South Africa: Cape Town & Wine Country
February 13, 2018 2 CommentsCategory: Personal
Tags: Adventure, Cape Town, Franschhoek, South Africa, Stellenbosch, Travel
About a year ago I remember getting an email about a great deal on a flight to South Africa. Bill and I had always planned to go – it’s been #1 on both our bucket lists for years – but it’s hard to pull the trigger on a trip that big. But, with only one babe at home and very helpful grandparents, we were lucky enough to be able to seize the opportunity and just go. And that’s what we did… In just 10 days, we tackled Cape Town, South Africa’s wine country and then went on safari, which was the most incredible experience of our lives.
Those of you who follow me on social media have likely seen pictures but I wanted to highlight our adventure here in more detail, if you’re ever looking to go. I have lots of recommendations to share so I hope this is helpful to others who may be planning a trip.
Where we stayed: One and Only Cape Town
We chose The One and Only Cape Town because it’s not only a beautiful property but it’s right next to the V&A Waterfront (a popular destination in the city) but not exactly in it. While many people choose to stay in one of the many hotels on the Coast, we are city kids and preferred to be able to walk easily to popular destinations. Luckily Uber is popular there (and inexpensive) so you can easily go from place to place, regardless of where you stay.
But for us, the One and Only was excellent.. serene property in the middle of a bustling city, had exceptional service and a great location that was easily accessible to the sights we wanted to see. Plus, after our adventurous days, we were able to relax at their beautiful pool.
DAY 1: Drove through the entire Peninsula, an 8-hour endeavor that offered the most gorgeous views
We started our adventure with Charl, a 70-something year old retired government official that I found on TripAdvisor who now operates his own private tour company. He picked us up at our hotel and took us to see the entire area. Going with a driver was great because not only could you take your time and stop wherever you’d like but he helped explain the history of the places we visited.
We spent the day touring the Cape Town’s peninsula, driving along False Bay to Simon’s Bay, to the Penguin Colony, and to Cape of Good Hope (The southern-most tip of the world) and Cape Point. Once reaching the tip of the country, we drove up to through the Atlantic Coast, stopping in Scarborough and Hout Bay. It was truly the most beautiful ride. One place was more scenic than the next.
Along the way, we ran into so many baboons.. they’re everywhere (and apparently quite dangerous!).
Our dinner plans were extra special our first night, as we experienced the restaurant Le Columbe with friends that we met on our honeymoon, if you can believe it. Such a small world but we met Nico and Angela at Mama Agata’s cooking school in Italy (where we spent close to 12 hours eating and drinking the day away 3.5 years ago) and promised we would one day meet again. When we booked our trip to Africa, they decided to fly in to meet us in Cape Town (they’re from Johannesburg). We had the best time together catching up at Luke Dale Roberts’ restaurant Le Columbe, which was an incredible experience. After what I have to say was probably the best meal of my life, I learned that his restaurant was rated one of top in the world. You must go if you’re ever there.
DAY 2: Hiking and Touring the Cape Town
We intended to hike Table Mountain but but due to high winds, it was advised that we skip. With the help of our awesome guide Eric from Cape Town Hikes, we instead tackled Lion’s Head mountain (which is next to Table Mountain but smaller and shaped like a lion). It turned out to be the perfect distance and level of difficulty. To make our hike a bit more adventurous, Eric, lead us to a cave off the beaten path which offered gorgeous views of the city and an exhilarating experience to say the least.
Where we stayed: Le Petite Ferme
Our South African friends recommended Le Petite Ferme, this small and quaint winery in Franschhoak, and it did not disappoint. Words (and really pictures) can’t describe how beautiful it was. With only 9 rooms in the hotel – or “huts” as they call them – and a winery in our front “yard”, it’s truly incredible place. They also have a world-renowned restaurant on property with the best views to watch sunset.
As a side note, the South African rand is pretty weak so meals, transportation (like Uber) and alcohol were less costly than we expected (perhaps 1/3 less than we’d pay here). At our hotel, Bill couldn’t believe his beers were only $3, for example, and my average drink was than $10. Tipping also isn’t as popular (10% is the most that’s expected).
DAY 3: Wine Tasting in Stellenbosch
Charl, our tour guide from Cape Town, took us to Stellenbosch to try out 5 wineries. While we may have over-done it that first day, it was great to see the variety of vine yards – some small and quaint, others more well-known. Delaire Graff Estate was one of my favorites both for the wines and the beauty of the garden area (perfect place to have lunch).
Since Stellenbosch is essentially “on the way” to Franschhoek, I would recommend going to that region in one day and to do the other the following. Stellenbosch has a really cute town there so walking around for a while in between winery visits could be a good way to break up the day.
DAY 4: Wine tasting in Franschhoek
The next day we visited the wineries in Franschhoek with Roger, our new friend and tour guide. He took us to his favorite spots in the area and we shared lunch at a beautiful garden at Grande Provence.
This may sound strange to some but the people we meet on our trips, are usually the highlight of our experience so I do a lot of research looking up guides. Both Bill and I love hearing about the history of where we visit and their first hand perspective of the world around them. Roger was awesome and helped inform us all about the apartheid and South Africa’s history, but also shared his personal story, plans for upcoming wedding (one traditional and one “white” wedding, as he called it) and how you can successfully kill and skin a cow in under 10 min (haha). Here’s his info, if you ever need a guide in the area: Roger Hem: HemRoger@gmail.com.
From here, we went on safari in the Timbavati Game Reserve, which is just outside Kruger National Park. Hands down, it was the best experience of our lives and deserving of its own blog entry, which is to come next. Stay tuned!
But, let’s be real for a second – was it ALL amazing?! Actually, YES. It was the best trip of our lives, and pictures can attest to it being nothing short of spectacular. But, nothing is ever perfect so I can’t sugarcoat that I didn’t have difficult moments. Africa is very, very far away and the stress and anxiety of traveling, being in unknown places, and being up close and personal with wild animals, did affect me mentally and physically (particularly in regards to MS / stress symptoms). BUT, we were lucky enough to be in Africa – AFRICA! – so it’s hard to focus on anything but the incredible experience we shared. It’s totally worth going and I’m so grateful that we were able to.