Wine Soaked and Sun Dipped

Here are selected excerpts from my South Africa diary, detailing my stay in the heart of the Western Cape, in wine country. It was the experience of a lifetime, Paarl none.

 Day 1

Our family arrived exhausted but happy at the Grande Provence Owner’s Cottage. Not only is the villa in the heart of wine country, it is wine country: a 300-year-old wine estate. Shortly after arriving, we had our first tasting of a rich estate red with floral bouquet and legs that would do Marlene Dietrich proud. Across the lush lawn and ripe vineyards on the valley floor we also drank in the vista of the rugged mountains beyond.  Floating along on a wine river we arrived in our super comfortable luxury bedrooms and went to sleep like kings and queens, caressed by 400-thread percale sheets.

Day 2

We were still jet lagged so decided to stay close to home today. After a leisurely morning enjoying coffee, fresh pastries and a selection of exotic fruits, we took a trip to nearby “village” of Franshhoek. This is actually one of the oldest towns in South Africa, and it means “French Corner,” named after the French Huguenot refugees who originally settled the area. Once a sleepy village it is now one of the most-sought after addresses in the country, with its proximity to Cape Town, beautiful architecture, natural beauty and its reputation for being the “food and wine capital” of the country.

With this last claim we would have to concur. In the afternoon we enjoyed a fabulous praline from the Belgian Pâtisserie. In the evening we booked a restaurant that was ranked as one of the top restaurants in the world by the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants. I would have to agree—especially since every course in the feast was paired perfectly with a different wine. I tended to the whites myself and seafood, wanting a lighter experience so I could keep my eyes open on the trip home. . . . I almost succeeded.

Day 3

We decided to do a beach day today. Since both the Atlantic and Indian oceans wrap the Cape, we have a wide selection of beach types and activities. Feeling like action, we traveled to Bloubergstrand Beach, near Cape Town. With a great view of the city’s rock face, we tried our hands  at kite surfing and wind surfing. I tried to recall my skills learned in summers in Hawaii and went surf surfing. I managed to catch a few good waves but spent as much time rolling in the chop as standing on the board. Oh well. Going back to the villa we stopped for a lovely and consoling glass of wine or two.

Day 4

Speaking of wine, we must have woken up a bit parched this morning, so decided to remedy the deficiency with a . . . wine tour! With its perfect Mediterranean-like climate and lush valleys, South Africa offers superb wines, with the majority of its vineyards found in the Western Cape, near the coast. With more than 560 wineries at our disposal, we’ll have to pace ourselves.

Traditionally when talking about the Cape Winelands, people are referring to the cellars around Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington and Franschhoek. But the popularity of South African vintages worldwide has spawned lots of new, talented players in the market.

We decided to explore the Worcester Wine Route, which boasts 250 years of winemaking knowledge to produce award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc and Columbar wines. The scenery on the trip, driving from winery to winery, is magnificent. The town of Worcester is encircled by majestic mountains and by wine and table grape farms. The Worcester accounts for nearly 20 per cent of national vineyards. It produces almost 27 per cent of South Africa’s total volume of wine and spirits and is the most important brandy producing area in the country.

The Worcester Wine Route is also the first in the world to produce a Braille wine bottle as part of the wine region’s new brand identity. A percentage of the sale of the wines – a blend of red and white – goes directly to the Institute for the Blind. By the end of our trip, wining and dining the length of the route, we might have been nearly blind ourselves but survived to return to the pampering embrace of our villa.

Day 5

We reserved today to explore Cape Town, the provincial capital, which lives up to its reputation as “one of the most beautiful cities in the world today.” Founded in 1652 by the Dutch East India Company, the city is now a melting pot of French, Dutch,  British and German influences, which show in its eclectic mix of architectural styles and cuisines. Wandering cobblestone streets, with market stalls and entertainers is a real treat, the Table Mountain always looming over you.

Shopping the V&A Waterfront, visiting historical Robben Island, doing hard time in the Breakwater prison, and then enjoying a full gourmet dinner (with wine!) was capped off by an evening of clubbing, live music and dance.

Day 6

For the last day before departure, what to do? Ostrich riding in Oudtshoorn? Bungee jumping at Bloukrans Bridge in Nature’s Valley? Scuba diving at the east coast? Traveling the Garden Route, from Cape Town to Knysna? No, we thought we’d just chill for a day at our villa, the Grande Provence Owner’s Cottage, enjoying: A dip in the pool. A soak in the private Jacuzzi. Alfresco dining in the loggia by the pool, with excellent barbecue created by our private chef.  And wine accompaniment . . .  of course.

Share This:

Similar Posts

Why Be a Tourist? Live Like a Local

Sing the Praises of Florence

Positano Sings Its Siren Song