First of all, I want to clarify that the word ‘wind’ in the above title does not refer to the embarrassing bodily function (despite the 24-hour virus and resulting gassiness Tyson and I have somehow picked up over the past two days) but rather the perceptible, weather-related movement of air. I will explain this later – this story, like all, must start from the beginning.
To be honest, I don’t exactly know what the beginning of this particular story – blog entry #5 of South Africa 2018 – is. It’s been the most alcohol-intensive end of our journey (as was to be expected) and thus I believe the beginning must have been somewhere between a rosé and a pinotage. Let’s just say that by the time I read ‘…Intense flavours of fynbos, mint, and in particular, blueberry welcome you on the nose, followed by aromas of cinnamon, lead pencil and dark chocolate…’ I knew I was back in one of my favourite places in the world: Franschhoek.
A place whose character seems to be at odds with itself – one part pretentious Noosa (think white linen clothes, boat shoes and loosely draped jumpers over men’s shoulders), one part African gallery walk (showcasing local and national artists in painting, sculpture, clothing and leatherwork), one part French revival (think al fresco cafes with checkered tablecloths and confit on the menu) and one part wine-loving tourists (lots of South Africans, but otherwise mostly European) and that’s pretty much Franschhoek in a nutshell. We fell in love with this place three years ago when we first set eyes on its mountain caldera city walls, beautiful Cape Dutch buildings and incredible restaurants. And I haven’t even mentioned the wine tram!
It was this wine tram – which has, since we were last here, expanded its reach to include 26 wineries in the Stellenbosch wine region – which we found ourselves on again this sunny Wednesday morning at no later than 9:30am, and before you tell me we’re alcoholics I should remind you that when you’re trying to cover 6+ wineries of an hour’s visit each (you know, to taste wine, wander around the grounds, browse their farm shops…just kidding – just to taste wine), you need to start EARLY. It’s just about maximising the experience, people.
So anyway – there we were, just before 10am, at Allée Bleue winery (which is a weird name to me, as whichever way I look at it, it’s either a pompous way of saying Ally Blue or a description of the noise you make after tasting certain wines), learning that sometimes wine can taste of lead pencils and wondering if – now in our 30s and with somewhat of a less indulgent diet than our younger selves – we would still be able to stomach a whole day’s worth of wine jumbling. Luckily, the pompous bleurgh winery served toasted bread with its cab merlot and so I made sure my little handbag took a few extra pieces with it when we left to cover us for the next couple of wineries.
On our ramble down the winery’s tree-lined driveway, our long-haired, bright-faced wine tram guide told us that this was “the best ever place to take selfies because at night, the blue lights (told you they were all about the blue!) illuminate the trees.” Initially not sure if he was joking, I’m glad he wasn’t looking at me when I said it, because my half-frown, half-right-eyebrow-raising reaction showed that clearly there ARE differences between generations of millennials because there was no way that I was seeing the attraction of taking a selfie under a dark tree illuminated by blue light. Or maybe that idea becomes more appealing the more lead pencil you’ve consumed?
Anyway – I digress. We’re back on the wine tram. Fast forward a few more wineries and Tyson and I are sitting on the deck of another winery – Zorgvliet – this time the only people who decided to get off the tram. We’re tasting some fine drops and talking about the world and South Africa and its issues and its beauty, but I won’t bore you with that now because I’ve ranted about it enough during the last couple of blog entries. Instead, let’s fast forward again – now we’re starving, full of wine but lacking more substantial stomach-filling solids like food, because we were too busy tasting wine and discussing life’s big issues that we missed lunch. In Franschhoek, on the wine tram, that leaves you with two options: cheese platters, or unusual pairings. Resisting the urge to try fudge pairing (if it had been biltong, we could have had a deal), we decided on the former, and because that one wasn’t enough, we had another cheese platter at the next winery too. In the end, we had so much cheese and lavosh and pear chutney that we filled in most of the gaps between the wine in our belly and ended up after the last winery just wanting to sleep… and then missing the tram home. In summary, it was a day to be remembered. And yes – most likely repeated upon our next return visit.
Apart from drinking lots of delightful (and lots of not-so-delightful) wine, we also ate amazing food in Franschhoek, bought a few souvenirs a lot of things that we now have to try to fit into our suitcase, (like two pairs of shoes from this amazing South African brand that make you feel like you’re walking on clouds!) and played with the cute grunting dogs at the farm on which we stayed. As always, we were sad to leave this gem of a place and vowed to be back as soon as we could.
From Franschhoek, it was off to the Fynbos (pronounced more like the traffic infringement and less like the forward-moving-propeller of a fish) Cabin, situated on a private nature estate just 15 minutes from the seaside hamlet of Gordon’s Bay and an hour outside of Cape Town. What a stunning place this was, and so peaceful!
Well, that was until the wind started.
My friends, I have never heard such a wind as this. We felt like what people in a cyclone must experience – howling gusts through gaps between trees, branches smacking on everything, windows shuddering. We thought it was going to come inside and take all of our loosely placed belongings with it into its rage. This wind howled for most of the night, meaning we barely got any sleep (I think Tyson was more worried about a branch falling on the car than the loosely scattered belongings in the house – and to be fair, his was probably a more valid fear). Of course, this had to be the Friday night before the wedding of Beth and Ross, which ended up going until the early hours of Sunday morning. Nothing like a dance-off on no sleep and lots of wedding wine (and coffee)!
Luckily, the wind died down somewhat for the wedding – though sadly not enough for anyone to touch the lonely ping pong table that was perfectly positioned on the green lawn beside the ceremony. My hair – still recovering from the last wedding, at which it not only got covered in bird poo but also turned into a bigger-than-80s-afro mess from the wind – was pinned down strictly with bobby pins and lots of hairspray, and I’m proud to report that whilst umbrella was in hand in case of any sighting of overhead flying birds, no poo landed on my scalp on this occasion.
The wedding was fun – lots of laughter and kind words and beautiful food, and the lovely Beth, our friend, the bride, reminded me a little of myself on my wedding day – full of insatiable joy, looking relaxed, clearly in the perfect place at the perfect time, marrying her perfect guy. It was a delight to witness, and an honour to be able to share this special occasion.
After the wedding, the wind and the wine, it was time to wine down our trip (couldn’t help myself), though on the way back to Cape Town airport I managed to squeeze in a fabric jewellery making class with the incredibly talented Thandie Dowery, designer and owner of Nomi Handmade. Her use of the colourful, iconic and tradition-rich shweshwe fabric to make jewellery that screams nothing but style was another sign to me that this country – with its diversity and richness of entrepreneurs, fashion, design and creativity – is just now coming into its own.
You know, I’m not usually one to be on top of trends, but if you ask me, South Africa is a place to watch. And yes – you heard that here first.
(It shall dawn again tomorrow.)
– Isixhosa proverb