Life’s full of sip, so it’s okay to wine!

Day six: Thick and heavy clouds everywhere, and the possibility of it raining for the first time since we’ve landed in the country is very high. It’s one of those days that all you want to do…is wine. Where better to do this than in the attractive Cape Winelands. Some of the best wines in the world come from this region (heard it through the grapevine…yakkity-yak 😂). It is not far from Cape Town city itself, so one can spontaneously take a leisurely drive to explore the region, like we did. One could also join one of the many tours on offer, or hire a personal tour guide. Prices for both options vary, depending on what you want to experience. Whatever option you choose, you will not manage to see everything this amazing region has to offer, let alone visit all the vineyards. You need time. Lots and lots of time. It is a very enormous and geographically interesting area, stretching a little over 22300 square kilometres and largely mountainous, some reaching 2000 metres. There are several ranges (many with fascinating sandstone peaks), cliffs, canyons, caves, waterfalls, rivers, natural pools, springs, forests and other wonderful attributes of nature that simply cannot all be seen in one little holiday, possibly not in a lifetime. The Mediterranean climate, where summers are hot and dry and winters cool, wet and windy is excellent for the vines. They really thrive, though the winelands have also been affected by the crazy global climate changes in recent years. It has been snowing more than usual during winter so there are more snow-capped mountains peaks in the summer. As mentioned before, there are so many vineyards, very old and very new, so we opted to visit the ones in the second oldest (330 odd years old) European settlement town called Stellenbosch. Cape Town was the first settlement. Stellenbosch is also known as the “City of Oaks” due to all the oak trees lining the streets. These were planted by its founder and namesake, Simon van der Stel. Stellenbosch is a very beautiful town situated in a valley with mountains and hills as a backdrop. Oh, and we only managed to visit three wine producing farms this day. All that sipping and spitting can be quite loopy…uhm…merry…uhm…tiring…hic 😵

Van Ryn’s Distillery

This has nothing to do with wine. It’s the only brandy distillery in Stellenbosch, and home to the award winning best brandy. The current distillery, dating back to 1905, is in a historical and well-preserved building complex on the banks of the Eerste River. The original building, still intact, apparently was built with stones collected from the river. As you enter the door, you are greeted with a very friendly welcoming smile…and a tasty little cocktail. After booking a tour of the working distillery, and while you wait for it to start, you’re encouraged to sit in their amazing lounge. What an impressive ambience! Where better to sip your cocktail than on a comfy old sofa or an ancient wing-backed leather chair. It feels like you’re back in the 1900’s! It was not easy having to get up off the couch, as one could simply sit there all day, but it was time to tour. We could gape at their historic copper potstills, deeply inhale brandy fumes in their maturation cellar and be bowled over by a very amusing and entertaining cooper. With funny anecdotes, “drum” beats and jolly banter, he took us through the entire wooden barrel making process. It was such fun!!

At the end of the tour we had a tasting of some of their international award winning spirits together with confectionary and cheeses. A must do if you’ve never tasted the stuff before, or if you’re a brandy lover or connoisseur. Cheers!

 

Neethlingshof Wine Estate

The first reaction as you enter the gate is WOW! There in front of you is a kilometre-long avenue with stone pines on either side. If you’ve ever seen one of their wine bottles, then you’ve seen this very image on their labels. Then another gasp as you exit the tree-lined avenue. Beautiful landscaped gardens and Cape Dutch buildings with a panoramic view of the winelands. The wine estate dates back to 1692 where it was called De Wolvendans, roughly translated as “The Wolves Dance” or “Dances with Wolves” (sic). About 96 years later Charles and Maria Marais bought the farm and started making their own wine. When their only daughter married Johannes Neethling forty years later, he became joint owner and changed the name of the then very prosperous estate to Neethlingshof. Maria was widowed very early, yet she still managed to run the whole business right up to when she sold it to her son and son-in-law.  She still engaged in the running of the estate right up to her death at age 68. She was one of the first female vintners in the young South Africa at the time and the Maria Noble Late Harvest is a wine inspired by this memorable and gutsy woman. The grand historic manor now houses the Neethlingshof restaurant where we had our winetasting. We could sample five different wines and nibble on delicious tit-bits. Yes, you really have to spit it all out after rolling it over your tongue or swirling it in your mouth. Sometimes a sip or two “by mistake” fell down your throat. So what, sip happens! We were not able to tour their cellar as bookings have to be made at least 24 hours in advance, and not because we had wobbly legs. Tsk-tsk…It was a lovely experience anyway the wines we had were really good.

