December 2015 - February 2016
  • Day1

    South Africa Bound

    December 31, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 6 °C

    This is our second long awaited trip, following the NZ/Oz sojourn and in common with the latter there will no doubt be a hint of the Grape Escape involved! We leave the UK to spend New Year's Eve in the air en route to Cape Town and the Test Match starting on the 2nd. That's a shock for you all I'm sure. If the MCC had got wind of our intentions I'm sure they would have cancelled the tour, after our wonderful record of encouragement for the last Ashes tour!
    The next month will be spent winding our way through the beauty spots of this fabulous country, which I will endeavour to give you a flavour of through my diary notes. My fascination with South Africa began with my Great Uncle Rob, who wrote our family equivalent of Alistair Cooke's 'Letter from America', only make that South Africa. He and his family settled and lived in Cape Town from the beginning of the Second World War having been moved from Egypt where he worked for a major oil company. He had a fabulous turn of phrase and his letters were eagerly awaited by my teenage self. To have the opportunity to visit some of the places he so beautifully described is very special, so watch this space.
    We return home on the 2nd February, always providing we are not eaten by anything major. Keep your fingers crossed for us!
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  • Day3

    Cape Town Beginnings

    January 2, 2016 in South Africa ⋅ ⛅ 6 °C

    Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
    Saturday, January 2, 2016

    Well readers, here we are in Africa, after an uneventful flight from the UK. It feels different the minute you step off the plane. I can't explain why, but you get the sense of a steaming melting pot just over the hill. However, we started off with a slight brouhaha, in that as I passed through the body scanner at Heathrow, it went bananas. Thankfully, all was relatively quiet, it being New Year's Eve and most people having somewhere else to be. It took me a minute to realise that the dreaded knee brace was the culprit! Following the full body search of me and said brace, in a locked room with a witness, all was fine - interesting start!!
    I think every other person on the plane was a 'blood & custard' type and for the uninitiated amongst you, this is the slang term for MCC members, due to the virulent tie that is a required item of apparel. Peter's was duly packed and is on display today. We have bumped into most of our fellow passengers here at Newlands of course!
    The drive from the airport passes a very large township which immediately brings home the journey that this young country has yet to make. Our driver informed us that the government is building a huge amount of new starter homes a year, ownership of which are offered for a very small price, but the occupants have to remain residents for 10 years before they can sell.
    It is a start, but my goodness it will take a while.
    We are staying in the garden district of Capetown in a very smart apartment attached to The Cape Cadogan Hotel. The staff couldn't be more helpful, even to point of running us to and from the Test Match today, which was unexpected. The hotel is in the foothills of Table Mountain, which towers above us as we walk down the street. At night it is floodlit and appears like a ghostly apparition above you. Magnificent sight would be an understatement, with or without its cloud tablecloth. Great restaurants abound. We visited one called Societi Bistro last night, which was jammed. We had a superb meal, including a bottle of very good local wine for less than £30 for the two of us!
    Today, as you will have gathered we are at the Cricket. Peter bought tickets through the MCC, so we have seats in the Pavilion. They are very good, directly on the walkway where the England team come out. They look so young, no more than babes some of them. I could have tucked a couple under my arm and put them down for a nap. It is absolutely sizzling, 29 degrees C and we are in full sun, so its half an hour in our seats and half an hour in the pavillion itself. As the afternoon heat built to some astronomical temperature we have managed to find a couple of seats inside (air conditioned) and are watching through the plate glass windows. The match is tight. Not a lot in the wicket for the bowlers and it must surely be hard and hot work for the South Africans in the field today. They need to be young and fit, that's for sure. Hence, I am tapping away to you all from Newlands itself. It is a beautiful ground, green and verdant with Table Mountain as a backdrop. There surely can't be a finer ground anywhere in the world. It is situated just out of the city in Claremont, which incidentally is where my Gt Uncle lived - no wonder he loved it so. As we found in Australia, everyone here is very friendly and keen to chat. I guess it is the sporting brotherhood. A great yell goes up and Joe Root is out for 50. He comes striding up the stairs past me, muttering to himself in disgust and the colour of a Belisha beacon. 'Poor boy' says I, 'rubbish' shot back Peter 'he should be disgusted, it's a flat wicket and it was a soft dismissal!' I think I'll just pop round and see whether he would like a cup of tea and a motherly hug in his iced bath! In truth, he would probably prefer that from some lissom young thing 40 years younger!!
    And so here endeth the first South African epistle. Tomorrow is planned to be more of the same, so we'll speak again when I have something different to tell you. Think of us in the clear blue skies and sizzling temperatures of a South African summer. It's tough, I can tell you!
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  • Day4

