Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April 4th – Cape Town’s Winelands

Today we joined the ship's World Cruise Experience from Cape Town into the beautiful Stellenbosch wine region. As if we needed any confirming that it's possible to have an amazing quality of life in the Cape Town area, within an hour's journey of the big city you can be in some stunning bucolic landscapes dotted with quaint little villages.

We went to the historic town of Franzhoek, founded by French Huguenot settlers in the 17th century, which has given the town an attractive set of French-style buildings set in amongst the vineyards and surrounded by stunning mountains. This is the South Africa of the tourist posters – chic boutiques, trendy alfresco cafes, artsy galleries and comfortable middle class lifestyles. It was hard to believe that you were just a relatively short drive from the impoverished townships of the Cape Flats.

From here, we went to a wine estate in an utterly gorgeous setting, where we had an idyllic outdoor wine tasting and picnic-style lunch under cloudless skies. Maybe, it was down to the amount of wine consumed, but the longer that we were there, the more beautiful the setting was – you had to pinch yourself to make sure it was real.

After all that wine, it was time for a rest in our wonderful hotel, again in the winelands; before heading off into the hills for a gala dinner. We were greeted by surreal stiltwalkers, a chorus of energetic African singers, birds of prey, and of course, plenty of wine. As the sun went down behind the mountains and the sky turned red to the hypnotic beats of the African choir, this was another magical moment.

The dinner that followed was typically delicious, accompanied by some really atmospheric live marimba music, and then by a fantastic "Gumboot Dance Troupe". It's difficult to describe the incredibly high-energy performance, but it was a cross-between "Stomp", Xhosa dancing, and tap dancing, by a troupe of guys in boiler suits, miners' helmets and wellington boots. The beats were infectious, and when they were joined by some tiny junior members who couldn't have been over 5 years old, they totally won over the audience.

It was an amazing finale for a fantastic day.