African adventure – part 4 – Stellenbosch (Winelands)

Saturday 20 April we had an uneventful flight to Cape Town, was picked up by Francois who drove us to our hotel, the Clouds Estate, in Stellenbosch. Francois had already been booked for a private wine tour the following day so he wanted to know our preferences – we said white wine please – and he went off for the night to do some research.

This very modern hotel was very different to anything we had stayed in so far and we loved the look of it as we drove up the long and winding drive through the vines. We checked in, headed to our room, unpacked a few things for the few days we were going to be there and enjoyed the views over the mountains from our terrace as the sun started setting.

We headed down to the restaurant and, having eaten on the plane (and still feeling very full after so much food during our Kruger stay) we opted for a sharing platter and some wine out on the terrace before heading to bed. Lovely.

We headed upstairs and couldn’t find the remote control for the air conditioner – everything in this room was via an app (apart from this of course) but the instructions said that the physical remote control was by the bed. We searched high and low, found the signs, but failed to come up with it. By this time the reception was unmanned and we didn’t want to bother anyone so called it a day….and it was a very hot night….phew!

Sunday we headed down to breakfast and we thoroughly enjoyed our food – absolutely stunning. Anyway we then headed outside to meet Francois at 10 am and he talked us through his ideas for our day. This was to cross the mountain range before arriving at the historic Doolhoof wine farm for a tasting after exploring the facility. Francois had already told them our preference and they were happy to swap out the reds for white and rose. Lovely wine and we ended up purchasing a very special Chenin Blanc for later.

Moving on we drove the beautiful Bainskloof Pass through the gorges and mountains admiring the scenery as we went.

We then arrived at the Opstal Estate and the restaurant which was rammed – clearly a popular place with locals for Sunday lunch. We started off with a wine tasting out on the terrace – enjoying the spectacular views – and then had lunch and somehow managed to leave with a bottle of their ‘champagne’ for later. Was absolutely lovely.

Moving on we visited the Afrikaans Language Monument which sits atop a hill overlooking the town of Paarl. The towering granite monument, which opened in 1975, commemorates the semi-centenary of Afrikaans being declared an official language of South Africa separate from Dutch. It was erected on the 100th anniversary of the founding of Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners (the Society of Real Afrikaners) the organisation that helps strengthen Afrikaners identify and pride in their language. It towers over the surrounding area and, Francois (as a proud Afrikaner) thinks that it resembles a middle finger being stuck up to the world LOL. For those who think it looks familiar it was used as a filming location for the twelfth series of Doctor Who.

We then drove through a long tunnel back to the other side of the mountain range and saw the entrance to Drakenstein Prison from where Nelson Mandela had been pictured doing his famous ‘freedom’ walk.

At this point time was getting on so we asked Francois to drop us off in Stellenbosch rather than take us straight back to our hotel. He was a bit surprised but we thought the town looked interesting and we knew we could get back under our own steam using an uber. So we said our fond farewells – having been given strict instructions on where it was safe to walk and where not – and explored on foot for a little while admiring the old buildings and the huge amount of art and crafts on display. Afterwards we stopped for a cold one in a local hostelry sitting on the pavement watching the world go by. Afterwards we got back to our hotel and enjoyed quaffing a bottle of complimentary wine from the hotel and eating some nibbles on our balcony. Was a lovely end to the day . Oh yes we found the remote control – with some assistance – but seriously, who would physically stick the remote control to the side of the headboard?!?!

Monday morning we were looking forward to breakfast but sadly it didn’t live up to the previous days offerings. Such a shame! At 9.30 am we were picked up by a lovely Mercedes and driver to take us to Franschoek Tram Terminal. We picked up our tram tickets for the ‘blue line’ which departed at 10. On the blue line the tram runs between a few of the wineries in the area with minibus look-alike trams serving the others. We decided we’d get on and off at all those served directly by the tram rather than mucking around with minibus timetables too. This left us with three wineries and we thought that would probably be enough for the day. Especially as we were given complimentary sparkling wine on the journey! And then we were off admiring the view of the mountains as they peeped through the clouds.

The first stop was Rickety Bridge – a very old property – and it had a lot of charm as we were picked up by a tractor to take us up to the main house. Richard enjoyed an Estate tasting while I tried out the Cap Classique. Lovely!

Moving on we returned to the tram and headed to the next stop at Grande Provence. This was a great place with nice gardens, an art gallery and a statue walkway. We meandered around for a while and then decided to try a wine but, having decided to pace ourselves, we just had a couple of glasses of their spectacular Chenin Blanc. Yum!

After a few hours we headed back to the tram to our next stop Franschoek Cellar. Here we decided to have some lunch along with the tasting menu. Not as attractive a property as the other two but the server in the restaurant was really funny and helpful. So a great time was had by all. We then checked out the time of the tram back to the main terminal and left to pick that up, having already phoned our driver to give him a time of arrival.

At the station our driver was waiting for us so we returned to the hotel. Just as we started packing in preparation for our departure very early the following morning, we realised the power had gone off. This was our first experience of load shedding in South Africa where there is a regular schedule of power cuts to save energy. So we decided not to waste any more time and ended up having a few hours relaxing by the pool. Bliss!

Later on we returned to our room to get ready for dinner before heading downstairs. This time we had a look at the statues and other art works around – this is clearly a thing in this part of the world. I mean who has a full sized horse in their lounge / restaurant masquerading as a light? We had a fantastic dinner with great service before getting plunged into darkness again. Thankfully we had candles on our table. Afterwards we paid our bill and headed upstairs to finish our wine, the packing, and to catch up with the news on TV. And so to bed for our last night in this spectacular area.

And that brings part 4 of our African adventure to a close. Please return soon for another chapter.

Bye for now Jan