    NewlandsAgain

    January 3, 2016 in South Africa ⋅ ☁️ 4 °C

    I know I said I would have nothing to say, but I can't not comment on the fabulous days cricket we watched today. It is still scorchingly hot, but we managed to switch seats to two in the shade, which enabled us to stay outside all day. This is really for the cricket aficionados - what a day!
    Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow set off like rockets from the get go and piled on over 300 runs in half a day. As you will know from the scorecard Stokes scored 258, the fastest double hundred by an Englishman and the 2nd fastest double hundred of all time. Bairstow hit 150 and their 6th wicket partnership of 399 was a world record. They were scintillating and I don't suppose we will ever see the like again. How lucky were we?
    This evening we ate at Paranga in Camps Bay watching a spectacular sunset over the sea. Warm and balmy it was the perfect end to a once in a lifetime day.
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  • Day5

    Robbyn Island and the Waterfront

    January 4, 2016 in South Africa ⋅ ⛅ 5 °C

    Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
    Monday, January 4, 2016

    Today we have taken a break from Newlands and visited Robbyn Island the site of Nelson Mandela's incarceration for 27 years. The ferry leaves from the Waterfront, which was once the Victorian docks for the city of Cape Town. In common with many such sites around the world, the area has been renovated and rejuvenated into a modern conglomeration of flats, offices, shops and restaurants. Situated on the harbour, it is an attractive addition and draws many visitors.
    Luckily for us it was another sweltering day and the wind minimal, so the crossing was calm. It takes about 40 minutes. There were seals, penguins, sea birds and best of all, whales feeding in the harbour. Don't ask me to name the type, as one blow hole and tail flip looks very much like another, but it was an unexpected thrill to see them. As you approach the island it looks bleak and windswept, which is not far from the truth, although there are more buildings and trees than you might expect. Originally the only vegetation was fynbos, the low scrubby plants indigenous to South Africa, until the British introduced trees from Australia in the 1890s. It was not a good move , as the eucalyptus was one and they have proliferated. Each tree drinks 300litres of fresh water a day, with the result that there is no longer any fresh water to be found on the Island and it all has to be brought from the mainland. Robbyn Island is small, just 5 miles by 3 and has been used for holding political prisoners of one type and another since the days of the Dutch in 1662. It has also housed a leprosy and smallpox isolation camp over the years and there is a very poignant cemetery.
    The tour is well managed, and in two stages. Firstly, you are driven around the island by bus with a guide pointing out the main features and delving into it's history and geography. We were lucky enough to be allocated two superb guides, Yaseem for the bus commentary and Suzu for the prison itself. I should point out that all the guides have at some time been prisoners here themselves and so their narrative is very personal and from the heart. The prison block is as you would imagine on the outside, plain and unadorned, but it doesn't prepare you for the sheer bleakness of the interior. Grey concrete as far as the eye can see, with bars instead of windows. There was no glass, therefore it could be stiflingly hot or extremely cold, particularly at night. There was no heating, only cold water to wash in, a slopping out system that had to be seen to be believed and no books, letters or visits. The leading political prisoners were held in tiny single cells, with no creature comforts. There is just a stool, a metal dish and cup, the slopp bucket and a hessian rug to sleep on - no blankets. The days were spent in the lime quarry, which we saw and was blinding in the sun. No dark glasses were allowed and men often suffered with the equivalent of snow blindness. At the end of the day they would have to attempt to wash off the lime sticking to their skin with cold water, whatever the time of year. Nelson Mandela worked in that quarry for 13 years. Both guides stressed that he was an exceptional human being, a natural leader of men and started to compile 'The Long Walk to Freedom' in the exercise courtyard in the corner known as Nelson Mandela's garden. This was in the 70s when international pressure had ensured that conditions were improved, educational materials allowed, letters and visits. Hot showers were also then installed and flush toilets.
    It is hard to believe that men were tortured and treated so harshly in our lifetime for their political beliefs. It was an absolutely inspirational visit. Nelson Mandela's mantra on his eventual release in 1991 was that the peoples of South Africa must sit around a table and discuss the way forward for all its citizens. There must be hope, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation and our guides put over that sentiment with conviction.
    I would not say this is a visit of joy, but it is of necessity and we felt privileged and grateful to have experienced it through the eyes of men who had first hand knowledge of the regime. The thought of Robbyn Island will forever put shivers up my spine.
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  • Day6