 

Die Bergkelder Wine Centre

Die Bergkelder is Afrikaans for The Mountain Cellar, and the first of such in South Africa. This is a really sensational place! We were very impressed by everything we saw, sipped and swallowed. No, no spitting out of such lekker stuff! Another surprise was how “young” the Bergkelder is. Founded in 1967 means that the two of us, !oh-my-golliwog! are older… 😱 Whatever. We booked a wine tour and did not have to wait long for it to start. There’s a maturation cellar with more than 20 thousand barrels of wine. You also take a refreshing stroll on a little footpath along the banks of the Plankenburg River, cross a little bridge set in a green and plush big garden to enter the mountain cellar. After a short informative audio-visual before you are escorted to one of the many stone alcoves. There are five different wines to taste on this tour, and each wine is presented in a different alcove. Each alcove has hundreds, maybe thousands of old and dusty brown bottles stacked against their walls. The lights, soft and slightly dimmed, turns the creepy “dungeon” to a very romantic room. Then after a short walk down an amazing passage with half a million bottles flanked on each side, you enter a cellar filled with French oak casks. Wow! These beautifully carved casks are more than three hundred years old! Oh, and we were told that all the bottles lining the walls were full of wine, but undrinkable. Hmmm?? We could drink some other grape products though, like “Black Gold”, the most divine and unusual coffee and chocolate brandy! 😋 …and we didn’t have to spit it out…No, it’s not one of theirs, but it was served from their bar area. The end of the tour takes you through their bottling plant which is really big…ten thousand bottles per hour big! 🙀

Did you know that Die Bergkelder has a unique range of Fleur du Cap unfiltered wines? Yes, they launched this wine in 1998. The natural flavours and varied characters of the grapes are retained in the wine, with the least amount of human tampering.

 

 

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Fish and Ships with Vicky and Alfie

Day Five. We now have the “slow down, it’s Cape Town” mojo. We even woke up later than usual. It could’ve been due to all those corks popping last night, the lovely warm weather, despite it being a bit cloudy, or the laid-back atmosphere of the city and its people. Ooh, we were easy, easy like a Tuesday morning, whoa…yeah! 🎼🎧🎤 Europe was so far away!  After a light breakfast we headed off to the city centre. These two photos were taken from where we were staying. A lovely and leafy suburb overlooking the city which sports a golf course, or two, and a few wine estates. From here you can see the city below (romantically fabulous at night with all the sparkling lights), and the Table Mountain (photo on the left), which was covered with a “tablecloth”. The highway in the foreground was empty, but the closer you got to the city, the crazier the traffic was. The national school summer holidays, locals, visitors from the other provinces, and people like us, the international tourists, all contributed to the busy and vibrant mayhem on the streets. A good mayhem as there’s no stress, no rush, no anger, just an easy bumper to bumper don’t worry be happy attitude 🚗

Two Oceans Aquarium

The aquarium is in the very famous and popular V&A Waterfront. At this time of the year it is always bustling here, so we were grateful to have been with family, or else we’d still be riding around in circles looking for parking😓 The aquarium itself is not as big as others we’ve visited, just busier, but there’s a lot to see and do. More than 3000 marine animals from the two oceans, the Atlantic and the Indian, are shown here. A lot of families with young children visit and it was fun to hear the little ones (the big ones too, wink-wink) screaming with excitement at all the amazing animals and having fun at the interactive displays. We squeezed ourselves into a small gap in the large crowd at the penguin exhibit, just to see them being fed. Interesting, but seeing them in the wild is much more exciting. The aquarium also boasts a kelp forest. Enjoy the photos!

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront – V&A Waterfront

The V&A Waterfront, or just “the Waterfront” is situated in South Africa’s oldest working harbour which is set at the foot of the Table Mountain. It was named after Queen Victoria and her second son, Prince Alfred (Alfie), who visited the harbour in 1860. The area is not only a working harbour or entertainment venue, but it’s also a residential and commercial hub. There are many restaurants (big and small) which serve local or international cuisine, luxury hotels and holiday appartments, and ta-daaaaa…shops galore. So after taking a boat ride to Robben Island and back, relax on one of the restaurant decks overlooking the harbour, sip a glass of fantastic local wine and eat some freshly caught fish. The view of the mountain, with the ships, boats and cruisers at its feet will make your soul sing. It will not matter if the sun is shining or not…Afterwards, take a stroll along the quay and listen to various artists singing, join in with the traditional dancing, or simply just sit on a bench and take it all in. Unforgettable! ❤️

 

