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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Winelands & Coast 9.4

  • Vergelegen Estate
  • Hermanus
  • Coast Drive Route 44 
  • Cape Cadogan Boutique Hotel
  • Miller's Thumb Seafood Restaurant

Akademe's owner, Katherine, greeted us in the courtyard when we came down for breakfast.  Two black ladies dressed in white aprons were working in the separate kitchen preparing breakfast.  The table was set in the elegant dinning room for the two of us.  The breakfast included various fresh and pickled fruits, yogurt, bread, and made to order eggs, sausages, bacon, etc.  The whole setting felt quite "Gone with the Wind" to me. 

Over the breakfast conversation with the owner, we learned that the Route 45 & Route 43 from Franshhoek to the coast was closed due to the heavy rainfall.  It was supposed to be a beautiful drive taking us through the mountain and lake.  Instead, we had to drive back to Stellenbosch before getting to the coast.  What a bummer. 

After checking out of the hotel around 10:30 AM,  we headed to our last winery visit, Vergelegen Estate. This was the only estate that we visited that charged an entrance fee (R10). However,  it was well worth it.  There were 17 themed gardens in the property and six magnificent Camphor trees over 300 years old standing in front of the old manor house.  

For every charming chic town that we drove through these past two days, there were always townships nearby along the highways.  It was not an uncommon sight to see the black Africans from the townships hitchhiking or running across the highways.  The sharp contrast of the racial/economic divide is still quite apparent everywhere we go. 

During breakfast, I asked Katherine if it was worth going to Hermanus if we did not plan to spend too much time doing any whale watching activities.  She hesitated, but told us to go anyway.  Turned out, her initial hesitation was probably a better indication.  There was not much going on in Hermanus  except some whale watching tour operations catered to big tour groups.  The immediate surroundings did not feel safe to me so we stopped for 5 minutes and quickly drove away. It was absolutely a waste of time visiting Hermanus.  H told me that I was being way too paranoid on this trip. Maybe I was, but I'd rather be paranoid than sorry. 

The drive along the coast back to Cape Town was absolutely incredible. On one side of the road were the majestic mountain, and on the other side of the road was the ocean.  It was one of the most dramatic and scenic routes we had ever drove.  

The Cape Cadogan Boutique hotel was where we would stay for the next two nights before the Safari trip.  It was an elegant old victorian-Geogrian building sitting on a hilly quiet street located in the Gardens overseeing the Table Mountain.  The hotel was tastefully decorated and the staff were all very friendly.  

The surrounding area of the hotel was safe to walk around at night.  We decided to walk over to a nearby seafood restaurant for dinner.  The hilly streets of the Gardens reminded me of San Francisco, but the view of the mountain was uniquely Cape Town.

Growing up in Taipei city, a basin surrounded by the mountains, this trip made me realized how much I missed having the mountains within reach.  It also brought back the fond memories of late night drives to the mountains overlooking the city dazzled in lights.    

Miller's Thumb is a casual seafood restaurant with a simple and straight forward menu.  Kingklip and Pinotage had became my  go-to choice of seafood and wine on this trip.  All were good and fresh.   

After dinner, we took a walk along the bustling Kloof street.  We were driving most of the time on this trip, and it was nice to be finally on our feet walking around the city for a change. 


PREVIOUS: Winelands 9.3  

Winelands 9.3

View Wine Route 9.3 in a larger map

  • Delcare Graffiti Restaurant
  • Blaauwklippen Estate
  • Dormier Estate
  • Warwick Estate
  • Boschemdal Estate
  • Akademie Street Boutique Hotel & Guest house
  • Kalfi's Restaurant

After checking out of the Westine Hotel, we were on our way to the wine route.  I love visiting wine regions.  The scenery is always picturesque, the wineries are beautiful, and wine tasting along the way just enhances the whole experience.  What makes South Africa Wine Region special is the majestic mountain backdrop within close proximity to Cape Town. A short 25 minutes drive from Cape Town, we are in the heart of the wine land.  

Our lunch reservation was at Delaire Graffiti Estate. Delaire Graffit is a modern, luxurious property with vineyard, lodge, spa, and stunning views of the mountains.  It would be the perfect place for a weekend of R & R if I had a few extra thousand dollars to burn.  The good thing is you can also come here for the world class gourmet meal and the magnificent views that costs a lot less.   Our lunch was delicious and the service was excellent. 

After lunch, we stopped by Blaauwklippen Vineyards (a 300 year old rustic estate with a farm in the property), Dornier Wine Estate, Warwick Wine Estate, and Boschendal Manor house & Winery (another old estate with dutch style architecture).  

Since H was driving, we didn't do much wine tasting except Warwick Wine Estate, mainly because we wanted to try their red wines.  The South African wine tasting is an entirely different experience compare to the US wine tasting; in a good way.  It is a much more relaxing, enjoyable, and dignified experience. We sat at the outdoor table looking out to the valley and mountain, and tried a set wine tasting menu with a friction of the cost compared to the US wineries.  The tasting staff was knowledgable, attentive, and friendly.  I didn't remember if I had Pinotage before, but I had enjoyed the Pinotage I tasted on this trip. We sat by the outdoor patio taking in the beautiful scenery, drank good wines, heard interesting stories, and never felt rushed.  This is how wine tastings should be at all times.  

We arrived at Akademie Street Boutique Hotel & Guest House just short of 5 PM.  Akademie is a well maintained property sitting on a quiet street in Franschhoek.  Our second floor suite, Uitsig, was specious and airy, with a pantry packed with free snack & drinks, a bathroom with heated floor & towel rack, and a balcony looking out to the encircling mountains.   The courtyard with beautiful lemon trees, rose bushes, and other plants was idyllic that reminded me of the enchanting secret gardens in the children's books that I read when I was young. Unfortunately the weather was still too cold for us to use the swimming pool, but I could totally picture myself lounging around in this courtyard on a warm lazy summer afternoon. The host in Akademie had sent us plenty of information by email after we booked the room.  They even offered us a cellphone during our stay if we ever needed to call for assistance.  I thought that was a really nice touch.  

The hotel was so charming that we did not want to leave the room.  H took a nap while I took a bath.  At 7:30 PM, we finally walked out of the hotel. It was a quiet night and there was wood burning scent mixed in the fresh cool air everywhere.  Although we were told that it was safe to walk around town, there was barely anyone on the street and I did not feel completely comfortable walking on the street at times.  After the decadent lunch we had earlier today, we were in the mood for something more low key.  Kalfi's Restaurant with it's rustic ambiance and home cooking South African dishes was exactly what we were looking for.  We sat by the fireplace, ordered a bottle of Pinotage and more food than we could finish. The Cape Malay Bobotie (a South African Dish consisting of spiced Minced Meat baed with an egg-based topping) was hearty and full of flavor. The Warthog Schnitzel tasted just like the regular pork schnitzel.

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PREVIOUS: Cape Town 9.2