    Cape Town in Bloom

    January 5, 2016 in South Africa ⋅ ⛅ 6 °C

    Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
    Tuesday, January 5, 2016

    The oracle here thought that today's cricket would be attritional (and of course he was right), so we decided to attack our list and head for Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens this morning. It has been another scorchingly hot day, with not a cloud in the sky.
    The site is huge in acreage, although only a small part is actually laid out as a garden. The land extends right up the eastern slopes of Table Mountain and if you feel so inclined you can climb up Skeleton Ravine and walk to the Table Mountain cable car to descend.
    The land was purchased by Cecil Rhodes in 1895 for £9000 to protect the area from urban developers and when he died in 1902, the estate was left to the Nation. In 1913 Kirstenbosch became a botanical garden dedicated to the cultivation and study of the indigenous plants of South Africa. Messrs Pearson and Mathews, a Cambridge botanist and Kew trainee were the first Director and Curator who were responsible for much of the layout and they adhered to the stunning natural setting they were presented with. It is absolutely spectacular, but with a very different feel to the likes of Kew, less manicured, wilder and free as befits the landscape and the country come to that! It was fascinating for me to see all the fabulous exotic species I can use at home at a price, growing in their natural environment. The agapanthus are at their very best as is the indigo bush and the watsonias. Streptocarpus are growing as ground cover under the trees when we struggle to keep them as a houseplant! Too much water is their nemesis, which is probably why most of us kill them with kindness. All sorts of hanging basket annuals romp away here all year in their natural environment. King Proteas are for sale on the side of the roads for pence! I understand the real time to see maximum colour is the 2/3rd week of September, but it was still pretty amazing now.
    We took the shuttle tour as we knew there would be no chance of covering it all on foot in such heat. It was undoubtedly the right decision as the guide was a mine of information that we would have never picked up alone. I sat next to him with a bird's eye view. Howard was a real character, with a thick South African accent. When In passing I mentioned how hot it was, he grinned and said he came from the desert of the Little Karoo, where 55 degrees was not unheard of, so whilst it was warm, he wasn't breaking sweat-and he was't! “Have a look in the conservatory if you want a feel of what I am used to” he said. We already had and lasted 5 minutes before having to seek shade outside to cool off, relatively speaking. This was a terrific visit for me particularly and I'll include some photos to give you a feel.
    We stepped back in time this afternoon, by having afternoon tea at The Mt Nelson Hotel. We have had afternoon tea in some pretty wonderful venues, so they had something to live up to! The building and decor is lovely, albeit very traditional and old school. We sat on the classic colonial verandah, complete with potted ferns, by the open door overlooking beautiful gardens. The tea was lovely, with a true South African flavour that you would hope for and expect. Two points they need to note however, from the home of the afternoon tea, never make tea in front of the guest with off the boil water and sweetened whipped cream doesn't cut the mustard on the scones. I spared the management my thoughts and we had a relaxing delightful high tea and certainly will not want anything more today, except perhaps a nice G&T later on and on that note I think I will go and mix one. Cheers!
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  • Day7

    Table Mountain

    January 6, 2016 in South Africa ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
    Wednesday, January 6, 2016