Kissing Jackasses and a flying Mercedes…

Day four. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man look outside to see if the weather is nice. There are a few non-truths about Cape Town. One is about the weather. No, it does NOT rain every day, just every other day, and mainly in winter. Yes, it can be windy, and no, you will not be blown over to the other side of Table Mountain. Rooftops, trees and other stuff will fly, but not you. You might have a slight lift-off experience and could be blown over to the other side of the road, but that’ll be all. So if you’re visiting during late spring or early summer, then beware of the Cape Doctor, a strong and determined south-east wind which will blow away everything polluting the city. Grab a pole and hold on tight! Another more talked-about non-truth is…the passion gap. It’s a Cape Town thing and everyone has one. No, no, no, not true! We’ll elaborate on this one later 😁, after telling you about our day. It was a bit cloudy, no rain, and we were chauffeured by the birthday boy for an excursion to the coasts and mountains in and around the city. Our first stop was at the…

Boulders Beach Penguin Colony

On the shores of the False Bay, is Simon’s Town, home of the South African Navy. Not far from here you will find the penguin colony, which is home to the African or Jackass Penguin. It is a very popular tourist attraction where many come here to see the penguins in their natural habitat. Surprisingly though is that this “natural habitat” is right in the middle of a busy residential area. You have to walk down a street, with houses on both sides, to get from the car park to the entrance of the visitors centre from the car park. The adjacent neighbours, the many cars and lots of human traffic poses a threat to these endangered penguins. The amazing bit though is that the penguins only started settling here in the early eighties, despite it being a residential area. So you see, this time the humans were there first. Once you’ve paid your entrance fee at the visitors centre and passed through the turnstiles, do not expect any of these cute little fellas to waddle or sashay towards you in greeting. You have to use the wooden walkways to see the penguins. A tourist at the time: Is this their dance floor? Hmm, no comment! The walkways meander right through the colony and it’s amazing how near they are. We’ve seen some cuddling, kissing, fighting, fishing and also sleeping. We’ve also seen some really mind-boggling people leaning over the railing just to get that one photo or selfie of themselves patting a penguin. Oh please! There are those of us who still remember the time when there were no boardwalks or restrictions. It was fascinating and not many had the guts to touch a penguin. Those who tried were promptly nipped by a razor sharp beak. So please stay on the walkway! It is for the safety of the animals…pun intended…

Chapman’s Peak

Chapman’s Peak is a mountain about fifteen kilometres south of Cape Town and has a very spectacular scenic road running between Hout Bay and Noordhoek called the Chapman’s Peak Drive, or Chappies, as it’s called locally. Chappies took seven years to build and was officially opened in 1922. The road meanders high above the coastline, with breathtaking views, very shear drops, white beaches and sometimes a stubborn baboon or two blocking your way. It is definitely a “must-do”! You should note a few things though. Chappies is now a toll road! This has advantages as there are not many cars about and you can stop to take some photos. Very few opportunities to park your car along the roadside exist, and it could be deliberate as the drive could or could not be quite treacherous. After many rockfalls, (some were fatal), the road was closed for a few years (twice up to now) and measures taken to ensure that the road is safe from falling rocks and other perils. If it is or has been raining and for the few days afterwards, the road will be closed completely. A light drizzle, like when we were there, is not (yet) considered a threat, but even if the sun is shining, and the authorities feel it necessary to do so, it will be closed. It was a bit “spooky” driving there as we were the only ones on this long and curvy stretch of road. Memories of days gone by when we cruised with our open-top cars, bumper to bumper, people everywhere, and with not a worry that anything might fall on your head…those were the days my friend…Did you know: a very famous car brand commercial was filmed on this very drive in early nineties. The car drove too fast round a bend and plunged one hundred metres down a cliff. Mr White, the driver, was not injured, as he was driving one of the safest cars in the world. The one with the star. A classic advert at the time…

Hout Bay

The Republic of Hout Bay. Hahaha, it’s not really a republic, but this is what the locals have been calling it since the eighties. A “republic” was declared to promote the town and some say also as a statement that they had nothing to do with the then apartheid regime. Others say it was because Hout Bay is sort of cut off from the rest of the Cape Peninsula as you can only reach it via three mountain passes, one of them the Chappies. Whatever the reason, this promotion worked. They even issued passports which were very sought after. A close friend even boasts a few immigration entry stamps from various countries of the world. Hout Bay has a boat and yacht marina, a craft market and some of the best fish and chips eateries in the area. You know they are fresh because firstly the air smells very fishy and stinky, and secondly you can see fishermen offloading freshly caught fish. The fish factories are nearby. Another attraction are the many seals that swim here (look between the boats) and the view of the Chapman’s Peak across the harbour. Sit down, eat and enjoy the bustling yet laid-back atmosphere.

