Clouded Judgement?

Cloudy days are often considered less desirable than clear ones.  But I like cloudy skies and I’ve seen some stunning ones recently here in South Africa.

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For example, these sun kissed clouds are rather gorgeous.

Then there are white clouds that contrast against otherwise blinding blue skies, which are also striking. Continue reading

Visit Franschhoek the Wine Nook

Franschhoek Church on Main Street, Home of many South African Vineyards

Pretty Church on Franschhoek’s main street.

Franschhoek

Visit Franschhoek. It’s down in South Africa’s Western Cape.  You will find a cluster of famous and not so famous vineyards nestled in a picturesque valley, hemmed by stunning mountains.  It will take you a good hour to drive there from Cape Town International Airport, so it’s easy to visit in conjunction with a trip to the Mother City.

It used to be called Olifantshoek, which means Elephant’s corner in Afrikaans.  However, as the viticulture developed, the elephants moved on. The latter day name, Franschhoek means French Corner and derives from the persecuted French Huguenot refugees who settled here at the end of the 1600s.  They brought winemaking skills and knowhow from their native France and established the vineyards that you see today.

Franschhoek Valley formerly Olifants Valley Translates as French Corner and Elephants corner

Descending into the Franschhoek Valley

Most, if not all of the vineyards offer tastings and sometimes cellar tours. Yep, that’s right, you get to try before you buy.

South Africa has vast array of great wines.  I used to base my choice on the attractiveness of the label, which is generally NOT the most failsafe way to choose a decent bottle. With this method, the danger is that you end up with a bottle of sauvignon plonk or mer(de)lo, which is a pity when SA has so many stunning wines to offer.  So a trip to Franschhoek with the option to try before you buy is a no brainer.

The vineyards are located is close proximity to one another and you are spoilt for choice. Book a private driver or catch the hop-on-hop-off wine tram, because obviously drinking and driving isn’t cool.

We had a little over 36 hours to enjoy all the Franschhoek had to offer. For the full day that we were there we hired a driver for the morning. Our hotel arranged this for us at short notice.  Our lady driver was informative and helpful.  She facilitated us tasting a good number of wines. It also meant that once the kids had had enough we could bail out at a moment’s notice and head back to our accommodation for ice cream and a swim.

La Motte

Our first port of call was La Motte. This is a fairly large and well-known estate. We picked this one as there is a family connection, it was once owned by Pierre Joubert who is seemingly a distant ancestor of Mr Incredible’s. Also, I’m a big fan of La Motte’s crisp Sauvignon Blanc.  To enter La Motte’s website, you need to add your date of birth to confirm you’re 18 or older. So if I just add a link, it doesn’t seem to work.  Instead, you need to type: www.la-motte.com

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We learned a little about Pierre Joubert in the La Motte Museum

Eikehof

Next we hopped across the road to Eikehof. This is one of the more bijou, family run vineyards with smaller scale production. It’s unlikely you’ll find their wares in liquor store.

At Eikehof we had a more personal experience sitting with the owner’s wife who gave us a plate of juicy peach slices to accompany the wines. I don’t like peaches very much, but these were to die for. We weren’t the only ones liking the peaches, the Eikehof team were engaged in an on going battle with a troupe of thieving baboons who were plundering the peach crop.

Vineyard Franschhoek Rows of Vines, Mountains and Blue Sky

Vineyard in Franschhoek

Boschendal

We rounded off our days’ tasting with a trip to Boschendal. There is an onsite restaurant, but if it’s a beautiful day – which it was, I highly recommend pre-booking a picnic basket. There are hammocks, bean bags and picnic rugs dotted about the giant lawn and of course the full selection of Boschendal wines is available to accompany your posh picnic.

Boschendal Vineyard Franschhoek, Picnic Basket with local seasonal food

Posh Picnic at Boschendal

After all that tasting, we spent a lazy afternoon wandering along Franschhoek’s main drag. It’s picturesque little place, with ample opportunities for shopping and stopping for an ice-cream.

 

The following morning we had time to squeeze in a trip to the Huguenot monument and museum AND a final wine tasting.

La Bri

At La Bri, we had (oh bliss) a chocolate and wine pairing.

Franschhoek La Bri vineyard wine and chocolate pairing

Wine and Chocolate Pairing at La Bri, Franschhoek

Most vineyards will have a special blend that is only available in small quantities, we were deliberating whether or not we had space in our suitcase for a bottle of La Bri’s Cellar Door white when the sales lady handily mentioned that they could deliver a whole case to us in Jo’burg for a small fee. Sold.