    It was an early start this morning to get to the cable car and up the mountain to beat the crowds. It worked brilliantly. We were in the gondola just before nine and on top of Table Mountain a little after the hour. Yes, us, but boy was it worth it.
    Cape Town's iconic landmark was created some 540 million years ago when during an uplifting period these rocks were squeezed upwards between two tectonic plates in the earth's crust. It's north face overlooks the city centre and is flanked by the formations of Lion's Head and Signal Hill to the west and Devil's Peak to the East. A series of gable like mountains known as the Twelve Apostles march away to the south. You can walk (if you can call it that!) to the top in about 2hrs and as we rose ever steadily upwards in our gondola we saw several fit, hardy souls on the trail. The whole area is a National Park and is covered in fynbos clinging to every ledge, nook and cranny. Plants are incredible how they can survive in the most inauspicious circumstances ie tremendous temperature range, high winds and thin, acid, almost non existent soils. Incidentally, fynbos consists of a vast number of low scrubby plants of the Erica or heather family, Restionacaea grasses, and Protea or leucadendron families, bulbs, daisies and pelargoniums. The gondola rotates through 360 degrees on its journey, giving one a fantastic view over the city and the approaching mountain, which is surprisingly heavily jointed and cracked vertically and horizontally when viewed close up. I saw my first wild flowering King Protea on the way up. The Western Cape, a small flora area, has over 2,500 species of plants in comparison to the UKs 1500 or so.
    Once on the top the views are as spectacular as you might expect in all directions. The surface is rocky and uneven; the result of wind and water erosion, it is however, a microcosm of plants and animals and simply fascinating to study. To our delight we had hardly taken 20 steps from the cable car when a hyrax darted across our path. They look like outsize fluffy guinea pigs and are known locally as dassies, however, their closest relative is the elephant. They are shy creatures and so we were very lucky to see one. We took a short guided walk, which was very informative and then walked the perimeter of the 'Table Top' which is large. A large flock of tiny sunbirds flitted in and amongst the vegetation feeding on nectar from the flowers. They are clearly used to the public watching and photographing them going about their business, as they were completely unfazed by our presence. The temperature has dropped slightly today to more manageable numbers, which helped us, because there is no natural shade.
    We were down at the bottom by midday and took the red tourist bus around Camps Bay and the western beaches before heading back into the city, stopping off at the Waterfront for some lunch at the Food Market. This is an old warehouse filled with a myriad of great local food outlets. We made our selection and sat down by a TV to catch up on the cricket. The change in the weather had brought a little luck for South Africa and England had lost five wickets at this point, so game on, but probably still a draw in the offing. We got chatting to a charming local young couple who live in the Garden District where we are staying. We whiled away an interesting half hour putting the world to rights, before parting and heading back to the bus stop to pick up our blue bus back to More Quarters.
    On the way through a really lovely artisan craft warehouse. I spotted an unusual stall that make items from used tea bags, yes you heard me correctly first time! A driftwood Christmas tree was beautifully decorated with charming tea bag decorations. You might know the tree would catch my eye. Underneath was a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt which you will see in the photo section. How true- it made me smile!
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  • Day8

    The Cape of Good Hope

    January 7, 2016 in South Africa ⋅ 🌙 18 °C

    Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
    Thursday, January 7, 2016

