Thursday, January 8


Franschhoek sits in the heart of South Africa's wine district.  The town was settled more than three hundred years ago by Huguenots (French Protestants) fleeing religious persecution. They brought extensive French wine making knowledge with them thus establishing South Africa as a regputable wine making nation.

Mum and I spent today sampling the local product and touring the impressive gardens that accompany many of the area's premier wineries. Our stop was La Motte, home to the nation's top champagne vintage. It's tasting room is almost worth a visit without a wine tasting.  Hundreds of oak casks are on display in a glass-fronted brick roof vaulted cellar.

Our next stop was Babylonstoren, one of South Africa's oldest Cape Dutch farms.  It's renown for its extensive gardens filled with fruit trees, vegetables, herbs and exotic edible plants.  The gardens cover several acres.  Its plants are laid out in a series of grids, each framed by trained vines, fruit trees and bushes.

Mum fell in love with the clay pot scarecrows in one vegetable garden while I loved the bee house built as a scale model replica of a typical whitewashed Cape Dutch farmhouse. The winery and farm also grows its own wheat.  This is then ground into flour and used to bake some truly delicious stone-fired bread.

As the heat of the day reached its peak (36°C) we made for the shade at La Petite Ferme, a winery and restaurant overlooking Franschhoek Valley's verdant hills.  We grabbed a very light meal as we were saving ourselves for dinner.  I'd booked us a table at the Tasting Room, one of South Africa's top restaurants, which also happened to be located on the grounds of our hotel.

Dinner was a night to remember.  The restaurant served an eight course degustation menu that took us on a tour of South Africa's finest produce.  Mum loved every moment of it. Each course was paired with a local wine and so we finished our wine tasting day in style. As the evening unfolded we stopped to toast the memory of my father. Today is the second anniversary of his death.

Tomorrow we head for the southern coastal town of Hermanus. This area is famous for whale watching in the Spring and Winter months.  Unfortunately the whales are gone by late-December so we're unlikely to spot any on this trip.  However, they say the coast here is truly majestic so we're looking forward to some spectacular ocean scenery.l

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