Cape Town 9/15

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A table, a peninsula and wine country South Africa...

Hout's Bay overlook on the peninsula - Craig, Wayne & Ben

 

Table Mountain south side aerial view

 

Cape Town is a remarkable and refined place. The restaurants are excellent, the sights are beautiful, the streets are clean and the people friendly. The peninsula was filled with interesting places and sights and three significant wine areas are within an hour's drive. Temperatures are chilly in September, mid 60sF in the day and low 50sF at night, but we had no rain or particularly cloudy days hampering our journeys.

Wednesday September 23rd - Table Mountain

 

We arrived around 3pm, an hour later than planned after our two hour flight from Skukuza, because of a flight delay. Our driver, John Farthing, met us at arrivals and drove us into the Gardens area of downtown where we checked in and did a quick turnaround at our hotel, African Pride 15 on Orange. From there, John drove us to the Table Mountain Aerial tramway base station (first picture below). The views from the top were clear of fog or clouds, which often cover the Table (second picture below).

Cape of Good Hope peninsula aerial view

 

Table mountain north view up

Table mountain view down

Ben's Table selfie

Table top south view

 

We spent a good hour at the top taking pictures (third and fourth pictures above and first picture below) and walking some of the trails before returning on the rotating tramway car (second picture below) and meeting John to drive us back to our hotel. It was getting cold in the early evening, so we walked around the shops near the hotel to try to buy a couple of sweatshirts, with no luck. Deciding to tough it out, we walked to nearby Societi Bistro restaurant and enjoyed what we all agreed was the best meal of the entire trip. Elegant atmosphere, attentive service, exotic food, a short wine tasting and a couple more good glasses of wine, all of which set us back $51US - staggering! I had the first South African Pinotage wine that I liked there, "Dark Lady", which I later learned was a RP 92 pointer that costs about $8 per bottle. Back at the hotel, we backed up pictures, wrote some postcards and emails and retired early in preparation for our morning helicopter tour on Thursday.

 

Table top south: Ben & Craig

Table mountain aerial tramway

Ready for helicopter tour

Ben flying helicopter shotgun

 

Thursday September 24th - Cape peninsula via helicopter and land

 

Since the hotel, which is officially part of the Marriott family now, couldn't figure out how to do a platinum breakfast comp, I did breakfast for us each morning by walking a block or so down the street to McDonald's and bringing it back to eat in our rooms. McDonald's had some interesting items in South Africa. A "Max" McMuffin had a big pile of everything on it and the chicken McMuffin was our favorite. Local culture indeed.

 

I read and was told that a particularly good way to see the Cape peninsula is from the air, so I booked us on a one-hour private helicopter tour down to Cape Point with NAC Helicopters Cape Town (third picture above). Craig and I had done an open-door helicopter tour in Kauai back in 2012, but Ben had never flown in a helicopter before, so we gave him the shotgun seat upfront with the pilot (fourth picture above) while we took the two back seats. The views were very good that morning (large pictures near the top of the page right & left and first picture below). Unlike Kauai, where a lot of pictures on Program settings were blurred, this time I was prepared for the shake of the helicopter by setting my cameras to shutter mode and forcing a 1/800+ speed - success!

 

Cape peninsula aerial wide

Peninsula drive along Hout's Bay

West side road cut out

Cape Point sign

 

John met us at the heliport on our return and we drove into town for a quick stop for a couple of shopping needs. Ben wanted an official South African Rugby shirt and Craig needed a replacement charger for his portable game system for our return flights. Thanks to John's research and experience we were successful at both. We headed south along the western coast on some very picturesque roads (wide picture top of page and second and third pictures above). After a stop for a good, but slow, lunch at Bertha's in Simon's Town, we continued on our way to Cape Point (fourth picture above).

