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South Africa: Moving to the Coast

Crystal, arrows & china . . .

Crystal, arrows & china . . .

From Cape Town to Grootbos.Today we had a relaxing morning and breakfast at the Cape Grace, bid farewell to the fabulous staff and drove to the coast with our chatty driver from &Beyond, Oliver.

I must digress for a moment and mention the incredible chandeliers throughout the Cape Grace . . . festooned with china, antlers, brass cups, incredible shells and, my favorite, native arrows; I only hope my pictures do them some justice.

OK – back to our journey . . . it was a beautiful drive through farmlands (wheat and apples), rolling hills, and finally, the coast. We also rode alongside some very large pigs for awhile (my husband loves big pigs).

Once at the Forest Lodge at Grootbos, we met with an activity staff member and planned our stay, checked into our beautiful, private suite and enjoyed a nice, back to normal size, lunch. We then took off for a visit to an 80,000 year old cave. Unfortunately for us, the tide was coming in faster than anyone planned. After going down the 185 steps and climbing over some boulders and rocks, it was determined that if we went in we would likely be trapped by the water and not be able to get out for a long while. Since this did not seem like a good option, we went back up the 185 steps and went whale watching!

Walker Bay was full of whales – and some of them were really huge.  All Southern Right Whales, we were enchanted with their antics ~ adults and babies alike. You could hear them spraying water through their blow holes and splashing, hitting the water hard with their pectoral fins.

We have a lovely, very modern suite – set up like an apartment with separate living room, bedroom, two bathrooms and walls of glass windows overlooking the reserve and ocean. Dinner was a lovely multi-course, gourmet experience that included horseradish hummus, lentil & saffron soup, pork, and a white chocolate mousse for dessert. The meal was served with a special starter from the chef, palate cleanser sorbet between courses, and very unusual (but tasty) garnishes and sauces. Even my husband liked his tempura-style salmon and Thai soup.

Now, I am doing anything to avoid thinking about getting so close to Great White Sharks in the morning ~ we leave at 7!

South Africa: The Winelands

In the colorful Bo~Kapp district

In the colorful Bo~Kapp district

We headed off for new adventures today as we took in some key sights in town, including the Castle, Bo-Kaap (Malaysian/Muslim) district & Parliament area. Then we headed off to the Winelands and the historic towns of Dutch-influenced Stellenbosch and French-influenced Franschhoek. We began with a visit to the typically-Dutch estate and winery of Meerlust, in the same family for 8 generations! Afterward, we saw the beautiful, quaint town of Stellenbosch with it’s charming Dutch-gabled architecture, churches, homes and leafy tree-lined streets with flowers blooming and birds singing. Then, off to learn about the great (and famous) South African wine – Pinotage, at the award-winning Kanonkop winery. They get the KFB prize for the best wine of the day.

We’d had enough wine to require heading off to lunch at the lovely, relaxing La Petite Ferme, for an amazing gourmet meal. If you’d dropped us in the spot, I would’ve bet my next trip that we were in Europe ~ based on the ambiance, views and wonderful food.

After walking off some (not enough) of the terrific lunch, we visited the lovely village of Franschhoek and saw enough restaurants and interesting shops to make us regret having to move on so quickly . . . . but, alas, we needed to make it to at least one more winery – and we did: the Rupert & Rothschild facility. We sampled their offerings, including their new olive oil (many of the vignerons here have decided growing olives is compatible with wine), in a lovely garden setting, before making the one hour journey back to Cape Town.

And then, we had to rest . . . .

A Glorious Day in Cape Town, South Africa

 

View from Table Mountain

View from Table Mountain

We arrived in Cape Town just after noon, on a plane that was on time and with the miracle of our bags actually arriving with us. J-burg Tambo airport has a little trouble with the staffing system for their domestic connecting flights & baggage re-check, and a whole lot of guys standing around to “help” you get the job done . . . we did not have confidence . . .

In any case, we are here and feel pretty good despite a 24-hour trip; the weather is crystal clear with beautiful blue skies and a temperature in the low-mid 60s. So we decided to take the advice of the travel writers and our hotel concierge, and take the cable car to Table Mountain today (even though we were supposed to see it tomorrow). The weather can change so fast here that clouds and/or strong winds often keep visitors from experiencing the incredible views.

Our lovely hotel, the Cape Grace, has cute drivers in new, top-of-the-line, BMW 760s to take you places and pick you up, so it’s very convenient and pleasant. Traffic is moderate and the city is very clean, although has areas of slums on the outskirts.

We spent some time late in the day walking around the waterfront and decided to have a relatively light seafood dinner at Quay 4. I actually had the best mussels ever and did something I haven’t done since traveling in Mexico years ago ~ ordered another round;  of mussels, of course!