    Unbelievably, this is our final day in CapeTown. It is without doubt a magnificent city, with an enviable lifestyle and climate. We have loved it and would return in the blink of an eye.
    The Cape Doctor set in last night. This is a strong, dry, south easterly wind that blows through the city, removing any pollution and humidity to the ocean. Boy does it gust and rattle the hinges, but it is warm, which is a blessing.
    It has been a long, but great day. We set off to drive the Atlantic coast via Camps Bay, Hout Bay and Chapman's Peak to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. It is a spectacular drive hugging the shoreline most of the way. The mountains descend almost to the ocean and the vistas of coastline and blue green ocean are spellbinding. The further south one drives, the more rugged the scenery. Outcrops of rock and a multi coloured tapestry of fynbos dominate the landscape. The fynbos vegetation is perfectly adapted to the environment and subtle, but taken as a whole quite beautiful. One enters another section of the Table Mountain National Park approaching the end of the Cape Peninsula. There are two major sites to visit, Cape Point and The Cape of Good Hope itself. Here is the most south westerly point of the continent of Africa and the popularly perceived meeting of two major oceans, the Indian and Atlantic. This is in fact not the case, as here meet two contrasting currents, the cold West Coast Benguela current and the warm East Coast Angulhas current. The actual geographical meeting point of the oceans is in fact further up the coast at Cape Angulhas. The Cape of Good Hope is surprisingly low key, a fantastic shoreline and promontory, but little else. Cape Point is the more lauded of the two, as there is a lighthouse you can climb up to on the 200 ft cliffs looking out over the wild ocean. You take a funicular railway to the base of the lighthouse and climb from there. There were signs warning one to beware of the baboons, but we didn't see any until driving away and there sat one by the side of the road like a little old man hoping for a lift! What we did see however, were a pair of fabulous albatross, riding the winds and skimming just above the waves in effortless style. What a treat.
    The homeward drive up the east coast of the peninsula, took us to Simonstown, named for an early Dutch governor Simon van der Stel who was determined to leave his mark, naming Constantia for his daughter and Stellenbosch again for himself. Clearly a man with a large ego!
    Simonstown has a distinct English feel and retains some unique old buildings. It has been and is a large naval base for the Royal Navy and since 1957 the South African Navy. On the harbour is the statue of a Gt Dane called 'Able Seaman Just Nuisance'. The only dog to have been enlisted by the Royal Navy, as a moral booster during the Second World War. He adopted the Naval Shore establishment and its sailors, riding the local train to Cape Town and accompanying the drunken sailors back to base. When the rail company threatened to have him put down if his fare wasn't paid, the Navy enlisted him, hence entitling him to free rail travel!
    Just up the coast is Boulder's Beach, a stunningly beautiful white sand beach full of.....well huge boulders! Here is a 2000 strong African (jackass) Penguin colony. This was established by two breeding pairs in 1982 and has grown ever since. There is a board walk to follow, which allows one to view the little chaps very closely without disturbing their antics. They were simply charming, full of fun and perfectly turned out for a night on the town! Rafe would have loved them.
    We arrived back in Cape Town in the late afternoon having had a superb final day in the Western Cape. It was by necessity a whistle stop tour, but one that will be long remembered.
    We dined at another marvellous eatery called 95Keerom this evening. Great setting, food and wine, again for less than £30. What more can I say?
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  • Day9

    Franschoek

    January 8, 2016 in South Africa ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

    Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
    Friday, January 8, 2016

