Trip Start Apr 08, 2010
Trip End Jul 08, 2010

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Flag of South Africa  , Western Cape,
Saturday, May 1, 2010

Our trip to the "winelands", Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, was our next stop in our South African adventure. From my perspective, Franschhoek came away the real winner for its culinary pedigree and charming landscape, but that's not to say Stellenbosch isn't distinct in its own right.

In Stellenbosch, we stayed at Spier Vineyards, a large South African wine estate complete with cheetahs, amphitheater, 2 restaurants, tasting room and craft vendors. Little did we know when booking it on Agoda that it was such a point of interest for tourists in the area. We arrived from Cape Town as the tasting room was closing and squeezed in a few ripe reds, including South Africa's very own, Pinotage, and a couple of blends. After a bit of fireside relaxation and dinner in the heart of town, seemingly Dutch-inspired, we caught some Z's before continuing on to Franshhoek in the morning.

Along the way we stopped at Delaire Graff, a winery owned by a jeweler from London, which is quite possibly THE premiere vineyard in my book. Architecture of vast proportions adorned with painting and sculpture and stone and water throughout the property, Delaire offered majestic views of high altitude vines. Having visited upwards of 30 vineyards in northern and southern California, Italy, and now Argentina and South Africa, it's safe to say this was the most visually spectacular vineyard my eyes have laid sight on. Even Sam said, and I quote, "I don't think I want to leave." For anyone traveling to the winelands, Delaire Graff is not to be missed!

In contrast to Spier Estates, we stayed in the cottage at The Garden House in Franschhoek, a B&B run by Annette and Barry, a parental couple who left London 8 years ago to start this cozy guest house which only accommodates 1 couple; it was an oasis! The cottage had heated bathroom floors and towel rods, an endless supply of in-room WiFi and a mini-bar stocked with complimentary refreshments. The village is nestled in the mountains with boutique wineries and award-winning restaurants celebrated for haute cuisine. After an intimate lunch on the veranda at La Petite Ferme, (another must!), we thought it best to walk it off in the hills of our neighborhood. It was serene enough that we even managed to talk wedding plans - that's how relaxed we were. The rest of the evening was similar to most, although this time Sam was completely over served food-wise to the point of absolute discomfort. Thanks to Annette, we went to Le Bon Vivant, Chef Pierre Hendricks' restaurant known for creative and innovative dishes. Each plate was a vision of artistry and unique flavors. We loved it but Sam could hardly finish his meal and vowed never to eat two big meals in one day ever again ... famous last words.

Not wanting to leave the cottage, we contemplated whether to stay or carry on as planned. In the end, we decided it was better to stay on course and begin our journey towards Mossel Bay to where the Garden Route begins. We found a diamond in the rough en route off National Road 2 (N2) in a small town called Swellendam. Woodpecker was an unassuming eatery and a cross between a country general store, purveying local cheeses, packaged foods and other sundries, and a deli/pizzeria. Simply stated, it was the best pizza we've had on the trip and great by any standard. N2 is a major artery running east-west between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth via Garden Route and dotted with small villages and roadside shanties. It is common to find clusters of village people along the highway patiently waiting for a ride. In America, we call this hitchhiking but unlike the vagabonds we associate the word with in the U.S., these hard-working people are looking for a way to work or to visit their family. Sam and I contemplated providing a lift on several occasion, and continue to struggle with generosity vs. safety, but at this point we haven't stopped. It's especially difficult to pass by the women with their sarong-wrapped babies on their back. We hear it is common of the South African people to extend their generosity but we are yet to see a car pull over to pick anyone up.
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Michelle on

Gotta love wine country... in any country... or any continent for that matter! Miss you x

Sam Kelley on

Looks amazing!!!

rebecca on

it looks so beautiful. and i'm sitting in our basement in new jersey reading this.

Raj on

I must say that having taken so many trips in my times, this is the best trip that I have ever taken: without setting my foot out of the house and at no cost.

pj on

i agree with dad, though i def plan on visiting some of these places some day...glad you're the guinea pigs though!!

Nani on

I can't wait to see you two in adelaide. SA is so beautiful.

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