Wine, Caves, & Skal
Nov 17, 2015
|STELLENBOSCH, FRANSCHHOEK, OUDTSHOORN, & PLETTENBERG BAY NOV. 12-18
Well, we drank the wine farms dry in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek – no different than our previous trips to Australia and California. We didn’t know a lot about South African wine…but have far greater appreciation for their quality of wines…. and the prices are fantastic. Also, as always, our wonderful travel experience in Africa has had so much to do with Skal friends.
Lavonne Wittman, who lives in Stellenbosch and is a director on the Executive of Skal International, was the one who organized our full itinerary for South Africa. She went way above and beyond ‘Skal friendship and amicale”. She was tremendous and planned all our hotels and activities in South Africa. Thanks you so much Lavonne and we hope we can do the same for you in Canada when you visit our country. Lavonne and her friend Anne Sanders met us in Stellenbosch and completely looked after us – chauffeuring us to the various wine farms, showing us the sights, and going out to dinner with us. We were completely spoiled. And Thom had a challenge dealing with three women for a few days…. But, he came through in flying colours…..or so he thought.
On our arrival in Stellenbosch, we raced out to Ernie Els wine farm for a wine tasting and to partake of the incredible views before the sun set. Also saw the putting green at his wine farm and toured the trophy room. Simply awesome. Thom wanted to meet Ernie and give him a few golf tips, but Ernie passed.
The next day we toured three more wine farms: Delaire Graff (of the diamonds), Simonsig, and Rust En Vrede. The experience is as much about the views, the gardens and the art work/installations, as the wines, at the various wine farms. South Africa rivals the world in with their wines and their cellars.
The Chenin Blancs more than matches the Pinot Grigio/Sauvignon Blancs we are familiar with, and the big reds are fabulous. Great Syrah’s.
Of interest is the name ‘wine farm’ – they call what we know as a vineyard, a wine farm; and in South Africa, a vineyard refers to a particular section of one wine farm.
Our third day – Lavonne and Anne escorted us to Franschhoek so we could go to Anthony Rupert wines – where we did a full tasting of sparklings, whites, & reds, (about 6-7 in total) all before noon – OMG – nap time. They left us here as they had other commitments but we stayed to tour the Car Museum on the property – Wayne Pitman and Bill Harrison, eat your hearts out……over 200 vintage cars…..you’ll have to see Thom’s photos…..unbelievable for a private collection of autos.
We did visit another vineyard later in the day, but the highlight of our one night in Franschhoek was our dinner at Ryan’s Kitchen – a reservation Anne got for us through her son, Roscoe, who works at the restaurant. He looked after us very well. The food was out of this world – we chose the Chef’s Selection – he surprises you with three appetizers and two main courses each. We sampled Wildebeest Tataki, Lamb Bobotie, Kingklip (a fish), and then Kudu Rump and Farmed Cob, followed by dessert. The flavours were totally indescribable. A culinary experience never to be forgotten….with a great Syrah too. Thanks Anne and Roscoe!!!!!!
From the wine area we travelled the back way of the garden route, along Hwy 62, to Oudtshoorn. The scenery cannot be described as you drive a convoluted way through various mountain passes and the Karoo to get to Oudtshoorn. When we arrived in Oudtshoorn, another Skal member – Niel Els, looked after us in a suite at his hotel called the Turnberry Boutique Hotel. Niel and Lavonne had our whole next day planned from morning to night:
- a 5 AM Meerkat safari (the Meerkats never showed up),
- a tour of the Cango caves which were stupendous. The caves are more than 5 km., with only ¼ of this is open to the public. They are in the Precambrian limestone of the foothills and the spectacular, huge underground halls/openings are filled with nature’s art (stalagmites, stalactites, formations etc.) that are absolutely unbelievable.
- Ostrich game farm – Kari sat on an Ostrich and we both watched an Ostrich race and learned about the incredible market for ostrich feathers and meat around the world. Annually the Ostrich farms in this area export 5 tons of Ostrich feathers to the Carnival in Rio……
- Ending with a typical South African Braai (BBQ) at Niel’s hotel. We ate fabulous food and drank great wines, while we met local skalleagues.
Then the next morning, we headed south through the mountains, then along the coastal road of the garden route, – to stay at the Robberg Hotel in Plettenberg Bay for our last 2 nights – where we have an ocean view room and are directly across from the most beautiful beach, with the purest sand. Today we walked on the beach, toured Monkey Land and Birds of paradise – two sanctuaries in the area. A very relaxing day. Thom was searching for his past relatives in Monkey Land….came close to a discovery….lol….
Tomorrow (Thursday) we drive 6 hours back to Cape Town. Then tomorrow night, we have been invited to the home of Lee Botti for another Braai (BBQ). Lee is a skallegue in Capetown and has invited a few guests to send us off. Then on Friday we begin the long trip home, flying from Cape Town to Johannesburg, to Nairobi, to London, finally to Toronto. We arrive in Toronto on Saturday afternoon….we’re sure to be groggy….but blessed to have had such a fantastic trip that was made so wonderful by many friends.
We have totally enjoyed our time throughout Africa and especially in South Africa – a spectacular country – beautiful!! We would recommend South Africa to anyone. Remember we bought a Tom-Tom GPS with all of South Africa on it – and believe you me it was worth every cent. We are still married!!!!
We hope everyone enjoyed reading about our little journey to Ireland and Africa. A few more check marks on the bucket list. But we’ll definitely return to Africa….there are only 54 countries to visit on this continent. The diversity and beauty has to be experienced to be believed and understood.
Last Blog Entry - See you soon in Canada. Cheers.
Thom and Kari