    Today has been relatively quiet and a travelling day, so we finally took our little Hyundai out for a spin. We were sad to say goodbye to More Quarters who had made us so comfortable, but the onward journey to Franschoek more than made up for it. It takes about one and a half hours to make the drive at a gentle pace and once you turn off the N2 it is a very pretty run. The Franschoek mountains gradually loom into view and the surroundings become more undulating and the odd vine appears. Once through Stellenbosch, an attractive university town, you turn right heading up and over the Helshoogte Pass. The scenery is dramatic with marvellous views down into the valleys and wineries start to pop up all over the place. In some respects we were reminded of Marlborough in New Zealand, but the landscape is more rugged and extreme.
    We arrived in the charming town of Franschoek just before 1o'clk, in time to wander down its Main Street lined with small boutique type shops and traditional Cape Dutch buildings. This is the sort of settlement that you think of when contemplating the winelands of South Africa.
    In Afrikaans the word Franschoek means 'French Corner' and as the name suggests was once a French enclave, when over 300 years ago a group of Huguenot settlers arrived fleeing religious persecution. It is this influence combined with the larger Dutch speaking community that has given the area such colour and unsurprisingly a taste for fine wine and food.
    It is a bright and sunny day, but continues to be blustery with the Cape Doctor blowing. After an excellent lunch at an artisan bakery we drove out of town to find our hotel for the night, Mont Rochelle. Now this establishment came highly recommended via Richard and Alyson, so we expected it to be good, but oh boy is it ever! I think we'll have a job to top this. Set on a hill just out of the town with beautiful mountain views sits the white painted thatched former estate house. On first view it appears modest, but on entering its portals the impression quickly fades. It is all gloriously put together and following registration, which is undertaken on the verandah to the accompaniment of a glass of champagne, we were shown to the Vineyard wing. It was an OMG moment to be honest, to match Palazzo Avino in Ravello. These are rooms with a view. A huge lounge in modern style, an equally spectacular bedroom and a bathroom the size of our kitchen with an oval bath. Be still my beating heart - blow the wine tasting, I could sit in that bath sipping something interesting from the fridge (all complimentary) and gazing out of the glass walls overlooking the private garden with plunge pool and the mountains. I took advantage of the gym this afternoon and we ate at Miko, the flagship restaurant this evening. All excellent apart from the fact that the red wine was too cold. The Maitre D tried to say that they keep all the Reds at the temp needed for the Pinot Noir, which is slightly cooler. Try taking a few bottles out late afternoon then - go on be honest, am I getting too picky?!
    Incidentally, the champagne offered is produced locally and was served at Nelson Mandela's inauguration as President. It was subsequently served at Barack Obama's also, because he was so impressed with it. I could see why.
    Wine Tasting tomorrow leaving at 9.30am. Help! I suspect we will need a bit more breakfast than muesli on this occasion.
    TTFN.
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  • Day10

    The Wine Tour

    January 9, 2016 in South Africa ⋅ 20 °C

    Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa
    Saturday, January 9, 2016

    I'm not quite sure where to begin today. It's been such a full day my mind is in something of a whirl. We have had the company of a wine expert by the name of Pietman Retief. An engaging, generous and knowledgeable personality, he has lived all his life in and around Stellenbosch and spent his working years in the wine industry. We have touched every possible aspect of life in South Africa, as well as wine and it has been fascinating.
    We began high above Franschoek looking down on the valley settled in the mid 1600s by his French Hugenot ancestors, some nine generations ago, when wild animals roamed the area and life was far tougher than it is now. Dutch settlers were already here and initially nine French families were granted land to make their own. Their farms were unsurprisingly named after their home areas ie Champagne, Versailles, Grand Provence etc. Dutch farms were interestingly named more for the families experiences and emotions ie Great Expectations, Hard Journey etc etc. The land was granted by the then Dutch governor, with the purpose of farmers producing food, to be supplied to the many visiting ships on their way to the East from Europe. Viewed from on high it is a beautiful valley surrounded by the Franschoek mountains in which at least two pairs of leopards still roam.
    Descending to the valley floor we viewed the elegant, marble, Hugenot monument in Franschoek whilst the history discussion continued. Having ascertained that we were interested in art and gardens, and politics, Pietman endeavoured to include lots of interesting asides as well as the study of the grape!
    We started at Haute Cabriere one of the best makers of South African bubbly. The brand name is Pierre Jourdan and the Belle Rose pink champagne was particularly fine. Grand Provence was next on our list, where the art work, in particular the sculpture, rivalled the bottle. There were lovely gardens set out with sculpture and ceramics, plus two stunning galleries. This was followed by Ricketty Bridge, more for the tremendous amount of restoration the current owners have put into the farm. I should add that these establishments are usually graced by the most superb thatched Cape Dutch Manor Houses, of the type you instantly think of in relation to the winelands of South Africa. La Motte was another huge property with the most fantastic artworks and the red wines were stupendous.
    We gradually made our way towards Stellenbosch and had lunch at the University Botanic Gardens, which were another find. On the way is a vintage motor car museum. Johannes Rupert of La Motte fame has over 350 vintage cars as an added interest and I can think of several friends who would be keen to stop here. Stellenbosch itself is the second oldest settlement in the cape and our guide was justifiably proud of his picturesque home town. It has retained most of its original buildings and even the village green. On the way out of town back towards Franschoek Pietman drove us through the Ida Valley to visit the Rustenberg winery, which he thought we would like to see, for the proprietor's wife's English garden as much as the farm. The garden was a revelation, with so many plants thronging the herbaceous borders, both English and South African natives. All around the area you will find oaks, not as strong or as large as their English cousins, due to the climate, but impressive never the less. Twelve thousand saplings were planted in these valleys in the 18th century, many of which are still growing. The Graf estate was next on the list and as Aly remarked to me, this is pure theatre. Over 30million pounds of Graf diamond money has been lavished on restoring this run down farm. What you see now is quite incredible, for its taste, scale and beauty and that's without the wine! Again, the artworks are out of this world and we were quite spellbound. Tokara was our last winery and once more the art was fantastic. The wine production section was state of the art and you might be interested to know that they have an annual competition for local artists to create a painting, simply using the contents of a bottle of red wine, The results had to be seen to be believed.
    Approaching Franschoek, we turned off the main road for a final time and tucked in the middle of the countryside is a small prison called Drakenstein. This was where Nelson Mandella was held for the final 18months of his imprisonment. It was from these gates that he made the last 100 yds of his long walk to freedom, greeted by thousands and watched by people on TV all over the world. It is one of the iconic images in time and I suspect we can all remember where we were when we saw it.
    What a day.
    There are some 80 wineries around Franschoek and approaching 200 in the Stellenbosch area. Millions of pounds have been poured into this area over the last 20 years, mainly by outside investors and this is continuing. The likes of Richard Branson and an Indian Multimillionaire called Singh are the new kids on the block. The investment is huge. One can only hope it will not be overdone.
    Our day finished back at La Motte, where we managed to have another shot at their wines accompanied by dinner. It was a tasting menu accompanied by the appropriate wines and it seemed a fitting end to a fabulous day.
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  • Day11