 

Cape Point lighthouse

Cape Point stairs

Cape of Good Hope Ostriches

Cape of Good Hope zebras

 

We walked the stairs to the Cape Point Lighthouse (first picture above) and then by turning around on the stairs got an excellent view of the Cape of Good Hope, which was our next stop. The coastal road from Cape Point to the Cape of Good Hope had some interesting animal life (third and fourth pictures above). Stopping for pictures at the Cape of Good Hope (first picture below) and a brief walk around, we then turned north on the east side of the peninsula. It was too late at that point to detour to Constantia winery as we had hoped, so that will have to be for another time. We stopped near the end of the day at Boulders Beach to see their famous penguin colony (second and third pictures below). We finished the day by walking to dinner near our hotel at Kloof Street House, which was good, but not outstanding.

 

Cape of Good Hope sign

Boulders Beach penguin baby

Boulders Beach penguins

De Trafford winery

Friday September 25th - Wine country Stellenbosch and Franschhoek

 

I've enjoyed "wine travel" in past (Chile, Burgundy, Tuscany, and all over California), so I wanted to indulge one wine day while in South Africa. I did a considerable amount of research before the trip on the wines of South Africa. The "bible" of South African wines is a book published each year called "Platter's South African Wines", which for some reason is the only book on the planet that Amazon can't get new - strange. Buying it direct from the Platter's website would have cost a fortune in shipping, so I bought a used 2013 version. I also had a few Wine Spectator issues with South African wine feature articles. Working with our driver John Farthing ahead of time, we narrowed the list of possibilities based on geography and timing. I was able to taste test a few of the wineries' best at home, but in general I found South African wines hard to get in the US. Since the trip, and based on some input from the wineries themselves, I found a website specializing in South African wines for the US, Cape Ardor.

 

John picked us up at 9am and we headed northeast out of Cape Town for the 60 minute trip to Stellenbosch. Our first stop was also our best - tiny De Trafford (fourth picture above), situated at the end of a long dirt road above the valley. Our hostess, Xenia Van der Meulen, who knew John well, was very knowledgeable and proud of their wines and the small-production way that they made them. De Trafford has recently received extremely good press via Wine Spectator. We tasted their Chenin Blanc, 2010 Merlot, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 Syrah 393 and 2009 Elevation 393. All were very good, but the two 393's in my opinion were outstanding. Xenia pointed out that all over South Africa the 2009 vintage was their best year of the decade. We continued on to the much larger Rust en Vrede winery (first picture below) where we did a long tasting at a patio table of their estate Merlot 2014, Syrah 2012, Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 and Estate blend 2012, followed by a tasting of three of their high-end single vineyard wines, Syrah 2012, Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 and 1694 Classification 2012.

 

Rust en Vrede winery

Stark Conde winery island

Oldenburg winery

Chamonix winery

 

Continuing through the valley, our next stop was at Stark Conde winery, which had one of the most beautiful tasting rooms and settings that I have experienced. The tasting room is on an island behind us across the bridge in the second picture above. We ate lunch at their adjacent Postcard Cafe. Our last stop in Stellenbosch was Oldenburg winery (third picture above), which was also in a beautiful setting backed by mountains and fields. Crossing over to Franschhoek, we barely made closing time for Chamonix winery (fourth picture above), where I was looking forward to their highly rated Pinotage. I guess Pinotage is an acquired taste, because it just didn't work for me. From Franschhoek we headed back to Cape Town. Based on John's recommendations and Ben's request for an authentic South African dinner to top off our trip, we walked to Mama Africa restaurant for an exotic dinner and a live band.

 

On Saturday morning we ate breakfast, finished packing and headed to the airport via our (free - gotta love Emirates Air!) limo for our long journey home. In addition to the 9 hour flight from Cape Town to Dubai and the 17 hour flight from Dubai to Los Angeles, we had a 7 hour layover at DBX. The plan for the layover was to shop at their extensive duty free areas, especially since we didn't have any connections to worry about, but we mostly just stayed in their huge business lounge snacking, watching rugby and dozing off. We arrived at LAX exhausted, but well traveled, on Sunday afternoon.

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