SOUTH AFRICAN DIARY 9
It was our penultimate day in the Western Cape and we left our hotel for a full day tour of the Winelands. Our tour comprised of exploring the Spier Wine Estate and Spier Village known for its luxury accommodation, where we could also visit the Cheetah Research Station and sample some of the best wines from the region.
Spier, known for its award winning wines and situated in the regions of Stellenbosch, is approximately a 40 minute drive from the city of Cape Town. Stellenbosch is historical and recognized as the Cape’s premier wine growing region. However our first wine tasting session was at Spier where we were given a descriptive explanation of the variety of wines from the Pinotage to Merlot, from Chenin Blanc to Noble Late Harvest and from the Cabernet Sauvignon to Shiraz.
The Village at Spier comprises of a wide array of leisure activities which includes a golf course, horse rides, picnics and the cheetah ranch.
The finest grapes from Spier’s vineyards are processed at Spier’s own custom built cellar,which has a capacity to handle over 2000 tons of red and 800 tons of white grapes and all wine making operations are in line with the best of international standards.
The Wine Centre is a haven for wine lovers who are spoilt for choice- Spier showcases wines from over 200 local estates and going through the wine tasting session gives you the exposure to some of the finest wines that you will find in the African continent.
The other wine estates are at Stellenbosch, Franschoek and Paarl.
After an interesting Wine Tasting session, we headed for the Cheetah Outreach which is a major tourist attraction at the Spier Village. Spier has an area allotted to raise Cheetahs as part of the CCF or the Cheetah Conservation fund and here the major attraction is undoubtedly to pet the cheetah ,click a picture and take home as a souvenir which also helps in in contributing to the Cheetah Conservation movement.
After Spier we headed for the historic town of Stellenbosch entering the town via the historical Dorp Street. Stellenbosch is one of the must see towns on the wine route and the history of the town is reflected in many of its buildings which are in neo-Dutch, Georgian and modern Victorian architecture.
Rows of oaks and open spaces with trees around make the quaint little town look very pretty with white walls around you.
One of the most significant places at Stellenbosch is its University known as the “Maties” Several international enterprises have their offices in this bustling university town. As part of our walking tour we also visited d’Ouwe Werf- South Africa’s oldest inn which forms a historical core of this vibrant town
After Stellenbosch, our next stop was at Franschoek, one of the most beautiful villages in the Wineland. Franschoek Wine Valley lies deep in the Cape winelands and is South Africa’s very own ‘French quarter”. It has its historical significance as this is where Nelson Mandela began his long walk to Freedom. The region has retained a distinctively French character. This can be perceived in the type of wines cultivated here as well as the French dominated cuisine. It is a must visit place for those who love the Champagne style sparkling wines. At Franschoek we halted for lunch at Polyfyntjies – a traditional South African Restaurant. Polyfyntjies which is pronounced as POL-FAIN-KEES, is Afrikaans for “souvenir” and is also a title for a classic South African cookery book. It is now called “58 on Main” and specializes in traditional South African cuisine such as the bobotie, the Cape Malay Curry and local specialities like smoked salmon and grilled rainbow trout served along with fresh traditional vegetables and exotic desserts such as Malva Pudding and Cape Brandy tart .
We continued our wine exploration by visiting the beautiful city of Paarl.
The picturesque town of Paarl is located between the Paarl Mountain and the towering Du Toitskloof Mountain range. The Berg River flows through the valley and the town is nestled between neighbourhoods comprising historic farms which contribute to the countryside atmosphere making this quaint little town a perfect getaway place from the city of Cape Town. As you enter the region, you see the magnificent 50 million year old granite boulders.
The Grande Provence Estate and more specifically the Grand Roche Hotel – is one of South Africa’s finest hotels and a member of the Relaix & Chateau, Africa’s only Relais Gourmand. The property is situated on a historic wine farm in probably one of the most beautiful valleys of the Cape.
We were taken for a guided tour of this property by first visiting the internationally acclaimed Bosman’s Restaurant which is the only Relais Gourmand status restaurant in the whole of Africa and is ranked as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world.
It was interesting to note that all the historical buildings within the property are declared as South Africa National Monuments.
The other highlight of the Grand Roche is the historical chapel which is rented for intimate weddings. They offer a Wedding package, Grapes of the Cape package , the Golf Package, the Saddle the Valley package ,the Big Six and many more. For business executives there is the Conference Package as well and we at Compact Travels will be glad to book one of these premier packages for you to experience one of your most memorable visits of your lifetime.
After a wonderful day we drove along back to Cape Town and we had enough opportunity to once again enjoy a late supper at the V&A waterfront whichwasn’t too far away from our hotel.
Our trip was coming to an end and the following morning we would be doing a short tour of the District Six Museum and Bo-Kaap before taking our flight to Johannesburg. To know more about our last day in Cape Town and last night in Johannesburg, you will have to wait till the next issue of Opportunities Today.
(To be continued)
Subhash Motwani – South Africa Fundi (Expert)