Pinotage and peaks

Looking out towards the Franschhoek Valley, Western Cape, South Africa.

South Africa’s wine country in the Western Cape is quite simply breath-taking.  Not only is the scenery visually stunning but the towns in this beautiful part of the country look like something out a magazine, full of boutique shops and crush-worthy restaurants and sublime wineries.  Adam and I enjoyed a blissful few days exploring the area around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek and loved it so much, we’re already thinking about returning…

Our introduction to the area was a day touring a few of Stellenbosch’s dozens and dozens of wineries. The countryside around this part of South Africa reminded me of the south of France, regional Australia and the set of a colonial themed movie all rolled into one.

My favourite winery of that day was Tokara – a vineyard and olive grove nestled into the side of the Simonsberg Mountain.

Tokara wine and olive estate, Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa.

The tasting room is beautifully appointed with a modern aesthetic that makes the most of incredible views.

Tasting room, Tokara Winery, Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa.

There are a number of dining options on site, and we ended up spending a few lazy hours under the covered deck at the Delicatessen, watching the world go by and nibbling on a cheese board.

View from Tokara Delicatessen, Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa.

It was there Adam and I farewelled the rest of the party we’d been travelling with and made our way to Franschhoek for a few days by ourselves before our return to Australia.

Franschhoek was probably the highlight of our South African visit. A laid back mountain town full of Cape Dutch architecture and a very walkable main street full of art shops, eateries and the ‘wine tram’ – a hop on/hop off service that transports you between the Franschhoek Valley’s winery (private tours are available).  Tastings are exceptionally generous in South Africa, so it’s definitely the best option if you want to sample some of the region’s wares.  Adam and I became particularly fond of Pinotage- a South African varietal.

Cape Dutch style house, Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa.

Franschhoek Church, Western Cape, South Africa.

House in Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa.

Over the course of one day we visited about four wineries.  And yes… that meant, we just had to sample another cheese board ;). The Eikhof estate version featuring homegrown peaches and biltong didn’t disappoint.  We even spotted an ostrich poking about the vines, while we sipped and snacked!

Cheese board at Eikehof winery, Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa.

Our home away from home in Franschhoek was a beautiful guest house, a short walk from the main street in town. We ate breakfast by the pool every morning and had a private balcony which had big pots of succulents that captured the morning light like glowing jewels.

Centre-ville Guesthouse, Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa.

Succulents catching the morning light in Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa.

Franschhoek favourite, Ruben’s, had been recommended to us by a few people for dinner but unfortunately we weren’t able to make a last minute booking. The newly opened Ryan’s Kitchen didn’t disappoint as a second choice though. For casual dining, the Tuk Tuk Brewery was fun and had some enjoyable local beers (if you’re sick of the wine!)

We left Franschhoek a little heavier, but ever so relaxed.

Looking out from a verandah towards the Franschhoek Valley, Western Cape, South Africa.

So many people have asked us about our time in South Africa – mainly curious about safety concerns, which I admit I had too prior to our visit.  In all honesty we didn’t have any issues at all. We were in quite affluent areas of the Western Cape but asked for and heeded the advice of locals. We took the same safety precautions as we would anywhere else and stayed in well lit, populous area of a night and didn’t go wandering into unknown areas alone.  ‘Africa time’ is very real – it sometimes took half an hour or so to get a coffee at a quiet restaurant, but we were on the holidays so it didn’t bother us so much.

South Africa was a truly wonderful experience.  It was never really on my radar as a ‘must see’, but if you’re after a holiday with scenery, culture, and good food and wine it’s definitely worth looking into.


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