Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cheers!

Being on Safari was great and it was hard to leave but we were off on a short flight to Cape Town airport where we picked up another rental car and headed about an hour northeast to the winelands. Not only were we driving on the "wrong" side of the road now but we had a stick shift this time!

We had rented a gorgeous private home that was across the street and part of a guest house so we had the luxury of having breakfast prepared for us each day but had the privacy of our own large home to relax in.

The winelands (as it is called) is made up of 3 main towns- Stellenbosch, Paarl & Franschhoek. We were staying in Franschhoek as it is small- everything in walking distance- and has the most shops, restaurants, galleries, etc. Stellenbosch is a university town and is quite large and Paarl is a bit more spread out and industrial. All have great wineries and having a car was the best way to get around and avoid the tour buses! And as most of you know I love being around wineries!

It was still quite hot so seeing Christmas decorations in the restaurants and around town was funny! Because of the heat we also used a consolidator for buying our wine and having it shipped home to us- we didn't want to have cases of wine boiling in our trunk! We did buy quite a few bottles to open at the house and to take to dinners. The prices were amazing- $7- $14 was quite the norm, $25-30 was reaching the top of the spectrum.

One day we picked up a friend of Forest's who happened to be visiting Stellenbosch but lives in Jo'burg and we went to lunch at an awesome cellar- Haute Cabriere. The restaurant is quite well known and everything on the menu sounded good so we ordered small sizes of everything except for 2 items! We had a ball- the waiter did not.

Gregory then was nice enough (to not make fun of my left handed stick shifting) to show us around the area a bit. We drove out past Stellenbosch and up a large hill to fantastic views of the area, beach resorts and False Bay. It was a great day!

Our favorite wineries that we tasted at were Byerskloof and Meerlust but we had lots of good wine and food. Our favorite dinner was at a restaurant called Topsi.

Topsi is an 80+ year old sassy woman who cooks and runs a tiny restaurant in Franschhoek. She is quite a legand. We asked her to join us for a glass of nice dessert wine which Forest's roomate back in Paris had sent along as a gift. She was already drinking a large goblet of pastis and seemed flattered that we were interested in speaking to her. She was a riot and told us many stories of the area and of her growing up in the region. Her daugher also cooked with her in the kitchen and Topsi referred to her often to jog her memory! Soon the entire kitchen and restaurant staff (all 3 of them) had left and we found ourselves alone with Topsi and her amazing stories. This woman is a gem!

On the way out of town towards Cape Town we passed a large vineyard completely aflame! The fire was so large and right on the road that we could feel the heat through the car windows! We stopped at the next winery we came across to report the fire- not being sure if it was a planned burn or not. The people seemed very surprised. We hope that the vintners didn't lose too much.

This is just a beautiful area to spend time in, very relaxed with gorgeous views of the mountains and some really nice wines. I can't wait for my delivery!!!
Photos from our time in the winelands can be found here