The Huguenot Museum

The museum is small, but reasonably interesting.  The most fascinating item we saw was a bible.  It’s purported to be the one that was smuggled from France, hidden in a loaf of bread by none other than Pierre Joubert of La Motte.  A story that I’d heard many times from my husbands’ side of the family.  If you’d like to visit the museum here’s the link: Huguenot Museum.

So Many Vineyards to Choose From

Head to Franschhoek for a sip of paradise. If you have more time there are hiking trails and ….more vineyards.

Perhaps we’ll have to plan a return journey in the not too distant future.  Parents please note, that although it might sound like visiting vineyards is not a terribly family friendly activity, we found that there was plenty of open space for our children to run about and explore.  Most vineyards offered colouring books/toys/snacks/play areas or similar to keep the kids occupied and they enjoyed their stay almost as much as we did!

Update

South Africa boasts many beautiful vineyards, with a grand array of wines.  Many have tasting rooms, excellent restaurants, shops, gardens and scenic views and a surprising number are child friendly.

We have since returned to Franschhoek and also visited nearby Stellenbosch and Constantia.  I wrote about our interesting trip to Beau Constantia Vineyard here.

Another South African wine hub is the Hemel and Aarde Valley, close to Hermanus.  We dropped by Creation vineyard when we were down there Whale Watching.

Franschhoek The Huguenot Monument near the Huguenot Museum, Huguenot woman standing on globe with three arches and blue sky

The Huguenot Monument

Going Downtown

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Jo’burg has a lot of urban art.

In my last post, Hats for Twins, I mentioned a shopping trip and some interesting underwear that was on sale in Downtown Jozi.  In any city, if you’re prepared to get off the tourist trail with its well trodden attractions, you’ll no doubt see all sorts of unusual and unexpected things.

There was plenty more to relish in Downtown Jo’burg starting in the Fashion District…

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Hats for Twins

Buying decent undies when overseas is one issue many expat gals grapple with.  It falls under one of the ‘lesser challenges of expat life’ and yet the struggle is real.  It’s often a top of the list shopping item when heading home on home leave.  In parts of the Far East you might be met with “Sorry madame, we don’t have extra big size for you”.  In more remote places or less developed places the things you want simply aren’t available or maybe they are, but the prices are eye watering because they are imported.

We lived in Istanbul before moving to Johannesburg and there were a number of weekly local markets called Pazaris. These were places where locals (and expats) would go to buy spices, beach towels, table linen, cheap t-shirts for the kids and underwear (okay, this is probably not where expats would buy their underwear, but we’d enjoy haggling for some of the other items).

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Voila, an enticing display of lingerie in Ulus Pazar.

I noticed quite quickly that the stalls, selling bras and knickers, were almost always manned…by men.

Generally the bras were stacked cups pointing upwards or fetchingly pegged out on view above the stall.

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Reflections

The New Year is often a time for reflection. Rather than bore you with my inner navel gazing though, I’m instead going to share two photographic reflections with you.  Before heading back to the UK for Christmas, we spent a glorious week down South exploring Cape Town, Knysna and Franschhoek.  Both reflection photos come from that trip.

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Sunrise over Knysna Reflecting in the Lagoon – December 2015

Knysna is a small touristy almost-beside-the-seaside town in the south of South Africa. If you look at a map and draw a line between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, Knysna is roughly two thirds of the way along it. It nestles by a tidal lagoon, protected from the worst of sea storms (hence the ALMOST-beside-the-seaside description). The lagoon ebbs and flows into the sea between the formidable rocky Knysna heads.

Pronounced nize-na, Knysna is a bit like an African version of England’s Cornwall. The coastline is dotted with beaches, there are plenty of seafood restaurants, lots of holidaymakers and  plenty of outdoors activities.   Although, be warned, if you are thinking about choosing canoeing in the lagoon as an outdoors activity you will get splattered with lagoon water and it STINKS.

….And should you furthermore decide to take both your children out on the lagoon, (“Pleeeeeeease Mummy, we’d love to go canoeing.  Please.”) it helps if they are proficient paddlers.  I took a tandem canoe with Pickle and Sweetpea struck out on her own.

Once we’d paddled quite a distance they both decided they were “soooooo tired” and which resulted in me trying to get back to base with the second canoe tied to the back of the tandem one and two dead weights flailing their oars about in my face, further dousing me in ghastly lagoon water, while I battled against the tide.  Meanwhile Mr Incredible was shoreside busy reflecting (falling about with laughter at my predicament) over a cheeky esspresso.

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Mr Incredible takes a moment to reflect…and to laugh at me towing the children through the tidal swamp.

…I digress.  Moving swiftly onto my second reflection photograph. Continue reading