TRAVEL UPDATE: Wine and the City -
Susannah visits Cape Town and the Winelands
A huge fan of good food and wine, and an equal desire to earn it through exercise and fresh air, I couldn’t have been in better territory than the Cape and its Winelands on my recent trip to South Africa. A tantalising mix of Europe and Africa, Cape Town has an alluring restaurant scene and cornucopia of activities within easy reach of its many stunning boutique-y hotels. I always find there’s something strangely magnetic about cities on the sea – perhaps it’s the sense of space, or the relaxed ambience brought in by the sea breeze, or maybe it’s the class oozed by the gin palaces docked in the marina? A glass of wine and excellent light lunch overlooking the latter lulled us gently into holiday mode before we boarded our vessel to the fascinating Robben Island where Mandela and many other political prisoners spent time but, more significantly, used it to cultivate beliefs which were to profoundly influence history. Our guide was an ex-prisoner which only serves to bring home the reality and enormity of their story.
Another day a guided hike takes us out to the far side of Cape Point revealing a beautiful, wild paradise with endless sea views, where we learnt about the native fynbos and saw not another soul on our 3-hour walk. In contrast we strolled for hours along the café-lined Kloof and Long streets, among the mosques, curry aromas and coloured houses of Bo-Kaap, the greenery of Company Gardens and the shops of the V&A Waterfront. We felt we had earned the views from Table Mountain by climbing its steep slopes, though there is a cable car option (which we took down), and a more leisurely day took us to a delicious deli lunch in Simonstown via breathtaking coastal views before driving back via the penguins at Boulders Beach, all within easy reach of the city. With more time we could have also done a heritage or seaside cycle around Cape Town ending with a glass of fizz on the Waterfront or a well-reviewed street theatre-style history tour, Sex and Slaves in the City, kayaked along the coast or gone scuba diving.
We only just managed to resist the tempting beach of Camps Bay, on the residential outskirts of Cape Town, which brims with cafés and holiday-makers, in favour of some wine-tasting in the nearby Winelands. An hour from Cape Town, we opted to stay in Franschhoek so we could sample its celebrated restaurants by night – which are well worth it and excellent value for this calibre of cuisine. Its gallery- and café-lined streets ooze charm and pretty class, and it’s a great base for visiting the nearby vineyards. We did a mix of the larger, better-known names and the smaller owner-run options which tell a more personal story. Delicious fresh food tends to go hand-in-hand, and many of the vineyards have restaurants so you can fill a few hours with cellar tours, wine tastings and lunch. Many wine farms have converted their original homesteads into idyllic accommodation, and for a bit of peace and quiet and good food, it’s worth staying in one of these over the towns of Franschhoek or Stellenbosch. There are plenty walks as well as cycling trips, golf, fly-fishing and horse riding nearby so it doesn’t all need to be about epicurean indulgence. Though that is what a trip to Cape Town and the Winelands definitely feels like, as the food and wine are such good value. Combine this with the first-class service and style of the small, personally-run guest houses and boutique hotels in the area, a huge variety of activities and culture to suit all tastes, and the charming mix of Europe and Africa, and it’s an irresistible holiday destination.