It’s safe to say I was absolutely exhausted after my arrival in Cape Town, but I adjusted to the time zone pretty quickly and was ready to see the sites on day 2!
It started with breakfast at the V&A Waterfront, where I enjoyed an absolutely tiny serving of mascarpone pancakes at Vovo Telo. They were delicious, but a stark contrast to the American sized portion I was expecting! It wasn’t a big loss, if anything I now had that much more space in my stomach to eat delicious things later.
We walked around the shops at the waterfront, where you can find the sort of knick knack souvenirs you’d expect to see at one of the more touristy locations, or just pop into H&M like any other city. I was beginning to notice just how normal Cape Town felt. When traveling to such a far away city, let alone one in Africa, it’s easy to forget that it’s not another planet. Everyone spoke English (with an accent) and looked just like everyone I see in New York everyday. It didn’t take me long to notice that there was one thing definitely missing from this otherwise normal landscape: Starbucks. I considered it refreshing to not see that green logo every block, especially in a city that has a growing coffee culture.
It was a little too early to start buying souvenirs, although I was pining after some of the gorgeous photographs and artworks on display in the galleries. So my friend and I were off to visit the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. It was a grueling 90 degree humid day, so some time around plants seemed refreshing.
It’s hard to describe the gardens, only to say that they’re gorgeous. My new obsession became taking pictures of trees. I couldn’t help but understand and appreciate that I was visiting another country by looking upon the fantastical plants and the massive hills looming over me.
They were just so impressive and majestic! If it weren’t for the heat, I could have spent all day here. What a better place for a picnic and a good book? They do concerts during the summer, which I’m sure are fantastic but I wasn’t staying around long enough to go to one. All our walking around taking photographs worked up my appetite and I was more than ready to eat lunch, and have a lunchtime cocktail, at the garden restaurant, Moyo, a local chain specializing in African cuisine. I quickly noticed the more exotic looking dishes of ostrich, crocodile pile, and fried worms. I chose something called ostrich mince and vetkoek, which seemed very tame. What came out was not like what I expected, and upon first bite, tasted like a sloppy joe with an unsweetened donut as the bun.
Since ostrich is a red meat, it didn’t taste that different, but vetkoek is a traditional fried bread. It was pretty greasy and had that distinct taste of fried dough. Separate, it could have been great. Together, I had trouble loving it, but at least I tried! The refreshing mojito in my hand definitely helped.
As if we hadn’t already packed enough in, we decided to head back for a quick nap and then back out again to take advantage of the sunset special at the Table Mountain Cableway (half price after 6PM). The wait to get up top took nearly an hour from parking to stepping off the cable car. It could not have been a more gorgeous evening though, and looking out onto the hills and the ocean at sunset was pretty breathtaking. There was a particular set of hills that were very LOTR, and I couldn’t stop obsessing over the light, they were beautiful. I was determined to get a perfect sunset shot without a glare mark on the photo, and nearly came close. I almost thought I could skip this excursion but am so glad I didn’t. It was so peaceful just sitting there looking down at the city. I would consider it a must do for anyone that visits.
Ahhh Cape Town, goodnight on a fantastic second day.
One of the things I was most excited to do when I was booking this trip was tour the wine country near Cape Town. I’ve taken several wine classes, as well as the Introductory Sommelier Exam, and knew that Stellenbosch is one of the more famous wine producing areas in the world. I was not going to leave without doing a winery tour. I spent a while looking for the best method to tour around and eventually settled on an arranged tour with Wine Flies wine tours. We would be able to tour 5 wineries and all tasting fees, snacks/lunch, and transportation were provided, for only $50 a person, a fantastic deal! Much better than driving yourself around.
So on Tuesday we were picked up by our van and became part of a small group where, very surprisingly, I was the only foreigner (not counting my friend since she lives there). Everyone else was local or from another part of South Africa, which even our guide thought was odd. Our tour guide said we’d be starting with the largest wineries and drinking our way to the smaller boutique ones. I thought that was a very smart way to plan it.
Among the wineries were Villeria, Fairview, Middlevlei, Lovane, and Annandale. The tour was well planned, we were able to do something different at each stop. At Villeria, we toured the facility before sitting down at a table on their patio to taste the wines. Fairview provided a cheese and wine pairing, and they had a fantastic gift shop full of cheeses, olives, and gadgets. Lunch, a traditional braai, was served at Middlevlei, which is sort of like a casual barbeque/picnic. On the menu were toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches, kebabs, sausages, & both potato salad and green salad. Lovane brought us to a cool downstairs tasting room where we sampled local chocolates with wine (they had a very cute cafe area I’d love to re-visit), and Anandale was full of character.
I thought it was a great day overall, but I did feel a little rushed the whole time. If I were to do it again I’d choose to visit 2 or 3 wineries and relax at them longer. Plus with 5 wineries and 4-5 wine tastings at each… it’s a lot of wine and a very long day.
It was refreshing by the end of the day to stop at our last winery, Annandale, owned by ex-professional rugby player Gerhard “Hempies” du Toit. The garden was overgrown, the tasting room full of dark cobwebs, taxidermy, and walls lined in old rugby photos. None of the chairs matched, and a great wood burning fireplace was on display at the end of the table, filling the air with the smell of stale woodsmoke. It was fantastic, reminding me of the Snow Shoe Club back in Oregon. The winery guide was so refreshingly relaxed and outgoing and he made the experience that much more interesting. Forget all the beautiful scenery and manicured lawns at the previous wineries, this was the one I wanted to stay and drink at. Sealing the deal, I loved every single wine we tasted. They were so smooth and well rounded, each glass kept getting better. All day I had been hesitating at buying the wines we tasted, unsure if I wanted to deal with bringing them back, and not really falling in love with anything. By the end of this tasting, I couldn’t decide on a favorite, and knew that I wanted to buy one of each. Finally, I had found wines worth carrying back home with me! As I was signing my name in the guestbook, preparing to cart my four bottles onto the bus, I noticed another man had joined us in the room. It took me a second to realize that it was Hempies himself. In a thick accent he asked how I enjoyed the wine and upon presenting him with my bounty, he whipped out a gold marker and offered to sign my bottles for me. I was taken aback and thrilled. Not only do I get to enjoy these wines at home, remembering the fantastic time I had, I have two signed souvenir bottles to keep. What an excellent day.