 

Flying to Cape Town after Dom Pedro’s

Day Three. Oh. What. A. Night! Oh. No. Is. It. Morning. Already?! Yep, we were on our way again, this time to the beautiful city of Cape Town…So with a slight “babalas” (South African speak for: what the hell was in those cocktails) and lots of excitement we took the train to the airport. The Gautrain rapid rail system was built for the 2010 World Cup and is still in use today. It is also reliable. From the station two blocks from where the family stays to the airport is only fifteen minutes. It does not get better than that! The O. R. Tambo or Johannesburg airport was also extended and renovated at the same time, so hosting the World Cup was a great benefit for the region. The other “new” and seemingly helpful benefits which we encountered at the airport left a slightly unpleasant taste in my mouth. As soon as we entered the terminal, a man came towards us offering to help carry our bags and promising a speedy check-in. We thought this was a nice service and I even went as far as praising the airport administration for even thinking about such a service for their  travellers. Hrmph! The check-in was speedy alright, but only because there was no-one else ahead of us. He walked with us right up to the security entrance, all the way asking for money. We gave him a brown note. He refused and insisted that he wanted HIS money. What money, we asked. Well, he said, we “hired” him to carry our bags, so we must pay for this service. What?? He even took out note and said: “You see this, this is a blue Mandela. This is what I must now get from you”. He was whispering, which was odd, and on closer inspection, the wooden “name plate” in his hand was a big worn out toblerone chocolate box! We refused to give him anything. He tried to threaten, but we just walked into the security area. It turned out that this man was part of a scam trying to get money out of unsuspecting tourists. What was funny is that another person tried to polish our shoes while we were “discussing”…Eish! A lesson learned, but this did not spoil our mood. You see, we’ve travelled many places near and far, and believe us when we say that this nonsense can happen anywhere in the world, and in places that no-one would suspect is even possible…It’s not just an African thing…so there!

Here are some aerial photos taken from the plane. The very first one is just outside of Johannesburg. The next two are en-route and the last three are during the descent towards Cape Town International Airport.

Hello dear family and thank you for having us. We were welcomed with open arms and spoilt with this lovely dinner spread. My family know how to cook! Eat and be merry 🍴Babalas totally forgotten hee-hee…Oh, and the photo below is me the night before sipping and enjoying a wonderful creamy dreamy local cocktail called Dom Pedro. That little glass, or two, or five, is what caused the babalas…YOLO…enough said. And guess what! The German is now an expert at mixing a Dom…did I say YAY, or was that YOLO?

Dom Pedro Cocktail Enjoyment

Warrior Paint…???

Day two, the other half. We were happy, satisfied, hot and tired, but there was still one more thing to do. Introduce the German to some of the girls. These amazing women and I have been friends since “little” school days. The distance has not changed our friendship and we still get together every year despite me living in Europe. Just us girls. I simply love them to bits! So of course it was very important that they meet the man now in my life. We chose a restaurant right next to the Zoo lake where everything was African: cuisine, music and ambience. The wine and cocktails were yummy too…hic. Sitting under a huge hut with the sun on your back, it was loud, funny and crazy. Forget about hushed conversations and quiet meals, especially when us girls get together. Quite normal. Despite being the only man amongst NINE women, including his then future mother-in-law, 👀 OOPS! he took everything in his stride. A speciality of this restaurant are their face painting ceremonies. At first he did not know what to expect, so he kindly refused when the painter approached him. Then NINE loud “it-is-not-so-bad” voices echoed in his ears, so he gave up, wiped his brow and let the man paint  😓 As you can see, the result was not so bad, footprints with a shield…but the relieved smile on his face was the most beautiful…or was it because there were so many girls around him…

…to offer him some support, we all had our faces painted too…and this is mine…daisies.

