Two Girls and a Goat

Trip Start Aug 15, 2011
Trip End Sep 02, 2011

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Flag of South Africa  , Western Cape,
Saturday, August 20, 2011

Today's wanderings take us out into the winelands north of Cape Town which are a panorama of gorgeous green hills, rows of vines, and charming small villages. To get there though is a sobering journey out of Cape Town through what remains of the townships which is where most of the African people lived until they began to move them out of these shanty towns and into more safe and secure housing post apartheid. Seeing the ramshackle dwellings held together by scraps of metal, cardboard or other crude building materials all built literally on top of each other and learning that sometimes as many as 6 people live in them really put things in perspective for us. Nearly 80% of the South African population is at or below poverty level and the majority of them lived in places like this for most of their lives. We learned that they are currently transitioning everyone out of these, at least in Cape Town, and hope by 2014 to have everyone out of these unsafe and unhealthy environments. However, it was a very real reminder of South Africa's past and what a big difference the changes of the past few years are making for the population.

We stopped enroute to the wineries in the charming village of Stellenbosch, which is a picturesque Dutch town that looks like something from a postcard. The buildings are an interesting architectural mix of Baroque and Victorian with wide streets lined with majestic trees. They have a university there and we even saw several of the male students walking around in their striped school jackets looking like they could have stepped out of Oxford or Cambridge. South Africa is a fascinating mix of Afrikaaner, Dutch, British and other cultures all melded together. You definitely still get that British Imperialism vibe though in many places and this was one of them. Add to this a spectacular mountain background and you have town which could be a film set. Even the shops were oozing with charm and thankfully my shopping tendencies were curbed by the practicalities of bringing a pretty fantastic wrought iron clock back as a carry on! It was just gorgeous though as you can see from the pictures so we easily could have spent a whole day and a lot of Rand (the South African currency) there!

Back on the bus and time to start drinking as it was now 11 a.m. so we headed to the Fairview Winery which is a very Sonoma Valley esque type of establishment with lovely Mediterranean style buildings with lush flowers and foliage all around in a setting with rolling hills of vineyards behind and a gorgeous view of Table Mountain in the front. The true centerpiece of this winery though is their goat mascot as they make goat cheese in addition to fabulous vintages of wine. This goat is living the life in his own stone turreted tower which has a place of prominence in front of the main winery building. It was hysterically funny and Mary and I had to have our picture taken in front of the goat on the ramp outside of his tower b/c it is not every day you see a goat with his own turreted tower! :-)

Now on to the good part -- the wine and cheese! We sampled six different wines starting with white and working our way to red (apparently better for the palate and for not getting tipsy). Each wine was paired with a cheese designed to bring out the flavor of both. It was just divine and we especially enjoyed a special vintage white wine with a hint of peach and spices that was paired with a cranberry cheese with real bits of cranberry in it. It was so good we bought some of both, along with a loaf of their freshly baked bread, to take back to the hotel with us for later consumption! South African wines are amazingly tasty -- I prefer the whites and Mary is a red wine girl. Neither of us is a big fan of their signature wine which is called a pinotage. It is a very heavy red wine with thick overtones of tannin -- not for either of us! I would highly recommend though the Leaping Leopard Shiraz and the Fairview Winery white wine. It was then back to the city by mid afternoon after continuing our wine education at a few other fine establishments.

We then hopped a double decker tour bus and explored Cape Town by bus and by foot. Overall Cape Town is like any other big city, albeit one with a very diverse and divisive history. One of our favorite areas was the Bo'Kamp area with its brightly colored houses where many of the early residents lived when they worked as servants in local upper class homes where they were forbidden to wear anything of color. As a result they expressed themselves through their homes and that tradition continues today with a kaleidoscope of colored houses, churches and mosques painted practically every hue in the color wheel. The city has a unique mix architecturally of modern, Art Deco, Victorian, Dutch and Baroque. What is really neat is how the British, African and Dutch cultures have all blended together to make the city a veritable melting pot culturally and aesthetically.

At long last, it was time to shop and we ended our day with a very fun stroll through the Red and Blue craft markets -- two warehouse sized markets filled with every type of African handicraft imaginable. A couple of really cool finds were things made out of recycled teabags, jewelry made out of woven sisal grass, and hand painted pottery from one of the northern hill tribes. Afterwards we enjoyed dinner on the upper level patio of the Victoria & Alfred waterfront while watching the sun set over Table Mountain as the fishing boats all came in with their haul for the day. All in all, Cape Town is definitely worth visiting and is much more than World Cup Soccer. A definite two thumbs up from these adventure girls!!

Your wine swilling, cheese eating adventure correspondent
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Jennifer Young on

The Post just ran its Travel photo contest edition this weekend. Looks like you have lots of contenders for next year's contest!

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