    The Wine Tram

    January 10, 2016 in South Africa ⋅ 23 °C

    Cape Winelands, Western Cape, South Africa
    Sunday, January 10, 2016

    We awoke feeing slightly punch drunk this morning after our marathon effort yesterday. No, we were not hungover as you only take little sips on the tastings! Mind you, that's more than can be said for a couple of guys at breakfast who looked decidedly seedy and struggled to eat anything to the clear annoyance of their wives! Sympathy was not obvious.
    At 11.30 we joined the wine tram that visits a variety of wineries around Franschoek. It's rather like a hop on hop off bus, with the advantage that you can indulge in yet more tastings without worrying about driving. We felt tasted out in truth after yesterday and so stopped only twice. Firstly, at La Brie, a small boutique winery. This was one of the original nine farms granted to the Huguenots in the 1650s and the wine maker was a lady. The wines were lovely; soft and elegant and it was really interesting to witness a small production farm as opposed to a huge multimillion rand operation.
    We rejoined the tram and were instantly caught up with a wedding party who were in high spirits and likely to be higher before the day was over I suspect! The bride was Australian and the groom South African and we were seriously impressed that they were all up for the wine tram today. They were great fun and had had a marvellous wedding at one of the wineries yesterday. This is extremely popular and a lot less costly than England, Australia and the USA apparently.
    Our second port of call was at Dieu Donne, a winery set high above the valley and the highest altitude for growing vines in the area. We were booked at their renowned restaurant Roca for lunch. We were shown to our table on a wide shady terrace with commanding views over the surrounding countryside. It was stunning. The wind has dropped a little today and the temperature has risen accordingly. It was 41 degrees in the shade, exceptional even for here apparently. Lunch was very good, accompanied by even more of the grape! I hardened my heart and had the Springbok. Well, you have to try the local specialities. It was delicious. I had hovered over ostrich, but kept seeing those long eyelashes and couldn't do it. I'm determined to try it before we leave, when I can pluck up the courage! Yet another wine tasting followed and a couple of cracking wines emerged. By then, we had had enough and decamped back to Mont Rochelle to chill out and enjoy the facilities. I think we have earned a break. All this wine tasting is mentally and physically exhausting! Peter thinks he is in danger of getting repetitive wine glass lifting strain injury!!
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