 

The Lion Park: a mini-safari near a concrete jungle

Day two: We think that we slept well, before being thrown out of bed by a hadeda. A what??? Believe me, if you’re a nervous foreigner waiting for a “crime thingy” to happen to you (the world has warned, beware), then no, you do NOT want to be woken up by one of these. If you have a very big garden with a lush lawn and live near a lake, like our family do, then yes, they will definitely be in your garden at the crack of dawn. Think vuvuzela (very noisy plastic stadium horn), now add the voices of Pavarotti and Lanza in full scream, and there you have it, haa-haa-haa-de-dah, your murder call. A hadeda is a bird (Hadeda Ibis), and no-one, not even dogs, want to kill it. At five in the morning the urge to do so might be there, but then you remember the prawns. The hadeda feeds on BIG creeping, jumping and pesky insects locally known as Parktown Prawns (King Crickets). These pests are worse, especially if you have fruit trees in your garden. The Go-Away-Bird was much friendlier and it was not active at five in the morning! Welcome to Africa! After a dip in the pool, breakfast, more neighbourly visits (OMG, another German in the family 😉) and lots of yap-yap, we set off on a mini safari to….

The Lion Park

You can visit South Africa and spend lazy days by the pool or you can go out there and pet some wild animals. The Lion Park is just a few kilometres outside of Johannesburg and a good start for passionate photographers, wink-wink. Like with every other safari, you either drive through the enclosed area yourself, with closed windows please, or pay for a guided tour. A family member did us the honour, yippee!
Lion (Panthera leo) - Löwe - Lion Park, Johannesburg, South Africa

There you have it, the ROARRR, or is it just one big yawn. Being a male is such a boring life!

These white lions were all sleeping, so we had to wait quite a while for them to stir. If it is very hot then you might not see many animals as they hide from the sun, or sleep…

Young lion (Panthera leo) - Löwe - Lion Park, Johannesburg, South Africa

These lion cubs are in a different enclosure and for a fee, you can pet them. They might be cute and playful but they still are and remain wild animals. Some people are fooled by their size and soft purrs, so go all cootchie-cootchie-coo-here-kitty-kitty-here, then are surprised when they get walloped by very sharp claws! Listen to the rangers and do not try to hug or cuddle them. Stroke or pet them lightly on the back if you want that perfect me-and-a-lion photo.

African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) - Afrikanischer Wildhund - Lion Park, Johannesburg, South Africa

The park also has many other animals, like these wild dogs…

Cheetahs …

Ostriches, some with lots of flies…

Giraffes. Even they avoid the blazing sun! Some seemed to be tame and friendly. There’s a wooden platform where one can stand on to get a closer eye-to-eye look, feel or touch. One could also feed them some nuts or something that can be bought on sight only. We found this absolutely unnecessary as it was just too much! Only two Giraffes were allowed near the platform, so you can just imagine how each and every visitor with a bunch of nuts in their outstreched hands was trying to lure and feed them. Oh well, maybe having your hands slopped with animal spit is important for some. If you look closely at the eyes, you can see what is reflected in there… Amazing!!

amazing, yet watchful Meerkats…

Hier kom die Bokke! This is mostly chanted or sung when the Springboks, South Africa’s national rugby team, are playing. Roughly translated it means: Here come the Bucks. Guess which one of these is a Springbok…Click on each photo to see the name of the buck.

Zebras and their playful offspring. How the Zebra got its stripes is a story we in Africa grew up with. It has been carried over from the indigenous peoples of southern Africa, the San/Bushmen, and it involves a greedy baboon 😂

The bird to the left is a Crowned Lapwing or Plover and the other is a Blacksmith Lapwing or Plover

Lion Park, Johannesburg, South Africa

…and this one is just a bird, oops…a lioness bird! 😆

 

South Africa, here we come …

Grey go-away-bird (Corythaixoides concolor), also known as grey lourie - Grauer Lärmvogel - Johannesburg, South Africa

As you might know or not know, one of us comes from South Africa and the other one has never ever had this wonderful country (some-one’s biased here heehee) on his bucket list of places to see before he’s too old to fly or something like that. He’s travelled to the end of other worlds (haka-haka and tango) but somehow the “dark continent” just did not tickle his fancy…until he met “the one” 🙀

It was January 2014, freshly engaged and just one day after welcoming in the new year, when we left the snow-capped hills and embarked on the long flight to Johannesburg. We arrived early in the morning after a ten hour non-stop flight and it was HOT. Welcome to sunny skies, smiling faces and happy families! Day one of our three week holiday.

Before anything else happens, like unpack…or breathe, for example, the future husband has to be introduced to everyone in the neighbourhood. This is normal. Then everyone sits down to eat, talk, eat, talk. This is normal too. Tired? Hahahaa! After what seemed like hours, (okay, so it was a few hours later) we walked around the gardens, admired all the flora, then stretched ourselves out next to the swimming pool. The grey-feathered chirpy little fellow in the photo above is called a Go-Away-Bird. It was quite comfortable sitting there and making lots of noise…Did it want us to “go away” already?? 😝  No way, because we had a full day planned for the next day…