to Stellenbosch and a general store that's been open for 100 years!
"Oom Samie Se Winkel" means "Uncle Sam's Store"!  This place was amazing!  They sold everything, and it smelled like most of it had been sitting there since 1904.  Heaps of dried fish, a room full of spice containers, old clothes, candy, fly name it.  We also went through Stellenbosch University which teaches most classes in Afrikaans. Then on to Franschoek ("French Corner"). We saw the big Huegenot Monument and Museum.
This is a cute little town (kind of Chatham-y, but Dutch). We had a really good lunch.
Note: When you tell people something they say "lovely" or "brilliant".  Like: "I'll have the fish" "Lovely". So British (?).

Wendy: Lunch in Franschoek: Napa-like with a French flair.  Broccoli soup and smoked trout (specialty of the area) for me.  Special chicken sandwich for Wayne, pasta Bolognese and a brownie for Em.   Then on to Paarl (Pearl), where we saw an Afrikaans Monument and then to a wine and cheese tasting at Fairview Winery. Again, I was the one tasting for our group (not that I minded).  But this time I tasted with a mission. I tasted 6 kinds, then narrowed it down to 3, then noticed one of those was named "Andrew's Hope"!  Was there any doubt? We bought several bottles.

Wayne:  Back into the van (where we all slept) for the ride back to Cape Town.  Tonight's dinner was at a restaurant called "5 Flies"! Why such a strange name for a restaurant? It was originally in Holland and that was the owner's name!  Something like "Fifenderfliken" which means '5 flies"!  (But how did his family get the name????).  Another wonderful meal.  As we were getting ready for bed (Em stayed over), Em was singing and dancing to "How Lovely To Be A Woman" from Bye Bye Birdie. It was really priceless!

Saturday, June 14

Wayne: Time to leave the Cape grace (boooo!). Wendy went to climb Table Mountain at 7 am!  So Em and I slept until 8:30 and then we went down to breakfast.  We ordered the waffle (yes, singular) and it was so cute; a 3" square covered with raspberries and gooseberries and cinnamon sugar (they served it with ice cream but we passed on that). Delishhhh!!! Then we went to the mall at the waterfront - checked out all of the strange brands at the Pick and Pay (like Kellogg's Corn Flakes made from maize). Then we went into a "model home" place where they were selling condos on the waterfront. Minimum price: 1.5 million Rand (about $200,000). Beautiful! One came with a built-in cappuccino maker. was time to say good-bye to Em and continue with the rest of our journey.  We had had a great time; it was hard to go.  Sniff sniff.

Wendy: Oh My!  The Table Mountain climb was so awesome!  Chris was my hiking guide; we drove up to where the cable car starts. It was chilly and foggy!  The hike was basically straight up!  But no scrambles or scary crevices like on the climb in St. George, Utah.  Pretty soon we had to take our fleeces off as it was so strenuous we were getting hot.  The cardio workout was intense. There were several moments early on when I was close to calling it quits; afterwards when I told Chris he said he had no idea.  We got to the top in less than 2 hours (he said that was a record pace!). He said that at first he was intimidated by my enthusiasm and energy (I've heard that before!). Anyway, we're up at the top and the mist hasn't lifted and it's brrrr. Chris gave me some herbal tea and a chocolate energy bar. We took some pix and then started the descent.  I thought going down was much scarier; no cardio, just skill and luck. my shoes weren't the right ones and I landed on my tush several times. Luckily, no harm don, and we made it down slowly but surely. What a sense of accomplishment!   Up and down in 4 hours!  Hopefully, next time it will be clear and the cable car will be running.

Wayne:  We took the Thompson's van back to Franschoek and the La Courronne Hotel. Wow!  A really cool villa up in the mountains above the town.  Spectacular views and a beautiful room.  We walked around town and shopped and even saw a wedding in the 1847 church. Then we had a snack (sorbet and a chocolate croissant) in the same restaurant as yesterday - and the waiter remembered us!  Then back to the villa for a rest before dinner and to watch the colors change on the mountains as the sun set.

Wendy:  The La Courronne is truly splendid. heated floors! An extraordinary bathroom with a huge shower. Beautiful views and wonderful food.  I had the degustation dinner both nights.  They didn't mind one bit that we both didn't order it.  The menu was: duck salad, crayfish bisque (demitasse size), zucchini (they call it marron) soup, fish, beef medallions, and pastries for dessert.  There was a pianist right in the room and he was great; played a lot of 60's and 70's hits. In fact, the whole country seems fixated on Andrew Lloyd Weber. But the music was absolutely toe-tapping, and we were humming and sometimes singing. These sparkling wines really helped!

Sunday, June 15

Wayne: We slept very well and were not at all hungry for breakfast, but went anyway (ha ha!).  A really great buffet - not as big as at the Cape Grace - but certainly sufficient.  We got up to fill our plates and when we came back to the table there were little cups of steaming hot chocolate! Oooohhh...paradise!  Looking at the mountains through the big picture window we saw, between two peaks, a cloud river/waterfall....
...a cloud just flowing over the edge of mountain halfway down to the valley where it disappeared. The manager said this occurrence was very rare. Truly an amazing sight.   After breakie we walked into town (downhill!). Passed by a church where people were singing and clapping.  Saw some pretty poor areas where the farm workers live.  Went into town and bought lovely trinkets for our work friends.  At 12;30 our driver picked us up and we headed to Monkey Town! (Not to be confused with Monkey Land).  It's a really neat place with hundreds of chimps, marmosets (as big as your hand), baboons, spider monkeys, lemurs, etc.

Wendy:  Sunday was action-packed!  We bought stone animal figurines for Wayne's work people and stone bowls for mine.  We bought beautiful wooden bowls for Andrew and some jewelry for me.  I got a very unusual brown pearl necklace and a delicate diamond eternity ring (one must buy diamonds in S.A., right?).  Then we went to Monkey Town.  It was kind of silly, but fun.  Then back to the hotel where we decided to take a horse back ride through the vineyard.  it was awesome..really slow and smooth, led by the stable men. 

Time for dinner!  Another degustation menu. This time:  Seafood salad, pumpkin soup, smoked trout, springbok (but I traded with Wayne for his turbot), a merengue-type dessert.

Previously I talked about the diversity here.  Well, the British presence is ubiquitous. The R.S.A. was a British colony for a long time and the influence is still obvious in the breakfasts, the humor, and in the number of British tourists (the largest group, and the tourism industry really caters to them).  There is also the quality of the service and the afternoon teas.

Wayne:  back at la Courrone we took a horse back ride. yes! Wendy too (she usually does not do this).  We rode Arabian show horses through the vineyards, with mountains on all sides. Breathtaking!  My horse was Quadra; not very cooperative. Wendy's was Bactiva (sounds like a brand of yogurt).  The stable boys helped us along. When we got back we took pictures and they were totally fascinated with the digital camera!  Then back to the room freshen up for dinner (yes, that is right: no lunch today!).  Another great dinner while listening to the piano player.

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